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Great Lakes activities for families

Beaches & more

It is believed that the name Michigan comes from the Ojibwa “mishigami,” meaning “great water,” and anyone who glimpses the lakes that surround the state understands why. The Great Lakes, which are the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth, provide a wealth of activities for Michiganders to enjoy both in the water and on the shore.


Oval Beach

Lake Michigan is thought to have the best beaches of the five great Great Lakes (four of which border Michigan). One of these fabulous beaches is Oval Beach in Saugatuck, which was rated by Conde Nast as one of the top 25 beaches in the world and by National Geographic Traveler as one of the top two beaches in the United States. Enjoy a day swimming or sunbathing at this public beach, which is equipped with picnic tables, swing sets, a concession stand and public restrooms.

Location: Saugatuck; Hours: Parking lot hours 9am-10pm Memorial Day through Labor Day; Cost: Beach entry is free but the parking costs $6 until 9pm.

Shipwreck Tours

History comes alive on Shipwreck Tours' glass bottom boat tours of the wrecks below the surface of Lake Superior. The two hour long, narrated tour explores ten miles near Munising Bay, and is the only place in the United States where real shipwrecks can be viewed from a glass bottom boat. Beautiful sights can be seen above water as well, including a great view of the East Channel Lighthouse and the rock formations of Grand Island. The company also offers scuba diving tours of the wrecks.

Location: Munising Bay; Hours: Open 7 days a week, Saturday before Memorial Day through Mid October, Up to four tours per day; Cost: $30 for adults, $27 for seniors, $12 for children 5-12, free for children under 5.

Kayak Lake Huron

Kayak die-hards say that Lake Huron's Thunder Bay is the best location in the state for kayaking. The mild weather, protected waters and abundance of offshore islands and wild areas make it an ideal destination for paddlers to explore. Canoes and kayaks (as well as paddleboats, fishing boats and more) can be rented from Camper's Cove RV park in Alpena.

Location: Alpena; Hours: Open May 1 through mid-October; Cost: $26 per boat.

Pere Marquette Beach

Life's a beach, so spend a day at the shore of Lake Michigan. Pere Marquette Beach in Muskegon is one of only three nationally certified "clean beaches" on the Great Lakes. This large expanse of sandy beach has sand volleyball courts, children's play areas, restrooms and a restaurant and snack bar. The walkway is handicap accessible.

Location: Muskegon; Hours: 6am-11pm; Cost: Free.

Traverse Tall Ship Company

Come sail away with the Traverse Tall Ship Company. Take a two hour sail or spend the night on the company's schooner Manitou, one of the largest sailing vessels on the Great Lakes. Enjoy the relaxing pace as you cruise northern Lake Michigan's gorgeous waters. You'll feel as if you've stepped back in time on this unique adventure. Be sure to try your hand at steering the boat. The company also features themed sailings, including wine tasting, ice cream, music, yoga and more.

Location: Traverse City; Hours: Three two-hour sails daily in summer, 12pm, 3pm, 6:30pm, Spring and Fall Schedules Vary; Cost: $35-$45 – Adult, $18-$26 – Child.

Bray's Fishing Charter

Put up a Gone Fishin' sign and contact Bray's Fishing Charter for a four to six hour fishing trip on the waters of Lake Erie. Your group of up to six people will fish for perch, walleye and largemouth bass from either Bray's 27' boat or 45' boat. Cocktail cruises and overnight trips are also available.

Location: Detroit/Wyandotte; Hours: By reservation April through October; Cost: $350-$700.

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