Sailing in Northern Michigan
By Jeff Wellman
Sailing, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to enjoy and experience the waters of the Great Lakes in our backyard. There’s nothing quite like pulling up the sails and making your way out into the expansive blue water and toward the horizon; it is both tranquil and exhilarating at the same time. No matter how many times I sail the waters that surround us, there are destinations that stick out in my mind as some of the most worthwhile places to explore, which I’ve outlined below.
Little Traverse Bay & Lake Charlevoix
When the strong westerly winds are blowing, you may opt to stay in Little Traverse Bay or venture down to Lake Charlevoix where the waters are more protected. Little Traverse Bay isn’t huge, but there are plenty of places to explore from Charlevoix, up to Petoskey and across the bay to Harbor Springs. Dock in the marina and explore one of these small towns that each have a quaint, old-fashioned ambiance and plenty of shops and restaurants to explore.
On a calmer day, when Lake Michigan isn’t too rough, heading straight north to Beaver Island is one of my favorite destinations. The island has a harbor that is completely protected from west and north winds. Venture onto the island for an excursion; the island has some fun and unique dining and shopping options, though limited. On the north shore of the island is the Beaver Lodge, which makes for the perfect place to view and enjoy the sunset over a nice bottle of wine.
Mackinac Island, Detour Village and Drummond Island
Mellow west winds are also a great opportunity to sail north through the Straits of Mackinac to Mackinac Island. Stop on Mackinac Island for a great tourist experience; see the horses, ride bikes along the shoreline, and learn about its history during the War of 1812 and beyond. Continue eastward to explore Detour Village and Drummond Island, which lie on the very eastern edge of the Upper Peninsula on Lake Huron. These destinations are some of the gems of Northern Michigan, and are worth the exploration to check out the beautiful waters of the Straits of Mackinac.
Perhaps my favorite destination, with some of Michigan’s best views and most beautiful geographic beauty, is the North Channel. The complete 160-nautical-mile journey runs across the top of Lake Huron, and its waters are protected by the largest freshwater island in the world: Manitoulin Island. Its waterways are scenic and diverse, from 20-mile wide open waters, to narrow channel passages. While isolated and off the beaten path, essential amenities can be found along the entire route. Perhaps the grandest view of them all on this trip will be the night sky, with the Milky Way highly visible and on occasion, the northern lights make an appearance.
Washington Island & Door County, WI
Straight west, across the expanse of Lake Michigan, lies Door County, Wisc., which is a long peninsula that juts into the lake, with Green Bay on the other side. This destination has plenty of history to take in, with numerous museums, 11 lighthouses and even some visible shipwrecks to explore. The landscape of this peninsula is breathtaking, with towering bluffs, caves, surrounding islands and sandy beaches that can all be taken in from the water. There are plenty of cute towns and areas to explore including Fish Creek, Ephraim, Bailey’s Harbor and more.