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Top Places To Kayak In Michigan – Great Lakes Galore: Kayaking Michigan’s Waters

If you’re looking for a thrilling adventure on the water, then look no further than the Great Lakes of Michigan. With its abundance of lakes and rivers, this beautiful state offers countless opportunities for kayaking enthusiasts. From the calm and serene waters of the inland lakes to the exhilarating waves of Lake Michigan, there is something for everyone. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler, the top places to kayak in Michigan will leave you in awe of the stunning scenery and the endless possibilities for exploration. So grab your paddle and get ready to experience the joy of kayaking in the Great Lakes Galore of Michigan.

Lake Superior

Lake Superior is the largest and coldest of the Great Lakes, and it offers a multitude of opportunities for kayaking adventures. One of the most breathtaking destinations on Lake Superior is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. As you paddle along the crystal-clear turquoise waters, you’ll be mesmerized by the towering cliffs painted in vibrant hues of red, orange, and green. The rock formations, caves, and cliffs make for a truly scenic journey that you won’t soon forget.

Another must-visit spot on Lake Superior is Grand Island, located just a short distance from Munising. With its pristine beaches, dense forests, and stunning views of the surrounding cliffs, Grand Island is a kayaker’s paradise. You can explore the island’s rugged shoreline and hidden coves, or take a guided tour to learn more about its fascinating history.

If you’re looking for a more tranquil kayaking experience on Lake Superior, Au Train Bay is the perfect destination. With its calm waters and sandy beaches, this bay offers a peaceful setting ideal for paddling at your own pace. You can glide along the shoreline, observing the diverse birdlife and enjoying the serene beauty of nature.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan is known for its sandy beaches and picturesque coastal towns, making it a popular destination for kayakers. One of the must-visit spots on Lake Michigan is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. As you paddle along the crystal-clear waters, you’ll be surrounded by towering sand dunes and lush forests. The breathtaking views of the dunes meeting the turquoise waters create a truly unique and memorable kayaking experience.

Traverse City, located on the shores of Lake Michigan, is another top destination for kayakers. With its calm, clear waters and stunning scenery, this vibrant city offers endless opportunities for paddling adventures. You can explore the picturesque bays, paddle along the shoreline, or venture out to the nearby islands for a more remote experience.

For those seeking a taste of Northern Michigan’s charm, the Leelanau Peninsula is a must-visit kayaking destination. With its charming coastal villages, vineyards, and sandy shores, the peninsula offers a diverse range of paddling experiences. Whether you choose to kayak along the shoreline, explore the calm waters of the lakeshore, or venture out to the nearby islands, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views and a truly unforgettable adventure.

Top Places To Kayak In Michigan - Great Lakes Galore: Kayaking Michigans Waters

Lake Huron

Lake Huron offers a unique kayaking experience, with its rugged coastlines, hidden coves, and picturesque islands. One of the most iconic destinations on Lake Huron is Turnip Rock, located near Port Austin. This fascinating rock formation, shaped by the forces of nature, is only accessible by water, making it a popular spot for kayakers. As you paddle around Turnip Rock, you’ll be captivated by its unique shape and the clear, turquoise waters that surround it.

If you’re a history enthusiast, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a must-visit destination on Lake Huron. This underwater preserve is home to numerous shipwrecks, offering a unique opportunity for kayakers to explore the rich maritime history of the area. You can paddle along the designated water trails, visiting the shipwreck sites and learning about the fascinating stories behind each vessel.

For a more secluded kayaking experience, the Les Cheneaux Islands are the perfect destination. These 36 islands offer calm, sheltered waters, making them ideal for paddlers of all skill levels. You can explore the peaceful bays, navigate through the narrow channels, and immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature.

Lake Erie

Lake Erie may be the smallest of the Great Lakes, but it still offers plenty of kayaking opportunities. One of the must-see destinations on Lake Erie is Put-in-Bay, located on South Bass Island. As you paddle around the island, you’ll be treated to beautiful views of the lighthouse, rocky cliffs, and the charming village. You can also explore the nearby limestone caves, adding an element of excitement to your kayaking adventure.

Kelleys Island State Park is another popular spot for kayakers on Lake Erie. With its sandy beaches, rocky shores, and diverse wildlife, this island offers a perfect blend of nature and recreation. You can paddle along the coastline, enjoy a picnic on the beach, or venture out to the nearby reefs and shipwrecks for a truly unique exploration.

For birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts, the Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area is a must-visit destination on Lake Erie. This expansive wetland habitat is home to numerous bird species, including herons, egrets, and even bald eagles. Paddling through the marshes allows you to get up close and personal with the abundant wildlife and appreciate the beauty of the natural surroundings.

Top Places To Kayak In Michigan - Great Lakes Galore: Kayaking Michigans Waters

Inland Lakes

Michigan is also home to numerous inland lakes that offer fantastic kayaking opportunities. One such lake is Torch Lake, known for its crystal-clear blue waters and sandy beaches. As you paddle along the shoreline, you’ll be surrounded by lush forests and charming waterfront homes. The calm waters make Torch Lake an ideal spot for kayakers of all skill levels.

Higgins Lake is another top destination for kayaking in Michigan. With its pristine waters and picturesque scenery, this lake offers a peaceful retreat away from the bustling city life. You can paddle along the shoreline, explore the hidden coves, or simply relax on the sandy beaches and take in the beauty of your surroundings.

Sylvan Lake, located near the city of Detroit, is a convenient option for those looking for a quick escape. Despite its proximity to the urban areas, Sylvan Lake offers a serene atmosphere and breathtaking views. You can paddle around the lake, taking in the sights of the charming lakeside homes and enjoying the tranquility of the surroundings.


Michigan is blessed with an abundance of scenic rivers that provide fantastic kayaking opportunities. One such river is the Jordan River, located in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula. Known for its clear waters and diverse wildlife, the Jordan River offers a peaceful and picturesque setting for kayakers. As you paddle along the meandering river, you’ll be surrounded by lush forests and may even spot a variety of bird species and other wildlife.

The Manistee River, located in the heart of the Manistee National Forest, is another must-visit destination for kayakers. This scenic river is famous for its crystal-clear waters and picturesque surroundings. You can paddle through the dense forest, enjoy the peacefulness of the river, and even camp along its banks for a truly immersive experience.

The Muskegon River, one of Michigan’s longest rivers, offers a diverse range of kayaking experiences. From calm, meandering sections to thrilling rapids, this river has something for paddlers of all skill levels. You can embark on a multi-day trip, exploring the different sections of the river and enjoying the scenic beauty that surrounds you.

Top Places To Kayak In Michigan - Great Lakes Galore: Kayaking Michigans Waters

Upper Peninsula

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, and it offers some of the most breathtaking kayaking destinations in the state. Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a must-visit spot for kayakers, with its magnificent waterfalls and pristine rivers. You can paddle along the Tahquamenon River, surrounded by lush forests and stunning scenery. Be sure to visit the Upper Falls, where the river cascades over a series of impressive drops, creating a truly awe-inspiring sight.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, located on Lake Superior, is another must-see destination in the Upper Peninsula. As mentioned earlier, this scenic area is known for its towering cliffs, vibrant rock formations, and crystal-clear waters. Kayaking along the Pictured Rocks allows you to explore the breathtaking shoreline up close, marveling at the natural beauty that surrounds you.

Isle Royale National Park, located in the middle of Lake Superior, offers a remote and untouched kayaking experience. This pristine wilderness is home to numerous lakes and waterways, making it a true paradise for paddlers. You can embark on a multi-day kayaking trip, exploring the inland lakes, or paddle along the rugged coastline, observing the diverse wildlife that calls the island home.

Lower Peninsula

The Lower Peninsula of Michigan is home to some of the state’s most iconic kayaking destinations. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, previously mentioned in the Lake Michigan section, offers an unforgettable kayaking experience. Paddling along the turquoise waters, surrounded by towering sand dunes and lush forests, is a truly awe-inspiring adventure. You can explore the numerous hidden coves and even embark on a sunset paddle for a magical experience.

Traverse City, also mentioned earlier, is another top destination in the Lower Peninsula. Apart from kayaking along the pristine shores of Lake Michigan, you can also paddle along the scenic Boardman River. This river offers a diverse range of kayaking experiences, from calm sections to thrilling rapids. You can navigate through the winding bends, enjoy the tranquility of the natural surroundings, and even stop for a picnic along the riverbanks.

No visit to the Lower Peninsula would be complete without a trip to Mackinac Island. While kayaking is not allowed within the island’s boundaries, you can paddle around the island and enjoy stunning views of the iconic Mackinac Bridge, Grand Hotel, and historic lighthouses. Paddling along the turquoise waters of Lake Huron provides a unique perspective of this charming island and its rich history.


Michigan is home to several picturesque islands that offer fantastic kayaking opportunities. One of the most famous islands is Mackinac Island, previously mentioned in the Lower Peninsula section. While exploring the island by kayak is not permitted, you can still paddle around the island and take in the breathtaking views. The clear waters and stunning shoreline make for a truly remarkable kayaking experience.

Beaver Island, located in Lake Michigan, offers a secluded and tranquil kayaking adventure. With its pristine beaches, dense forests, and abundant wildlife, this island is a true hidden gem. Paddling around Beaver Island allows you to immerse yourself in nature and appreciate the unspoiled beauty of this remote destination.

Drummond Island, located in Lake Huron, is another must-visit spot for kayakers. With its rugged coastlines, secluded bays, and crystal-clear waters, this island offers endless opportunities for exploration. You can paddle around the island, discovering hidden coves, limestone cliffs, and even historic shipwrecks. The peacefulness and serenity of Drummond Island make it a perfect destination for kayaking enthusiasts.

Michigan Water Trails

Michigan has a vast network of water trails that offer a diverse range of kayaking experiences. One such trail is the Lake Superior State Forest Water Trail. This trail stretches along the pristine shores of Lake Superior, offering breathtaking views and unique paddling opportunities. You can explore the rocky coastlines, visit secluded beaches, and even paddle to nearby islands for a more remote adventure.

The Huron River Water Trail is another popular destination for kayakers, offering a peaceful and scenic paddling experience. The river meanders through lush forests, picturesque parks, and charming communities, providing a diverse range of landscapes to explore. Along the way, you can enjoy the tranquility of nature, observe a variety of wildlife, and even stop for a picnic at one of the riverfront parks.

The Blueways of St. Clair is a water trail that allows kayakers to explore the pristine waters of the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair. Paddling along this trail offers stunning views of the river’s blue-green waters, lush shorelines, and charming waterfront towns. You can observe the massive freighters passing by, enjoy the vibrant birdlife, and even visit the many parks and beaches along the way.

With its abundance of lakes, rivers, and coastal areas, Michigan truly is a kayaker’s paradise. Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or a beginner, there are plenty of destinations to choose from that will satisfy your thirst for adventure and natural beauty. So grab your kayak, paddle, and life jacket, and get ready to explore the Great Lakes and beyond in the beautiful state of Michigan. Happy kayaking!

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