In the area surrounding the southern shores of Michigan’s Lake Huron -- the second largest of the Great Lakes -- numerous lighthouses line the sandy shores, meeting sparkling blue waters as far as the eye can see. With a multitude of activities, plenty of dining options, and an easy drive from Detroit, the lower peninsula of Lake Huron is an ideal destination for a weekend trip. Here's what to see and do in several of its cities on and off the water.
A quarter of all Michigan’s famed lighthouses call the shores of Lake Huron home, and many are open to guests year-round. A visit to the Huron Lightship Museum ($7) is the perfect spot to begin your exploration. It’s home to several sites, including the nearly century-old Huron Lightship -- a National Historic Landmark where visitors can walk through the two-story lightship and peer into the living quarters, galleys, and engine rooms that were once home to the brave servicemen who made up the ship’s company.
Round out your visit to Port Huron with libations and fresh fare right in the heart of downtown. The gorgeous rooftop terrace at Vintage Tavern is where locals have been flocking since its 2007 opening. The lively, casual venue serves up surf and turf like grilled yellowfish tuna ($18) and shrimp and sausage skewers ($13).
Across the street, Thumb Coast Brewing Company is making a name for itself with its celebrated craft beers (from $3). Sample one of their specialties on tap or try a seasonal offering, which includes the Train Bridge Russian Imperial Stout in the winter and the Apricot Wheat in the summer. Can’t decide what to get? Just ask the friendly and knowledgeable staff, who will help you discover your next favorite local brew.
If watersports are more your style, head to Port Austin Kayak and rent a kayak or canoe (from $15) for a paddle towards the famous Turnip Rock, a stunning formation jutting out from the clear water. Once you’ve worked up an appetite on the water and make it back to land, head over to The Bank 1884. The National Historic Site is a short walk from the shoreline, and its menu claims walleye and lake perch.
To experience a more traditional lighthouse, head to the four-story, spark plug-shaped Harbor Beach Lighthouse and slowly wind your way up to the top for stunning panoramic views. Engaging, anecdote-filled guided tours ($20) take place Saturdays from mid-June through September and include a round-trip boat ride to the lighthouse. Good to know: Tickets sell out fast so make sure to reserve them early.
If you're willing to try something a little out of the ordinary, hop aboard a Sunrise Pedal Trolley to pedal (and drink!) your way through the city. The tours aboard a mobile bar with bike pedals ($20 per person with an eight-person minimum) will take you to the top pubs and breweries in town, alongside art galleries, historic sights, or antique shops.
For something more outdoorsy, nature lovers can explore the rambling wilderness hidden deep within the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge with Johnny Panther Quests. Aboard one of the guided eco-tours, visitors can go deep into the “Everglades of Michigan” to catch glimpses of majestic bald eagles, graceful herons, and other migratory species. Various tours (from $120 for a four-person minimum) offer an exciting and unique way to experience the diverse wildlife habitat.