9 Great Places for Paddling in Michigan

Magazine Features, Outdoor & Adventure

Groups seeking to get out on the water and enjoy picturesque surroundings have plenty of options for paddling in Michigan

When it comes to enjoying fun on the water, Michigan has plenty of opportunities for groups. With hundreds of rivers and thousands of lakes, paddling in Michigan is one of the best choices to enjoy adventure and exercise. Here are some locations that are both picturesque and friendly to the beginner and advanced paddler alike.

The Tippy Dam Backwaters

Whether you want to fish or go for a relaxing paddle, this place is perfect for you. These secluded backwaters are ideal for basking in nature and spotting wildlife. Spanning five miles and 1,600 acres, there is plenty of exploring to be done in this calm area. The Tippy Dam Backwaters was created between 1916 and 1918 when the Tippy Dam was constructed. The pond is known for its variety of fish species including rock bass, black crappie, sunfish, yellow perch and rainbow trout.

Crystal Lake

Located in Benzie County, about 40 miles southwest of Traverse City, this lake is famous for its extraordinarily clear waters and sandy beaches. This area is perfect for beginners who don’t want to go too far off the beaten path. There are multiple resorts close by as well as other activities, making Crystal Lake the perfect spot for a tranquil paddle.

Paddling in Michigan

The open water of West Grand Traverse Bay is surrounded by beautiful beaches and miles of trees.

Grand Traverse Bay

This spot is well-known to kayakers, and for good reason too. The open water is surrounded by beautiful beaches and miles of trees making it ideal for a scenic paddle. The waters, located in the northwestern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, are generally calm and perfect for adventure. You may pass multiple uninhabited islands and hidden coves on your journey through these clear waters.

Lake Dubonnet

This is another beautiful spot popular for fishing and ideal for paddling in Michigan. There are very few houses along the shores, making this a great place to bask in the peace and quiet while spotting a diverse array of wildlife. The waters are rarely rough, so paddlers can easily explore the many inlets and offshoots. Located near the community of Interlochen in northern Michigan, locals consider these stunning waters a hidden treasure.

Paddling in Michigan

Paddling around Mackinac Island is an eight-mile voyage that takes four to six hours and features incredible sightlines like Arch Rock.

Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island is an extraordinary spot to visit, as this national landmark features no cars, no chain hotels, and a variety of fabulous shopping and diverse dining. It is also a great place to kayak as groups can enjoy fabulous views from the water. Paddling around Mackinac Island is an eight-mile voyage that takes four to six hours and features incredible sightlines like Arch Rock, an arch that towers above the water and is more than 50 feet wide. There are also shorter excursions that take you to the famous rock formation and back to the Mackinac Island harbor. The three-mile trip takes about two hours and is great for beginners. Along the way, you’ll pass by such fun locales as historic Fort Mackinac, Mission Point resort and historic Ste. Anne’s Church.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Found along Lake Superior, this unique destination is an opportunity to witness nature at its finest. Staggering rock formations stretch for 15 miles of the lakeshore, standing at 50 to 200 feet above the lake. In addition to the colorful rocks, you’ll find beaches, dunes and many spots for camping. This location is friendly to various levels of paddler, depending on the day’s conditions.

Platte River

Situated in the lower part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, Platte River is lined with picturesque foliage and is a beautiful spot for paddling in Michigan. This river is split into two parts, each geared toward a different type of paddler. The upper portion runs cooler temperatures and swifter rapids while the lower portion is warm and shallow, and is perfect for beginners.

Two-Hearted River

Flowing from Lake Superior, it’s easy to see why this river was of such inspiration to famed author Ernest Hemingway. This location is surrounded by acres of gorgeous foliage and provides multiple breathtaking views. The waters are calm and manageable, making this a perfect spot for paddlers.

Turnip Rock

This location is for the more advanced paddler, but the journey is well worth it. Named for its shape, this geological masterpiece is found 3.5 miles from the shores of Lake Huron. Once you reach the rock, you’ll find the water is shallow enough for exploring the surrounding area.

For more group travel advice and inspiration, be sure to Subscribe for FREE to Leisure Group Travel.

By Quinn Valdivia


Latest Traveling Tribes Podcast

Download Latest Issue

Recent Outdoor & Adventure

Elkhart Lake, WI Offers Small-Town Charm and More

Elkhart Lake, WI Offers Small-Town Charm and More

A trio of time-honored lake resorts carries on the traditions of hospitality in this little Wisconsin town, an idyllic place made famous by fast cars By Randy Mink, Senior Editor Maneuvering our two-person off-road vehicles over massive roots and boulders, we were...

The Best Small Group Adventures in Southern Illinois

The Best Small Group Adventures in Southern Illinois

These Trails to Adventure are full of great small group activities By Sophia Divagno Southern Illinois is full of fine local experiences, thrilling outdoor activities, exceptional shopping and fascinating art and history. making it an ideal destination for small group...

Subscribe for Free