1. The North Channel / Georgian Bay
Really, the best of the best when it comes to the Great Lakes. There are tons of places to anchor, swim, cool islands to hike, wild blueberries to pick, etc. If you're coming through the Great Lakes and don't check out the North Channel, you're wasting your time.
These photos are from our first long boat trip in 2005:
|The best blueberries are the hardest to reach.|
|Anchored next to a cliff. Standing on underwater pillar of stone.|
|The Benjamin Islands|
2. Mackinac Island
An island is frozen in time. With a bustling main street, many gorgeous historic homes, a historic fort, wonderful trails, and NO CARS! Motor vehicles have been banned on this bustling island for over 100 years. It's "horses only" to this day. Which is pretty neat. The water surrounding Mackinaw Island is crystal clear.
I've never been to another island like it. It's magical. Highly recommended.
|Swimming in the crystal clear water on the east side of the island.|
|The harbor below|
|A gazebo in the woods. Why not?|
|Mainstreet Mackinac Island|
|Hobie super excited in the butterfly house|
3. Leland Fishtown
Tourist towns along the Great Loop are a dime a dozen. Leland Fishtown is different. There is a little industrial fishing operation from the dock and the way things are positioned, and as you enter the market area, it just feels like you are walking into an area you're not supposed to be. Then, as if by magic, this little shanty village appears. Everything about feels very authentic, and perhaps that's because in a lot of ways it is. The fishing boats still fish. The shacks are not perfect, and their run by real people, not corporations trying to cash in on tourism.
Less than 20 miles from Leland is the uninhabited South Manitou island. It's half-moon shaped anchorage and sandy beach is idyllic and reminiscent of the Bahamas. Something about it is exotic and Michigan boaters are drawn to it despite the sloping bottom, meaning if you start to drag, your anchor scope is going to shorten and the odds of your anchor catching isn't great. Especially in the middle of the bay where the depths are over 100 feet.
Also, the anchorage is wide open to the east. Not often a problem considering the prevailing westerlies of Lake Michigan.
Everything on your route South of Manitou Islands is pretty bland, including my hometown of Muskegon. However, I will say that Torresen Marine, located in Muskegon, is a more capable yard than most you find on the US East Coast.
Once you arrive in Chicago, I recommend picking up a mooring ball in Monroe Harbor. They have a very good water taxi service that is actually a lot of fun and makes being on a mooring ball very easy. Take the money you saved by not getting a dock and enjoy downtown boating at it's best. If you need to wait out a weather window, you can anchor on the north side of the man-made harbor.
I highly recommend going through downtown Chicago on a boat. It's a hell of an experience!