Pedal your way to fun this summer along Michigan’s Thumbcoast on the Bridge to Bay Trail through St Clair County!
Extending for 50 miles through St. Clair County, the Bridge to Bay Trail features a diverse system of rail trails, river walks, boardwalks, and bike trails. In particular, the bike trails are ideal for adventurers who want to experience charming Michigan towns, parks, and scenic views on the St. Clair River.
For unique biking excursions to put on your summer bucket list, check out these sections of the Bridge to Bay Trail with points of interest, restaurants, and places to stay along the way. Choose just one or two, or bike all three over a couple of days for the ultimate Michigan summer journey!
Bike Rentals for the Bridge to Bay Trail
If you don’t have your own bike for cycling the Bridge to Bay Trail, the first thing to consider for your adventure is bike rentals. There are two fantastic options in St. Clair County Michigan for gearing up.
Blue Water E-Bike Rental
With Blue Water E-Bike Rental, you have three hourly rental rates to choose from — two, four, and eight hours. Whether you’re biking solo or with a partner or group of friends, this service will bring the bikes to you. It provides locks as well, so you can enjoy dining and shopping without worry.
E-Bikes & More
New to St. Clair County as of 2023, E-Bikes & More offers a couple of bike rental options — the Haro Skwad and the Del Sol Railer Step Thru. The bikes are taken to you in the morning and picked up in the late afternoon. You can reserve your rental through the business’ website or over the phone.
Ride the Clay Township & Harsens Island Paths
Part of Clay Township and the St. Clair Flats — the biggest freshwater delta in the world — Harsens Island is a beautiful place to go cycling. You can bike the mainland path a little bit before hopping on a ferry to bike the 7-mile loop around the island. In total, this route is about 9 miles.
Along the way, though, you’ll want to spend time observing the waterfowl, wildlife, and freighters in the channel. In fact, you’ll have the chance to see rare migrating birds — such as black terns, blue herons, King Rail Forster’s terns, and purple martins. Also, you can explore some interesting sites.
Points of Interest
St. John’s Marsh Area
Before getting onto the ferry, stop by the St. John’s Marsh Area. A path leads north from the parking area, and you might see kayakers paddling next to the path.
The lakeplain prairie encompasses 745 acres and is part of a significant cluster of lakeplain prairies in the St. Clair River delta. It’s home to 160 kinds of plants, including interesting wildflowers and grasses.
Pearl Beach Fishing Pier
After visiting the marsh, the Pearl Beach Fishing Pier in Clay Township is a great lookout point for viewing the water, wildlife, and traveling boats. Plans are in the works to restore the pier handrails, mooring pilings, and swimming ladders.
The area will also be turned into a small park with benches and other amenities. So, you’ll want to visit again in the future for a whole new experience.
Champion’s Auto Ferry
When you’re ready to head to Harsens Island, take the Champion’s Auto Ferry. The ride is free for cyclists and pedestrians, and it only takes a few minutes. The service is available all day, every day, departing every 30 minutes. It’s also a fun way to experience the St. Clair River.
NOTE: You’ll ride the ferry back to the mainland after biking around Harsens Island.
Harsens Island Historical Museum
After the ferry ride, you can turn right onto Columbine Rd, following the Harsens Island portion of the Bridge to Bay Trail. About halfway through the ride, you can stop at the Harsens Island Historical Museum.
This museum features a big exhibit space in a renovated part of the historical society’s building. Some of the exhibits include Early History, First Nations, Freighters and Ferries, The Jacob Harsen Family, Tashmoo Park, and The Transportation Boom. There’s even an interesting walking tour.
Restaurants on Harsens Island
If you need a pick-me-up while biking Harsens Island, the Island Grind is the best place to get an energy boost. The cafe serves specialty coffees and earl gray and green teas. You can order cold drinks and snacks too — bagels, doughnuts, muffins, and scones.
Harsens Island Schoolhouse Grille
Located on Columbine Rd, the Harsens Island Schoolhouse Grille — aka Island Grille & Son — has been serving the island community since 2009, although the schoolhouse property was built in 1934.
The menu is full of creative and unique dishes made with locally sourced ingredients and a carefully selected list of wines. You can order woodfire pizzas, burgers, fish platters, and more, and a brunch menu is available on Sundays. Plus, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are available.
TIP: The restaurant hosts the Roots Music Festival every summer.
Jane’s Sans Souci Market
Just steps from the Harsens Island Historical Museum, Jane’s Sans Souci Market offers the best of island life. This distillery, market, and gift store has some delicious pizza and ice cream.
You can enjoy your meal and dessert at the picnic tables just outside. Or, head to the benches across the street for a closer, unobstructed view of the water while you eat.
Harsens Island Getaway Retreat
If you want to stay on the island to get an early start on your biking journey or to explore more, Harsens Island Getaway Retreat offers ideal accommodations. Each of the three private rooms has a full bathroom en suite.
Additionally, the inn has an eight-person hot tub, a seasonal outdoor pool, free bike rentals, canoes and paddle boats, a 24-hour exercise room, and so much more.
Cycle Through Algonac & Algonac State Park
The Bridge to Bay Trail connects Clay Township and Harsens Island to Algonac and Algonac State Park, so you can combine these portions of the trail into one excursion.
The Algonac Michigan section officially starts shortly after Champion’s Auto Ferry and runs adjacent to the Algonac Riverwalk before turning into the city a little and then north through Algonac State Park via Michigan St and the rail trail.
From the ferry, this route is about 5 miles. You can stop in the shopping district along the way, and there are a few stand-out spots to see and take a break from cycling.
Things to Do
Algonac Riverfront Park
One of the first places to stop in Algonac Michigan is Algonac Riverfront Park. This 5-acre site rests between the Bridge to Bay Trail and the 1-mile Algonac Riverwalk.
There’s a visitor center next to a boat launch, a performance area for concerts and other events, and benches to relax and watch freighters from.
Algonac Clay Historical Society Museums
Within Algonac Riverfront Park is the Algonac Clay Historical Society’s Community Museum, while the Maritime Museum is just across the street among some shops and restaurants.
The museums have more than 15,000 artifacts about Algonac’s history, boat-building and shipping heritage, boat races, and much more. And, you’ll find the historical society’s gift shop in the Maritime Museum.
Algonac State Park
Although Algonac State Park is known for being an optimal spot to watch freighters travel the St. Clair River, the 1,550-acre park features rare wildlife habitats — oak savannas and lakeplain prairies that are home to 22 endangered, special-concern, and threatened birds, butterflies, and plants.
If you have time while you’re cycling through the park, you can stop for canoeing or kayaking from the small boat launch, fishing from the shoreline, or testing your skills at the shooting range — which includes ranges for handguns, rifles, and archery.
Marine City Restaurants
Continuing your bike ride north from Algonac State Park into Marine City, you can stop at the Riviera Restaurant. It has been serving some of the best food in the downtown area for more than four decades.
The fish and chips dish is one of the most famous options on the menu. The Riviera Restaurant also serves homemade soup and chili, hearty sandwiches, boneless wings, pasta, pizza, and land and sea baskets and entrees.
On top of that, the restaurant has a full bar with a large selection of bottled beers, a handful of draft beers, a variety of cocktails, and wine by the glass or carafe.
Anita’s Riverfront Grille
Another excellent option is Anita’s Riverfront Grille, which is also located in historic downtown Marine City. With awesome waterfront views, this restaurant serves a mix of American and Mexican cuisines.
You can order baked subs, burgers, specialty pizzas, burritos and tacos, nachos, and a variety of entrees.
Algonac State Park Camping
If you want to stay on this section of the Bridge to Bay Trail, consider camping at Algonac State Park. Its Modern Riverfront Campground has 220 generously sized campsites, and a majority have gravel pads.
The Modern Wagon Wheel Campground is in the shape of a circle. Each campsite has a paved pad, and even though it’s situated in the woods, getting to the St. Clair River only takes about a 10-minute walk.
Bike From Marine City to St. Clair
From Algonac State Park, the Bridge to Bay Trail continues north to Marine City via River Rd. Once you get to the city, you can follow the path left onto Chartier Rd and then right onto King Rd, right onto Ward St, and left onto Butler St.
When you come to the fork, you can make a right onto Recor Rd and pass East China Township Park before turning left onto River Rd (M-29), which will take you north into St. Clair. Eventually, you’ll turn left onto Brown St, which turns into Carney Dr and begins the route back to Marine City.
This entire biking loop is about 22 miles because it combines a few sections of the Bridge to Bay Trail. You’ll pass several parks, restaurants, and shops along the way.
Points of Interest
King Road Park
Consisting of 27 acres, King Road Park has baseball and softball fields, a basketball court, and a children’s playground. You can get some snacks from the concession stand and eat on the picnic tables if you want.
Freedom Memorial Garden
Freedom Memorial Garden is a small community space that has a labyrinth, a small statue, and beautiful landscaping. You’ll see it from River Rd before you get into downtown St. Clair.
Palmer Park & Boardwalk
Featuring a large grassy space with mature trees and shrubbery, Palmer Park & Boardwalk provides a wonderful spot for picnicking and relaxing beneath shady trees. The grassy area is sprinkled with commissioned sculptures and color gardens.
The boardwalk is about a half-mile long, and there’s a ladder that leads down to a spot where you can cool off in the river on a hot day. Many St. Clair events are held at this park too.
Greig Park & Nature Trail
One of the first places you’ll pass on the way back to Marine City is the Greig Park & Nature Trail. The park has an Imagination Station play structure, a basketball court, and an area for in-line skating.
The nature trail is about 1.5 miles and features interpretative signs. It goes through the woods and over marshy areas via planked walkways.
Restaurants in St. Clair
Open Wednesday through Sunday, Pepper Joe’s has been serving St. Clair since 1998. Everything on the menu is made from scratch.
You can choose from wings, entree salads, sandwiches and, burgers, chicken strips, and entrees of ribs, chicken, fish, and pasta. Southwest dishes are on the menu too — burritos, fajitas, quesadillas, and nachos.
TAP Cafe is a delicious place to stop for a light bite in St. Clair. This coffee house specializes in bubble teas, hot teas, lattes, pour-overs, seasonal drinks, slushies, smoothies, and more. You can even order bubble tea and coffee flights to find out which flavors you like best.
The food menu includes artisan pizzas, breakfast sandwiches, Belgium waffles, crepes, gourmet Dearborn hot dogs, and sliders. It’s right across from the Palmer Park & Boardwalk, so you can easily take your food and drink for a quick picnic.
Marine City Lodging
Inn on Water Street
Making Marine City your home base for this route on the Bridge to Bay Trail is perfect, and the Inn on Water Street is a premier boutique option on the waterfront. The interior features farmhouse decor and a comfy atmosphere with modern amenities.
The Heather House
Another fantastic option is The Heather House on the St. Clair River. This bed and breakfast has six guest rooms with bathroom en suites and private covered balconies. You can even enjoy a fresh, home-cooked breakfast before starting your bike ride.
Discover Nature & Adventure on the Bridge to Bay Trail
There’s nothing like going for a biking adventure during the summer in Michigan, and the Bridge to Bay Trail offers some of the best views of nature and access to city amenities. Plan your route along the St. Clair River now!