Sunrise Coast

Starting a Michigan Road Trip Up the Sunrise Coast

The Awesome Mitten - Starting A Michigan Road Trip Up The Sunrise Coast
Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Looking for a scenic drive along one of the biggest lakes in the world? When going on adventures in Michigan, a road trip along Lake Huron and the Sunrise Coast offers one charming small town and beautiful mile after another.

Coming from Flint, Ann Arbor, Detroit and points south, you’ll get onto the U.S. 23 Heritage Route in Standish. You’ll immediately pass by the Standish Historical Depot and Welcome Center. Grab some brochures and get some tips before hitting the road. The route you’ll be on is also a part of the Great Lakes (Lake Huron) Circle Tour.

East Tawas/Tawas City

One of things I like best about summer in small-town Michigan is that you always seem to run into a random farmers’ market, carnival, or festival. An early Saturday morning walk in Gateway Park in Tawas City resulted in seeing a farmers’ market being set up: fruits, vegetables, locally made products, and crafts galore.

The Awesome Mitten - Starting A Michigan Road Trip Up The Sunrise Coast
Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Right down the street to the east are the shops of Sawyer Street and East Tawas. Grab a bite outdoors at Mr. Jack’ss Sports Bar & Grill taking in some small-town summer fun. Hang out at East Tawas City Park beach, making sure to walk the neighboring pier and marina, you might be lucky enough to run into lots of colorful kites flying in the air.

Make sure to stop at what some call “The Cape Cod of the Midwest,” Tawas Point State Park. Go up-top and learn the history of Tawas Point Lighthouse, seeing panoramic views of Tawas Bay, Lake Huron, and beyond. Relax on the beach with the family, set up shop on the campgrounds, walk the trails and take the ¾ mile stroll out to Tawas Point.

Oscoda/Au Sable

Further north, grab a coffee at Garden View Coffee Mill in downtown Oscoda, then go for a walk on the pier and at Oscoda Beach Park. Surprise, surprise, I ran into the Annual Art On The Beach fair, enjoying a made-to-order breakfast on the grill, and a corned dog. You never know when you’ll run into Michigan fun on the road. Just north of town you’ll find Three Mile Beach Park, along with a shoreline bike trail along the highway.

The Awesome Mitten - Starting A Michigan Road Trip Up The Sunrise Coast
Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Now it’s time to dive into nature. Just west of town, along the twenty-two mile River Road National Scenic Byway, you’ll be in the Huron National Forest. Waterfalls, scenic overlooks of the Au Sable River and beyond, hiking trails, and lots of outdoor adventure awaits. Learn about the history of lumberjacks and check out Lumberman’s Monument at the Visitor Center. You can also go down a 300+ step staircase to Largo Springs, and view a beach funneling into the river at the Foote Pond Overlook. You’ll get a work out climbing back up both.


Continuing north you’ll run into a smaller, yet just as scenic, small town. Walk the small beach and municipal marina with an Alcona Coffee in hand. Just to the south of town have a picnic and hang with the family at the beach at Harrisville State Park. Due north go up-top the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse and visit the attached historical museum. Also on the grounds, you can explore the early 1900s one-room Old Bailey School built out of logs.

The Awesome Mitten - Starting A Michigan Road Trip Up The Sunrise Coast
Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Catch That Sunrise

They don’t call it the Sunrise Coast for nothing. Whether you’re on a day trip, a weekend excursion, or something longer, make sure to be up at the crack of dawn at some point to capture the sun coming up over Lake Huron. A recommended spot off the beaten path is the small beach at the Singing Bridge Public Access Point half way between Au Gres and Tawas City.

Stay tuned as the Sunrise Coast Michigan road trip continues heading north to Alpena, Rogers City and beyond.

Some more pictures of what it’s like driving and adventuring between Standish and Harrisville along the U.S. 23 Heritage route:

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Are there any hidden gems you would recommend along Lake Huron and Michigan’s Sunrise Coast?

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