Are you in the market for an off the beaten path Michigan road trip option? Take a look at M-25 and the drive around “The Thumb.” From Bay City to Port Huron, along Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron, you’ll find an abundance of parks, hiking and adventure opportunities, beaches, scenic overlooks, resort towns, and more.
Hop on M-25 from I-75 and head east. The interstate will quickly disappear for the duration of the road trip. Before crossing over the Saginaw River, take in the city skyline and river at Liberty Harbor Marina. The marina and surrounding park is a great spot to catch the morning sunrise.
While visiting downtown grab a cup of coffee at Harless & Hugh Coffee while enjoying the décor and conversation within. Approaching the opposite side of the river walk around Wenonah Park the space opens to its amphitheater and water fountain. You might even catch a vessel, like the Appledore IV or V, parked along the shoreline. Checkout Appledore Tall Ship Adventures for excursion opportunities.
As you head east, you’ll find the open road turns into two lanes peering toward a flat horizon with lots of countryside and windmills on either side. Before you know it, Saginaw Bay will come into full view in Bay Port. Spend time off the road stop at Bay Port Access Site for encompassing views of Wild Fowl and Saginaw Bay.
Once in Caseville, hit the campground and beach at the county park. The best time of year to be in town is in August when they have their annual ten-day Cheeseburger in Caseville festival. It marks the end of the summer and tourist season celebrating the tropical paradise, cheeseburgers of course, and Jimmy Buffett.
Just north of town is Albert E. Sleeper State Park. The park is vast inland, but has a little day use portion on the bay side of the road. You’ll run into a scene out of a fairy tale going down the stairs from the parking area towards the beach.
Port Austin & the Top of “The Thumb”
Nearing the top of The Thumb and Port Austin, go for a long hike, mountain bike the sandy trails, do some bird watching and hang out along the miles of shoreline and sand dunes at Port Crescent State Park.
In town, grab some breakfast food at Lighthouse Café and walk the long pier to gaze out at the Port Austin Light in the distance. Rent a kayak and make the journey over to Turnip Rock. On the opposite side of Port Austin you’ll find the historic Grindstone City and the Pointe aux Barques Light. The lighthouse marks the point where Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron become one. You’ve reached the top of The Thumb!
The Lake Huron Coastline
You’ll eventually have to make the turn southward on M-25 where you’re now driving along Lake Huron. One small, resort town after another will come into view. View the mural on the Community Playhouse in Harbor Beach. Walk alongside the marina and find the hidden beach gem in Port Sanilac.
Do some wine or beer tasting at Lexington Brewing Company after roaming the boutiques and touristy shops and walking the pier in Lexington. Have a picnic while soaking in the beautiful Great Lakes’ views at White Rock Roadside Park. The road side parks all along M-25 are worth a stop.
The southern end of M-25 will bring you to Port Huron, home to one of the major international bridge crossings between the United States and Canada. Just north of the bridge visit the historic Fort Gratiot Light and the adjoining beach where Lake Huron ends and flows into the St. Clair River. Capture pictures of the Blue Water Bridge from the nearly mile long park along Thomas Edison Parkway.
While in downtown, take a stroll alongside the marina. You’ll pass by several outdoor dining opportunities. Head across the Military Street Bridge to check out the Black River as it flows into the St. Clair. Walk alongside the historical downtown buildings and head on over to The Raven Café. Sip a delicious specialty coffee or cocktail while enjoying the unique architecture, the retro poster prints on the walls, and maybe even catching a live musical performance.
View more of the coastal beauty and fun opportunities you’ll have when on a Michigan road trip between Bay City and Port Huron in The Thumb:
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