Given its proximity to Lake Huron and its sprawling parks in northeast Michigan, it comes as no surprise that Alpena is an outdoor playground for people of all ages. There are great things to do in Alpena Michigan for people of all ages and interests, and most of them can be enjoyed throughout the entire year.
These are some of the best outdoor things to do in Alpena Michigan…
Swim and Splash in the Waves of Lake Huron
Lake Huron is not only Alpena’s largest natural resource, but also its biggest attraction. People come from all over the state in order to enjoy the pristine beaches of Alpena. Some of the most popular Lake Huron beaches in Alpena include:
Starlite Beach is the most well-known beach in Alpena because it is located just outside of the city’s downtown on the shores of Lake Huron. This beloved, family-friendly beach has a variety of amenities, including playground equipment, public restrooms, and a pavilion.
In 2018, a large splash pad was added to the beach area, making this a favorite spot among families with young children who want to spend a day making memories in Alpena.
Blair Street Park
Blair Street Park is a smaller beach in Alpena that is preferred by those who like to have a more private day on the water. This beach has a walking path that is wheelchair accessible and also has a designated swimming area.
Bay View Park
Bay View Park is one of the larger beaches in Alpena and is the site of some of the biggest community events throughout the year. Not only does it offer beachfront access and swimming, but it also has a bandshell, playground equipment, tennis courts, and basketball courts. Dogs are allowed on this beach, but they must be leashed at all times.
Mich-E-Ke-Wis is another lively beach in Alpena that has a variety of park amenities, including baseball diamonds, volleyball courts, a playground, and a BMX park. There is a picnic area and a park shelter for those who want to spend the entire day, as well as restroom facilities. Dogs are allowed on this beach, but they must be leashed at all times.
Negwegon State Park
Negwegon State Park has a beach that is ideal for those who like the rugged and wild experience. This park is located in a remote area, so it is best for those who enjoy a sense of adventure or who have the ability to navigate through the terrain. There are camping locations within the park as well as a rustic toilet.
Sanborn Park at Ossineke Beach is a popular spot among families. This beachfront park has a designated swimming area as well as a playground, pavilion, and restrooms.
Experience the Shipwrecks of Thunder Bay on a Glass-Bottom Boat Tour
Thunder Bay is often considered to be the graveyard of Lake Huron, as tragically, many ships went down in these waters. Today, visitors who want to learn more about the maritime history of the area and who want to see the shipwrecks for themselves can embark on an excursion onto the waters of Thunder Bay.
The Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary operate a glass-bottom boat tour from the middle of May through the middle of October each year.
This tour departs daily and takes guests out into the bay on a unique boat that allows them to view the waters below from the top of the deck. The captain will stop the boat above some of the most famous shipwrecks in the bay and will tell the tale of the wreck and the people who were on board the boats.
Many people consider this once-in-a-lifetime experience to be a must-do outdoor activity while visiting Alpena.
Explore the Thunder Bay River on a Canoe, Kayak, or Paddleboard
While its name makes it sound wild and ominous, the Thunder Bay River is actually a calm and serene river that runs through the heart of Alpena and feeds into the mighty Thunder Bay. The peaceful nature of this river appeals to people of all skill levels who are interested in trying out a new water activity.
If you are visiting the area, and you want to explore the river for yourself, you can consider renting equipment from Alpena Pedal and Paddle. This rental equipment company offers paddleboard, canoe, and kayak rentals to visitors and locals alike.
One of the best reasons to rent from this company is that it is staffed by Alpena locals who can guide you through the experience and provide you with detailed information about how to navigate the river. In addition, the staff can offer instructions and advice for using the equipment, allowing you to feel confident as you get out into nature and experience the beauty of this region for yourself.
Play a Round on the Oldest, Continuously-Operated Mini-Golf Course in Michigan
Lee’s Mini Golf Course is an iconic Alpena attraction, and it has gained notoriety not only in this community but also throughout the state, as it is considered to be the oldest, continuously operated mini-golf course in Michigan.
When you pass by Lee’s, you might think that it looks like any old putt-putt course that you would find in a quaint Up North town. However, this course is deceptive, because it’s actually quite challenging, and people of all skill levels quickly find that they need to bring their best game in order to conquer this innovative course.
The mini-golf course was opened in 1961, and it was designed almost entirely by the original owner, Alpena native Lee Reide. Today, much of the course remains unchanged, which means that players are able to enjoy a unique course that was hand-crafted with the experience of guests of all skill levels in mind.
Situated next to Starlite Beach and across the street from one of the city’s most popular food stands, it’s easy to incorporate this attraction into your day of outdoor fun in Alpena.
Discover the Ghost Village of Bell
About 14 miles north of Alpena stands the remains of a village that was once occupied by 19th-century pioneers and loggers. This destination is one of those hidden gems that not many know about, but that is most certainly worth the visit.
In order to get to the ghost village, you are going to want to head to the Besser Natural Area. This picturesque natural preserve is worth the excursion in and of itself. It is a serene landscape filled with mature trees and sparkling lagoons. When you arrive at the natural area, you can embark on a gentle, one-mile-long trail in order to reach the remains of the village.
As you walk through the ghost village of Bell, it’s easy to imagine what life must have been like during the late 19th century and early 20th century in this part of Michigan. Some of the remains that you will see for yourself include a large stone chimney that is almost perfectly preserved, the remnants of former log structures, and even a few headstones in a graveyard.
Visit the Only Lighthouse in Alpena
While there are several lighthouses in the nearby area that guide the way along the shores of Lake Huron, there is only one lighthouse that is located in the city of Alpena. Affectionately known by the locals as “Little Red,” this lighthouse stands on the edge of Thunder Bay in the hopes of guiding ships safely through the water.
At this time, there are currently no public tours of the Alpena Light, which was built in 1916. Tours likely will not resume until significant renovations take place to the structure. However, you can still get a glimpse of this lighthouse if you head to the Alpena Municipal Breakwall, which is located next to Bay View Park. It’s also possible to admire the lighthouse by boat.
Stay Up Late to Catch a Glimpse of the Northern Lights
While many travelers in Alpena wake up bright and early in order to see the “Sunrise Side” of Lake Huron, you also may want to include time in your itinerary to stay up extra late. Alpena is home to three distinct Dark Sky Preserve Parks, which are designated areas that are protected from the pollution of artificial light sources. You can visit one of these Dark Sky Preserve Parks at Negwegon State Park, Harbor State Park, and Rockport State Recreation Area.
When you visit one of these parks on a crisp and clear night, you will be able to experience the night sky as you never have before. The stars are perfectly visible, and you will easily be able to identify many of the most famous constellations in the Northern Hemisphere. You never know, you may even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights in Michigan.
Walk Alongside the Dinosaurs at Dinosaur Gardens
There are many ways to experience the past in Alpena, but few take you as far back in time as the Dinosaur Gardens. This family-friendly theme park is located in Ossineke, Michigan, which is about a 15-minute drive from Alpena.
At this seasonal attraction, you and your family members can walk along the forested trails and see 27 life-sized dinosaur statues. Many of these statues were constructed between 1935 and 1967 under the direction of the original owner of the park, who took great pride in the research that was done to create accurate depictions of well-known dinosaurs.
In addition to taking walking tours of the expansive property and discovering dozens of dinosaurs, you also can take part in a fossil dig, mine for gems at the mining sluice, and play a round of putt-putt golf. It’s one of the most unique theme parks in Michigan and is the perfect way to spend a summer day in Alpena.
More to Explore in Alpena
The best way to experience the beauty of northern Michigan is to get outside and immerse yourself in nature. Fortunately, in Alpena, there are many places where you can go to be outside, breathe fresh air, and enjoy a new activity.
From historical boat tours that tell the stories of the deep to paddleboard excursions along the surface of the Thunder Bay River, you will find that there are many ways to appreciate the Great Lakes State during your visit to Alpena.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the best things to do in Alpena Michigan! From unique local Alpena restaurants to the best indoor things to do in Alpena, we’ve got you covered with where to play and stay in Alpena Michigan!