For adventure seekers who want to enjoy the natural beauty of the Michigan Thumb, exploring Port Crescent State Park is one of the best things to do in Port Austin. This park, which consists of more than 640 acres and stretches along 3 miles of Lake Huron shoreline, is a peaceful respite for all ages.
Known as a family-friendly destination, this state park in the Thumb of Michigan attracts visitors who are looking for a fun daylong adventure. But it also appeals to campers who want to make the park their home base during their time in Port Austin.
Luckily, all types of park guests will find that there’s much to see and do in Port Austin’s state park, no matter the time of year they visit.
About Port Crescent State Park
Port Crescent State Park is a park located just outside of downtown Port Austin in Huron County, making it a convenient destination for campers and day visitors alike. The park itself consists of more than 640 acres, and it’s best known for its 3 miles of shoreline along Lake Huron.
During the day, visitors in the park can explore a wilderness that has been perfectly preserved. There are miles of hiking trails that wind through the park, offering views of the local flora and fauna, as well as the sparkling Pinnebog River.
As you explore, you’ll see natural wildlife scurrying around you, but don’t forget to look up. This is one of the most popular birding destinations in the Thumb, and there are always various species chittering and chattering from the tops of the trees.
While most days in the park come to an end when the sun sets, the true adventure is just beginning. It’s also known as a dark sky preserve, which means that there’s very little light pollution. Find a spot, get cozy, and enjoy some of the finest stargazing in Michigan.
Uncovering the Past
Today, Port Crescent State Park is a recreational destination — and known as one of the largest state parks in Michigan. More than a century ago, though, the land was a thriving Midwestern town known as Port Crescent.
During the 19th century, it was home to more than 500 residents. At the time, it was a booming lumber town that boasted a wagon factory and two sawmills, as well as a couple of hotels and a brewery.
Now considered one of Michigan’s ghost towns, there’s little left of this once prosperous town, largely because of two devastating fires that ripped through the area in 1871 and 1881.
Today, visitors to Port Crescent State Park will see a small brick structure outside of the park’s entrance. It’s the remnants of a towering chimney that once defined the Port Crescent skyline — a haunting reminder of the lives that were lived in the region in the centuries before.
Exploring the Trails
Three trails wind throughout Port Crescent State Park. During the summer, guests use them as hiking trails, and they’re the perfect way to see the sights and hear the sounds of the park in a safe and fun way. In the winter, they can be used for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the Michigan Thumb.
Day Use Trail
This 2.5-mile trail is an easy trail that’s appealing to hikers of all ages and skill levels. It’s particularly popular during the summer months when the pine and oak trees shade the trail. As you walk along, you’ll not only discover the forested areas of the park but also experience the Huron sand dunes.
Dunes Nature Trail
This trail is the shortest one in the park, stretching for about 0.75 miles. It includes a section of wooden boardwalk with scenic views of Lake Huron. It’s a flat, gentle trail that allows park visitors to experience the sights and sounds of the dunes ecosystem.
Organization Area Trail
This 2.5-mile trail crosses a more rugged terrain that primarily consists of sand dunes. The effort is worthwhile, however, because there are three scenic overlooks along the trail that offer breathtaking views of Saginaw Bay.
Enjoying Life on the Water
Port Crescent State Park is, perhaps, best known for its 3 miles of Lake Huron shoreline, but there are other ways to enjoy life on the water when you spend the day at this park thanks to the Small Boat Landing.
Of course, swimming, splashing, and excellent fishing opportunities along the shore of Lake Huron are all possible — and are an absolutely perfect way to enjoy your time at Port Crescent. However, there are some other water sports that you may want to consider.
Canoeing on the Pinnebog River
The Pinnebog River winds throughout the park. This gentle, peaceful river is perfect for a canoe trip. It’s a fun, family-friendly excursion to enjoy in Port Austin.
Kayaking to Turnip Rock
Conveniently located near Turnip Rock, many adventurers look to kayak to this rock in order to see its beautiful formation up close. Keep in mind that this can be an exhausting journey, so it’s best left to those who have experience with kayaking on larger bodies of water.
Bird-Watching at the Tip of the Thumb
Given its unique location at the tip of Michigan’s Thumb, this Michigan state park naturally attracts a wide variety of bird species throughout the year. In fact, birding is so popular that an observation deck was constructed on the premises.
One of the best times to go bird-watching at Port Crescent State Park is during the raptor migrations that take place in the fall and spring. Of course, there are bird species to discover throughout the entire year in the park, including egrets, sparrows, and gulls.
Soaking Up the Stars at the Dark Sky Preserve
Port Crescent Dark Sky Preserve is one of only six in the entire state of Michigan. If you’re in search of a peaceful, celestial experience, look no further than the soft, sandy beaches of this lakefront park.
The minimal light pollution in this park ensures that the stars shine brightly on clear nights in Port Austin, making for excellent stargazing opportunities. Not only will you see sparkling constellations and maybe even a planet or two, but you could also catch a glimpse of the magical Northern Lights.
These tips will help you make the most of your time at the dark sky preserve:
- Park in Lot C, which is closest to the beach.
- Check the weather forecast before you go, and verify that the conditions will be clear enough for stargazing.
- Pack a blanket and warm weather gear, and be ready to stay cozy on the beach as you look to the stars above.
Camping at Port Crescent
Camping is one of the most popular activities in this Michigan state park. These are the lodging options that are available.
The 142-site campground features modern campsites. Some of them have waterfront views.
Within the modern campground are a handful of cottages available to rent. These cozy cabin rentals sleep up to six people, and all of them include a screened porch. There’s no running water, but there’s access to a modern bathroom and wash area nearby.
There are two geodesic domes located in the park. These innovative domes have skylights that allow you to see the night sky and enjoy the natural daylight. One has a modern theme, while the other is more traditional.
Other lodging options in Port Austin aren’t too far from the park either.
Frequently Asked Questions About Port Crescent State Park
Where is Port Crescent State Park?
Port Crescent State Park is a recreational area and nature preserve in Port Austin Michigan. It’s located on Port Austin Road between downtown Port Austin and nearby Caseville Michigan — the host of the Cheeseburger in Caseville festival.
How much does it cost to enter Port Crescent State Park?
Michigan residents who want to visit Port Crescent State Park will need to purchase a Recreation Pass to enter. When purchased in advance, this pass costs $12 per vehicle or $6 per motorcycle.
If purchased on-location on the day of your visit, you’ll need to pay a $5 convenience fee, which raises the cost to $17 per vehicle or $11 per motorcycle.
Out-of-state residents can also enter the park by purchasing either a day pass for $9 or an annual Michigan state park pass for $34.
What lake is Port Crescent State Park on?
Port Crescent State Park is located on the shores of Lake Huron. In addition to offering waterfront views of this mighty Great Lake, it features access to the Pinnebog River.
Where can you swim in Port Austin?
Port Crescent State Park is one of the best places where people can swim in Lake Huron near Port Austin. The beach is well-maintained and notoriously clean. Known for its soft, white sand and clear water, it’s a favorite spot among families who want to spend the day on the beach.
What is there to do in Port Crescent State Park?
Port Crescent State Park is open all year and offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy. In the summer, visitors can hike on the trails, swim in the lake, go fishing, canoe or kayak on the Pinnebog River, or head to nearby Turnip Rock.
In the winter, visitors can enjoy a quieter, more peaceful experience. They can go snowshoeing along the hiking trails or cross-country skiing around the park.