When thinking about Michigan road trip options, the Lake Huron coastline does not always get the love it deserves. But with remote beaches, historic lighthouses, state parks, quaint small towns and more, Michigan’s Sunrise Coast is a summer path worth exploring.
Last month the road trip between Standish and Harrisville along the U.S. 23 Heritage Route (also known as the Lake Huron Circle Tour) was chronicled. It is time to continue north.
As you near northeast Michigan’s biggest town, you will come up on Negwegon State Park. Getting to the park involves getting off U.S. 23 and driving on a multi-mile curvy and sandy trail more meant for one-way traffic and an off-road vehicle. Upon entering it will be just you, forest, sand trails, a calm Lake Huron and the rest of nature within the undeveloped park and beach.
Continuing north you’ll cross over the 45th parallel, meaning your halfway between the equator and North Pole. While you’re grabbing a sign picture, cross over the road and stare at the pond and the open green fields and forest behind.
Once in downtown Alpena, grab a coffee at Cabin Creek Coffeehouse and head to the marina, walking the pier towards Alpena’s “Little Red” beacon (lighthouse). If your passing through on a summer Wednesday or Saturday walk amongst the produce, arts and crafts and locals at the Farmers’ Market. Also make sure to head out onto the open natural trails of Island Park and Wildlife Sanctuary and out onto the open Lake Huron and Thunder Bay waters on a shipwreck tour.
A few miles up the coast head off onto E. Grand Lake Road and you’ll find yourself in-between Grand Lake and Lake Huron on Presque Isle, which is French for peninsula.
Lighthouse lovers head towards the top of the peninsula until you’re alongside North Bay as well. Walk up the hand-made stone steps in one of the Great Lakes oldest lighthouses, Old Presque Isle Lighthouse. Head just a mile down the road and go up-top the tallest lighthouse tower open to the public along the Great Lakes, New Presque Isle Lighthouse. You’ll find foghorns to blow, clock towers to ring and museums to visit along the way.
Due west from the new lighthouse have a picnic and stare out at the clear and turquoise North Bay waters from the vista point. Do a 180 and you’ll see the lighthouse peeking out straight down the road.
As you exit the peninsula towards U.S. 23 you’ll enter Thompson Harbor State Park. Roam the dirt roads and walk amongst the trails of more undeveloped coastline beauty. Look for the Dwarf Lakes Iris, the state wildflower.
The unofficial end of the Sunrise Coast is in this shipping port town. Grab some gifts and coffee at The Painted Lady Café then head for a walk amongst sailboats at the Municipal Marina. Go for a long walk on the Huron Sunrise Trail to or drive north to P.H. Hoeft State Park. Lodge, camp or just walk the dunes and picturesque beach within.
Alongside the state park are the Forty Mile Point Light and Sacred Rock. Visit the lighthouse and the Joseph S. Fay shipwreck that sits on the beach alongside. A short walk up the beach is the Sacred Rock boulder, a designated landmark for Native Americans.
From the center of town, head inland (west) ten or so miles to Ocqueoc Falls, one of two waterfalls in the Lower Peninsula. Hang out in the middle of the Ocqueoc River at various points amongst the sudsy, fast flowing water. The day use, entrance area can be busy with families and vacationers, but bike or hike the Ocqueoc Falls pathway and it will become just you and nature.
The Sunrise Coast
The Sunrise Coast got its name for a reason. When road tripping along Lake Huron in Michigan the number one thing to do is to watch the sun coming up over one of the biggest lakes in the world.
Checkout more of the sights and beauty to expect when on a road trip between Harrisville and Rogers City.
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