Michigan lives up to its reputation as the Great Lakes State — but the Great Lakes aren’t the only bodies of water that are worth visiting. Houghton Lake (not to be confused with Houghton) is proud to consider itself one of Michigan’s other great lakes.
This massive inland lake has become the focal point for an entire community, attracting visitors year-round to experience a destination that embodies the spirit of Michigan.
Whether you are searching for an idyllic summer day on the sparkling waters of the lake, or you are hoping to go snowshoeing across a glittering white terrain, Houghton Lake Michigan is the perfect destination for you.
This guide will highlight all of the things to do in Houghton Lake Michigan, allowing you to craft the perfect itinerary for your next escape.
Outdoor Things to Do in Houghton Lake Michigan
The Houghton Lake area is a natural wonderland, and the vast majority of the activities and attractions in this community can be found outdoors. These are the best outdoor things to do in Houghton Lake.
Visit Houghton Lake Historical Village
Time travel is possible when you spend a weekend at Houghton Lake. The Houghton Lake Historical Village is a historic attraction that allows visitors to, quite literally, step into an era gone by.
Comprised of 14 buildings, guests can walk through the village and see for themselves what life was like in Houghton Lake in the 19th century. Some buildings that are part of the village include the General Store, a Homestead property, a Carriage Shop, a Chapel, a Dress Shop, and a Saloon.
The Houghton Lake Historical Village is a seasonal attraction and is open only during the summer. It’s a favorite among both local families and visitors and a must-do during your visit.
Spot Wetland Species in the Natural Habitat on the Observation Deck on Old 27
Just off the Old 27 Highway, you will find a small observation deck that extends over the Houghton Lake Flats. Whether you spend a few minutes at the site or an afternoon watching wildlife, you will get an up-close-and-personal glimpse of this active wildlife restoration project.
This area is a wetland preserve, and conservationists in the area are working to increase the number of waterfowl in the region.
Go Geocaching Throughout Houghton Lake
Over the past several years, the Houghton Lake Area Tourism Bureau has been planting caches in Houghton Lake and throughout Roscommon County.
Thanks to those ongoing efforts, visitors and locals can embark on a real-life treasure hunt that takes them to some of the most beautiful natural areas in the region.
Looking to go geocaching in Houghton Lake? Here’s what you need to do:
- Register to participate on Geocache.com.
- Bring your phone and enable GPS.
- Download the ORB GeoTour Ogemaw County Roscommon County Passport.
- Decipher the codes for each cache, and have fun hunting for them.
- When you find the cache, sign the log and record your findings in the app.
- Try to find all 30 caches on the tour.
If you find at least 28 of the caches, you can submit your results and earn a geocoin! If you go the extra mile and find all 30, you can earn a digital souvenir.
Spend a Day on the Beach
Honestly, there’s no better way to spend your time in Houghton Lake than at the beach. With miles of shoreline around the pristine Houghton Lake, you will find plenty of places to soak up the sun and relax on the sand. Here are some of the top beaches in Houghton Lake.
Heights Park Beach
Heights Park Beach has all of the amenities you need to enjoy a day of family fun on the beach. Situated on the south side of the lake, this beach is known for its soft sand and warm waters. In addition to offering lake access, this beach has a playground, a picnic area, and restrooms.
Sullivan Beach can be found on the East Bay of Houghton Lake, and it is a smaller beach that appeals to visitors of all ages. Also, it has a playground and restrooms, making it a convenient and enjoyable beach.
From swimming in the shallow waters to boating and fishing on the calm surf, the Houghton Lake beaches will not disappoint. With both public access and private resort beach areas, you are sure to find a place to enjoy the most popular attraction in Houghton Lake.
Experience the Thrills at Lakeland Recreation
For more than 50 years, Lakeland Recreation has been providing Houghton Lake locals and vacation-goers with endless family fun. This small amusement park is located just off the shores of Houghton Lake and offers activities for people of all ages to enjoy:
- Mini golf
- Bazooka guns
- Water smashers
- Bounce houses
- Kiddie rides
- Arcade games
- Haunted mansion tours
This family-owned business has been part of the Houghton Lake community for decades, and people have found that it’s one of the best places to make a lasting memory in the city.
Immerse Yourself in a Winter Wonderland With Endless Fun in the Snow
Summer often takes center stage in Houghton Lake with more visitors coming to the area during June, July, and August than any other time of year.
However, those who prefer the peace, tranquility, and adventurous fun of winter will find that the off-season is the best time to explore the Houghton Lake Area.
Snow blankets the ground for most of winter in Houghton Lake, and the shallow waters quickly freeze over. The result is a shimmering wonderland that is perfect for everyone’s favorite outdoor winter activities.
In particular, snowmobiling is a favorite in Houghton Lake thanks to the extensive trail system that winds for more than 200 miles throughout Roscommon County. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing through the forested trails are gaining popularity with each passing year as guests of all ages and skill levels try out these winter sports.
Of course, ice fishing is a beloved pastime in Houghton Lake, and those who cast their reels into the icy waters might pull out perch, walleye, bluegill, and crappie — to name a few of the fish species that inhabit the waters of the lake.
Get a Little Competitive With the Houghton Lake Fishing Contest
If you are visiting Houghton Lake, you could participate in the regional fishing contest. The organizers of the contest tagged hundreds of fish in Higgins Lake, Houghton Lake, and Lake St. Helen.
Anyone who catches and registers tagged fish will automatically earn a $50 gas gift card. Plus, every participant who registers tagged fish will be entered into a grand prize drawing.
Indoor Things to Do in Houghton Lake Michigan
If you happen to need a break from the elements, you will find a couple of indoor attractions to enjoy in Houghton Lake and the surrounding area. These are some of the top indoor things to do.
Explore the Houghton Lake Historical Playhouse
Located near the Houghton Lake Historical Village, the Houghton Lake Historical Playhouse continues to entertain the local community. Built in 1927, it’s actually one of the most recently-constructed buildings in the village but adds a sense of charm and nostalgia to the historic attraction.
Today, travelers who are looking for a night on the town might be able to catch a show, dance, or other local entertainment at the playhouse.
Enjoy an Educational Excursion at the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum
The Higgins Lake Nursery and Civilian Conservation Corps Museum in Michigan is located in nearby Roscommon Township and offers insight into the experiences of the men who were part of the corps in the 1930s.
The Civilian Conservation Corps consisted of more than 100,000 men, and it was active during the Great Depression. Together, they worked to implement conservation programs throughout the state. What should have taken decades was completed in just nine years thanks to their dedication and ingenuity.
The exhibits at the museum provide additional information and insight, highlighting the powerful work that these unsung heroes did throughout the state. The museum is open seasonally during the summer months.
Houghton Lake Michigan Restaurants
The Houghton Lake dining scene is defined by waterfront views with many of the best restaurants in the community located along the lakefront. In Houghton Lake, however, waterfront doesn’t necessarily mean expensive, fine dining experiences.
The vast majority of local restaurants in Houghton Lake Michigan are comfortable and casual locales where you can come as you are and expect to enjoy fantastic food. These are a few eateries that you should check out in Houghton Lake.
Sully’s on the Lake
Mouthwatering barbecue meets breathtaking views at Sully’s on the Lake, a waterfront restaurant located inside Cedar Oaks Resort. With half a dozen meats to choose from and a variety of combination platters, anyone can find exactly what they love on this classic Southern barbecue menu.
The true highlight of the menu, however, is the towering sundaes. Save room for the Cookie Lover’s Dream sundae or the Strawberry Fields Forever concoction. These desserts are the perfect excuse to linger at the table and soak up the beauty of the lakefront.
Back Door Saloon
The Back Door Saloon has been a mainstay in Houghton Lake since the 1930s, but new life was breathed into it when a fresh set of owners took over in 2015. Since then, the saloon has been serving everyone’s favorite brews alongside a menu that includes handcrafted, artisan meals.
Here, you can enjoy Northern Michigan’s best burger — the Big Bad Wolf Burger. Order your beer and burger, and then choose a table on the waterfront where you can delight in the relaxing atmosphere of this classic lakeside restaurant.
If you are looking for a quick and easy meal that is also delicious and satisfying, look no further than Buccilli’s Pizza. Everyone knows that there is no better place to grab a pizza pie than at a hometown pizzeria, and that’s exactly what Buccilli’s is.
This pizza joint has been serving slices since 1972, and it is a family favorite in Houghton Lake. You can build your own pizza, order one of the unique specialties, or grab a couple of the simmering appetizers. No matter what you decide, you won’t be disappointed in this local gem.
Where to Stay in Houghton Lake
It comes as a surprise to some that Houghton Lake is considered a resort town. Many of the best places to stay in this community are the locally owned resorts that are scattered along the shoreline. Here are a few of the most well-known resorts in Houghton Lake Michigan.
Lakeside Resort & Conference Center
Located directly on the waterfront, the Lakeside Resort & Conference Center is the perfect place to stay for both business and leisure travelers. This is a pet-friendly hotel, and all of the rooms are suites, so there is plenty of room for everyone.
Many of the rooms feature private balconies that overlook the lake, and some additional amenities include an indoor pool and hot tub, a game room, and on-site fishing locations. While it has everything you need to enjoy a stay on the lake, it’s also centrally located to some of the best area attractions.
Sunset Resort is a quaint and charming resort in Houghton Lake with a variety of lodging options. While many guests opt to stay in the rooms at the lodge — which give them access to all of the resort amenities — others prefer a more private experience in the cabins that are located on-site.
This year-round resort offers many activities for its guests, including boating, cross-country skiing, and more.
Cedar Oaks Lakeside Resort
Built in 1889, the Cedar Oaks Lakeside Resort highlights the beauty of the region’s history while offering guests the modern amenities that they prefer. This intimate resort has 17 units for rent — ranging from traditional hotel rooms to cottages, beach houses, and more.
It’s the common areas, however, that make this resort particularly appealing. Guests can sit around the bonfire in the evening, play in the sand together, and enjoy nearly 200 feet of lakefront property on the resort.
FAQs About Houghton Lake Michigan
What is Houghton Lake Michigan known for?
Houghton Lake is a popular waterfront community in Michigan that attracts visitors throughout the year.
Primarily considered to be a place where you enjoy outdoor recreation, most of the activities and attractions are out in the elements.
Houghton Lake is perhaps most well-known for the Tip-Up-Town USA festival, which celebrates the sport of ice fishing and other winter activities.
What is the average depth of Houghton Lake Michigan?
Despite its large size, Houghton Lake is a relatively shallow lake, which makes it particularly popular among families in the summer who are searching for warm and calm waters.
At its deepest, Houghton Lake is 21 feet. On average, you will find depths of about 9 feet throughout the lake.
Does Houghton Lake have a beach?
Yes, there are several public beaches in Houghton Lake, which gives beachgoers the opportunity to stretch out on the sand for the day.
For those who want to surround themselves with waterfront views and instant beach access, many resorts and vacation rentals are located on the beach.
Are dogs allowed at Houghton Lake?
For the most part, Houghton Lake is a dog-friendly community, and dogs are welcome on the beach. Just don’t forget to pick up after your pooch while you are there.
Embark on an Adventure to Houghton Lake
Houghton Lake may be considered one of Michigan’s other great lakes, but by no means is it a little brother. This lake holds its own, being large enough to accommodate boaters and tubers while still offering a sense of peace and tranquility to those who are soaking up the views.
The Houghton Lake area is a destination worth exploring, and now is the best time to get out there and experience it. Begin planning your trip to Houghton Lake Michigan today.