Looking for a new destination in Michigan? Explore all the fantastic things to do in Port Austin and Caseville Michigan!
As you drive up M-53 through the center of Michigan’s Thumb, you’re surrounded by sprawling farmland. Amid endless seas of white and towering stalks of corn, it may be hard to believe that you’re heading straight toward one of the most beautiful shorelines in the state.
After a few short turns at the end of the highway, the waves of Lake Huron in Saginaw Bay will come into view, and you will know that you’ve made it to the Tip of the Thumb.
Two of the most well-known communities in this region are Port Austin and Caseville. They’re a huge playground for those who want to enjoy the water, winding trails, and charming towns that Mid-Michigan is known for.
Top 10 Things to Do in Port Austin Michigan
Adventure seekers have long had their sights set on Port Austin because of the amazing kayaking tours that can be enjoyed in this area. We’ve highlighted two of the most popular Port Austin kayak excursions for you.
Kayaking to Turnip Rock
Turnip Rock, at the tip of Pointe aux Barques peninsula, is considered one of the most breathtaking natural wonders in Michigan. One of the few ways to reach this iconic formation is by kayaking to it.
You can embark on this excursion on your own, or you can book a guided tour. Either way, you’ll need to have the stamina and skill to navigate the 7-mile journey along the Turnip Rock water trail.
Kayaking the Broken Rocks Trail
Another kayaking journey that you can enjoy in Port Austin is the Broken Rocks Trail. This excursion is a bit easier than the Port Austin Turnip Rock trail, making it more appealing to beginners who don’t have as much experience with kayaking.
In less than two hours, you can kayak past sea caves, incredibly broken rock formations, and Turnip Rock.
In the bright light of day, Port Austin is one of the most beautiful communities in Michigan. The sparkling blue waters of Lake Huron define every view in this community, and it’s famous for being one of the few places in the state where you can enjoy both a sunrise and a sunset.
However, what many people don’t realize is that the best views in Port Austin are enjoyed long after the sun sets below the Lake Huron horizon. Those who are interested in stargazing will be delighted by the fact that one of the only dark sky preserves in Michigan can be found in Port Austin.
The dark sky preserve at Port Crescent State Park is open throughout the year, and most visitors find that the best place to see the stars from the shores of the beach. Be sure to check the weather conditions before you go. If you’re lucky, you may get a chance to see the Northern Lights.
For those who prefer to keep their feet firmly planted on land, one of the best activities in Port Austin is horseback riding. Knoblock Riding Stable is a local stable that’s open seasonally and invites people of all ages and skill levels to try their hand at horseback riding.
At the stables, visitors are paired with horses that are well-suited to their skill and comfort levels. Then, they can take the horses out on the trails and experience the wide-open skies at the Tip of the Thumb.
Lighthouse Boat Tour
As you travel around Michigan, you’ll discover hundreds of majestic lighthouses lining the shores and guiding ships around the rocky waters of the Great Lakes. In Port Austin, you’ll see that the lighthouse that serves the community isn’t even located on land — It rests in the waters of the reef.
The Port Austin Reef Light is open to tourists seasonally, but the only way to reach this Port Austin lighthouse is to embark on a lighthouse boat tour. Generally speaking, you can book one of these tours between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
In addition to enjoying a boat ride to the “Castle on the Lake,” you can also climb to the top of the light to soak up panoramic views of Lake Huron.
For a bit of family-friendly fun and competition, consider spending an evening in Port Austin at a local go-kart track. One of the most popular places for go-karting in Port Austin is Family Go Karts, which has been serving thrills and excitement to locals and visitors for more than 50 years.
This family-owned business is an iconic establishment in the community. Along with having go-karts for both adults and children, it’s a family fun center with other amusement attractions — such as paintball, trampolines, basketball, and a children’s play area.
Butterfly House and Gardens
The Butterfly House and Gardens is one of the newest attractions in Port Austin, and it has quickly earned a special place in the hearts of residents and visitors alike. The butterfly garden is located in Tower Park, and it’s open to visitors seasonally.
Each year, several Michigan butterfly species call this garden home. Visitors can come to the garden, enjoy the tranquil atmosphere, and relax as the butterflies dive and twirl around them. In the fall, the butterflies are released so that they can migrate south.
In addition to being a fun place for the entire family to visit, the Butterfly House and Gardens strives to be an educational destination where visitors can learn more about butterfly-friendly plants and the migration patterns of butterflies.
Like any good Michigan lake town, Port Austin is home to several mini-golf courses. Each putt-putt course has its own innovative hole designs, including unique obstacles and challenging setups.
If you’re lucky, you might get a hole-in-one at the Tip of the Thumb! Some of the most popular putt-putt courses in Port Austin include:
- Kooky Miniature Golf
- The Putt-Putt Fun Center
- Sandy Dunes Adventure Golf
Port Austin Farmers Market
Port Austin may be a small, quiet town in the Thumb, but its farmers market has earned a reputation of being one of the best in Huron County. The market is hosted every Saturday in downtown Port Austin from late May until the middle of October.
More than 50 vendors attend the market each week to sell a variety of goods — fresh produce, flowers, plants, artisan products, homemade baked goods, and more. Spanning across several streets, this market is a beloved weekly event that brings together locals and travelers to support local farmers and small business owners.
Port Austin History Center
The Port Austin History Center perfectly blends educational initiatives with immersive entertainment. Located just outside downtown Port Austin, this living history museum is situated on a 10-acre plot of land.
Within the center, guests can explore a variety of buildings — Macabee Hall, Grindstone House, a log cabin, a log barn, a 19th-century schoolhouse, and a barbershop. This educational center aims to preserve the history of the Port Austin area by sharing the old stories of what it was like to live along the shoreline.
Go to the Beach
Of course, there’s truly no better way to spend a day in Port Austin than by relaxing on a sandy beach along the shores of Lake Huron. Depending on the direction the wind is blowing, Lake Huron can be an ocean-like force or as calm and still as a tiny inland lake.
Regardless, you’ll find that there’s no more beautiful place to be than sitting on the soft white sands and dipping your toes into the cool waters. It’s worth noting that there are many residential homes with private beaches along the shoreline. However, several parks have a public beach, including:
- McGraw County Park
- Oak Beach County Park
- Port Crescent State Park
- Sleeper State Park
- Philp County Park
Top 6 Things to Do in Caseville Michigan
Less than a 30-minute drive from Port Austin is Caseville, another well-known waterfront community in the Michigan Thumb.
Much like its neighbor, Caseville provides the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience both sunrises and sunsets over the water. Its laid-back atmosphere and welcoming vibe make it a favorite Mitten destination.
Caseville County Park
For the best swimming and camping in Caseville, head straight to Caseville County Park. This 40-acre county park is known for its clean, sandy beaches and excellent swimming conditions.
With more than 200 campsites available, it’s one of the best places to go camping in the Michigan Thumb, particularly if you’re looking for an all-inclusive park that offers beachfront access and premier amenities.
Caseville Historical Museum
The Caseville Historical Museum is a small museum located in downtown Caseville that’s dedicated to preserving the history of the community. Run by the Caseville Historical Society, this museum was established in 2000 and was originally located inside a bank.
In 2008, however, the museum opened in its own building, which was donated to the historical society to further its mission. On display in the museum, visitors will find photographs and artifacts depicting what life was like decades ago in Caseville.
Tour a Wind Farm
In the last decade, the landscape of Michigan’s Thumb has been redefined, particularly as you get closer to the shoreline in Caseville and around Port Austin. If you look onto the horizon, you’ll see hundreds of mammoth wind turbines, gently turning in the breeze and harvesting wind as a power source.
If you’re interested in learning more about wind farms and the role that they play in Huron County today, you may be able to schedule a tour at a local wind farm. Tour schedules vary based on the season, so you’ll want to verify in advance that tours will be available during your stay.
While most of the residents who live in Caseville have boats of their own, many visitors don’t have access to watercraft while they stay along the waters of Lake Huron. Fortunately, you can book a charter boat cruise to fully enjoy life on the lake.
Explorer Charters is one company that runs boat cruises out of Pigeon during the summer months. A couple of its tours include a Charity Island Dinner Cruise and a Port Austin Reef Light excursion.
Sleeper State Park
Another picturesque park in Caseville that’s beloved by locals and visitors alike is Sleeper State Park, a 723-acre park that’s primarily known for its forested areas but also includes 0.5-miles of shoreline on Lake Huron.
Most of the park’s trails wind through the forests, but visitors who want to splash in the waves can use a pedestrian overpass that extends over Port Austin Road, allowing them to safely access the beach.
Shipwreck Distillery is still a relative newcomer to the Caseville scene, but it has quickly made its mark on the community. This locally owned and operated distillery specializes in handcrafted whiskey.
Located on Caseville Road, you can’t miss this distillery — there’s an actual shipwreck parked next to the sign. This somewhat seasonal business has more regular hours during summer and weekend hours throughout winter.
Caseville and Port Austin Events
Both Caseville and Port Austin are known for hosting several annual events throughout the year, with most festivals taking place during the summer season.
In Port Austin, Porch Fest is gaining steam as a popular event among locals and visitors who are in town for the summer. During this weeklong festival, live performances are hosted on front porches throughout Port Austin.
In Caseville, the Ribstock Festival in June is trending. This food festival brings in vendors from around the region who showcase their best rib recipes.
Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival
Of all the annual events and festivals that are hosted in the area throughout the year, none are quite as famous as Cheeseburger in Caseville.
Known affectionately by the locals as just “Cheeseburger,” this festival pays homage to Jimmy Buffett with tribute bands and encourages local restaurants to compete to make the best possible cheeseburgers in the community.
Spanning for about 10 days in mid-August, this festival includes nightly cheeseburger tastings, live Jimmy Buffett tribute band concerts, and a Festival of Fools parade.
Additional Things to Do Near Port Austin and Caseville
Huron City Museums
For those interested in the history of Michigan’s Thumb, the Huron City Museums is a must-see attraction. It’s located between Port Austin and Port Hope, and it tells the story of Huron City and the role that the lumber industry played in its development.
Huron County Nature Center & Wilderness Arboretum
The Huron County Nature Center & Wilderness Arboretum is a hidden gem in Port Austin. This nature center is open to the public throughout the year, and admission is always free.
The goal of the nature center is to encourage residents and visitors to reconnect with the outdoors in Huron County. Also, the arboretum works to protect all living and deceased species for educational purposes.
Anyone who is passionate about art will be delighted to know that Huron County is home to a handful of art galleries, each featuring the work of local artists. Some art galleries that you may want to visit include:
- TurnerArts Studio & Gallery
- White Church Gallery
- Robert McGreevy – Marine Art Gallery
Bay Port Fish Company
For the freshest fish in Huron County, head to Bayport Fish Company to purchase the catch of the day. This commercial fishery, located in Bay Port, has been operating in the county since 1895.
Today, it’s run by a local family who has been managing the fishery for more than 40 years. The company operates three boats, and on any given day, you can purchase the fish that they bring in.
Thumb Octagon Barn Agricultural Museum
There are plenty of barns to be found in Huron County, but few look like the Thumb Octagon Barn Agricultural Museum. Located in Gagetown, this octagon-shaped barn was built in 1924.
Today, the building houses an agricultural museum that aims to preserve the barn and showcase the role that the agricultural industry has played in the local region.
Where to Eat Near Port Austin and Caseville
Part of the appeal of both Port Austin and Caseville is that these communities have been untouched by the corporate world. Additionally, most Caseville and Port Austin, MI restaurants are locally-owned establishments that offer an authentic atmosphere.
From fine dining restaurants to welcoming diners, you can find amazing meals at any time of the day in both Port Austin and Caseville.
Grindstone General Store
After you’ve enjoyed a meal at a local restaurant in Port Austin, you can head over to the Grindstone General Store in Grindstone City. This 135-year-old general store is most famous for offering the largest ice cream cones in Huron County.
Be sure to leave room — you get a towering scoop of delicious ice cream for dessert!
Rybak’s Ice Cream Store
In the summer, locals and visitors can head to Rybak’s Ice Cream Store in Grind Stone City. This ice cream shop, which is housed in a historic building that was constructed in the late 19th century, always has more than 30 flavors of premium ice cream ready to be scooped.
Where to Stay Near Port Austin and Caseville
Hotels Near Port Austin
Travelers looking for a comfortable and convenient place to stay during their Michigan Thumb visit will appreciate the fact that there are a handful of locally-owned Port Austin Michigan hotels in the community.
These small hotels offer personal customer service, clean and comfortable rooms, and state-of-the-art amenities, including outdoor pools. Some of the most popular hotels in Port Austin include the Lakeside Motor Lodge, Lake Vista Resort, and Garfield Inn.
Campgrounds in Port Austin and Caseville
Camping is one of the most popular activities in Port Austin and Caseville, and these two communities attract campers the entire year.
Campers are drawn here not only because of the ample campsites but also because of the beachfront access and plethora of family-friendly activities to enjoy. Camping is available at Port Crescent State Park, Sleeper State Park, and Caseville County Park.
In addition, there are private campgrounds available, such as Duggan’s Family Campground, that offer additional amenities and activities for campers looking for all-inclusive experiences near Lake Huron.
Cabin Rentals and Vacation Homes Near Port Austin
One lodging option that’s becoming increasingly popular in Port Austin is cabin rentals and vacation homes. Travelers who are searching for a home-like experience during their stay in this charming community will be pleased to know that there are many cabin rentals available.
The Little Yellow Cottages, for instance, are fairytale-like accommodations located just outside of Port Austin. There also are many cabins and geodesic domes available to rent at nearby campgrounds.
Of course, many privately-owned vacation properties are available in Port Austin as well. You can book them through websites like VRBO and Airbnb.
Find More Things to Do in Port Austin and Caseville Michigan
Port Austin and Caseville are considered hidden gems in the Michigan tourism industry. These quaint towns offer the same idyllic views and authentic experiences as other larger destinations — Traverse City, Petoskey, and Holland — yet, there isn’t nearly the same volume of tourists.
When you head to Port Austin and Caseville, you instantly become one of the locals and have the opportunity to live life on the lake. For more summer things to do on Michigan’s Thumbcoast, don’t miss our featured article: “45+ Outdoor Things to Do Along Michigan’s Thumbcoast This Summer.”