In Port Huron Michigan, the waters of Lake Huron and the St. Clair River have long been a lifeline for the community.
The city is proud of its maritime heritage — in fact, the oldest working lighthouse in Michigan still operates along its shores — and visitors from around the state and even the country come to the community to enjoy the Great Lakes.
From historical attractions and iconic sites to bold flavors and eclectic downtown shops, there are things to do in Port Huron for everyone to enjoy.
Port Huron | The Maritime Capital of the Great Lakes
At the base of Michigan’s Thumb and just a short distance across the water from Canada, Port Huron has long been a key player in the state’s maritime history. Its prime location made it an ideal trading post and shipping harbor, and even today, the maritime industry fuels this community.
First discovered by Europeans in the 17th century, the region now known as Port Huron was originally home to Native American tribes who relied on the abundant natural resources in the area to survive.
French explorers quickly decided that the area had the potential to increase and expand the fur trade, and Fort St. Joseph was built in the late 17th century near where the base of the Blue Water Bridge stands today.
For the first century after European explorers arrived, the area was mostly defined by fur trading and the lumber industry.
At the turn of the 18th century, it is believed that the first permanent settlers arrived in what would one day become Port Huron.
Around this same time, the Chippewa Reservation was established, and the War of 1812 exponentially increased demand for the lumber being produced by nearby mills.
Throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century, the settlement quickly grew and became a prominent city — one that was anchored by the shipping, trade, lumber, oil, and gas industries.
Modern-Day Port Huron
Today, remnants of the city’s past can be found around every corner. From the towering Fort Gratiot Lighthouse to the majestic Blue Water Bridge, it’s clear that the city’s past, present, and future are inextricably linked with the waters that define its shoreline.
Outdoor Things to Do in Port Huron Michigan
The sparkling blue waters along the shores of Port Huron are famous, compelling visitors from around the state to enjoy some of the top outdoor activities in the city. Regardless of the time of year you visit, you will find that these are some of the best outdoor things to do in Port Huron.
Walk Along the Boardwalk
While it’s open year-round, it’s particularly popular during the spring, summer, and early fall when people are looking to spend as much time outside as possible.
Along the boardwalk, you will find people walking, jogging, fishing at the water’s edge, and even scuba diving. It’s one of the best places in the city to sit back, relax, and watch the freighters go by too.
Before you leave the boardwalk area, get your photo taken with the Blue Water Bridge in the background — this is truly one of the best spots in the city to view its most famous bridge.
Traverse the Blue Water River Walk
Another beloved river walk in the city is the Blue Water River Walk, which is located about 1 mile from the Blue Water Bridge and is known for its quiet, peaceful atmosphere. This river walk begins at the mouth of the Black River and extends for about 1 mile down the shoreline.
Open year-round, this river walk is known for its diverse and appealing features, which include:
- The Ferry Dock — While it was once used as a railroad ferry dock, this renovated dock has become a spacious public patio that offers unparalleled views of the St. Clair River.
- Pedestrian Trail — This paved trail is a critical component of the far-reaching Bridge to Bay Trail System, helping connect the city to many parks and natural areas in the region.
- Outdoor Classroom — Intended as an interactive and engaging learning space for people of all ages, the outdoor classroom allows students to learn more about the local ecosystem.
- Fishing Pier — Located at the end of the river walk, the fishing pier helps improve access for residents and visitors alike.
In addition to the many features that have been incorporated into this river walk, visitors will find a handful of public artworks on display. The statues, sculptures, and murals that line the river walk shine a light on the history and culture of the region in a way that is creative and inspiring.
Spend a Day at the Beach
Port Huron Michigan boasts two lakefront beaches within its city limits — Lakeside Beach and Lighthouse Beach.
Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year, Lakeside Beach is the kind of place where lifelong summer memories are made. This waterfront park is situated on the shores of Lake Huron, giving visitors a true taste of Michigan’s Great Lakes.
With both pavilions and bathrooms, as well as a splash pad on-site, it’s a favorite beach among families with young children. Some other features that beachgoers love include the volleyball court, grills, picnic tables, and a nearby parking lot.
On select evenings, you will find food vendors lining the street too, giving you a chance to enjoy a waterfront meal as you soak up all that the day has to offer.
Not far from Lakeside Beach, you will find Lighthouse Beach, another beloved local treasure that offers sandy shorelines and Lake Huron views. It’s also open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and while it doesn’t have as many amenities as its counterpart, it still offers distinct experiences for beach lovers of all ages.
Some of the best features of Lighthouse Beach include bathrooms, a playground, outdoor exercise equipment, and an ADA-accessible Mobi-Mat.
Tour the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse
When the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse was built in 1825, it was the first commissioned lighthouse in the state of Michigan. Today, that light still shines over one of the busiest waterways in the state.
Famous for being the oldest operating lighthouse in the state, the tower is a popular tourist destination. While most operating lighthouses prevent tourists from climbing to the top, guests are still invited to walk the 94 iron steps that wind their way to the top of the tower.
The opportunity to climb to the top of the tower is available as part of the guided tour experience, which provides rich details about the lighthouse’s storied past. The reward for embarking on the journey is one of the region’s best views, and on a clear day, you can see the Blue Water Bridge, the St. Clair River, and even Ontario Canada.
The lighthouse is open seasonally. While daily tours are available during the peak summer travel season, reduced weekend hours are in place during the spring and fall. The lighthouse closes for tours during the winter months.
Paddle Through the Heart of Port Huron
Home to the Island Loop Route National Water Trail — which is the first designated trail of its kind in the country — Port Huron is one of the best places to go paddling in Michigan. This trail takes paddlers from the Black River, along the Canal, through the Taintor Gate, and into the waters of Lake Huron.
From there, paddlers can head onto the St. Clair River and underneath the mighty Blue Water Bridge, where they can paddle alongside the majestic freighters that move effortlessly through the waters.
Indoor Things to Do in Port Huron Michigan
While it may be hard to tear yourself away from the spectacular views that define Port Huron, you would be remiss if you didn’t spend at least a few hours indoors during your time in the city.
It’s home to some of the most interesting and engaging museums in the state, allowing you to take a hands-on look at the community’s past, present, and future. These are a few of the best indoor things to do in Port Huron.
Visit the Great Lakes Maritime Center
Known by most as the Gateway to the Great Lakes, the Great Lakes Maritime Center is an interactive museum that pays tribute to the maritime history of the region.
Like other museums throughout the state, the Maritime Center has a plethora of artifacts, photographs, and videos on display that tell the story of the waters of the Great Lakes and those who have traversed them for centuries.
But unlike other museums, it offers a front-row seat to the comings and goings of the ships and watercraft that float along the water.
During the winter months, you can check out the boats from the comfort of the dry viewing room, and during the summer, you can enjoy premium viewing opportunities on the sun-soaked waterfront patio.
Discover the Past at the Thomas Edison Depot Museum
Before he became the most famous inventor of our time, Thomas Edison was a news reporter who worked inside a train depot in the heart of Port Huron Michigan.
Today, visitors can head to the Thomas Edison Depot Museum — which operates out of that same historic station — to learn more about his life and the impact he had on the local community. It’s a seasonal attraction — open daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day, open with limited weekend hours during the spring and fall, and closed during the winter.
Featuring redesigned period environments — including a recreation of Edison’s mobile chemistry lab — this immersive museum is ideal for visitors of all ages who are interested in learning more about the creativity and ingenuity of Thomas Edison.
Uncover Secrets at the Knowlton Museum
The Knowlton Museum that take you on an interactive adventure. For many years, it was known as the Knowlton Ice Museum of North America because of its tribute to the lives and careers that ensured people had the ice they needed to keep food fresh and their homes comfortable.
For the ice exhibit, the museum housed one of the largest collections of ice tools and implements from the 1800s to the early 1900s, including axes, crushers, saws, picks, and ice wagons.
In 2023, the ice harvesting relics were safely stored, and the exhibit was changed to Top Secret: License to Spy. This interactive exhibit offered visitors a chance to explore the intriguing world of espionage and secret agents, adding a unique experience to the museum’s offerings.
Who knows what secrets the Knowlton Museum will uncover next!
Catch a Flick at Sperry’s Moviehouse
Described as a boutique theater, Sperry’s Moviehouse brings back the grandeur and elegance of seeing a movie on the big screen. When you buy a ticket to see a movie at this theater, you can relax in comfort in a heated chair that also offers massage settings.
And forget standing in line for concessions — you can order food from the on-site restaurant and have it delivered directly to your seat. There’s truly no better place in Michigan to watch the latest blockbuster hits.
The Best Port Huron Michigan Restaurants
Revitalization efforts have reshaped and redefined Port Huron’s downtown area, ushering in a new area in which local flavor and authentic atmosphere reign supreme. If you are planning to spend some time here, you will find that these are some of the best locally-owned eateries in the city.
Situated on the shores of the St. Clair River and overlooking the majestic Blue Water Bridge, Freighters is one of the most atmospheric and delicious restaurants in Port Huron. Locals describe this restaurant as a culinary destination, thanks to a seasonal menu that is crafted from fresh, local ingredients.
During the summer months, diners often enjoy their meals al fresco on the patio that overlooks the river where they can relax as the mighty freighters gracefully pass by. When the snow has settled around the city in winter, visitors can head inside to enjoy a cozy and comfortable meal in the fireplace lounge.
The Vintage Tavern
For an upscale dining experience in one of the most authentic and immersive restaurants in Port Huron, head to The Vintage Tavern in the historic downtown area.
This restaurant is housed in a 19th-century building, and while it has been renovated to accommodate modern standards and preferences, it still features the original tin roof, hardwood floors, and brick walls, adding to the genuine atmosphere of the restaurant.
The menu is anchored by healthy, sustainable ingredients, and some local favorites include the chicken caprise and the shrimp scampi. While it may be difficult to pull yourself away from this charming and lively dining room, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to dine on the rooftop in the summer for some of the best views.
The Raven Cafe is easily one of the most eclectic and distinctive dining options in the city. This coffeehouse and cafe serves a variety of sandwiches, beverages, and spirits throughout the day and doubles as a local library of sorts.
Named after Edgar Allen Poe’s most iconic poem, it pays tribute to the power of literacy. Patrons have an opportunity to enjoy a meal and borrow a book from a library collection of more than 5,000 titles. Regulars are even invited to put a bookmark in their favorite titles and put them on the shelves until they return in a few more days.
Whether you are looking for a quick cup of joe in the morning, a light lunch, or an easy dinner, you are sure to find the dining experience you crave at this one-of-a-kind cafe.
Hotels & Lodging Near Port Huron Michigan
After a day of exploring Port Huron, you’ll want a comfortable and welcoming place to rest your head. While most of the lodging options within the city limits include chain hotels and motels, you will find a few comfortable and inviting local, boutiques just outside the city.
Blue Water Inn
Just a short drive from Port Huron, the Blue Water Inn in St. Clair is a waterfront hotel that has quickly become a favorite among travelers in the area. This boutique hotel has just 21 rooms — all of which face the serene St. Clair River.
Guests who stay here enjoy personalized attention and charming details, not to mention the convenience of the on-site restaurant — the River Crab. The hotel is ideally situated in the heart of the Blue Water Area, allowing guests to explore the most well-known sites and attractions in the region.
Inn on Water Street
In nearby Marine City, you will find the Inn on Water Street, a contemporary boutique hotel with a modern farmhouse theme. This pet-friendly hotel is about half an hour from Port Huron.
It features a charming collection of recently renovated rooms, including suites, waterfront rooms with private balconies, and rooms with riverfront views.
Guests prefer this hotel because of its quiet location in the charming town of Marine City, yet they appreciate that they are only a short drive from some of the best attractions and activities in the Blue Water Area.
FAQs About Port Huron Michigan
What is Port Huron best known for?
Port Huron Michigan is best known for its proximity to Canada — the Blue Water Bridge provides easy transport between the two countries. In addition, it’s home to a vibrant downtown area and plenty of beaches and recreational spaces, making it a favorite destination among Michigan travelers.
Is Port Huron a good vacation destination?
People of all ages and interests will find that Port Huron Michigan is the perfect place to escape for a getaway. Whether you are looking for a week-long vacation or a quick weekend trip, the city offers the ideal mix of history, culture, natural beauty, and exciting entertainment options.
Does Port Huron have beaches that are open to the public?
Yes, Port Huron Michigan has several beaches along the shores of Lake Huron that are open to the public, including Lighthouse Beach and Lakeside Beach. Located on the eastern side of the state, the beaches in Port Huron are some of the best in Michigan to catch a sunrise.
What bridge is located in Port Huron?
The Blue Water Bridge is located in Port Huron and extends over the St. Clair River, connecting to Sarnia Ontario. The bridge was first constructed in 1938, but a second span was added in the late 20th century to accommodate increased traffic volumes at this port of entry between the United States and Canada.
Experience the Beauty & Wonder of Port Huron Michigan
Port Huron may be known as Michigan’s Gateway to Canada, but this city is a worthy destination in its own right.
From the downtown area amid a Renaissance to its endless waterfront views and things to do in Port Huron, it’s one of the most spectacular places to visit in Michigan.