Kayaking To Flat Rock Turnip Rock Port Austin Michigan
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Our Family’s First Trip to Michigan’s Thumb. Here’s 11 Places We Discovered. #MittenTrip

As part of exploring and falling more in love with Michigan, we spent some time exploring the Thumb with #MIAwesomeList and checking out some new-to-us areas of Michigan’s Thumb.

This was a family-friendly trip, as we traveled as a family of 6, and even brought our dog!

We traveled in early June, when Michigan weather can be, well, unpredictable. We went from nice to hot to sticky to almost chilly. So our trip had a lot of different temperatures to work with.

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Hi, I’m Leah, co-owner of Awesome Mitten. I like food, time with my family, great books, and the smell of a bonfire – not necessarily in that order.

Camping in the Thumb at Evergreen Campground: Campers, Tents, and Camper Cabins

We decided to find a campground that was very centrally located so we could get easily to anything we wanted to do. We stayed at Evergreen Campground in Sanilac.

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All packed up and ready to head out! Photo is our family van attached to our camper.

Some of our favorite things about this campground are that it was extremely wooded – even between camping spots. So even with neighbors, we felt like we were in the woods. And we stayed over a weekend, so the campground was very close to full.

Another thing we really loved was that you not only had the option to buy firewood by the bundle, but they had the option to drop a Gator load at your campsite. It was a super convenient way to get the wood without hauling it back and forth.

Also, there are full hook-up and pull-through sites available.

Some things you might want to know before you book is that there is one bathhouse, and it’s at the entrance to the campground. So it’s a bit of a walk from the back of the campground (which is where we were). There are, however, outhouses available. And if you take advantage of the full hook-ups, this isn’t a problem.

PRO TIP: Not much of a camper? That’s ok. There are also camper cabins available at Evergreen!

And there are lots of fun summertime things to do at the campground itself – a big playground at the entrance, and two smaller ones (one at the front of Evergreen Park itself and one towards the back of the campground), a swimming hole, trails through the woods, disc golf. Plus, there are some snacks available in the office. And Evergreen Park is right on the Cass River which means you can enjoy fishing!

Once we set up camp, we hung out at the campground, celebrated a birthday, the kids rode their bikes around, and we explored the playgrounds.

Here’s a video courtesy of Great Getaways with an insider look at Evergreen Park.

But the next morning, we were ready to hit the ground running.

Port Austin & Lake Huron

We headed north to Port Austin to spend some time on Lake Huron.

First and foremost, we needed sustenance.

Bird Creek Farms

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Bird Creek Farms, Port Austin, MI
Image is of the front of Bird Creek Farms

So we called in a to-go order at Bird Creek Farms for lunch. Bird Creek Farms is a taproom and restaurant with a lovely outdoor porch setting. Since we were on our way for a scheduled adventure (more on that in a second), we didn’t take time to explore. We picked up our food and enjoyed it in the car.

Everything we ate was absolutely delicious – which is evidenced by the fact that we don’t have pictures of it! We had steak bites, walleye bites, and a bucket of fries. My word, the walleye bites had incredible flavor on their own – no sauce required (although the sauce was also delicious!). The steak bites were seasoned incredibly well and were so juicy. And the fries were superb.

We weren’t sure on portion sizes while ordering to go. We ordered what ended up being two meals and a side across 6 people. We could have used another couple of meals to be completely full. But it was a good amount of food before we headed out in the sun on our next adventure.

Port Austin Kayak

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The entrance of Port Austin Kayak. Shop, sign waivers, launch for Turnip Rock, and more are here.

We were in a bit of a hurry because we had a reservation at Port Austin Kayak to kayak on Lake Huron out to Flat Rock by way of the Twin Sisters and Broken Rocks.

We checked in at Port Austin Kayak, signed our waivers, and then headed down to the base of the break wall where the kayak trail for Flat Rock starts.

With 2 adults and kids aging from 3 to 9, we opted for tandem kayaks to have an adult and a bigger kid paddling while the littler kids got to hang out in the middle of the kayak.

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Kayaks ready for the next paddlers up against the breakwall. Our trail – out to Flat Rock – launched from the base of the breakwall instead of at the PAK shop.

It literally could not have been a better day to kayak on Lake Huron: sunny, upper 70’s, and a light breeze. It never felt too hot while we were paddling, although we all got a little crispy with sunburn.

Flat Rock trail is promoted as a 2-hour trail. Without stopping and with the breeze coming at us, it took us every bit of an hour to get out to Flat Rock. On the way, we got to see the other rock formations, the rocky bottom, and water caves.

When we got to Flat Rock, we shored the kayaks, climbed the rock, and had a picnic on top while taking in the views all around us of Lake Huron. It was magical.

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Kayaks pulled up on Flat Rock so we could explore, have a snack (obviously), and take a swim.

Then, my husband decided it was time to swim. He has loved cold water dips since getting his sauna and saw this as a great opportunity to sneak one in. He even convinced all of us to come out and have a short swim as well.

It was cold but really not too bad once you got used to it.

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Swimming in the chilly waters of Lake Huron. Cold at first but super fun when we got used to it!

We were maybe on Flat Rock for 45 minutes. And then it was time to head back.

We got back in the kayaks and started the paddle back. We were definitely getting tired at this point, but with the wind at our backs, the return trip was much easier. So we decided to stop at the other rock formations as we were able.

Broken Rocks didn’t have a good place to disembark, but the older kids were able to scramble on top of Twin Sisters and get back on the kayaks on the other side. Our son even was able to get out and enjoy exploring a little cave!

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The family that paddles together, stays together. Or throws water at each other. Both are true.

After a great kayaking trip, the kids were ready to start fishing. They had been waiting all day, so we headed out on the breakwater and started fishing. Each of the kids caught something small and we threw everything back in the water.

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Gazing over the breakwall and into lovely Lake Huron. We went fishing right off of here and each of the kids caught a small fish.

We had planned on heading back to camp for dinner, but we had worked up quite the appetite from our trip and decided we would love to try another Port Austin restaurant. So we headed to PAK’s Kitchen.

PAK’s Backyard

PAK’s Backyard has great outdoor seating. PAK’s is located next to and behind Port Austin Kayak so it’s really easy to find this restaurant, even though you won’t see all of the great outdoor seating as you drive by.

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The gang’s all here and they mean business for dinner!

We were feeling a little crispy from our sunburns so we were sure to grab an umbrella and some shade. My personal favorite decor feature was the plant walls – strung trellises with plants growing up them. I now very much want to put them in my yard.

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Outdoor seating was mostly under umbrellas and shade which was good for our sunburns. And the vegetative walls were so cool!

We were also quite hungry so we were sure to try many yummy things from the menu. Each meal comes with chips and pasta salad or you can upgrade to beer-battered fries.

Fries are definitely a favorite in our house so it was fries all around, including a basket of smothered fries for all of us to share. They are wide-cut and so delicious. I wish I had a basket of smothered fries right now, as a matter of fact.

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I literally am still thinking about these loaded fries. So delicious.

We ordered some burgers, a chicken club sandwich, and grilled cheese. Everything was perfectly cooked and full of flavor. Portions were excellent and generous. Our kids could have likely split a burger or we could have split the fries we upgraded their meals with between two of them. It was a fantastic meal.

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A burger, pasta salad, and potato chips. Super tasty.

Then, our waiter offered us a recommendation for ice cream – at Grindstone – but, it was in the wrong direction for bedtime, so we had to head back to camp.

Don’t worry though – we still got our ice cream fix in that night.

Wild John’s

Just a few miles north of Evergreen is a Marathon gas station called Wild John’s where you can get gas, hunting supplies, ice cream, worms for fishing, and other supplies. The gas prices were lower than any place in the area that we saw, and the sheer volume of supplies available made it a great stop for us!

Ice cream flavor choices were plentiful and waffle cones meant we had a happy crew. And since it was directly on our way back, we still made it to bed on time. All the parents rejoice!

Campground Fun & Working Remotely in the Thumb

We had to take a workday while we were out, so Matt hung out and explored the campground more with the kids while I headed to nearby Cass City and worked at Petal N Bean, a combination coffee shop, flower shop, and collectibles shop.

My honey latte was perfectly foamy and the perfect temperature. It was so incredibly satisfying as I set about on my workday.

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This honey latte was the closest to perfect I’ve ever had. Temperature, texture, flavoring – it was a WOW!

I sat at a table in the front portion of the restaurant. It’s not the main traffic area, so while I could hear the foot traffic throughout the morning, I was glad to have quite a quiet spot to work.

When I was still plugging away at lunchtime, I got their soup of the day – white chicken chilli – in a homemade, sourdough bread bowl. A sourdough bread bowl may be my favorite way to enjoy soup. It was delightful in every way.

Back at the campground, Matt and the kids explored each and every playground. The large structure located at the entrance to the campground specifically was the favorite. The drives were great for riding bikes. Our five-year-old mastered her two-wheeler. We threw rocks into the river.

There were several trails throughout the campground that made excellent family exploring!

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White pines in neat, tidy rows.

And fishing on the Cass River was the favorite activity for yet another day.

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Fishing was the most favorite thing of all of the kids and they never got sick of it!

Exploring the Croswell Swinging Bridge & Nearby Attractions

By Day 3, we were itching to get out exploring again. We had several things to choose from using this summer’s #MIAwesomeList, but based on a few factors (what was open, the weather being cooler, and a few other things) we decided to head to the Croswell Swinging Bridge.

Croswell Swinging Bridge

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Croswell’s Famous Swinging Bridge sign welcomed us to the spot!

To be honest, a swinging bridge over a body of water with 4 kids made us take a moment to think it through. Some of our more headstrong children don’t really worry about frivolous things like “safety” and some of us are afraid of heights.

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A view of the Croswell Swinging Bridge from the playground.

But when we got there, let me tell you, any moment of pause was quickly taken away. On one side, the bridge is attached to a sidewalk. On the other, you go down a set of steps.

The swinging bridge is kept in excellent repair – you could see where boards that were worn out had been recently replaced. And the side ropes made it difficult for even our most, uh, adventurous child to think about going for a swim.

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Crossing the bridge!

By the end of the day, we made several bridge crossings. And whether walking or running (only when there was no one else crossing the bridge), it was really fun and such a neat experience.

On one side of the bridge, there is a great playground for the kids and the park itself has a disc golf course. In fact, one of our kiddos hit her knee pretty hard and I had to go for ice in the very walkable downtown. I found it in a local party shop, Duffy’s Derby, which has a really great selection of disc golf supplies along with drinks, and what I was looking for, ice.

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A great playground for all ages!

The park is also where the kayak rentals for Black River Kayak Adventures launch. We saw several people launching in the kayaks – we chose not to, still being a little stiff from our last outing.

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We had a picnic lunch and watched the kayakers, watched people crossing the bridge, and just enjoying the water flowing by.

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Watching kayakers on the Black River.

Frostick Freeze

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The outside of Frostick Freeze

But we would have been quite remiss had we not gotten ice cream during our adventure. A former barbershop has been converted to an ice creamery. Frostick Freeze has frozen custard along with hand-dipped ice cream – 28 flavors of delicious Guernsey ice cream.

The kids and Matt all adored theirs but I can’t remember what they got because I was in flavor heaven with my Detroit Grand Slam. So delicious!

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The inside of Frostick Freeze

Frostick Freeze is located in what used to be a barbershop. So some of the barbershop decor can still be found inside and out. It’s so charming and makes you think back to a bygone era. There are old photos and newspapers articles on the walls to help you learn more about the history of the business, the building, and Croswell itself.

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Photo of the original barbershop

We needed some little ones to take a nap, so we took the scenic route to Lexington. We were hoping to go to the Timber Creek Petting Farm, but alas, it is only open on the weekends and we were there midweek. We drove along the shore until nap time was over, and then we pulled into the parking lot at Lexington Beach.

Lexington Beach

The weather on Lake Huron at Lexington Beach was quite different from when we had kayaked a few days before. The wind was extremely blustery on the shore and the sand was actually whipping. We found some relief along a hedge and in a hole that had been dug earlier in the day.

And we got to enjoy watching some kite surfers – using the wind to their advantage, catching some air, and jumping lots of waves. Don’t mind the windy noises (they are loud) but you can check it out in this video.

But the wind didn’t stop us from having a great time on the beach. We had our sand toys ready to go, we ran in and out of the water, and we enjoyed watching kite surfing.

The playground at the beach entrance was excellent and the kids couldn’t bear to leave. But alas, rumbling tummies won out and we headed up the coast a little bit farther to have dinner at the Blue Water Grill and Bar.

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Such a fun playground right on the edge of the beach at Lexington

Blue Water Grill & Bar

Blue Water Grill & Bar in Port Sanilac was obviously a place much adored by locals. Waitresses and customers alike knew one another by name. So we knew it was the place for us.

We ordered a medium pizza for the kids to share which was an excellent idea. Matt had a burger and I had fish. The fish was perfectly fried and so tender. It was excellent. And food never tastes quite so good as when you’ve been in the fresh air all day long.

Rounding Out our Michigan Thumb Summer Adventures

We headed back to our campsite for s’mores around the fire. And of course, we had to go fishing one last time. Fishing was the great highlight of the trip.

It was quite the close to a delightful trip, exploring the Thumb

In the morning, it was time to tear down camp and head home. Thanks, Thumb! We had a great time and we loved exploring!

More Summer Things to Do in the Thumb Area

There are so many great summer things to do in the Thumb area, and we could not have possibly come close to doing all of them during our short stay.

For more Michigan Thumb & Bay area summer bucket list ideas, be sure to check out the “East Michigan” region of the Ultimate Michigan Summer Bucket List!