If you’re looking for something new and exciting to see in Michigan this summer, something that will really make you stop and say “Wow!”, head to Michigan’s Thumb to gaze at Turnip Rock — one of the best things to do in Port Austin.
The best part is that you don’t need to travel far or spend a lot of money to see Turnip Rock for yourself. It’s just a few hours from Detroit, and once you arrive, it’s just a kayak paddle or short boat ride away. If you’re looking for the perfect day trip, Turnip Rock is the place to be.
About Turnip Rock Michigan
Turnip Rock, which looks exactly how it sounds, is truly a wonder to behold. The limestone structure looks just like a turnip, and this gravity-defying rock looks like something out of a movie.
With 20-foot tall trees growing out of the top, it appears to float in the water and is just another reason to love the natural beauty of Michigan. This amazing site has been named one of Michigan’s 10 most beautiful places by several state newspapers.
Also, it has been dubbed one of the Most Amazing Rock Formations in America by CNN, making it a popular tourist attraction in East Michigan.
How Turnip Rock Formed
Because of constant wave action, the soft limestone of Turnip Rock has been carved over time into a distinct form, giving it its namesake look. Once part of the mainland, the geological formation was separated over thousands of years.
Turnip Rock Location
So where in the heck is Turnip Rock? It’s located a few yards offshore in the shallow waters of Lake Huron. It’s at the tip of a small, private peninsula called Pointe aux Barques. Just outside of Port Austin, this peninsula marks the extreme tip of Michigan’s thumb.
While Turnip Rock is definitely the star of the show in Lake Huron’s shallow waters, there are other things to check out.
During warm months, you’re likely to find the waters around Turnip Rock crowded with kayakers who are looking for the same thing you are — colorful photos to post to social media. If it’s too crowded, you could explore some of the sea caves in the area and another rock formation known as Thumbnail Point.
How to Get to Turnip Rock
Believe it or not, visitors can’t get to Turnip Rock Michigan by land. So how do you get there? A boat tour or kayak is the best way to go.
Turnip Rock Boat Tours
If you don’t want to paddle 7 miles out and back, charter a boat to take you. Charter companies like Turnip Rock Tours will take you spots where you can get lots of great photos. Some of the companies run all day and charge reasonable prices, so it’s a relaxing alternative to kayaking there yourself.
Kayaking to Turnip Rock
Because of Turnip Rock’s location along the Lake Huron shoreline, it has become a popular kayaking spot in the Michigan Thumb. The most popular spot to put in is at Bird Creek. It empties right into Port Austin Harbor about 100 yards from the launch, allowing you to explore in either direction.
Another good spot is Veteran’s Waterfront Park, a public beach that’s just a few blocks from Bird Creek Park. If you’re looking to rent a kayak for your Turnip Rock kayak adventure, Port Austin Kayak has all the gear you’ll need!
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can also windsurf or paddleboard to Turnip Rock. Though if you’re a beginner, a kayak or a boat is probably the safer choice.
Safety Tips for Lake Huron Kayaking
Speaking of safety, check the Turnip Rock weather conditions before you launch your kayak. Also, make sure that you have all the necessary equipment. The trip can take up to four hours, and in less-than-favorable conditions, kayaking can become dangerous.
You should have a life vest on and suitable footwear to walk on the slippery rocks. It’s best to tell someone where you’re going too.
Even in the best of conditions, kayaking requires some physical exertion. The 7-mile paddle can be a heck of a workout, so if you’re going to kayak to Turnip Rock, you need to be in reasonably good physical shape. Since the trip can be a difficult one to make, only single kayaks are allowed along the Turnip Rock trail.
Where to Take a Break
Since it’s private property that you’ll be paddling around, you need to stay off the rock. If you need or want to take a break, you can pull up along the lakeshore. It’s common for many kayakers to pull up onshore to swim, have a bite to eat, or take some pictures.
As long as you stay below the high water mark, stay off the rocks, and stay out of people’s front yards, you’re free to explore.
Photos of Turnip Rock
Where to Eat During Your Turnip Rock Experience
If you’re looking to grab a bite to eat before or after your Turnip Rock trip, you’re in luck because there are some great Port Austin restaurants.
The Bank 1884 offers a casual atmosphere and upscale American classics, perfectly paired with wine, spirits, or imported beer. Specials are regularly posted on Facebook, so keep an eye out before you go.
Lake Street Local is a great sport for a late lunch or early dinner. It offers wraps, salads, and specialty pizzas. If you’re looking to cool down on a hot summer day, stop at PAK’s Backyard Cafe and Beer Garden for quality food and delicious craft beer.
Where to Stay Near Turnip Rock
You can’t just go to the Michigan Thumb without exploring some of the other things to do in the area. Fortunately, you can take as much as you want when you stay at Port Austin hotels, vacation rentals, and camping sites.
For instance, the Blue Spruce Motel and Cabins are within walking distance of downtown Port Austin and just a quick jaunt from local restaurants and attractions — such as the marina and Port Austin Farmers Market. You can book single rooms, double rooms, or a cabin.
Lakeside Motor Lodge sits right in the middle of downtown Port Austin, allowing easy access to local attractions, shopping, and dining. It has a heated pool, so you can take a dip after your trip to Turnip Rock.
On the other hand, you could go camping at Port Crescent State Park, which just happens to be one of the best places to explore in the Thumb of Michigan.
Frequently Asked Questions About Turnip Rock
How long does it take to kayak to Turnip Rock?
Turnip Rock is 7 miles from shore, so plan on a two to four-hour trip if you plan on paddling there and back.
Can you walk on Turnip Rock?
No, Turnip Rock is part of Pointe aux Barques, which is private property. A good rule of thumb is to look but don’t touch.
Can you see Turnip Rock without kayaking?
Kayaking is one of the best, and perhaps the most fun, ways to see Turnip Rock. But you can also get there on charter boats, which run several times a day during the busy summer season.
Can you see Turnip Rock from land?
If you’re lucky enough to know someone who lives on Pointe aux Barques, yes. Otherwise, you won’t be able to see it until you paddle the Turnip Rock trail or take a boat ride. There are currently no public access points to view this wonder from the shoreline.
Plan Your Visit to Turnip Rock on the Michigan Thumb
If you’ve been just about everywhere in Michigan and you’re looking for another hidden gem to explore, Turnip Rock is it. While points farther up along the Lake Huron shoreline may get more fanfare, Turnip Rock is truly a sight to behold for anyone willing to make the journey.
So, rent a charter or grab your kayaking gear, and head to Michigan’s Thumb. A trip to Turnip Rock may just turn out to be one of the best Michigan adventures you’ve ever had.