The Ultimate Great Lakes Kayaking Adventure Itinerary

Summer is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere, and with summer comes my annual national parklands adventure. While I love to travel internationally, there are so many amazing places to visit at home in the United States that I like to take some time to explore these areas each year. In case you missed it, last year I took an epic national parks road trip out to the western United States to visit some of the country’s most iconic parks. If you are interested in reading about that adventure, I have linked to my trip planning article below for you to read. This year, I plan on switching things up a bit and taking a trip thru the Great Lakes states to do some Great Lakes kayaking at two of the most iconic kayaking locations in North America.

Great Lakes Kayaking

When it comes to tourist destinations in the United States, the large cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas and the big national parks like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon get most of the attention. However, the Great Lakes region of the United States has some absolutely fantastic destinations for outdoor adventure enthusiasts to explore. In particular, there are some truly incredible Great Lakes kayaking opportunities to be had if you know the top destinations. A few years back, my wife and I travelled to the Apostle Islands in Northern Wisconsin to do some kayaking on Lake Superior. Without a doubt, the Apostle Islands is one of the premier kayaking destinations in the Great Lakes region. This summer, I plan on visiting the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Mackinac Island, and Turnip Rock, which are three of the other iconic kayaking destinations in the Great Lakes States.

Great Lakes Kayaking - Road Trip
Summer National Parks Road Trip
Great Lakes Kayaking - Apostle Islands
Apostle Islands Visitor Guide

My Great Lakes Kayaking Trip Itinerary

Great Lakes Kayaking

If you follow my blog closely, you likely know how much I absolutely love outdoor adventure activities. Whether it is hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, or climbing, I can’t get enough of it. One of my favorite activities to do in the American Great Lakes region is to kayak on the beautiful Great Lakes. There is a seemingly endless number of beautiful coastlines on Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron to explore. There are a number of beautiful spots that I have visited and photographed on land during my travels, but have yet to make it back to and get out on the water. That is why I have decided to take this Great Lakes kayaking trip and to share my itinerary with you. Perhaps it will inspire you to get out and visit this amazing part of the United States and to check out some of these fantastic kayaking destinations.

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Great Lakes Kayaking - Pictured Rocks

The first stop on my Great Lakes kayaking adventure will be to the incredible Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Located on shores of Lake Superior, Pictured Rocks is one of the most incredible pieces of shoreline in the United States. The breathtakingly beautiful painted cliffs, sea caves, and natural rock formations that are found along this stretch of coastline are unreal. I have visited Pictured Rocks a number of times during my travels, but I have yet to get out on the water and kayak this stretch of coastline. That will change on this trip, as I plan to spend a full day exploring this incredible national coastline.

For this trip, I decided to book a tour with Pictured Rocks Kayaking as I really like the fact that they take you by boat to the start of the pretty coastline and then launch the kayaks from the boat. Since I will be doing quite a bit of kayaking on this trip, saving my arms by avoiding the kayaking miles to get to the amazing part of the coastline was an attractive option. However, I was also very intrigued by the kayaking tours offered by Paddling Michigan. They have a number of sunrise and sunset kayak tours that look incredible, as well as an 8-hour kayaking and hiking tour that looks like it would be a lot of fun. If you are looking to book a kayaking tour at Pictured Rocks, I would suggest starting with these two well-known tour providers. If you would like an overview of what you can see while kayaking at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, I have included map of the typical kayaking tour for you to review below.

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Great Lakes Kayaking on Mackinac Island

Great Lakes Kayaking - Mackinac Island

The next stop on my Great Lakes kayaking adventure is an area that I have spent quite a bit of time at since I was a child. When I was young, my family would take road trips around Lake Superior and a stop at Mackinaw Island was always on the itinerary. While I have explored almost every inch of the island itself, I have yet to get out on the water in a kayak while visiting the island. Finally, I hope to do that on this trip and I cannot wait. There are so many incredible sights to explore long the coast of Mackinac Island, including the natural arch, the Little Round Island lighthouse, and many other beautiful spots. If you are interested in learning more about Mackinac Island, I have included a link to my Ultimate Mackinac Island Visitor Guide for you to review below. For those that are interested in kayaking while there, I would strongly suggest that you check out the incredible tours available with Great Turtle Kayak Tours. They have a wide variety of tours that will meet the needs of kayakers of all experience levels.

Great Lakes Kayaking - Mackinac Island
The Ultimate Mackinac Island Visitor Guide

Turnip Rock

Great Lakes Kayaking - Turnip Rock

The final stop on my Great Lakes kayaking adventure will be to one of the most infamous, yet more difficult to reach, kayaking destinations in the American Great Lakes region. There are few landmarks along the shores of any of the Great Lakes that are as beautiful or as mystifying as Turnip Rock. Located on the shores of Lake Huron near Port Austin, Michigan, Turnip Rock is an incredible sea stack that sits in the shallow waters, just off shore. Unlike many of the incredible sea caves and sea stacks that can be found elsewhere in the Great Lakes, the shoreline near Turnip Rock isn’t located on public lands. Instead, it sits off the coast of a private gated community, which makes seeing and photographing this epic sea stack impossible for most people to do by land.

For most visitors, the only way to get up close to Turnip Rock and photograph it is by getting in the water and kayaking to it. It’s not a difficult paddle when weather conditions are favorable, and shops in Port Austin like Port Austin Kayak rent out single and double kayaks, as well as stand-up paddle boards. It’s a roughly 7-mile kayak from Port Austin to Turnip Rock, and takes most people roughly 4-hours to get there and back. If you are interested in kayaking to Turnip Rock on your own Great Lakes kayak adventure, I would strongly recommend reserving your kayak rental well in advance as it does get busy during the summer months. Believe me, it is an experience you will remember.

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Categories: East North Central Parks, East North Central Parks Itineraries, Kayaking, Michigan, National Interest Spot, North America, North America Travel Itineraries, Road Trips, Travel, United StatesTags: , , , , , , , , ,


  1. You are great at singing the praises of the Midwest. Have fun on your ‘yaking adventures. Look forward to reading about them.

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