Chicago, Milwaukee, Grand Rapids — to name a few — these major cities all border Lake Michigan. More than 1,600 miles of coastline are flanked by Wisconsin’s east coast and Michigan’s west coast, reaching all the way down to Illinois and Indiana. It is the second-largest Great Lake by volume.
Lake Michigan’s name derives from the Ojibwa Indian word “mishigami,” meaning “large lake.” With a long history of Native American roots, more than five centuries of Algonkian tribes occupied the lands. Explore maritime history and scuba dive at more than a dozen shipwreck sites in the Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve.
This region is a staple for major powerboat racing. Home to the Annual Great Lakes Grand Prix, Michigan City hosts four days of intense offshore power boating and AquaX Jet Ski racing. Also, Michigan’s state parks offer campgrounds and boat ramps including Silver Lake State Park and Wilderness State Park.
Best Beach Towns
Both Silver Lake Sand Dunes Area and Saugatuck, MI, are ranked among “America’s best little beach towns” by Travel + Leisure. For more coastal towns with lighthouses and breathtaking sunsets, Holland, Ludington, South Haven, Grand Haven and the bustling Traverse City are premier destinations.
As the second-largest Great Lake by surface area, Huron’s 3,350 miles of coastline borders Michigan’s southeast region and Ontario in the northwest. Lakes Huron and Michigan connect through the Straits of Mackinac at Michigan’s northern tip, known as a beautiful boater’s sanctuary.
French explorers originally named Lake Huron “La Mer Douce,” which translates to “the freshwater sea.” It was renamed to honor the Native American Huron people. Visit the Port Huron Museum of Arts & History for local maritime lore or the Huron Lightship Museum to witness the last floating beacon on the Great Lakes.
Since 1925, one of the longest freshwater races in the world is held on Lake Huron every summer. The Bayview Mackinac Boat Race, hosted by Detroit’s Bayview Yacht Club, starts at Port Huron and finishes at Mackinac Island with more than 250 participating yachts.
Best Beach Towns
Dock at Mackinac Island to visit the adorable beach town where automobiles are banned, and the best modes of transportation are by bicycle or horse and carriage. Explore other small beach towns including Lexington, Tawas and Port Austin or larger areas such as Oscoda, Cheboygan and Port Elgin.