When it comes to water sports, kayaking is one of the most popular activities, and Michigan happens to have some of the best paddling destinations in the country! From quiet inland lakes to challenging rivers, Michigan has it all. They say it’s a kayaker’s paradise.
If you are looking for great paddling trips in Michigan, we’ve got you covered. We recommend kayaking in late spring, summer, and early fall though—the harsh winters might make it rough. Rest assured, there’s a place for kayakers of all skill levels. Here are the top 10 kayaking destinations for those who want to see more of Michigan’s beautiful outdoor scene.Struggling to find an easy to use kayak loading system? Shop our store.
1. Isle Royale National Park
Right off the bat, we’re starting off with one of the most spectacular kayaking destinations in Michigan. Isle Royale is famous for its wildlife and remarkable sunsets, but it’s probably most notable for its pristine shorelines that span miles.
Kayakers opt for multi-day paddling trips while camping in between so that they can really take the time to enjoy the place. However, if you plan on circumnavigating it, you will need open-water kayaking experience. It’s not exactly beginner-friendly. But with some experience, it’s definitely worth it.
2. Keweenaw Water Trail
This destination is perfect for kayakers looking for a week-long paddling trip. It starts and finishes in Houghton, Michigan, and it circles the top of the Keweenaw Peninsula. You can explore the Portage Canal and the Lake Superior shoreline.This trail is recommended for more experienced paddlers, as there are plenty of rapidly changing water conditions, and a possibility of large waves. We suggest going from June to August, as the water, weather, and camping conditions are at their best.
3. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located near Munising, Michigan, and it is an ideal place for both day trips and overnight kayak camping. You can have a close-up view of the colored sandstone cliffs that rise dramatically from the ocean.
You don’t even have to bring your own kayak because there are rental services and guided kayak tours available.
4. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
If you’re in Traverse City, you can travel about 25 miles and reach the Sleeping Bear Dunes area. It offers kayaking activities for every skill level. Explore the Lake Michigan shoreline, or just enjoy a calm day on Loon Lake. Kayakers can also enjoy the popular Platte River.
5. Pine River
Located near Wellston, Michigan, whitewater kayakers will rejoice over the beauty of Pine River. It has quite the reputation for running high, because it has “more rapids than any river in the Lower Peninsula”.
But don’t worry, there are plenty of calm sections of the river for those who want to relax and enjoy the ride. Kayak rentals are available through the Pine River Paddlesports Center. This is probably one of the best destinations for kayakers who are looking for a challenge. Get ready for some narrow twists and white water rapids though!
6. Two-Hearted River in the Upper Peninsula
This river was made famous by short stories, but it is keeping its good reputation by being a world-class Trout fishing destination. This is the only Michigan stream to be a designated wilderness river. It is notably easy to navigate, so this is perfect for beginners who are not quite experienced when it comes to kayaking.
7. South Branch of Au Sable River in Roscommon
Another beginner-friendly entry on this list of top kayaking destinations, the South Branch of Au Sable River is an easy paddling paradise. It’s perfect for fishing and birding. To get here, it takes about three hours of paddling from Chase Bridge to Smith Bridge takeout.
8. Great Turtle Kayak Tours in Mackinac Island
Visiting Mackinac Island and enjoying their tours is a great idea if you’re just getting into kayaking. They offer basic instruction for beginners, as well as guided tours in calm waters. But this place won’t alienate those who are looking for a challenge. Experienced paddlers can enjoy tours to Arch Rock, Devil’s Kitchen, Round Island, and Bois Blanc Island on the Straits of Mackinac in Lake Huron.
No wonder the summer tours in Mackinac Island are so popular! If you want to try this out for yourself, you may want to make a reservation sooner because they book up pretty fast.
9. Crystal River of Glen Arbor
This shallow sandy river is perfect for kayakers who want to see some dunes, appreciate nature, and adore the wildlife. Crystal River flows from Glen Lake through sections of the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
10. Canals of Detroit
If you want to journey downstate and experience a more urban kayaking trip, Detroit’s Eastside Canals is perfect for you. You can take a kayak or a canoe, or stand-up paddle board and locate some of the city’s best kept secret spots. That includes Harbor Island, Klenk Island, Rox Creek, and the historic Fisher Mansion. It’s certainly more unique than the other ones, but it’s just as beautiful as a regular paddling adventure. These are definitely beginner-friendly, so those who want narrow twists and waves will have to look elsewhere.
This may be an urban adventure, but you can still enjoy the sunset and take in a more spectacular view of the city. It has a pure Michigan vibe that we’re sure you will love.Make Kayaking Easier with the EZ Rec-Rack Top Loading System for Kayaks!
If you’re not renting a kayak for these amazing outdoor expeditions, you will want an easier way to carry around your kayak while driving from one place to another. Normally, you will need to strap on your kayak to the top of your car by physically lifting it yourself. But with the EZ Rec-Rack Top Loading System, you can easily load your kayak and secure it in less than 2 minutes!
It also secures your luggage carriers, camping gear, and of course, the kayak itself. It is compatible with most accessories currently in the market. This handy invention was created and patented by Ira Mercurio, a kayaker himself who realized how difficult it was to load and unload kayaks all by yourself.