The world’s largest freshwater lake system doesn’t just create ideal conditions for northern vineyards. It’s also home to a recreational paradise for every interest and ability.
“Michigan is an amazing place [with] the amount of natural area preserved and available for recreation,” says Cristin Hosmer, winemaker at the 1855 Project. “You can swim at some of the most pristine beaches all day and eat at some of the best farm-to-table restaurants featuring local wines at night.”
Here are some of Michigan’s wine and beer pros’ favorite spots to hike, bike, paddle and boat.
Getting out on the Great Lakes
“What makes us special for nationwide visitors? The Third Coast, of course,” says Jay Briggs, winemaker at 45 North Vineyard and Winery. He’s referring to the 1,638 miles of shoreline that are accessible across the state and bring the beach to the Midwest.
“The Great Lakes are a true marvel,” says Briggs. “Each one is unique and offers so many possibilities. Boating, fishing, swimming, sailing, kiting [and] surfing—yes, you can surf a couple of the lakes.”
Hosmer enjoys slipping onto a paddleboard at a peaceful Old Mission Peninsula beach she’s not ready to name yet. Meanwhile, brewers from Right Brain Brewery and winemakers from Left Foot Charley winery board the Tall Ship Manitou for tastings on the water.
Michigan’s Best Hiking
Michigan has more than 13,000 miles of designated trails, but the northwest’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore stands out. “It’s miles of dune lakeshore with stunning views, 100 miles of hiking trails, a bike trail, hunting, fishing, camping [and] birding… it’s a must-see when you’re in the area,” says Briggs.
Hosmer agrees. “Sleeping Bear Dunes boasts the most amazing hikes to picture-perfect vistas and sandy beaches.” For the park’s backcountry, she recommends South Manitou Island.
Adam McBride, owner and winemaker of Hickory Creek Winery, is an avid hiker and trekker with experience in the Andes in South America, the Canadian Rockies, the Caucasus in Europe and the Cascades in North America. Closer to home, he enjoys backcountry camping and section hiking along Michigan’s segment of the national North Country Trail.
Warren Dunes State Park in the southwest also makes for a scenic training ground.
“Taking on the park’s dune climb is excellent training for tackling big mountain climbs, and honestly it’s just a lot of fun,” says McBride. “Not to mention [there are] rewarding views of Lake Michigan from the top of the dunes.”
Amy Birk, winemaker at Domaine Berrien Cellars, opts for the area’s Grand Mere State Park. “It is an. extensive dune system [that] is not nearly as busy as other local parks such as Warren Dunes,” she says. “The hiking there is peaceful and the beach, once you reach it, is beautiful.”
In the state’s Upper Peninsula, Jake Shea, head brewer at Ore Dock Brewing Company, enjoys even fewer crowds and playfully shushes about his favorite spot, Craig State Park.
“It’s the most secluded park in the state, and boasts miles of hiking trails, backcountry camping, canoe camping, and world-class bass, pike and crappie fishing,” says Shea. “Breathtaking views, solitude and a sense of calmness not found in much of the world we live in today.”
Michigan’s Best Biking
In addition to park trails, Michigan’s wine countries pair well with two wheels.
“I love cycling in the Buchanan, Baroda and Berrien Springs area, where a large majority of the southwest Michigan wineries are located,” says Birk. “The rolling topography, vineyards and farmland make for a challenging but very enjoyable ride.”
Briggs points north to the Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula appellations in the Traverse City area. “The casual Leelanau Trail is flat and paved from Traverse City to Suttons Bay for a great 30-mile round trip.”
The popular 40-mile Old Mission Peninsula Trail draws locals and guests every Tuesday in a race to a lighthouse.
If you’re looking for a mountain track, Briggs says, “The VASA single track, Arcadia Bluffs or Glacial Hills will scratch that itch, especially in spring with all the trillium blooming.”
Michigan’s Best Kayaking and Canoeing
Michigan has a vast network of lake and river water trails.
“The Galien River Marsh Water Trail, the Paw Paw River Water Trail, the St. Joseph River Water Trail and the Bangor/South Haven Heritage Water Trail provide hundreds of miles of paddling area with numerous outfitters, access points and historic sites,” says McBride.
Birk likes to launch her kayak on the Paw Paw River. “It is a slower moving river, which makes kayaking upstream very easy. The woods and farm fields that the river runs through are beautiful, and it even runs along a nature preserve known as Sarett Nature Center.”
Brian Morin, founder and brewer at Sister Lakes Brewing Company, gives the nod to Sarett Nature Center and adds canoeing in the Huron-Manistee National Forest to the list.
“I love the Manistee because of the sheer expanse of it,” says Morin. “It has plenty of woods for camping and hiking as well as lakes and rivers for paddling. I’ve been going there for years and there is still so much more for me yet to explore.”