Sanctuary of the great lakes

Shipwrecks & Maritime History


Sue Peterman kayaks over the Portland shipwreck lying in shallow waters in Bell Bay.

Home to the nation’s only freshwater National Marine Sanctuary, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary interprets hundreds of years of nautical commerce which have created a rich landscape of maritime history and culture in the Alpena area. A destination maritime heritage center with exhibits and programs, museums with nautical exhibits, seven area lighthouses and maritime trails, tours and events bring the stories of ship captains, sailors and lighthouse keepers to life. Kayak, canoe, Stand Up Paddle Board, and snorkel some of the shallow water wrecks with this handy paddle guide: Shallow Shipwreck Paddle Guide.

Take a closer look at Shipwreck Alley and this nationally significant collection of shipwrecks and see the vivid underwater landscape off the coast of Northeast Michigan.

Besser Museum For Northeast Michigan
Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival
Thunder Bay Maritime Festival


diverThunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center
500 W. Fletcher St., Alpena
(989) 356-8805
Admission: Free | Hours: Open year round, check website for hours.

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary preserves a national treasure, nearly 200 historic shipwrecks in and around the bay. Lake Huron’s cold, fresh water preserves many of these shipwrecks intact and in water depths ranging from a few inches to 200 feet, making the sanctuary a popular destination for divers, snorkelers and kayakers. You can explore the history and archaeology of these wrecks at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, the Sanctuary’s 20,000 square foot river front headquarters. Exhibits on Great Lakes maritime history and shipwrecks include the new “Exploring the Shipwreck Century” exhibit, an 9,000 square ft. permanent exhibit where visitors can experience elements of a traditional maritime museum combined with a hands-on discovery center featuring life-sized recreations of an historic Great Lakes schooner and shipwreck sites, artifact displays, and interactive learning stations on technology and diving. Also featuring a sanctuary store, state of the art education spaces, high-definition theater, and archaeological conservation lab, the admission-free Center is a great destination and the best place to begin exploring Thunder Bay. Please call for current hours of operation. Wreck locations are available on our web site. While visiting Alpena, you may also want to explore the Thunder Bay Sanctuary Research Collection, one of the largest archival collections of Great Lakes maritime history in existence, located at the Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library.


Glass-bottom Boat Shipwreck Tours: The Legends of Thunder Bay

500 W. Fletcher St., Alpena
(989) 356-8805
Adults – $30, Age 12 and under – $10, Group Rates: $25 per ticket when 20 or more adult tickets are purchased online at least 3 days before cruise. Open: late May – early October, check website for hours.

Explore the shipwrecks of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary with Alpena Shipwreck Tours. The crystal clear waters and our large ‘glass bottom’ viewing wells allow you to dive the wrecks – without getting wet. During our 2 hour cruise you will experience the magnificently preserved shipwrecks and the scenic shorelines of Thunder Bay. Learn the exciting tales of many famous ships and the history, legends and lore of Lake Huron. Get schedule and order tickets here.


Alpena Convention & Visitors Bureau
235 W. Chisholm St. • Alpena, MI 49707
1-800-4-ALPENA or (989) 354-4181
© 2014 Alpena Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, All Rights Reserved. Produced by Gaslight Media