Discover new territory; from rolling fields of farmland to sunrises and dark skies, tall virgin pines, crashing Lake Huron waves and historic relics from our lumbering days, the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes region offers plenty of low-key, relaxed adventures. After you’ve visited the well-known areas check out some of these hidden gems around the region.
- Take a stroll out on Blair Street Pier’s wooden boardwalk and start your morning with one of the greatest feats
of nature; a brilliant northeast Michigan sunrise that lights up Lake Huron’s Thunder bay each and every day. Enjoy the quietness, listen to the soft sound of the waves, and inhale the glorious glowing sky.
- Just north of Alpena you’ll discover the welcoming waters of the Lower Peninsula’s largest waterfall, Ocqueoc Falls. “Waw-waugh-waugh-que-noc”, (meaning sacred waters), was the name given by Native Americans to this beautiful river that is now called Ocqueoc. This hidden gem contains four small rapids and a pool for splashing. Ocqueoc Falls is also the first truly universally accessible waterfall in the United States, making it an ideal destination for everyone.
- Minutes away in Presque Isle County you’ll find the beautiful and historic Presque Isle Range Light Park. Presque Isle Harbor was a routine stop for many vessels conducting trade along the Lake Huron shoreline. The New Presque Isle Light Tower alerted the mariners to impending dangers while the two smaller Range Lights guided them safely into harbor.
- The 40-Mile Point Lighthouse is located north of Alpena in Rogers City, approximately 40 miles southeast of Old Mackinaw Point and 40 miles northwest of Thunder Bay. Is square shaped lighthouse tower sets it apart from many others. Make sure to walk down to the beach, where you will find parts of the “Joseph S. Fay” shipwreck resting on the beach.
- Charming Presque Isle Harbor is located on the Presque Isle peninsula, along with the two Presque Isle
Lighthouses and the Range Light Park, and is the last state harbor before Mackinaw City. Grab a bite to eat at the deli or restaurant and watch the boats sail in and out of the harbor.
- Rent a paddle boat or canoe for simple water fun at Campers Cove RV Park and Canoe Livery. Located on the beautiful Lake Winyah impoundment in Thunder Bay River, you can float your worries away while enjoying a peaceful day on the winding river.
- Sit on a nearby park bench and watch Alpena’s Second Avenue Bridge, (once voted the most beautiful bridge in America), open its drawbridge over the Thunder Bay River to let boats pass through. The beautiful and unusual construction of this bridge earned it an award from the American Institute of Steel Construction in 1939.
- Enjoy the season and connect with the fruits of nature. Check out the array of farm fresh products at the Alpena Farmers Market. You will find fresh, locally grown produce, baked goods, grass fed beef, eggs, poultry, herbs, mushrooms, flowers, jams, even handmade craft items.
- Take a leisurely stroll along the hand-hewn timbers of the Covered Wooden Bridge connecting Duck Park to
Island Park and escape into the serene wildlife of this 17-acre nature preserve. Constructed in the summer of 2015, this stunning piece of art has quickly become a centerpiece of the town.
- Explore the Bruski & Stevens Twin Sinkholes and Cracks in the Earth. Just a short drive through the countryside, you’ll find geologic wonders at this karst preserve. The twin sinkholes are approximately 85 feet deep and 200 feet wide. The Bruski Sink features a drop of more than 100 feet. The unique environment inside provides home to flora not found anywhere else in Northern Michigan.
- Remote Wolf Creek Park will impress you with its newly constructed walking bridge and hiking trail. With all the amenities for an easy afternoon adventure, you can launch from their kayak pad and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy under the covered pavilion.
- Take a step back in time at the Maplewood Tavern. This roadside lounge opened as a dancehall in 1924 and remains a popular place for locals to enjoy a drink, listen to live music and cut a mean rug – all while being waited on by a world famous bartender! Clarise began working at the tavern in 1940 at the age of 21. She has faithfully worked there ever since, and in 2011 she was honored by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the longest bartending career.
- Just west of Alpena you can check out events at the Brush Creek Mill history museum and cultural center, located in the heart of Hillman on the Thunder Bay River. This museum was built near the sits of some of the area’s first lumber mills and demonstrates the power of moving water with a 22′ stainless steel water wheel, capable of grinding corn and wheat.
- Rent a small motor boat from Jack’s Landing and troll through the one of a kind Fletcher’s Floodwaters. Previously a large cedar swamp, the 8,970 acre flood pond is deal for observing wildlife such as Osprey, and for reeling in monster pike, bass, walleye, and panfish. You won’t see large power boats for jet skis in this rustic and remote fishing paradise, just nature in its most pure form.
- Find a simply stunning view of Hubbard Lake’s East Bay from the top of Hickey Hill in Hubbard Lake. This 80-acre undeveloped woodland park was once the homestead of Erie and Ella Jane Hickey in 1904 and is now preserved to promote wildlife.
- Behind the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan lies a charming Historic Village. Here you will discover
restored and maintained century old buildings from the Alpena region, including the McKay Cabin (1898), the Maltz Exchange Bank (1872), Green School (1895), and Spratt Church (1912).
- Swing by the little known LaFarge Pollinator Park, nestled on the company’s property on the northeast side of Alpena. Bees, butterflies, birds, and other pollinators help grow our food, keep our flowers blooming, and make our lands healthy. The park is open to the public all year and maintained by NEMROC.
- Stop and smell the flowers at Alpena’s Arthur E. Sytek Park, located on the Thunder Bay River. This 1/2-acre wildflower park has a small boat launch perfect for canoes and kayaks, a covered fishing platform, and a trailhead for Alpena’s beautiful 18.5 mile Bi-Path. You can’t go wrong spending a relaxing day here, no matter what your interest.
- Follow the path of lumber-era River Rats who followed the floating logs down the river toward the Alpena harbor. Long Rapids Township Park offers seven acres of property and a small boat launch suitable for launching canoes and kayaks into Thunder Bay River for an afternoon paddle.
- Spend a day at Maple Ridge Township Park, located on the North Branch of the Thunder Bay River, and take the picturesque wooden bridge over to a pristine trail area. Explore the 45 rustic acres that include a pavilion and playground, hiking tails, oxbow, and small rapids.
- Birdwatch from the unique Alvar Shoreline along the end of Partridge Point. The land was formed when the soil was scraped away by wind, water and ice, leaving the 400 million year old limestone bedrock exposed. This sparsely vegetated natural area is dominated by lichens, mosses grasses, and herbaceous vegetation.
- The earth’s 45th Parallel runs just south of the Alpena city limits and is marked by a green sign on Squaw Bay.
Don’t leave town without stopping for a photo halfway in between the equator and the North Pole! (Please make sure to watch for traffic).
- Shin-ga-ba Shores Playground is a one-of-a-kind playground, designed with Ossineke’s Native American heritage in mind. Local elementary school students assisted in planning the park’s play structures, which includes a large wooden play fort decorated in art and colorful totem poles.
- At Sanborn Township Park, you’ll find 4 acres of Lake Huron beachfront property just down the road from Ossineke State Forest Campground. With its crystal clear water, fine sand beach, and children’s playground, this park is a fantastic location for lakeside family fun.
- Make sure to check out the legendary statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, standing tall in the heart of Ossineke. Babe the ox was built in 1938 by Walter Hayden and was originally placed on the hill across from the old Lookout Inn, following legend that a white cow on a hill signified good luck. In 1950 new owners purchased the hill and painted Babe blue. Babe’s companion Paul was built in 1953 by Paul Domke, creator of the nearby Dinosaur Gardens. The two were moved in 2006 to their new home at Ossineke’s blinking light, where they still stand today.
- Explore further and visit the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse; one of the 7 lighthouses located in the four county region. This lighthouse features a 3.5 order Fresnel lens made in Paris, France. Take the climb to the top to enjoy the scenic view of Lake Huron, and be sure to stroll through the restored keeper’s house Maritime Museum.
- Considering that Alpena County is 66% water, our sunsets are just as spectacular as our sunrises with more than 1,000 miles of shoreline. End your perfect day with a sunset over Long Lake. Check it out from Long Lake Park or from the parking overlook off US-23.