When you’re bordered by three of the world’s largest freshwater lakes, adventure pursuits can’t help but focus on water. Recreation (and story) possibilities include charter fishing, storied sailing races, kayak water trails, canoe floats down rivers that Hemingway made famous, diving amid shipwrecks and unique underwater land formations, and beachcombing for prized agates and other minerals. Neither is water ignored when it freezes. Die-hard adventurers may love the snowy months most for the chance to surf on ice flows, climb frozen falls, play “pond hockey” on a Great Lake, and snowshoe or ski to scenic overlooks or dramatic ice caves.
By mid-winter, area visitors can often be found dangling in the air, attached by a pick-ax to a long curtain of ice, sometimes a couple hundred feet up. The annual Michigan Ice Fest attracts some of the world’s top climbers to the largest concentration of climbable ice in the Midwest; it also offers workshops allowing even first timers to climb like Spiderman up ice walls more reminiscent of Superman’s Icy Fortress of Solitude.
• Even heartier sorts have helped grow the sport of Great Lakes winter surfing, some targeting waves that reach up to 30 feet in winter, others using floating ice floes as boards.
• Dog sled ride options at Nature’s Kennel now include a ride in the dark under a full moon along with beginner and advanced overnights on which guests drive an Iditarod team and even camp with the dogs.
• Horseback rides of Wildridge Stables in Newberry are now offered through early winter.
• Ski and snowshoe outings on Mackinac Island, where the east half of the island is designated entirely for cross-country skiing. The island is accessible only by air come winter but has been named one of the country’s best cross-country ski destinations.
Mapped water trails wind through the protected 36-island Les Cheneaux archipelago along Lake Huron and also along the St. Mary’s River from Drummond Island north, where the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have installed new camping platforms.
• Kayaking’s also a popular sport in the open water of Lake Superior along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a boat trip offering the closest view of their ever-changing colors and patterns.
• Stand-up paddleboarding’s also gaining buzz on the Great Lakes, and river floats are popular on the region’s many pristine trout streams.