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A Michigan Road Trip Around the Thumb

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Awesome Mitten
Awesome Mitten
 2021-05-11

Are you in the market for an off-the-beaten-path Michigan road trip option? Take a look at M-25 and the drive around "The Thumb." From Bay City to Port Huron, along Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron, you’ll find an abundance of parks, hiking and adventure opportunities, beaches, scenic overlooks, resort towns, and more. Let's take a Michigan road trip around the Thumb.

Bay City

Hop on M-25 from I-75 and head east. The interstate will quickly disappear for the duration of the road trip. Before crossing over the Saginaw River, take in the city skyline and river at Liberty Harbor Marina. The marina and surrounding park is a great spot to catch the morning sunrise.

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photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

While visiting downtown grab a cup of coffee at Harless & Hugh Coffee while enjoying the décor and conversation within. Approaching the opposite side of the riverwalk around Wenonah Park, the space opens to its amphitheater and water fountain. You might even catch a vessel, like the Appledore IV or V, parked along the shoreline. Check out Appledore Tall Ship Adventures for excursion opportunities.

Caseville

As you head east, you’ll find the open road turns into two lanes peering toward a flat horizon with lots of countryside and windmills on either side. Before you know it, Saginaw Bay will come into full view in Bay Port. Spend time off the road stop at Bay Port Access Site for encompassing views of Wild Fowl and Saginaw Bay.

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photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Once in Caseville, hit the campground and beach at the county park. The best time of year to be in town is in August when they have their annual ten-day Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival. It marks the end of the summer and tourist season celebrating the tropical paradise, cheeseburgers of course, and Jimmy Buffett.

Just north of town is Albert E. Sleeper State Park. The park is vast inland but has a little day-use portion on the bayside of the road. You’ll run into a scene out of a fairy tale going down the stairs from the parking area towards the beach.

Port Austin & the Top of "The Thumb"

Nearing the top of The Thumb and Port Austin, go for a long hike, mountain bike the sandy trails, do some bird watching, and hang out along the miles of shoreline and sand dunes at Port Crescent State Park.

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photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

In town, grab some breakfast food at Lighthouse Café and walk the long pier to gaze out at the Port Austin Light in the distance. Rent a kayak and make the journey over to Turnip Rock. On the opposite side of Port Austin, you'll find the historic Grindstone City and the Pointe aux Barques Light. The lighthouse marks the point where Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron become one. You've reached the top of The Thumb!

The Lake Huron Coastline

You'll eventually have to make the turn southward on M-25 where you're now driving along Lake Huron. One small, resort town after another will come into view along with beautiful Lake Huron beaches. View the mural on the Community Playhouse in Harbor Beach. Walk alongside the marina and find the hidden beach gem in Port Sanilac.

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photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Do some wine or beer tasting at Lexington Brewing Company after roaming the boutiques and touristy shops and walking the pier in Lexington. Have a picnic while soaking in the beautiful Great Lakes' views at White Rock Roadside Park. The roadside parks all along M-25 are worth a stop.

Port Huron

The southern end of M-25 will bring you to Port Huron, home to one of the major international bridge crossings between the United States and Canada. Just north of the bridge visit the historic Fort Gratiot Light and the adjoining beach where Lake Huron ends and flows into the St. Clair River. Capture pictures of the Blue Water Bridge from the nearly-mile-long park along Thomas Edison Parkway.

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photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

While downtown, take a stroll alongside the marina. You'll pass by several outdoor dining opportunities. Head across the Military Street Bridge to check out the Black River as it flows into Lake St. Clair. Walk alongside the historic downtown buildings and head on over to The Raven Café. Sip a delicious specialty coffee or cocktail while enjoying the unique architecture, the retro poster prints on the walls, and maybe even catch a live musical performance.

Are there any tourist spots, waterfront destinations, or off-the-beaten-path spots you would recommend along Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron, and the Thumb of Michigan?

Article written for Awesome Mitten by Aaron Cruz - a blogger, traveler, coffee drinker, and geography and weather buff who loves Michigan.