All Places in ‘Great Lakes’

  • Platte River Beach

    Platte River Beach, Lake Michigan Platte River Beach is a stunningly beautiful and unique spot along Lake Michigan.   It is always a busy place in the summer for kayaks, canoes, and SUPs that float down the Platte River and finish at the beach on Lake Michigan.   One of the best parts about Platte River is the campground very close by. The Beach The beach is large, sandy and pretty straightforward  to launch from.    If you’re traveling with little kids, they can have a blast playing at the mouth of the Platte River where it opens up into Lake Michigan. Parking Tips: Summertime is busy,  get there early If there is wind in the area, then there will most likely be some waves to work with at Platte River Beach North Wind Sets up great conditions with a wave pattern that will parallel the shore line West Wind Waves will be coming directly on-shore.   Great for doing out and backs South Wind A straight south wind will be blocked a bit by Point Betsie,  but overall as long as there is some West (which there typically is)  the conditions should be good.    When the wind is Southwest you can do nice out and backs from the beach heading south so that you never really get more than 1/2 mile off shore. Point to Point Options Platte Point to Empire Beach  – On  a West/Southwest wind this can be a great route.    The waves  won’t be too big but often there is a decent swell.   If the wind is Southwest then it will be a bit more on-shore, but still very doable, you may just need to get out off-shore a mile or so before heading toward Empire beach.   Total distance into Empire beach is around 7 miles. Point Betsie to Platte River  – On a West or Southwest wind this should be a pretty good run. Safety Precautions Wear high visibility clothing.   There is typically not a lot of boat traffic in this area, but you never know When the wind and waves are up,  the surf at Platte River beach can be challenging.  There is really no protected routes to get out beyond the surf, so you have to power through it. Fortunately there is almost always some amount of on-shore wind,  so if you stay within a mile of shore when paddling around the each  that will help keep things safe Post Paddle Food & Libations The Manitou Restaurant serves great food in a classic Up North atmosphere.  

  • Point Betsie

    Point Betsie, Frankfurt Point Betsie is one of the top wind and wave locations on Lake Michigan.  It is an all time favorite for kiters and surfers.   The beach is decent, but this spot is really all about the wind and waves. The geographic nature and positioning of Point Betsie make it a very special place.   Whether the wind is blowing from the North or South, from the point you can quickly get out into really nice clean swell.   And depending on the wind direction, on either side of the point you can find waves cleaning up and lining up as they come around the point. The Beach The beach is not too big by Northern Michigan standards,  but there is some space for non-paddlers to hang out. Parking Tips: There isn’t really much of a parking lot at Point Betsie. Most people tend to just park along the side of the road North Wind A north wind will create pretty big conditions at Point Betsie.   The waves have a long fetch coming straight down from the top of the lake without too much interference. West Wind Waves will be coming directly on-shore.   Great for doing out and backs South Wind A straight south wind or southwest will create great conditions out at Point Betsie with hundreds of miles of unobstructed fetch the swell builds beautifully. Point to Point Options Point Betsie to Frankfurt – On a North wind this is a great, short downwind run that is very popular with kiters and the local SUP surfers.     It is about 4 1/2 miles down to Frankfurt  with waves running parallel to shore. Frankfurt to Point Betsie  – On a straight South wind this is a great run with awesome conditions paralleling the shore.   If the wind is Southwest you’ll need to head out offshore about 2 miles to get a good line down to the point as the waves will tend to feel pretty onshore Point Betsie to Empire – On a southwest wind, this may very well be the best downwind run in Northern Michigan.   And fortunately we get a lot of southwest wind through the summer months.   In total this will be about a 16 mile run and if you take a straight line you’ll be 5 miles off shore at times,  so this is definitely for expert paddlers who are well prepared.   This could someday be a world class race route with a classic big sandy beach finish like you see in Australia and South Africa. Point Betsie to Platte Point –  If you aren’t up for the long run to Empire, taking out at Platte Point can be a great option.  Still lots of phenomenal runs, just a bit shorter and you can stay closer to shore Safety Precautions Wear high visibility clothing.   There is typically not a lot of boat traffic in this area, but you never know When the wind and waves are up,  the surf at Point Betsie can be very challenging. Be very aware of the wind.  The same things that make the point such a great location, can also make it challenging.  If you go around the point with the wind at your back you can quickly find yourself further offshore than you expected. Post Paddle Food & Libations Frankfurt has lots of boutique restaurants and bars that would all be great options.  Every time I’m in the area we always add in a mountain bike ride at the Pierre Forest (the reviews don’t do it justice.  Not incredibly technical, but still a very fun place to ride, especially with family)  and eat at ElBerto’s Taqueria  the food is fresh, local, largely organic, and simply amazing!

  • Empire Beach

    Empire Beach, Lake Michigan Empire beach is considered by many one of the most beautiful beaches in Michigan and the paddling is equally spectacular.   Heading North from the beach off to your right are the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes rising 400 feet up from the water. The Beach The beach is very sandy and it is quite easy to launch from.  Some of the beach amenities include a new jungle gym park and basketball court for kids.  Additionally there is a small inland lake just on the other side of the parking lot, which is  big hit with the younger kids when the water on Lake Michigan is too rough or cold. Parking Tips: Empire Beach now has paid parking, but it is a pretty modest fee. In the summer the parking lot fills up quick,  so plan to come early If you happen to have a trailer,  there are 4-5 reserved trailer spots that rarely fill up and are located right across from the launch. If there is wind in the area, then there will most likely be some waves to work with at Empire Beach North Wind Sets up great conditions with a wave pattern that will parallel the shore line West Wind Waves will be coming directly on-shore.   Great for doing out and backs South Wind A straight south wind will be blocked a bit by Point Betsie,  but overall as long as there is some West (which there typically is)  the conditions are excellent paddling out from the beach.    When the wind is Southwest you can do nice out and backs from the beach heading south so that you never really get more than 1/2 mile off shore. Point to Point Options Empire Beach to Glen Haven or Glen Arbor – On a straight South wind this can be a decent route.    The waves  won’t be too big but often there is a decent swell.   If the wind is Southwest then it will be a bit more on-shore, but still very doable, you may just need to get out off-shore a mile or two before turning North.   Total distance into Glen Arbor beach is around 11 miles.  Be prepared to get blasted by wind when you turn the point into the bay. Glen Haven or Glen Arbor to Empire  – On a North or Northwest wind this should be a spectacular downwind.  I have not yet done it, but I suspect conditions will get quite big around the point. Point Betsie to Empire – On a southwest wind, this may very well be the best downwind run in Northern Michigan.   And fortunately we get a lot of southwest wind through the summer months.   In total this will be about a 16 mile run and if you take a straight line you’ll be 5 miles off shore at times,  so this is definitely for expert paddlers who are well prepared.   This could someday be a world class race route with a classic big sandy beach finish like you see in Australia and South Africa. Platte Point to Empire –  Similar to the above route,  but a bit shorter and closer to shore Safety Precautions Wear high visibility clothing.   There is typically not a lot of boat traffic in this area, but you never know When the wind and waves are up,  the surf in Empire can be challenging.  There is really no protected routes to get out beyond the surf, so you have to power through it. Fortunately there is almost always some amount of on-shore wind,  so if you stay within a mile of shore when paddling around Empire Beach  that will help keep things safe Post Paddle Food & Libations Without a doubt,  Joe’s Friendly Tavern is the place to go for a burger and beer after some phenomenal paddling.   I highly recommend the bacon cheeseburger with the Grapefruit IPA made with local hops grown just a few miles away.   Deering’s Market next door has world famous Jerky.  

  • Van’s Beach Leland

    Van’s Beach Downtown Leland Van’s beach is an amazingly beautiful place to paddle.   The parking lot is small and typically packed during the peak summer season,  but don’t let this discourage you.   Even if you don’t get a spot in the parking lot, you can usually find a place not too far away. The beach and launch at Van’s is very sandy and sits right next to the Leland harbor just to your North. If you are in Northern Michigan and looking for some waves to surf,  Leland is always going to be one of your best bets.   With a shoreline that faces West there is almost always some amount of on-shore wind to kick up just enough waves for surfing.   From the beach there is a shelf that goes out about 3/4 of a mile.   When the wind is blowing strong you’ll notice the wave profile change when they hit this shelf.   The waves tend to get steeper and more stacked.   There is also a fair amount of large boat traffic (charters, pleasure boats, and Manitou Ferry)  which can cause the area right around the harbor entrance to get quite confused. North Wind Conditions can get quite big at Leland on a North / Northwest wind and the surf can be challenging to get through.  Use caution. South Wind A straight south wind will be blocked a bit by Pyramid Point to the south of Leland,  but overall as long as there is some West (which there typically is)  the conditions are pretty good paddling out from the beach.   The waves do tend to get a bit mixed as they push around Pyramid Point and through the Manitou Channel.  When the wind is Southwest you can do nice out and backs from the beach heading south so that you never really get more than 1/2 mile off shore. Point to Point Options Pyramid Point to Leland – This should be a spectacular 8-9 mile downwind run on a Southwest wind.  If you take a direct line you are cutting across Good Harbor Bay and will be at times 5 miles off-shore.   This is only recommended for advanced paddlers.   You can keep it safe hugging the shoreline in which case it is likely to be closer to 13-14 miles Gill’s Pier to Leland – On a North or Northwest wind this can be a good 7-8 mile downwind run that the kite surfers sometime do. North or South Manitou Island to Leland – This takes some logistics, but you can pay to put your boat on the Manitou Ferry for a ride over then paddle back.  This would work well on a mostly West wind, but is only recommended for very expert paddlers who are well prepared as you will be up to 10-12 miles off shore crossing the Manitou channel which can be notoriously rough.  This would make for an epic race event someday, mimicking the other notorious channel crossing point to point races around the world. Safety Precautions Where high visibility clothing.   There are large boats that use the marina next to the beach and typically they come in pretty fast.   Visibility and awareness is key. When the wind and waves are up,  there is often a strong rip current generated around the harbor break wall.  Be aware and cautious of this Fortunately there is almost always some amount of on-shore wind,  so if you stay within a mile of shore that will help keep things safe Post Paddle Food & Libations Leland has several quaint restaurants and bars all within walking distance of the beach.   Get a table on the deck at the Cove to catch an amazingly beautiful sunset over the water.  

  • Lover’s Lane / Stoney Point

    Lover’s Lane / Stoney Point Lover’s Lane is a very small public park with a couple of picnic tables in the woods and a short two track down to a rocky beach.   It isn’t much of a beach, but does provide a great launching point from right out on the tip of Stoney Point.    Water shoes are highly recommended to navigate the rocky beach and launch. North Wind On a North or Northeast wind you can launch here and head straight down the shoreline to Lee Point beach about 5 miles away.  Another option for a bit more length is to finish at the Hilltop boat Launch.   The waves are clean out off of Stoney Point and because they have a long fetch they tend to build into a really nice swell in this section versus being stacked and choppy.   It can be technical and challenging to catch these waves. On a Northeast you’ll want to be sure to get far enough off the coast line to get into clean waves that aren’t heading right into the beach.   You will also notice in this section that it can be very shallow for 100+ yards offshore and the waves will build as they hit this shallow water.  If you are out around the buoy as you approach Lee Point you’ll typically have a really nice run in from there. Point to Point Options Stoney Point to Lee Point – This should be a spectacular 8-9 mile downwind run on a Southwest wind.  If you take a direct line you are cutting across Good Harbor Bay and will be at times 5 miles off-shore.   This is only recommended for advanced paddlers.   You can keep it safe hugging the shoreline in which case it is likely to be closer to 13-14 miles Stoney Point to Hilltop – On a North or Northwest wind this can be a good 7-8 mile downwind run that the kite surfers sometime do. Stoney Point to Traverse  – This takes some logistics, but you can pay to put your boat on the Manitou Ferry for a ride over then paddle back.  This would work well on a mostly West wind, but is only recommended for very expert paddlers who are well prepared as you will be up to 10-12 miles off shore crossing the Manitou channel which can be notoriously rough Stoney Point to Suttons Bay – On a strong Northeast wind,  the waves will come right down into Suttons Bay.   Launching from Stony Point provides a night short and protected 3 mile run into Suttons Bay.  A great option for a beginner Safety Precautions Conditions can get pretty big on a strong North or Northeast wind.   Be prepared.   Because there isn’t typically much boat traffic in this area, you should consider yourself to be on your own. Post Paddle Food & Libations Suttons Bay is your best bet for great food and libations,  only about 3 miles away.  

  • Lee Point Beach

    Lee Point Beach / Hendrix Park Lee Point Beach is a very quaint and hidden, yet perfect paddle location.   What makes this spot so unique is that when the wind is blowing,  you almost always have an option to either surf nice waves or find flat water.  The beach itself is not too big, but there is enough space for a handful of sunbathers.   The launch is typically fairly sandy, but it does change from year to year and there are rocks in the area. Anyone who has ever demoed a boat or done a lesson at TC Surfski will recognize this spot.  It is our go to beach and we know it well! North Wind On a north wind the beach itself is completely protected and you can paddle toward the West to stay in calm water.   If you want to venture into the waves, you can head East from the beach and once you get around the point,  you’ll quickly find some nice waves when the wind is out of the North or Northeast.  It doesn’t take much wind for this area to pick up.  A steady 8-10 mph wind will generate nice whitecaps that can easily be surfed.   When the wind is really cranking upwards of 12-20 mph this area can get quite big and the waves will wrap around the point.  These are nice fun, clean, and easy waves to practice learning to surf. South Wind On a strong South or South East wind  the waves will be coming directly onto the beach.   The waves that you will find on a south wind are completely different than a North.  With the shorter fetch, they are smaller waves and very beginner friendly wind driven waves.   From Lee Point Beach you can head up wind as far as around 5 miles and turn around and have an excellent ride back to the beach. Here is an example of a great South wind day, paddling just off the beach at Lee Point West Wind For the most part, Lee Point is protected on a West Wind and at worst it will be choppy. Point to Point Options Lovers Lane down to Lee Point is a great downwind option on a North or Northeast wind.   The total distance is just under 6 miles.   For a little bit longer paddle you can start in Suttons Bay and finish at Lee Point.   This will be closer to 9 miles. Lee Point to Traverse City is great on a good North or Northeast wind.   You can pull in  at any of the many beaches including Clinch Park, Greilickville, or Bryant Park.    The distance is roughly 10 miles and you’ll have clean waves until around 3 miles out of Traverse City where you’ll notice all the obstacles creating some interesting, but fun conditions.    On a South wind you can start at any of these locations and finish at Lee Point.   A straight South or South/Southeast is the best option. Safety Precautions Be caution when there is strong wind out of the West as this is effectively an offshore wind.   It is anywhere from 3-5 miles across the bay Post Paddle Food and Libations The town of Suttons Bay is only about 4 miles to the North with lots of great options.  I highly recommend 9 Bean Rows or Martha’s Vineyard for a top notch farm to table meal. Just a mile North of Lee Point off of M22 is Blackstar Farms winery.   In the summer time they have a cafe with wood fired pizzas and other great fare, all local and fresh You can also head south from Lee Point about a mile down M22 and stop at M22 Wines and Vines (this is also directly across from the Hilltop Boat Launch).  They have a full bar, great pizza, thai food, and a wide selection of local products for sale.