Best Places to Set Sail in Michigan
This is a prime family activity here in the Great Lakes State! Check out these 10 amazing vacation opportunities sure to get parents and kids loving the water.
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Flanked by Lake Michigan to the west, Lake Huron to the east, Lake Superior to the north and a spot of Lake Erie to the southeast, our Great Lakes State is full of boating opportunities – not to mention the many rivers and lakes in between!
So why not add something different to your family vacation this year with a boat ride or two? Michigan offers a variety of cruising experiences, from a gentle sail to a narrated historical voyage to a chance to play scientist onboard. Whatever your kids' interest, there's a family cruise to match.
Here are 10 to get you started. After speaking to several sea captains, we can tell you that all are friendly and primed for questions (the staff, too). They want to share their joy of sailing with you and your family. Call or check websites for current season dates, times and rates. Bon voyage!
- The hook: Classic sailing ship
- Where: Traverse City
- Call: 800-678-0383
- Duration: Two hours
- Max passengers: 62
Channeling an 1800s cargo schooner, this tall ship replica boasts a length of 114 feet with a 21-foot-wide beam. The size of the ship ensures smooth sailing for those without true sea legs. While there are themed cruises available, the real draw of this vessel is its picturesque sails that make passengers feel like they're stepping back in time.
- The hook: Feels like a large, commercial cruise ship (yes, in Michigan!)
- Where: Ludington
- Call: 800-841-4243
- Duration: Four hours
- Max passengers: 600
Venturing across Lake Michigan from Ludington to Manitowoc, Wis., the S.S. Badger is the largest car ferry to venture into the lake's waters. In fact, it's the only coal-fired steamship in North America, and it's got six historical designations! But that doesn't mean it lacks amenities. Your kids can play in the arcade, catch a movie, grab dinner and more. If you're looking to take a loop around the lake and through Chicago, consider making this cruise part of your adventure.
- The hook: A taste of wildlife
- Where: Frankfort
- Call: 231-352-8102
- Duration: Two-and-a-half to three hours
- Max passengers: 100
Starting in Frankfort and winding through Lake Michigan all the way past Point Betsie Lighthouse (one of the most photographed lighthouses in the state), this cruise has plenty to see. The captain narrates the journey with interesting facts about the geology and history behind the area – including the huge sand dunes.
- The hook: A little music and sailing, close to home
- Where: Detroit
- Call: 877-338-2628
- Duration: Varies
- Max passengers: 1,500
With the heart of a dinner ferry boat but all the amenities of a modern ship (yes, there's air-conditioning!), the Detroit Princess packs an afternoon of fun with live Motown music and a buffet served in large, stately dining rooms. Plan on dressing up a bit for this cruise along the Detroit River, which takes off within shouting distance of the Cobo Center. The boat includes eight convection ovens, which turn out an array of dishes like prime rib and crab-stuffed salmon served on one of four main decks (there's also viewing areas on the fourth and fifth decks).