If there’s one thing that’s abundant around here, it’s the opportunity to get outside and explore! Chances to paddle or pedal through town (wind in your hair, and maybe even a brew in-hand), all here. The longest canopy walk in the U.S. (that hovers four stories high in the forest), it’s here. One of the “20 Best Michigan State Parks”, here. Glorious gardens, charter fishing expeditions, kayak adventures — all absolutely here in the Great Lakes Bay!
Consider this part of your Pure Michigan adventure bucket list, because you’ve simply got to try each and every one of these top outdoor attractions in the Great Lakes Bay at least once in your life!
Explore exquisite aesthetic and bountiful beauty throughout this 110-acre indulgence. Peruse winding pathways through more than 22,000 flowering bulbs and 35,000 annuals, tour the historic Pines Home, and discover the beautiful Estate Garden, Exploration Garden, Color Garden — and the connected Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens, all included in your admission.
Photo: Dow Gardens by @nrupalikulkarni
With a goal of enhancing the way guests connect with the natural world (achieved), take a walk through the forest like never before on the 1,400-foot, longest-in-the-nation Canopy Walk at Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens — four stories high! Interact throughout with suspended cargo nets, a swaying hammock arm, and experience a “perceived sense of danger” at a glass-floored overlook! Will you dare walk out onto it?
Board a shallow draft boat with your remarkable guide, Johnny Panther, as he leads you through unforgettable scenery and wildlife spotting of egrets to eagles and beyond. Explore the pristine Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge and you’ll know why Johnny Panther calls this glorious land the “Everglades of Michigan”!
Combination ropes course and ziplining adventure, this experience in the treetops is not to be missed! Zoom through the air and zip through the trees as you test your skills on six unique courses — and try their Glow Nights to see the entire forest illuminated by colorful LED lighting and lasers.
Photo: Frankenmuth Aerial Park by @ashsmithphoto
Think billowing white sails, nautical splendor and majestic schooners: the Appledore Tall Ships. Ahhh. Then, think no further; book your excursion with BaySail! From Sunset Sails with unbelievably gorgeous views to Celestial Excursions under starry night skies, don’t pass on this remarkable experience.
Photo: BaySail by @baycitymilove
Book a one-hour Wine and Chocolate River Tour, and glide along the scenic Cass River while sampling five wines expertly paired with five handmade chocolates. Enjoy a full pour of your favorite, and keep the stemless glass as a souvenir!
With almost a mile of natural Saginaw Bay shoreline, one of the Great Lakes’ largest freshwater coastal wetlands, a groomed public swimming beach, boat launch, picnic areas, spray park, playground, campground, cabins, and the Saginaw Bay Visitors Center — it’s no wonder why U.S. News & World Report named this destination one of the “20 Best Michigan State Parks” in 2019!
Board the Princess Wenonah or Islander ferry boats and choose your cruise (maybe even dance on-deck)! Friday Night Entertainment Cruises will have you enjoying a fully-catered dinner and live musicians, while a Saturdays on the Saginaw River Tour will give you 2.5 blissful hours aboard.
Known locally as “The Belle”, this 150-passenger paddlewheel riverboat takes cruisers on an hour-long, narrated tour of Frankenmuth. Spot signature Bavarian rooftops and other iconic sights from the open-air, canopied upper deck (or the cool, enclosed lower salon, if you prefer).
Photo: Bavarian Belle Riverboat by @brettmartinphotos
Whether you hop on in Bay City with Sunrise or Frankenmuth with PedAle, know this before you go: these customizable outings will have you pedaling multi-passenger, bike-like trolleys, stopping off where you choose — and possibly sipping pints while you pedal. Can you see the smile on your face already? Cheers to this must-try experience!
For big water packed with big fish, Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay is a world-renowned spot and charter boats are at the ready for you to yell, “Fish on the line!” Whether you board with The Michigan Experience or Adventure 1 Charters (or any from this complete list of possibilities) — enjoy the waters and your walleye!
Maybe you’re craving kayaking? Look to Float Paddle Center in Bay City, Frankenmuth Kayak Adventures in Frankenmuth, Cattail Kayak Rental in Pinconning, or Ike's Mobile Kayak Rentals in Midland. Rent sit-in or sit-on, single or tandem kayaks — or try stand-up paddleboards from Float Paddle Center for another kind of adventure altogether!
Stretch your legs and feel revived at this 1,200-acre haven of woodlands, wetlands, and rivers. Explore more than 19 miles of hiking trails, including the 3.7-mile, paved Chippewa Trail that’s also perfect for biking and inline skating.
Photo: Chippewa Nature Center by @ninaneuschuetz
Experience the beauty of the wilderness from the comfort of your car on the Wildlife Drive through our Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge! Witness bald eagles, swans, sandhill cranes, American white pelicans, and more while discovering the 1,000-acre Maankiki Marsh, the largest wetland restoration project to take place in the Great Lakes region in the last 75 years.
Have little ones who want to explore what’s outdoors here, too? Bring the kids for a beach day, or try two incredible zoos — all with these fun things for families to do outdoors in the Great Lakes Bay!
Photo: Bay City State Park by @shineonsunfish
As we welcome you back, we’ll be doing our best to keep you in the loop on what’s open & closed in the Great Lakes Bay Region. Just look for the orange banners below on our partner listings as you start planning for your next trip!
While we all navigate this new normal, some experiences may be slightly different, and some businesses may only be partially reopened. Please check with the individual businesses for their reopening status, new hours of operation, and updated policies before visiting!