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Key Info


Recreation, Tours Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend


  • 5.0Value
  • 2.0Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

There's no better way to experience Lake Michigan than directly on the water, and Traverse City has several options for travelers to be able to do just that. Highly-rated boat tour operators in the area include Nauti-Cat and Traverse Tall Ship Company

The main difference between these two companies is that Nauti-Cat is a catamaran and the Traverse Tall Ship Company is an old-fashioned schooner. Nauti-Cat offers a handful of cruises, ranging from sunset sails to afternoon outings. Meanwhile, Traverse Tall Ship Company offers sailing excursions to nearby Manitou Island. Both companies also offer private charters. 

For a more active sightseeing tour, consider hitting the water on a kayak. The popular River Outfitters rents kayaks and offers tours, including trips down the Boardman River and the unique KaBrew Tour, a kayak and brewery tour in one. Another kayak and brewery tour hybrid popular in the Traverse City area is Kayak, Bike & Brew, which takes visitors along TART trails, into the water and to participating microbrew pubs. 

Prices vary depending on the tour you take. Nauti-Cat tours start at $35 per adult, while Traverse Tall Ship Sailing Company tours start at $42 per adult. For a River Outfitters tour, you can expect to pay $50 per person and for Kayak, Bike & Brew $69 per person. Hours vary by tour operator. For more information, visit each individual tour operator's website.


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#1 Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the few places in the world that visitors can see perched dunes. The lakeshore's towering dunes, which stretch 35 miles long Michigan's eastern coast, were formed by glaciers. The slopes left behind by the glaciers turned into dunes as a result of Lake Michigan's tide pushing sand up onto the shore overtime. It's this unique phenomenon that garnered the park National Lakeshore status in 1970. 

Today, Sleeping Bear Dunes is enjoyed by more than a million visitors per year, who flock to the park to experience the dunes and enjoy an eyeful of the lakeshore's vibrantly colored waters, forested hiking trails, beaches and bevy of outdoors activities. First-time visitors won't go wrong starting their journey with the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, a 7 1/2-mile drive that takes travelers through forested landscapes and along sand dunes to various overlook points. For hiking, you're spoiled with more than 100 miles of trails. For an easy trek, check out the Empire Bluff trail, a 1 1/2-mile round-trip hike that takes visitors directly to the edge of the dunes. The Pyramid Point trail is a more moderate, hilly option, while the 9-mile Alligator Hill trail takes hikers away from the dunes and higher up to provide sweeping views of the lake and the forests that flank it. If you're looking to do more than just hike, know that you can also bike, kayak, canoe and even scuba dive here. During the winter, the park is open to visitors for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding and more. 

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