Times are tough, and cash is tight, but it shouldn’t stop you from having an enjoyable vacation. Want to travel with minimal risks and expenses? Then this may be the trip for you.
We call it Tour De Thumb, and it makes for an enjoyable day trip, or weekend excursion.
The trip circles the entire shoreline of the Lake Huron Shoreline of the thumb of Michigan and makes stops in a handful of towns and cities, depending what you want to do. This trip is best done with a small group of friends or family, anyone who can appreciate an easy car ride.
Start in Port Huron, and head North, on M-25, and just drive, but don’t forget to stop at these locations!
First Stop: Lexington – Get yourself some “Wimpy” burgers and go for a walk on the break wall. Lexington also often holds free concerts in the park, festivals and fireworks. There’s a beach as well. Check the event calendar to know the best times to visit. Shopping is decent in town. When you’re done, head west from the stoplight, for the swinging bridge in Croswell, which is always a good time. Then back on the road!
Second Stop: Port Sanilac – nice harbor, and a museum. Miss able but makes for a nice little break.
Third Stop: Harbor Beach – If you left early, you may be getting hungry by now. 2 words: Al’s Restaurant, they have homemade food at inexpensive prices. Take a walk on the pier that juts into the world’s largest man-made harbor. Visit the Harbor Beach power plant, there’s a fishing pier on the trail behind it. There are also a few campgrounds, like Wagener County Park, in this area that are worth visiting if you are in the mood for a hike.
Fourth Stop: Port Hope – Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Shopping, food and parks.
As you start to round the tip of the thumb, you’ll pass several small towns, that you may decide to stop at depending on what’s going on, but they are worth the time if you’re in no hurry. Grindstone City, and Pointe Aux Barques, most notably, have some interesting natural and historical attractions that you may find enjoyable, such as turnip rock.
Fifth stop: Port Austin – Not to be missed. There is always something to do; shopping, swimming, bird-watching, hiking, museums, kayaking, fishing, and the eternally entertaining mini golf. Port Crescent State Park and Sleeper State Park are nearby for some nature enjoyment, complete with beaches and trails. Stay a while and see everything there is to do.
You may now notice that as you drive, you are now moving south. That’s because you have now rounded the thumb, and are overlooking Saginaw bay.
Sixth Stop: Caseville- You can’t think Caseville without thinking “Cheeseburger in Caseville”. The annual cheeseburger festival in Caseville is a week-long celebration, in the tropical style of Jimmy Buffett. The festival has live music, carnivals, races (including a cardboard boat race), sand castle contests, parades, volleyball, fireworks, laser shows, and too much more to list. And of course, there are cheeseburgers. The cheeseburger festival this year ran from August 13th till the 22nd, which in itself was a trip.
As you continue driving south you will approach Sebawaing. Be sure to turn to stay on M-25 when you see the sugar factory, or you may, as we had, become rather lost.
Seventh Stop: Bay City: One of the last major stops on the tour. Bay City is just that; a City. There is seemingly never a blank day on their event calendar. Concerts, theater, art, parks, festivals, as well as sailing, and boating, shopping, and even a SCUBA Diving outfit. Take a nap by the Fontaine de l’amitie’ (French for Friendship Fountain) which is a monolithic oval in the park near the Saginaw River. The parking is free here, so it is a good place to start for a nice leisurely walk around downtown. There’s a planetarium among some the cities more interesting attributes. Visit the museum for a taste of Michigan heritage. The nature reserves in the area are also enjoyable to say the least. Bay City is the last coastal stop on the tour, and for some may be the end of a long day or weekend with time for a nice ride home. But, if you’re still up for a little more fun, and wouldn’t mind venturing inland a ways, we have one last suggestion for the trip.
Last Stop: Frankenmuth: If you’ve never been, you should stop in for a visit. Frankenmuth is definitely the tourist destination for this area of the state. South of Bay City and Saginaw, the little Bavarian village is worth the drive. The town boasts unique shopping and sightseeing, as well as the food. Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland will make you feel holiday spirit virtually year round. Zehnder’s Bavarian Haus has a “Splash village” complete with waterslide. “River Place” is the place to go for shopping, across the bridge from the Bavarian Inn, and “Zehnder’s Famous Chicken Dinners”. If you have time takes a ride on the river boat! A visit to Frankenmuth is a solid end to an enjoyable and typically inexpensive trip.
Just remember to drive safely and enjoy the ride!
For more detailed information on the locations mentioned in this article, visit the Michigan Travel Information Center, located at 2260 Water Street, Port Huron, MI 48060, or visit Michigan.gov