Planners in search of an outdoor adventure on the water—as a pre- or post-activity or something in-between—should consider setting sail aboard one of the state’s excursion vessels. From Lake Huron to Lake Michigan, from the Detroit River to the Straits of Mackinac, the Great Lakes State’s waterways guarantee boatfuls of inspiration and success. Here’s a look at four fun options.
Shepler’s Lighthouse Tours
Adventure seekers can catch some thrills with Shepler’s Lighthouse Tours on five different routes through one of North Americas most historic and dangerous shipping channels. Known as the Crossroads of the Great Lakes, the perilous Straits of Mackinac—where lakes Michigan and Huron meet below the 5-milelong Mackinac Bridge.
Lighthouses were built along the shoreline to guide sailors as they navigated the treacherous waters. Although the straits are no longer the menace they once were, 16 of these guardians of the Great Lakes are within easy sailing distance of Mackinaw City. Two west bound routes in Lake Michigan and three east bound routes into Lake Huron will captivate passengers as they get to see the old lights up-close during three- to five-hour cruises offer by the same company that provides ferry service from Mackinaw City and St. Ignace to Mackinac Island.
Evening lighthouse cruises are available and for the more vigorous sailor there are extended expeditions.
Depending on the route, Shepler’s uses a variety of vessels with a guest capacity ranging from 97 to 281. Private charters are available for groups up to 180.
Star of Saugatuck Boat Cruises
Musical acts from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Tina Turner have an appreciation for riverboats. And planners can keep that big wheel turning by hitching a ride on an authentic sternwheeler paddleboat, The Star of Saugatuck. Since the late 1860s, visitors have journeyed down the tranquil Kalamazoo River, past sand dunes and into Lake Michigan. The Star of Saugatuck’s giant 14-foot paddlewheel makes guests feel like they are a part of that historic riverboat culture.
“On occasion, we’ll catch a glimpse of deer, wild turkey, fox, blue heron and seagulls as well as other wildlife natural to the area,” says Manager Marilyn Starring, adding that there might even be a bald eagle sighting as the sternwheeler plies pass the forests, dunes, marshes and the tall grasses.
Tours are 90 minutes and available multiple times daily. The vessel’s 150-passenger capacity is split between the enclosed and climate-controlled lower deck seating 70, and the upper deck with partial canopy seating 80. Beer, wine, mixed drinks, pop and snacks are available.
Private charters are available May through October. Depending on the date, rates range from $900 to $2,000 for 90-minutes.
Diamond Jack’s River Tours
DETROIT AND WYANDOTTE
Here’s a fun way to enjoy the world’s busiest international waterway, which separates the United States and Canada.
With three different riverboats to choose from, Diamond Jack’s River Tours offers a fun venue for an on-the-water event where you can take in the Detroit and Windsor skylines along the Detroit River and cruise under the Ambassador Bridge.
“Diamond Jack’s has deep roots in the Motor City, is a Pure Michigan company and a proud member of the Detroit community. When you cruise with Diamond Jack’s, you’ll see Detroit from a whole new perspective,” says Captain and Operations Coordinator Steve Carrothers. “You can take in the beautiful architecture of downtown Detroit, including the Renaissance Center, the Guardian Building, or even look across the border and gaze upon the skyline of Windsor. You’ll experience downtown like never before.”
Diamond Jack’s River Tours has been family owned since the day Captain Bill Hoey set sail in 1991. Three vessels are available for private events: The Diamond Jack, with a capacity of 125 and a dinner/buffet capacity of 70; The Diamond Queen, with a capacity of 175 and a dinner/buffet capacity of 95; and The Diamond Belle, with a capacity of 225 and a dinner/buffet capacity of 150. Regular tours are approximately 2 hours long. Food, drink, and catering options are available.
Huron Lady Cruises
Social media fanatics in your group will love their 90-minute voyage with Huron Lady Cruises. Its 73-foot Huron Lady II showcases unbeatable views of the St. Clair River, Lake Huron, Great Lakes freighters, Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, and the International Blue Water Bridges. Guests consistently rave about the incredible views—from the canopy covered upper deck or the large windows below—that are just not available on land.
The line offers private charters and dinner cruises. One dinner option starts at the River Crab restaurant in Port Huron followed by dessert onboard as the sun sets.
Event planners can charter the entire boat for $1,300 for the first hour and $500 each addition hour with a variety of catering and food options available. The boat can accommodate up to 100 passengers for hors d’oeuvres or up to 60 for a seated meal. The lower level is climate controlled.