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Kayaking in Michigan: 15 Amazing MI Kayaking Trips (MAP)

kayaks on a michigan beach - kayaking in michigan

Best Michigan Kayak Trips

Kayaking in Michigan is one of the best activities to do in the beautiful Mitten State.

With the stunning Great Lakes, gorgeous freshwater lakes, and many scenic rivers, the options seem endless when it comes to choosing a beautiful water trail to glide across in your kayak.

Scenic Kayaking in Michigan

With summer at its peak and autumn on the way, it’s the perfect time to see what our awesome mitten state has to offer with its breathtaking scenery.

From a variety of calm, still waters to rocky streams and cliffsides, Michigan is sure to have a kayak trail for all different ages and experiences. 

Paddle Michigan: Find Kayak Trips

Whether you choose to kayak on the Great Lakes or another one of our amazing bodies of water, our list of 15 Places to Go Kayaking in Michigan will help you navigate your next kayak adventure to check off your bucket list of pure Michigan must-do’s.

We’re also sharing information on kayak outfitters and other outfitters in Michigan that rents kayaks to help you plan your trip and find your perfect paddle spot.

Read on to start planning your next Michigan kayak adventure and scroll to the bottom for a map!

woman kayaking in Michigan: Top rivers for Michigan kayaking

Kayaking in Northern Michigan: Top Michigan Paddling Locations

AuSable River

Where: Penrod’s AuSable Canoe and Kayak
100 Maple St, Grayling, MI 49738

The AuSable River is a great Michigan river for kayaking. Flowing almost 140 miles from Grayling to Oscoda, where it meets Lake Huron, its one of Michigans most popular rivers for both tubing, kayaking an canoeing.

Thta’s one reason why you’ll find it easy to locate kayak rentals for paddling fun. Family-friendly and organized, Penrod’s offers a wide variety of different trips to endure, from 2.5 hours to 5.5 hours.

If you’re looking for more of an experienced and intense kayaking experience, check out their two to seven-day kayak trips, embarking you on a special Michigan river adventure.

The staff is sure to help guide your choices of water trails and excursions, and create your best kayaking experience. The mighty AuSable River won’t disappoint: it’s a great river to add to your list of Michigan kayak trips.

Boardman River

Where: The River Outfitters
1910 W South Airport Rd, Traverse City, MI 49686

Looking for something more experienced and challenging? Head on over to The River Outfitters in Traverse City to rent a kayak and cruise along the Boardman River, with rapid waters and wonderful forest life.

Helmets and life jackets are required and provided, and make sure to wear water-appropriate clothing due to the splashing and immersive water experience.

The 28-mile-long Boardman River flows into Grand Traverse Bay in downtown Traverse City, from Boardman Lake.

This trip is not for beginners but is a fun one to add to the list if you are well-rounded and experienced with the ways of the paddle. This 90-minute adventure is a Michigan go-getter’s must-do and will be sure to have you raving about Michigan’s outdoor excitement.

man kayaking in northern Michigan

Crystal River

Where: Crystal River Outfitters Recreational District
6249 River Rd, Glen Arbor, MI 4963

Located in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Crystal River Outfitters offers beautiful kayak and canoe rentals for group adventures. The Crystal River recreation area includes a 2–3-hour trip of heading to the river with offered transportation and boarding your kayak to coast along the clear water lakeshore and tide of Crystal River.

This water trail includes the fun and exciting part of Shooting the Tube, which is a culvert that transports your kayak from one side to the other.

The river ends in downtown Glen Arbor, giving you a chance to explore one of Michigan’s great Lake Michigan beach towns with places to eat and shops to browse.

Crystal River Outfitters gives the perfect opportunity to enjoy some of Michigan’s best scenic views while immersing yourself in the crystal-clear waters of Crystal River. The name is fitting, after all.

PRO-TIP: If you’re an outdoors activities enthusiast, you’ll want to spend some time exploring this beautiful area. Crystal River is one of the top outfitters in Michigan, offering everything from cross-country ski rentals, snowshoes and even fat tire bikes.

Clear Water Kayaks Michigan

Elk Lake – Elk Rapids

Where: Clear Water Kayaks
6784 East Traverse Highway, Traverse City, MI 49684

Elk Lake is a beautiful clear lake in Elk Rapids, with a sandy bottom and widely-known rapids.

Clear Water Kayaks offers a great and unique kayak-guided tour with “food, booze, and cruise”. The most unique thing about Ckear Water Kayaks are the see-through, transparent kayaks.

That’s right, these one-of-a-kind kayaks let you see through the bottom of your kayak to immerse yourself in the waters and nature of Michigan while offering a cool, trendy look.

This tour includes a custom t-shirt and token for your experience at Shorts Brewery (one of Michigan’s top craft breweries), with an included lunch and drinks. Then, head on down to launch your see-through kayaks for a guided tour through Elk Rapids.

PRO-TIP: You’ll want to spend some time exploring this beautiful part of northern Michigan. Elk Rapids is located on Grand Traverse Bay, just north east of Traverse City. It’s hub for outdoors enthusiasts, and you’ll also find great shopping and dining.

Woman Kayaking on Elk Lake, Michigan - Michigan kayaking adventures

Mackinac Island

Where: Great Turtles Kayak Tours
7395 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Mackinac Island is a great place for kayaking, with beautiful views of Lake Huron. Great Turtles Kayak Tours offers professional guided tours and kayak rentals to show you the best of Mackinac Island.

If you’re not sure of your kayak or paddleboard ability, you can book a lesson with Great Turtles before your tour. Great Turtles is now offering private tours for you and your preferred group of friends or family, with customizable locations and times.

Explore Lake Huron lighthouses, wildlife, the neighboring smaller islands of Mackinac, and more. Get your paddling game on, grab some Mackinac fudge, and head on down to the water trails of Great Turtles for a great island kayaking experience.

PRO-TIP: Be sure to plan to spend a couple of days exploring the Mackinac area, including historic Mackinaw City. You can use our guide to the best hotels in Mackinaw City and our guide to Lodging on Mackinac Island to find accommodations.

Manistee River

Where: Manistee Adventures
231 W Parkdale Ave, Manistee, MI 49660

Venture out to Manistee River in the heart of a national forest for a great variety of trails and routes to choose from offered by Manistee Adventures.

With great service and kayak rentals, Manistee Adventures has all your trip concerns covered. Looking for something more intense and intermediate?

They’ve got you covered, with trips ranging from 2 hours to 8.5 hours. Whether beginner or expert, Manistee River has the perfect trip waiting for you.

All pricing for rentals includes a life jacket, paddles, and transportation to the drop in-point for kayaking. Manistee Adventures even offers a 3-dollar Waterproof Cell phone case add-on for extra protection during your kayak adventure.

You may want to think about it, due to the eye-capturing serenity that Manistee River holds with fresh water, great sandbars, and smooth-riding currents. This Michigan kayak offer is great for friends, family, or solo.

PRO-TIP: The charming city of Manistee is a fun spot to explore. You’ll find beautiful Lake Michigan beaches and a walkable downtown with good shopping and dining, too.

kayaking the Platte River, Michigan

Platte River

Where: Riverside Canoe Trips
5042 N Scenic Hwy, Honor, MI 49640

Easily one of the best kayaking trips in Michigan, you’ll want to add it to your Michigan travel bucket list now. The Platte River is located in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, near Frankfort, MI.

Whie this is an amazing kayak trip, what makes it most memorable is the end, when this clear river opens up into Lake Michigan at Platte Point. The views are simply breathatking.

Start your outdoor day of fun at Riverside Canoe Trips. For a gentle, peaceful trip, take the kayak routes along the lower Platte River.

For more of an immersed, fun, and challenging adventure, take the routes along the Upper Platte, for experiences like white water kayaking with high currents and rocky shores.

The water trails usually last along 2-3 hours, and the fee includes your rental items, flotation devices, and shuttle service. Platte River is a great go-to kayaking adventure and is one that checks all the boxes for a great kayaking experience in Michigan.

Guide to kayaking Pictured Rocks

Upper Peninsula Kayaking Trips

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Where: Paddle Pictured Rocks
1348 Commercial St, Munising, MI 49862

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a top tourist destination in Michigan, offering unparalleled kayaking, hiking, and sightseeing. With crystal clear waters and unique cliff sides and caves on Lake Superior, the guided kayaking trips here are some of the best in the country.

The Paddle Pictured Rocks Kayak tour takes kayaking to the next level. Their kayak boat brings you and their kayaks on a quick ride out along Munising Bay, making sure to choose a route that directs you with the wind and not against it.

The tour is a five-mile-long tour along all the most popular and top destinations Pictured Rocks offers, from coved and caves to crystal waters and rock formations.

This is a great introduction to both kayaking and the Pictured Rocks and is a unique kayak service you don’t want to miss.

Two Hearted River

Where: Two Hearted River State Forest Campground
Luce County, Michigan

Known from Ernest Hemingway’s popular short story “Big-Two Hearted River”, this is a Michigan “must-see-and-experience” river.

Located in the Upper Peninsula, this river is a popular one to kayak, running about 23 miles long and flowing into Lake Superior. Surrounded by pristine Michigan wilderness, this iconic river meets all expectations of the beauty in Michigan.

This trip makes for more of a secluded trip, requiring you to bring your kayak and venturing out to the Mouth of Two-Hearted River State Forest Campground for all paddle sport opportunities and launches.

This makes a great place to rest, board, and have an independently scheduled day of outdoor activities all located near the Two Hearted River. Away from civilization, this river is full of scenic beauty and wildlife.

The river is mostly an easy paddle and gives you a chance to relax and isolate yourself within Michigan’s wonderful nature.

pictured rocks kayaking - best kayaking in Michigan

Isle Royale

Isle Royale, located off the coast of Michigan’s western upper peninsula, is one of the last true wilderness spots in the state of Michigan.

Surrounded by the great waters of Lake Superior, Isle Royale kayaking is sure to be an adventure to remember. Due to the isolated and protected nature of this Michigan island, this route is for more intermediate-level paddlers.

The routes and water trails are also limited due to the geography of the island, but the natural beauty of it all makes the journey worth it if you feel equipped.

Tackling this island to adventure and kayak is one you won’t regret, but there are some steps to be made aware of before you do so.

Ferry transportation services can carry out personal kayaks but require a fee. Personal boat rentals are available through Isle Royale Resort services. A life jacket must be at hand for all paddlers.

turnip rock in port austin- kayaking in Michigan
Turnip Rock in Port Austin

Kayaking in Michigan: Michigan’s Thumb Region

Turnip Rock in Port Austin, MI

Where: Port Austin Kayak and Bike
119 E Spring St, Port Austin, MI 48467

Port Austin’s Turnip Rock is a must-see destination for kayakers and paddleboarders. With its clear waters and smooth shoreline, Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay is a popular destination for those looking to experience the beauty of nature.

Port Austin Kayak and Bike Rentals offers kayaks for rent and several different water trails to explore, including Thumbnail Point, Turnip Rock, Sea Caves, Flat Rock, Broken Rocks, and more. These Michigan sights will remind you of the natural beauty our state is known for.

PRO-TIP: Plan to spend some time exploring both Port Austin and Caseville, both home to some of Michigan’s prettiest beaches. Port Austin has a beautifully manicured downtown harbor, and the resort town of Caseville is the home of the famous Caseville Cheeseburger Festival!

Kayaking in Southeast Michigan

Detroit River

Where: Detroit River Sports
14601 Riverside Blvd, Detroit, MI 48215

When you think of Detroit Michigan, kayaking doesn’t come to mind. Cities, food, and cars all sound familiar, but kayaking? Now, it’s a yes. Rethink your Detroit to-do’s and add on this fun paddling experience that Detroit River Sports has to offer.

Specializing in the kayak and stand-up paddle tours, this trip will take you through the beauty of the Detroit River and the islands of the east side.

Kayak the Detroit River

With both private and public tours available, Detroit River Sports gives you the chance to customize your perfect Detroit kayaking trip.

Venture off the city streets, take a break, and have a breath of fresh air with some Michigan kayaking, while still being close to a bustling Michigan city.

Huron River

Where: Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery
3902 E Delhi Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Located in Ann Arbor, this Michigan water adventure of kayaking through the Huron River will be memorable. The Huron River stretches for 130 miles, rising from the Huron swamp and flowing out into Lake Erie.

Due to its long length and gentle currents, it makes a great Michigan river for kayaking and canoeing.

This canoe livery provides an easy paddling experience and makes a great day trip for all ages, friends, and family. Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery offers paddle trip routes starting at Dexter Huron to Delhi Metro Park, or their most popular of Hudson Mills to Delhi Metro Park, their longest trip available lasting from 3-4 hours.

Grab your suits, pack a lunch, and have some fun in the sun with this Michigan kayak rental experience.

Lake St Clair

Where: Simple Adventures
31300 Metropolitan Parkway, Harrison Township, MI 48326

Lake St. Clair is another gem hidden not too far from Detroit that offers great Michigan scenery and beauty. Simple Adventures offers kayak rental service to tour the waters of Lake St Clair, ranging from 1-hour rentals to 8-hour rentals.

Kayaks, canoes, and more are available for taking around the lake and making a great water adventure on a hot summer day, or for viewing the colors of the changing trees around the lake during the fall time.

Lake St Clair is a great Michigan, family-friendly adventure for all water activities. Rent your kayaks and paddle the day away in the experience of Lake St Clair.

river kayaking in Michigan

Lansing River

Where: River Town Adventures
305 Riverfront Dr, Lansing, MI 48912

Located along the Lansing River Trail, River Town Adventures provides a great kayak rental service, offering different types of kayaks and canoes. The Lansing River is a great Michigan River to go kayaking in thanks to its beautiful immersive city and nature-made scenic views.

River Town Adventures makes sure to accommodate your kayak trip needs, too, offering trips that last from one to four hours. This experience is fun for all ages. It serves as a great water-filled day of fun when you find yourself in Lansing, Michigan.

Map of 15 BEST Michigan Kayaking Trips

Map of Michigan Kayaking Trips

More Top Michigan Tourist Destinations

25 best Michigan Lakes for swimming
11 caves in Michigan for exploring
15 places for river tubing in Michigan
15 incredible things to do in grand haven mi

About the Author-

Ella Graber is a Content Writing Intern for My Michigan Beach. She grew up in the Grand Rapids area of Michigan and is currently attending Grand Valley State University, majoring in writing. Creative writing has been an interest of Ella’s ever since middle school, and she continues to be inspired by reading and writing. She is excited to share her love of the great state of Michigan. Outside of writing, Ella can be found enjoying the outdoors on runs and walks, exploring new coffee shops, and visiting the beautiful Michigan beaches with friends.

Brandon

Wednesday 20th of July 2022

When you can't just pick one, how about the Huron River chain of lakes!

My Michigan Beach Team

Wednesday 20th of July 2022

Hi Brandon, thanks for reaching out! That is a fabulous idea! Love it!

Stephanie Crane

Wednesday 20th of July 2022

My late hubby and I had a cabin near the Au Sable and it was amazing! I had to sell the cabin after he passed. I sure miss him and kayaking with him. I love the east side of the state, lake huron is the best!

My Michigan Beach Team

Wednesday 20th of July 2022

Hi Stephanie, Thanks so much for reaching out and sharing your lovely story about your Au Sable cabin and your husband, it's very sweet. The river is such a special place, isnt it? We're with you: the east side of the state is beautiful and Lake Huron is just lovely!

Heather Hall

Sunday 17th of July 2022

Holland state park hold so many of my beautiful childhood memories. It’s the place I feel in love as a young girl, it is also the place my husband and love of my life asked me to marry him. Definitely my pick for the best beach in Michigan.

My Michigan Beach Team

Sunday 17th of July 2022

Hi Heather! Thanks so much for reaching out and sharing that lovely story- that's so sweet! Holland State Park is beautiful, and I'm sure it will alwas have a special place in your heart.

Kathy Levin

Sunday 17th of July 2022

Is there a bad one? Not in Michigan. Blessed to live on an inland lake and get spoiled but my favorite memory is kayaking on Platte River into Lake Michigan. What a stunning reward to see the lake after a morning on the river and connecting lake.

My Michigan Beach Team

Sunday 17th of July 2022

Hi Kathy! Thanks so much for reaching out! We agree 100 - our lakes are the best! That kayak trip on Platte River is amazing. Last time we went, we brought our pup, and I think even SHE was amazed at the view :)!

Erica Smedberg

Sunday 17th of July 2022

Lake Michigan

My Michigan Beach Team

Wednesday 20th of July 2022

Hi Erica! We agree- Lake Michigan is simply beautiful!

My Michigan Beach Team

Sunday 17th of July 2022

Hi Erica- We love lake Michigan, too! ...and Lake Huron, and Lake Superior, and... :)! Happy Summer!

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