Letter from the Editor: In the sibling rivalry of Great Lakes, Huron is showing she’s no weak sister

Port Crescent State Park on Lake Huron

A view of Lake Huron from the Dunes Nature Trail at Port Crescent State Park in Port Austin on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. (Kaytie Boomer | MLive.com)Kaytie Boomer | MLive.com


There’s always the favorite, and always the one who works a little bit harder to get noticed.

In the Great Lakes State, the namesake lake, Michigan, is the spoiled one – pretty, polished and very popular. Across the way, Lake Huron is Cinderella – the sister who gets less attention, remains a tad unrefined and is a bit more modest about her charms.

This summer, MLive is bringing Cinderella to the ball. We are writing quite a bit this summer about northern Michigan and beach towns, and have even launched a weekly newsletter, Before You Drive Up North, to help Michiganders optimize their weekend and vacation travels. And yes, Lake Michigan gets its due in our coverage.

But we’re also shining a deserved spotlight on Lake Huron – which, it should be noted, is hydrologically considered one lake with Lake Michigan. Fraternal twins, if you will, because they are certainly not identical.

You won’t find the towering dunes, the wealthy enclaves, the resorts that are out of reach for a budget-strapped family along Lake Huron. But you will find a whole other side to Michigan in the summer.

“The Lake Huron coastline is mostly small towns, and that classic rural hospitality runs deep here,” said Caitlyn French, a reporter for The Bay City Times. “Life runs slower here. It’s not hectic here like the big cities.”

French is among MLive reporters who are highlighting Lake Huron amenities in coverage this summer. For example, last week she wrote this piece: Top 10 Lake Huron beaches on the ‘Sunrise Side’ to visit this summer. It may surprise you that a lake with a reputation for rockier shores has so much to offer for swimmers and campers.

But there’s much more: Lighthouses, fishing and fisheries, nature preserves, state parks, birding, lumbering history, quaint towns and more. And let’s not forget why it’s called the Sunrise Side.

“Early mornings along the Lake Huron coastline can be pretty amazing,” said Tanda Gmiter, the editor who directs statewide travel coverage for MLive. “People who get up early near the water are often rewarded with fantastic dawn skies, streaked with pink and orange. Being able to see and be a part of that kind of natural beauty just sets a great tone for your whole day.”

French, who grew up in Bay City, says traversing the towns north toward Tawas City and east into the Thumb is good for the soul.

“Driving along the Lake Huron coast and including a campsite is honestly some great therapy,” she said. “My husband asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and my response was, ‘Let’s just go to Caseville and sit on the beach.’ That is my idea of a good birthday.”

If you’re seeking lighter crowds, an easier pace and something new, you may want to consider some of these Lake Huron ideas courtesy of French, Gmiter and our other MLive writers:

140-mile ‘Thumbcoast’ tour: Starting at Harsens Island near Detroit and ending at the tip of the Thumb, in Caseville, this route outlined by the Blue Water Visitors Bureau will take you to beaches, historical sites, shipwrecks, small-town galleries and eateries.

Heritage Route 23: Go an hour or so north of Caseville and you’ll find one of the more scenic routes in Michigan. Heritage Route 23 runs from Standish in the south up to Mackinaw City in the north. It covers 200 miles as it hugs the Lake Huron shoreline in some areas. The scenery can be spectacular, and along the way there are plenty of huge, forested areas, small towns to visit and trails to explore. Click here for the online guide.

Discover lighthouses: Tawas State Park is known as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest” with its towering historical lighthouse, and further north Presque Isle is known for its historic lighthouses, said French. “If you pause to watch a passing ship with a lake breeze in your hair, it’s not hard to begin feeling what it was like when these lighthouses were critical pieces of the Lake Huron shipping industry.”

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary: Gmiter says you don’t have to be a shipwreck nerd to love this attraction – all visitors will get a better sense of Lake Huron’s power, and the stories of the shipwrecks that remain on its floor. Glass-bottom boat tours motor over some of the estimated 200 shipwrecks contained in the sanctuary area offshore of Alpena.

Want the best of MLive’s travel coverage delivered straight to your inbox every week? Sign up for our Lovable Michigan newsletter, which features positive stories about Michigan’s beauty and bounty, and Before You Drive Up North by clicking this link. Both are delivered on Thursday afternoon – just in time for your summer travels.

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John Hiner is the vice president of content for MLive Media Group. If you have questions you’d like him to answer, or topics to explore, share your thoughts at editor@mlive.com.

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