Nestled along the emerald shores of Lake Huron, Cheboygan radiates small-town charm and natural beauty. This port city serves as the gateway to northern Michigan adventures, from lighthouse exploring to shipwreck diving, trail hiking to island hopping.
Cheboygan spoils visitors with its wealth of attractions from history to cuisine, recreation and beyond. Here are the top 15 things to do in Cheboygan for an unforgettable Up North Michigan getaway.
1. Tour the Cheboygan Lighthouses
No trip to Cheboygan is complete without visiting its iconic lighthouses guarding the harbor. The Front Range Lighthouse sits right downtown along the scenic riverwalk. This stately red-brick lighthouse dates to 1880 and still operates today. Gaze at the intricate fresnel lens up close and take in panoramic views of the straits from the top.
Offshore in Lake Huron sits the quaint Cheboygan Crib Lighthouse, mounted atop a concrete pier just outside the river mouth. Take in picturesque views of this lighthouse from Festival Square downtown.
Next door, the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association museum details the region’s maritime past through fascinating exhibits and artifacts.
2. Launch Your Boat
With miles of inland waterways, perfect Lake Huron access and dozens of pristine fishing lakes, Cheboygan is a paradise for boaters. Launch your own vessel from one of Cheboygan’s many public marinas and boat launches.
Top fishing spots near Cheboygan include Burt Lake, Mullett Lake, Crooked Lake, Duncan Bay and the Cheboygan River.
Don’t have your own boat? No problem! Charter a guide to take you fishing for popular catches like walleye, steelhead, smallmouth bass and perch.
Companies like Anderson Guide Service and Revelation Guide Service offer full and half-day fishing charters out of Cheboygan.
3. Paddle the Water Trails
See a whole new side of Cheboygan’s natural beauty from an easy-going kayak or canoe. The Cheboygan River Water Trail makes a perfect peaceful paddle. Traverse 15 miles of the flowing river as it winds through wetlands, by old lumber dams and under forested banks.
Spot turtles, herons, kingfishers and more along the way. The trailhead lies 4 miles south of downtown at Major City Park.
For a shorter paddle trip, explore the marshy Dingman Creek or the Lower Black River near downtown Cheboygan. Outfitters like Cheboygan Outdoor Company rent canoes and kayaks right in town.
4. Hike and Bike Local Trails
Lace up your hiking boots or strap on your helmet to explore Cheboygan’s scenic trails. Walk along the 1.7 mile Cheboygan River Heritage Trail that loops from downtown out to the footbridge, passing historic mills and bridges.
Serious mountain bikers test their skills on the expert Wolverine Trail at Cheboygan State Park. Nearly 2 miles of technical single-track weave steeply up and down through the forest.
5. Go Spelunking at Michigan Caves
Adventurous souls will love exploring the underground chambers at Michigan Caves. Located near Cheboygan in Indian River, professionally guided tours lead through massive caverns adorned with lofty ceilings, stalactites, flowstones and an underground pool.
Knowledgeable guides shed light on the fascinating geology and lore surrounding the ancient caves. Above ground, meander through quiet woods along scenic hiking trails. Don’t miss this chance to descend into Michigan’s ancient underground world.
6. Stroll and Dine Downtown
From laid-back cafes to chic bistros, downtown Cheboygan delights visitors with its pedestrian-friendly streets lined with shops and eateries. Start your day fueling up on coffee, bagels and baked goods at the Main Street Bakery.
Stop in for a classic fish sandwich or cup of chowder at the Porthole Bar & Grill. For some retail therapy, browse the boutiques for gifts, jewelry, books, art and more.
When evening hunger strikes, linger over expertly prepared steak and seafood at restaurants like The Riverside, Mulligan’s Pub, or the Macedonian Specialty Food and Grill.
With its walkable streets and diverse dining, downtown Cheboygan truly encapsulates small-town living at its finest.
7. See the Sights by Bicycle
Experience the sights of Cheboygan from the seat of a bike. Rentals are available from local outfitters like Great Lakes Cycling and River Driver. A 15 mile loop ride offers scenic views of the Cheboygan River, downtown highlights, Lake Huron shoreline, wetlands and more.
Let the bike paths transport you back in time as you pedal past historic homes, churches and footbridges from the lumber era. It’s a relaxing way to explore the area’s natural beauty and heritage.
8. Tour Historic Sites
History unfolds at Cheboygan’s museums and historic attractions. At the Cheboygan Opera House History Museum, exhibits detail the region’s early lumbering operations, shipping industry and railroads.
You can choose to see replica 1890s lighthouse and exhibits on Great Lakes shipping at the Twin Sisters Lighthouse Museum.
9. Go Underground at Duncan Bay Cave
For a truly off-the-beaten-path adventure, grab a flashlight and explore Duncan Bay Cave. Located on private land near the tip of the Cheboygan River, this wet cave contains passages winding over 1,600 feet through the limestone bedrock.
Droplets of water glistening on cave formations create magical scenery. Guided tours of Duncan Bay Cave run seasonally. Contact Endless Forest Adventures for reservations to explore this unique natural wonder.
10. Play Disc Golf at the Recreation Area
Spend a day in the sunshine playing disc golf at the Major City Recreation Area. This wooded 18-hole course provides over 2 miles of terrain right in town.
Park amenities like covered shelters, restrooms and playgrounds make for a full day of fun. Bring your own discs or rent them on-site. Nearby tennis courts, baseball fields, hiking trails and boat launches offer more recreation options for everyone.
11. Pick Fresh Berries
Juicy ripe blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and cherries abound at Cheboygan area pick-your-own farms.
From June through September, sample berries straight from the bush at u-pick farms like Hall’s Berry Farm, Klondike Farms, Paradise Berry Farm, and Cross Orchards. Many local farms have play areas, petting zoos, corn mazes and hayrides adding to the family fun.
12. Dine at Ryde Inn
For a fine dining experience with gorgeous lake views, head 15 minutes north of Cheboygan to the Ryde Inn Restaurant. This renowned restaurant is set inside a 19th century former stagecoach inn overlooking the shores of Burt Lake.
Savor expertly prepared meals showcasing fresh regional fish, meats, cheeses and produce. Watch the sunset over the water during dinner or come Sunday for their lavish brunch buffet. It’s the perfect place for a romantic dinner or special celebration.
13. Attend Summer Festivals
Cheboygan celebrates summer with a lineup of fun community festivals. Rock out to live music at the free Cheboygan Music Fest in July. Other popular annual events include Rib Fest, the Red, White & Blues Festival, and the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival.
Kids love the Cardboard Boat Race and Fishing Day. October brings the changing leaves, heralded by autumn highlights like the Festival of the Trees and Pumpkin Festival. Cheboygan knows how to show visitors a good time!
14. Try Golfing
With its rolling landscape and abundance of lakes, the Cheboygan area is a golfer’s paradise. Tee off at top-rated courses like the Cheboygan Golf & Country Club, Indian River Golf Club, or Black Lake Golf Club.
For value-priced golf, check out Pine Ridge Golf Course or Lincoln Hills Golf Club, both just minutes from downtown.
Practice your swing at Lakeview Hills Golf Driving Range or play a round of mini-golf at Adventure Golf and Go-Karts.
15. Explore Shipwrecks
The legend of Lake Huron’s shipwrecks draws divers and adventurers from across the globe. Climb aboard a shipwreck glass-bottom boat tour in Cheboygan to glimpse intact wrecks just offshore.
Scuba divers can plunge deeper to explore partly buried vessels like the Keystorm and City of Bangor. Area dive shops like Blue Bubble Scuba and Shipwreck Tours offer charters.
For an easy shipwreck experience, snorkel the warm shallows and find artifacts preserved for decades under the cold Lake Huron waters.
With its enviable blend of heritage and nature, recreation and relaxation, Cheboygan shines as an ideal base for exploring Northern Michigan. From lighthouses to waterfalls, historic sites to hiking trails, this charming port city truly offers an authentic slice of Up North.
Its friendly small-town vibe, wealth of attractions, and variety of lodging and dining options offer the perfect ingredients for an amazing Up North vacation escape.