Nestled in the northern Michigan woods along the Sturgeon River, Indian River is a charming small town that offers a peaceful escape from everyday life.
Located in Tuscarora Township within Cheboygan County, Indian River has a population of just over 1,500 friendly locals. This close-knit community truly embraces its small town charm and natural surroundings.
Whether you crave outdoor adventure, small town charm, or scenic beauty, Indian River is the perfect base for experiencing northern Michigan’s forests, lakes, and welcoming community.
The following list of the top things to do will help you make the most of your upcoming visit to this special town.
1. Explore Sturgeon Point Lighthouse
One of the most iconic landmarks in Indian River is the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse, located on the shores of Lake Huron. This lighthouse was built in 1870 and remains an active aid to navigation.
Visitors can tour the tower and keeper’s quarters to learn about Great Lakes lighthouse history. The grounds also feature a museum, gift shop, and scenic hiking trails.
2. Ride the Ironton Ferry
Just north of Indian River is one of the last remaining ferry crossings in northern Michigan. The Ironton Ferry transports vehicles and passengers across the south arm of Lake Charlevoix between Ironton and Boyne City.
The charming ferry ride only takes about 10 minutes and runs continuously from spring through fall. Enjoy picturesque views of the lake and surroundings.
3. Go Snowmobiling
With its snowy winters, Indian River is a popular spot for snowmobiling. The area has over 200 miles of groomed snowmobile trails that meander through beautiful wooded scenery.
Popular trails include the North Central State Trail and Trail 8. Rent a snowmobile or bring your own to explore the trails after fresh snowfall. The trail system connects to nearby towns like Posen, Wolverine, Gaylord, and Cheboygan.
4. Play Disc Golf at Indian River Sports Complex
The Indian River Sports Complex includes one of the top disc golf courses in northern Michigan, making it a must-play for disc golf enthusiasts.
This 18-hole course takes players through rolling wooded terrain with strategically placed baskets along the Sturgeon River. The grounds also feature tennis courts, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, and picnic areas.
5. Go on an ORV Adventure
With its proximity to the Black Mountain Recreation Area, Indian River serves as a great base for off-road vehicle (ORV) adventures. The Black Mountain area has 175+ miles of ORV trails ranging from easy to difficult through hilly terrain and deep forests.
Trails are open for vehicles like Jeeps, ATVs, dirt bikes, and more. Stop by a local ORV rental shop if you need to rent an ORV for the day.
6. Explore Burt Lake State Park
Address: 6635 State Park Dr, Indian River, MI 49749
For outdoor recreation, visit the large Burt Lake State Park located 15 minutes outside of Indian River. Enjoy half a mile of sandy beachfront along Burt Lake.
Activities include swimming, boating, canoeing, fishing, hiking, cross-country skiing, and more. There are also 170 modern campsites if you want to extend your stay in the area.
7. Go Wine Tasting on the Bay View Wine Trail
Sample some of northern Michigan’s finest local wines along the Bay View Wine Trail near Indian River. Follow the trail to visit family-owned wineries like Verterra Vineyards, Mackinaw Trail Winery, and Black Star Farms.
Many of the wineries offer intimate tastings in cozy tasting rooms with picturesque views of vineyards and cherry orchards.
8. Check Out the Indian River Antique Show
Antique lovers won’t want to miss the Indian River Antique Show held at the high school in July.
This huge annual event has over 100 dealers selling all kinds of antiques and collectibles like furniture, jewelry, toys, lamps, glassware, and more. Enjoy live music, great food, and treasure hunting for rare antique finds.
9. Go Cherry Picking
No trip to northern Michigan is complete without cherry picking! Visit Cherry Bay Orchards, just 10 minutes from Indian River, during the summer harvest.
Meander through the cherry trees and pick fresh Montmorency tart cherries right off the branches. Enjoy a slice of their famous cherry pie too!
10. Shop Downtown Indian River
Stroll along the quaint downtown area along Main Street in Indian River. Pop into the small local shops selling gifts, antiques, books, baked goods, and more.
Grab a coffee at one of the cafes or schedule a paddleboarding lesson at the outfitters. Don’t miss the colorful outdoor murals depicting the town’s history.
11. Rent a Houseboat on Burt Lake
For a unique lodging experience, rent a houseboat on Burt Lake through companies like Premier Houseboats. Cruise the lake, swim, fish, and wakeboard right from your floating vacation rental. Most houseboats accommodate 4-12 guests comfortably.
12. See a Show at the Straits Area Theater
This restored 1930s movie theater in downtown Indian River now hosts community theater productions and concerts. Enjoy locally-performed plays, musicals, and talent shows on the historic stage.
13. Visit the Indian River Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center
Stop by the Chamber building to browse area info, maps, guides, and merchandise. The helpful staff can offer insider tips on the best things to see and do during your visit.
14. Visit Ocqueoc Falls
Located just 30 minutes from Indian River, Ocqueoc Falls is one of the largest and most beautiful waterfalls in Michigan’s lower peninsula. There are viewing platforms to admire the falls and trails to explore the forested gorge.
15. Ride the Rails on the Blaney Park Train
All aboard this 5-mile scenic train ride through the woods near Indian River. Kids can meet the conductor and engine crew before the ride. The train runs on summer weekends.
So if you’re looking for things to do in the Indian River area, this list has must-visit attractions, outdoor activities, historical sites, festivals, and more. Enjoy exploring the natural scenery, small town charm, and hidden gems during your visit to northern Michigan.
With its pristine natural surroundings and charming small town vibes, Indian River offers the perfect blend of outdoor recreation and quaint attractions.
As the seasons change, so do the opportunities for making unforgettable memories in and around Indian River.
No matter when you choose to visit Indian River, you’ll be met with friendly faces, scenic vistas, and endless chances for adventure. Keep this list of the top things to do handy when planning activities for the whole family or a romantic weekend getaway.
Whether you come for a few days or extend your stay, Indian River offers an authentic taste of northern Michigan’s rich culture and natural wonders waiting to be explored.