The Thumb of Michigan offers plenty of fun activities for visitors. Stretching along the state’s eastern coastline, this peninsula between Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron has charming small towns, beautiful beaches, wineries, museums, and more.
1. Visit Port Austin and the Tip of the Thumb
Located at the very top of the Thumb region is the small town of Port Austin. The town’s main attraction is the Port Austin Reef Lighthouse, sitting just offshore on a shallow rocky reef.
You can walk out on the pier to see the lighthouse up close. While in town, relax on the public beach, browse shops and eateries downtown, or visit the Port Austin History Center to learn about the area’s past.
2. Explore Caseville Beach
Caseville County Park has one of the Thumb region’s longest and most popular sandy public beaches. Swim, soak up the sun, build sandcastles, play beach volleyball, or try stand-up paddleboarding.
Pavilion rentals are available for large groups and events. Walk the boardwalk into town for ice cream, fudge shops, restaurants and more.
3. See Wild Birds on Charity Island
Take a ferry ride from Au Gres to uninhabited Charity Island, where you can observe colonies of rare birds like herring gulls, great black-backed gulls, and cormorants.
The island also has an old lighthouse and beachcombing opportunities. Guided hiking and kayaking excursions are available. Advance reservations required.
4. Visit the Port Crescent State Park
Address: 1775 Port Austin Rd, Port Austin, MI 48467
This large state park north of Port Austin has extensive hiking trails winding through forests, dunes, and marshes.
Visitors can swim at a half-mile sandy beach, camp, picnic, bike, cross-country ski, and enjoy views of Saginaw Bay. The park’s nature center has exhibits on local flora and fauna.
5. Sample Local Wines
Numerous wineries in the Thumb region offer tastings and tours. Visit Sage Creek Winery to sip whites and reds in a 100-year-old barn.
At Ramada Lake Estate Winery, take in views of Lake Huron while sampling wine alongside wood-fired pizzas. Other wineries like Silverbrook Estate and Joseph Michael Winery also provide pleasant wine tasting experiences.
6. Check Out a Classic Car Show
The Thumb region hosts various classic car shows and automotive events during summer. Don’t miss Cruisin’ Gratiot in downtown Port Huron or the annual Back to the Bricks rolling cruise stopping in towns like Bad Axe, Port Austin and Caseville. See rows of immaculately restored vintage cars and hot rods on display.
7. Explore Huron County Nature Center
Address: 3336 Loosemore Rd, Hume Township, MI 48467
This nature center has a popular boardwalk trail winding through wetland habitat to spot birds and wildlife. Inside are native reptile exhibits, a honeybee observatory, and displays on local ecology. Naturalists offer guided walks, bird banding programs, school field trips, and other educational events.
8. Marvel at a Mystery Spot
Address: N916 Martin Lake Rd, St Ignace, MI 49781
Outside of St. Ignace, stop to see a tilted farmhouse and other odd gravity hill effects at the Mystery Spot and Moonshine Falls. Guides share theories on the baffling tricks of physics happening on the site. It’s kitschy but fun!
9. Visit Oak Beach County Park
Relax on this undeveloped beach stretching for over a mile along the Saginaw Bay. The park has boardwalk trails, wetlands, and open meadows for birding. Anglers can fish from the piers or beach. Picnic tables and grills are available. A nice spot for peaceful nature escapes.
10. Tour the Harbor Beach Lighthouse
Address: 1 Ritchie Dr, Harbor Beach, MI 48441
Climb the tower of this historic light station for panoramic views of Lake Huron. Displays on the living quarters and foghorn building detail what life was like for past lighthouse keepers and their families. The complex still functions as an active Coast Guard facility.
11. Attend Summer Festivals and Fairs
From June through September, charming small town summer festivals pop up across the Thumb region. Enjoy parades, classic car shows, carnival rides, live music, food trucks, craft vendors and fireworks displays. Popular events include Port Austin’s Festival of the Birds, Deckerville Maritime Festival and Caseville Cheeseburger Festival.
12. Visit Historic Fort Gratiot Lighthouse
Address: 2802 Omar St, Port Huron, MI 48060
Climb to the top of Michigan’s oldest lighthouse for sweeping views of the Blue Water Bridges. The grounds have an interpretive center detailing Great Lakes maritime history. Picnic areas, trails and a fishing pier make this a pleasant lakeshore spot.
13. Go Fishing on Saginaw Bay
Anglers from across the region come to Saginaw Bay for its fantastic walleye fishing. Head out from Caseville or Port Austin, which have numerous guides and charters available during peak fishing months. Shore fishing access is also available.
14. Check Out a Local Farmers Market
Several Thumb towns host lively weekly farmers markets during summer and fall. Browse fresh produce, baked goods, jams, meats, flowers and artisan crafts. Markets can be found in Sebewaing, Bad Axe, Deckerville, Sandusky, Bay Port and elsewhere in the region.
15. Tour Historic Homes and Museums
The Thumb has several well-preserved Victorian-era homes offering tours. Highlights include the Octagon House in Port Austin, White Church Gallery and Cultural Center in Port Hope, and Gurdon S. Hubbard House in Bad Axe. Area museums cover maritime, lumber industry, local culture and more.
16. Go Blueberry Picking
Many berry farms across the Thumb allow visitors to pick their own juicy blueberries during summer harvest season. Enjoy the sunshine and fresh fruit at Spectrum Farms, Klackle Orchards, or Spicer Orchards. Kids and adults will love this fun outdoor activity.
17. Explore the Thumb Octagon Barn
Address: 6948 Richie Rd, Gagetown, MI 48735
This historic wooden barn, built in 1924, is an architectural wonder. Take a tour to see displays on local agriculture and get panoramic views from the octagonal cupola. Some summer evenings feature barn dances and concerts. The site can also be rented for weddings and events.
18. Visit the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum
Address: 6151 Portage Rd, Portage, MI 49002
See over 100 aircraft on display at this aviation museum near Portage. Interactive exhibits let you pilot a fighter jet, land a space shuttle, and experience G-forces. Kids can climb on real planes, including a SR-71 Blackbird and F-14 Tomcat. Fascinating for aviation buffs.
19. Play Mini Golf at Captain’s Course
This nautically themed mini golf course near Port Austin is fun for the whole family. Play 18 holes surrounded with decorative lighthouses, fish, sinking ships and more. Grab ice cream from their takeout counter when you’re finished. A nice outdoor activity on summer days.
20. Go Canoeing or Kayaking – Things to Do in the Thumb of Michigan
Paddle down the Cass River, Rifle River or Pine River for leisurely wildlife viewing. Outfitters like Pushbutton Adventure and River Country Canoe Livery provide rentals and shuttle services for multi-day trips in the Thumb region. Sylvania Wilderness also has lakes and streams to explore.
As you can see, the Thumb of Michigan offers diverse attractions like beaches, parks, museums, trails, wineries, festivals and unique attractions. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure, small town charm or great local flavors, the Thumb has something for everyone.