Coastal Tourism

Outdoor recreation has always been a major part of the Michigan experience. Hiking, biking, paddling, camping, swimming, birding, sailing, and fishing are just a few of the activities that lure Michigan residents and visitors outside. Even urban areas like Detroit provide ample opportunities for birding, paddling, and more.

Birding Trails

More than 140 species of birds depend on Michigan’s coastal habitat during their life cycle. Coastal wetlands, beaches, sand dunes, and remote islands provide food and shelter for both resident and migratory species. Shorebirds, including the endangered piping plover, fly thousands of miles to nest on undisturbed beaches and remote Great Lakes islands.

Birding trails are walking or driving routes chosen to help birders access prime bird-watching spots. Visit the Michigan Audubon website for birding trails around the state. Find additional bird-watching hotspots, including sanctuaries, in this article from Pure Michigan. Southwest Michigan offers some spectacular opportunities to watch bird migrations; check out the Byways to Flyways project for birding locations in the Windsor-Detroit area.

Explore the All About Birds website from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to learn more about bird species in Michigan.

Water Trails

Water trails are routes on navigable waterways such as rivers and lakes designed to foster an interactive, positive paddling experience with beautiful natural areas and vibrant waterfront communities. Water trails highlight the sustainable use of Michigan’s water resources while also benefiting the state’s economy, environment, and quality of life. Existing water trails crisscross the state, with new routes continually being developed.

Grab your canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard and visit Michigan Water Trails for interactive regional maps of water trails around the state. You can also find a map for the Lake St. Clair Coastal Water Trail in the Michigan Sea Grant bookstore.

Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail

Great Lakes fisheries heritage sites throughout Michigan offer residents and visitors a unique opportunity to explore and experience hands-on the dynamic social, technological, and environmental changes shaping the fishery as we know it today. Learn more about the Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail project and check out the many sites you can visit around the state.

Developing a tourism economy

Sandy beaches, picturesque waterfalls, and dramatic bluffs create natural tourist attractions for many Michigan communities. But developing and managing a tourism-based local economy requires a careful balance of infrastructure, marketing, and community support. In 2009-2012, Michigan Sea Grant funded research that looked closely at using tourism to jump-start economic growth in communities along Michigan’s Lake Huron coast. For more information about the project and its findings, visit the Economic Development research projects page and open the “Charting the course for the Bluewater Coast” tab.

Michigan Sea Grant’s Sustainable Small Harbors program helps coastal communities brainstorm ways to strengthen their waterfront economies, including through new or improved tourism opportunities. Visit the Sustainable Small Harbors project page for more information.