Traversing the Grand Traverse Bay

In theme with our love for travel, adventure, and nature, we decided to celebrate my birthday this year in epic fashion. I have wanted to explore the Traverse City, Michigan area for a while and we knew we wanted to camp. Camping at Sleeping Bear Dunes felt too traditional, and we were nervous about the first come first served policy on a busy weekend. We perused our Best Tent Camping in Michigan guide and found the unique location of Bassett Island. Bassett Island is the tiny sister of the larger Power Island in the West arm of the Grand Traverse Bay. It is approximately 3 miles by boat from Bower’s Harbor. After some consideration, we decided we were game. We loaded up the kayaks on the top of the roof and took off north. The kayak trip took about 1 hour and 15 minutes in good weather. We were lucky to have calm conditions, especially considering kayaking with our packs proved to be a precarious adventure.

 Our kayaks all packed up, but where do we sit?

We arrived to the tiny island and found our campsite which had an INCREDIBLE view of the Traverse Bay. That night we witnessed the most beautiful sunset, I’m not kidding it brought us to tears. Eric had to laugh when he turned to me and said, “I love that this is what you chose to do on your birthday.” Even with 9 miles of kayaking (we were crazy and kayaked back to the mainland for a birthday dinner), I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, or with any other company.

 Gorgeous sunset right outside our campground

 I mean seriously, it just kept getting prettier

The next day we decided we were kayaked out and dedicated our time to exploring. We had to jump back in our kayaks for the short trip to Power Island (the islands are joined by a marshy pathway that it not ideal for walking) but the rest of the day was spent on foot. That day we hiked every path on Power Island. The circumference of the island is about 3 miles with paths going across and to various lookout points. Every step of the hike was stunning. We met the ranger and his wife who were nice as could be. Eric is daydreaming about stealing the rangers job. After our hike we returned to camp. Though the bay was freezing, the crystal clear water was calling by name and I couldn’t resist a quick swim. Eric told me I was crazy and he laughed when I returned after only about 10 minutes. That night we watched the sunset again, it couldn’t top the previous night but the views were still amazing. We sat by the fire as we watched the flames turn to ember and listened to the bullfrogs croak.

 Campsite 5 on Bassett Island, 10/10 would recommend

The next morning we awoke and packed up camp. We had decided to spend 2 nights on the island and 1 night in an AirBnB in downtown Traverse City. The clouds looked ominous and we hurried to get in our kayaks hoping to beat the storm. We could see storm clouds to the north and to the south but our path appeared to be clear. Our trip took 1.5 hours and it wasn’t until the end that we began to experience a light sprinkle, we had been lucky! We packed up our kayaks in the rain and headed to the tip of Old Mission Peninsula to explore. In true Michigan fashion, the weather had changed in our 15 minute drive and the sun peeked through as we explored the lighthouse and peninsula. We marveled at how lucky we were to live in such a beautiful state. With our constant wanderlust, we often forget that some of the most beautiful places to explore are right in our backyard.

 Old Mission Peninsula, Caribbean or Michigan?

We drove back down the peninsula stopping at one of the many vineyards on the way. We checked in and showered off at our AirBnB which felt glorious after 2 days in the wilderness. After cleaning up and relaxing a bit, we drove to Empire Bluffs, just south of Sleeping Bear Dunes. We took the short 1.5 mile hike through the woods and spilled out onto the bluffs overlooked Lake Michigan. We stayed for the sunset watching the sky change from shades of blue to pink and purple.

 Empire Bluffs with Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Manitou Islands in the distance

The next morning we explored downtown before making our trek back home. It had been an incredible weekend full of nature, beautiful sights, and delicious food and drinks. Don’t forget to subscribe to our email list so you never miss a blog post! The link is at the bottom of our website.

Until our next travels!

-The Wandering Michiganders

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