Boating on the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes make up the largest body of fresh water on Earth. They are within easy reach of urban centers from the Midwest to Canada, but have the gorgeous scenery and wildlife of the most inaccessible of hiking trials. Whether you like fishing (for trout, salmon, perch, and more), diving, or simply admiring the scenery, pontoon boating on the Lakes will give you a memorable vacation.
As with any pontoon boating trip, be careful of the weather. Avoid early spring, because of freak ice storms and winds at this time. Also, the lakes are currently fighting a zebra mussel infestation, so be sure to rinse your intake well if you use a trailered boat. Remember that each lake has points where land isn't visible in any direction. As long as you plan ahead, you can visit one or all of the five lakes -- below are some of the best places to visit for each lake.
This is one of the busier lakes to boat on, because it is easily accessible from the Detroit metro area and Windsor in Canada. There are also many coastal campgrounds along the Michigan border of this lake. Huron is home to Mackinac Island and Mackinac Bridge, one of the largest suspension bridges in the world. This Lake was also the site of many naval battles during the War of 1812.
Lake Ontario is known for boating. Toronto is the most prominent major city along its coastline, and there are almost a hundred marinas and fuel docks. Ontario is great for fishing, and also has a number of white sandy beaches. It's also the doorway to the Saint Lawrence Seaway and the Atlantic Ocean.
On the coast of Lake Michigan is the city of Chicago, with Navy Pier. Southern Lake Michigan is also home to a famed coast guard station which has cutters that can flip and right themselves in choppy water. There are also wrecks, which make for great diving, and beautiful sand dune parks to explore. This is the windiest lake, and the last lake on the Great Lakes trail.
This is the warmest of the five lakes, as well as the shallowest and the southernmost. This makes it perfect for a dip, and watersports are very common on this lake. It can be accessed through Lake Huron from the west, via the St Claire and Detroit rivers, through the Erie Canal, or Lake Ontario. Lake Erie has some of the most famous locations of the lakes, including Niagara Falls, North America's most famous waterfall. Cedar Point is on the lake's southern coast, and a charming town called Put-in-Bay sits on Bass Island.
This is the largest and coldest of the lakes, but is also strikingly beautiful. Lake Superior can be reached via Lake Huron through the Soo Locks on the St. Mary's River. There are several national parks and shorelines to explore, including Painted Rocks National Lakeshore, a collection of sandstone cliffs with colored minerals. Isle Royale National Park can only be accessed by boat, and provides great hiking and camping opportunities. From Michigan to Whitefish Point is the "Shipwreck coast," or "Graveyard of the Great Lakes" -- wonderful places to dive in the summer.