Sanctuary of the Great Lakes
The historic port city of Alpena is nestled between a lush green forest and a vast blue Lake Huron bay; miles away from the weight of the world. A community founded on the fishing and timber industry, Alpena is now the place where history collides with relaxed outdoor adventure.
Alpena is known as the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes for its pristine natural landscape and isolation from the hectic stress common to metro areas. To-do lists fade away with the rising sun in this charming small town. As the world becomes busier, stress levels are on the rise, and people across the map are rediscovering nature’s healing properties.
Research proves that a 15-minute walk in a forest shows measurable changes in physiology with one study reporting a 16 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a 2 percent drop in blood pressure, and a 4 percent drop in heart rate for forest walkers vs. city walkers. Alpena’s major draw and benefit is the community’s central position to endless, healthy outdoor opportunity.
The community and surrounding area boasts more than 100 miles of groomed trails, over 300,000 acres of open water, 1,000 miles of shoreline, 7 lighthouses including the tallest and oldest accessible lighthouses on the Great Lakes, more than 50 parks, and 43,000 acres of state forest land. Rent a bike and tour the 18.5 mile Bi-Path that winds throughout the city, and stop off for ice cream or a musical street performance along the way. The Bi-Path winds through forests, along miles of Thunder Bay River, through quaint neighborhoods, past public art installations, and through the vibrant downtown district which is located just steps away from the marina. Downtown is a prime location for visiting art galleries, enjoying farm-to-table food, or sipping locally-vinted wine. Next, rent a kayak at the 500-acre Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary, nestled in the center of the city, and lazily float around the reeds viewing painted turtles, otters, swans, and Great Blue Heron.
Alpena is also headquarters for Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the nation’s only freshwater marine sanctuary. This underwater park protects a nationally significant collection of nearly 200 shipwrecks in Lake Huron. Learn more about this Shipwreck Alley at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center. A number of wrecks lie in shallow water just off shore. Enjoy a guided Stand Up Paddle board excursion to these wrecks and snorkel over the remains of impressive ships that helped build our nation. If you’d like a more relaxed route, hop on board Lady Michigan. Alpena Shipwreck Tours’ glass-bottom boat, where you can see the wrecks up close, without getting wet. While you learn about the historic significance of these vessels, the breeze bounces off the waves and peels back layers of stress to leave you revived and refreshed when you arrive back on land.
The adventure continues after dark as Alpena is centrally located to 3 Dark Sky Preserve Parks, where light pollution is non-existent and you can view the stars, planets, moon, and see the Milky Way in pure grandeur. Thompson’s Harbor State Park located north of Alpena is one of the few remaining examples of ‘wet forested swale communities’ in the state, and supports one of the largest populations in the world of the federal- and state-threatened dwarf lake iris, Michigan’s state wildflower. Rockport State Recreation Area, north of the City of Alpena, features a deep water port, ghost village, shipwreck, rugged biking and hiking trails, 12 sinkholes, and a 300-acre abandoned limestone quarry where visitors can collect up to 25 pounds of fossils from the Devonian Period. This is the first state park in Michigan where visitors are allowed to take an item from the park as a souvenir. Negwegon State Park, to the south, is mysterious, remote and pristine; allowing visitors to step back to a time when Northern Michigan was an undeveloped lumber reserve. All three parks are hotspots for viewing the night skies. To learn about the Dark Sky Preserves, visitors can start their journey at Besser Museum’s digital Planetarium, where an astronomer explains what can be seen in the night skies.
Whether you’re enjoying Alpena’s premier fishing that has been featured on the Outdoor Channel, or visiting art galleries, the surrounding natural beauty breathes life back into your breath. In Alpena you are reminded about what matters most in life — time spent with people you care about. You are invited to escape the stress of life and relax, restore, and rejuvenate in Alpena, Michigan; the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes. Plan your trip today, Click Here