Alpena, Michigan, known as the “Sanctuary of the Great Lakes,” offers a peaceful escape with pristine nature, world-class outdoor attractions, and unique regional finds. Here’s your essential guide to visiting this gem.
Alpena, Michigan, Attractions
Winter is a great time to visit Alpena, Michigan and its surrounding towns. Outdoor attractions cater to various skill levels, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. Thrills await in the frigid temperatures, along with 100 miles of groomed trails to explore.
In the warmer months, indulge in fat-tire biking, hiking, and 13,000 stunning acres on Michigan’s Sunrise Coast. Lake Huron is perfect for fishing Brown Trout, Chinook, salmon, and walleye in this beautiful region.
Want to know my perfect Michigan road trip? Here you go!
Thanks to Pure Michigan and Visit Alpena for hosting my travels as a representative of TravelingMom. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
Where to Eat in Alpena, Michigan
For a town this size, you’ll be surprised by how many really good restaurant options you’ll find. Here are the ones I enjoyed and loved.
Austin Brothers Beer Co.
Austin Brothers Beer Co in Alpena is one of the best breweries I’ve visited for my job. Their menu is brimming with goodies like Beer Cheese Fondue, Beef Brisket Sandwich, and Korean Sloppy Joes with Kimchi. Enhance your meal with a beer flight featuring top picks like Triply Berry Gose and Pineapple Smoothie IPA.
You’ll definitely leave satisfied from this top-notch eatery.
Nick’s Southside Country Diner
Enjoy a delicious breakfast at Nick’s Southside Country Diner. This authentic 1950’s box-car diner offers fast service, made-to-order eggs, and even creatively shaped pancakes. The dinner menu ranges from coney dogs to chicken & dumplings, providing a variety of options for every taste.
Cabin Creek Coffee
Sip a delicious cup of coffee or tea, paired with a slice of quiche or breakfast sandwich, from Cabin Creek Coffee. This cozy shop has a wide selection of pastries, specialty coffees, and smoothies to choose from.
For lunch, try a flatbread, pizza, sandwich, or soup.I loved the hunter-inspired decor, which added to the rugged charm of this local establishment.
The Fresh Palate
Experience the delectable creations of Chef Eric Peterson at Fresh Palate in downtown Alpena. With its “conscious food for conscious people,” this culinary gem offers a diverse menu featuring Michigan whitefish, tapas, creative burritos, and gourmet sandwiches.
Immerse yourself in the industrial and artsy ambiance as you savor your meal and indulge in a glass of wine or one of the tasty draft beers available. The Fresh Palate is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Additionally, don’t miss the opportunity to explore Art in the Loft, Michigan’s premier fine arts gallery, located above The Fresh Palate. Delight in the exquisite works of local artisans showcased within its 7,000 square feet space. Art in the Loft is also available for private functions.
Thunder Bay National Maritime Sanctuary
Discover the shipwrecks that reside at “Shipwreck Alley” in Lake Huron. Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the only freshwater marine sanctuary in the country, is home to approximately 200 historically significant shipwrecks.
Snorkeling, diving, or taking a ride on the Lady Michigan, a glass-bottom boat, offers a closer look at the underwater graveyard, including the Harvey Bissell, Portland, and American Union. The two-hour boat ride costs $39 for adults and $14 for ages 6 to 12. Those 5 and under are $1.
Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center
At the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, the visitor’s center offers a captivating and interactive experience. Explore the museum’s hands-on exhibits and displays, showcasing wrecks, maritime conservation, and life-size vessels to climb aboard. Don’t miss this exceptional museum, offering education and entertainment in Alpena, Michigan.
Dark Sky Viewing
Alpena is an excellent destination for stargazing due to minimal light pollution. You can explore three Dark Sky Preserve Parks in the region, where you can observe constellations and possibly even catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis. Another notable spot for stargazing is the Rockport State Recreation Area.
Enhance your knowledge of celestial objects and phenomena at the Besser Museum’s planetarium, which also offers engaging art, history, and science exhibits for the entire family.
What to Do and See in Alpena and Its Neighboring Towns
Located strategically in Michigan’s Great Lakes region, Alpena offers a wide array of exciting activities, including diving, photographing lighthouses, fossil hunting, kayaking, biking, and exploring shipwrecks. Additionally, neighboring towns provide further opportunities to enhance your visit.
Ocqueoc Falls & Bicentennial Pathway
Discover the stunning waterfalls of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and take a refreshing swim (if the weather allows). Ocqueoc Falls, the largest waterfall in the region, is uniquely ADA accessible, making it a must-visit destination. Embark on a leisurely hike along one of the scenic trails and enjoy some fishing along the way.
Experience the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Trail at its finest.
The Old and New Presque Isle Lighthouse
I visited two of the seven lighthouses in the area: The Old Presque Isle Lighthouse and the New Presque Isle Lighthouse, the tallest on the Great Lakes. The Old Presque Isle claims to be haunted and has gained recognition in books and TV shows. Its museum, once the light keeper’s dwelling, exhibits fascinating artifacts.
As for the New Presque Isle, it features three historic buildings including a museum. The property also offers a playground, picnic pavilion, and nature trails. From the viewing platform, reached by climbing 130 steps, you can relish panoramic views of Lake Huron’s glittering shoreline.
Fun Fact: Michigan has 155 lighthouses, more than any other state.
Thunder Bay Resort: A Regional Gem
Thunder Bay Resort offers cozy accommodations and an RV park for solo travelers, couples, and large groups. This popular North Michigan retreat boasts a golf course, perfect for golf enthusiasts and families alike.
Additionally, guests can enjoy Rocky Mountain elk viewing (ages 9 years and older), accompanied by carriage rides led by majestic draft horses. For a truly unique dining experience, indulge in an exquisite five-course meal prepared on 125-year-old wood cook stoves in the resort’s rustic cabin.
The meal includes soup, shrimp cocktail, crown roast of pork, red-skinned potatoes, and white chocolate mousse filled pizzelles with berry sauce. Complement your meal with a selection of six wines from Modern Craft. Entertainment and storytelling add an extra touch of excitement to your stay.
Nestled in Hillman, just 22 miles from Alpena, Thunder Bay Resort also offers Murder Mystery Weekends worth checking out.
Unique Apple Farm Attraction Near Rogers City
Kneabe’s Mmmunchy Krunchy Apple Farm offers a range of apple-related activities, including apple picking, cider, donuts, and the Mac’n’Squasher apple slingshot. You can also enjoy pastries and coffee in the rustic restaurant, while the kids can take a pony or wagon ride near the apple orchards.
Please note that the Apple Farm is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Additionally, Knaebe’s Bakery features a variety of delectable treats such as donuts, cookies, brownies, and pies, accompanied by hot and cold cider, as well as cider slushies. In the tasting room, you can savor handcrafted wood-fired pizza and hard cider.
If you’re looking for a unique food item, I recommend the Garlic Butter Ranch Sauce, Five Cheese Blend, Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, and Sausage— available all day long.
I had my first cider donut from this gem, and let me tell you, they are freaking delicious.
Don’t miss out on the seasonal Dinosaur Gardens! This nostalgic 1935 roadside attraction in Ossineke is a must-visit. As you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a colossal Jesus holding the world in his hand. Explore the 24-acre wooded park with its walking trails and 27 life-size dinosaur statues. Pets are welcome too!
Walking tours cost $10 (kids under 3 are free) and there’s also a gift shop, Miner’s Sluice, fossil dig, and putt-putt golf ($6) onsite.
Where to Stay in Alpena
Enjoy waterfront views and explore Alpena’s downtown on foot from the Holiday Inn & Suites of Alpena With an appealing lobby, contemporary and spacious rooms, and a heated indoor pool, this hotel offers convenience and comfort. It’s the perfect lodging choice in Alpena.
Plus, you’ll enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi, a delicious breakfast, and parking.
To learn more about Alpena, Michigan, visit the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes tourism board at this link.
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