The Great Lakes, containing 84% of North America’s fresh surface water, are a world-class sea kayaking destination. In this article we’ll explore the shores of Lake Michigan and let you know the outfitters ready to take you there.
If you’re an experienced sea kayaker with the right gear for big, cold water, renting will work for you. But if you’ve not kayaked the big lakes before, an outfitter will mean a seasoned guide to take you out with the appropriate kayak and knowledge of the area.
Lake Michigan is the only one of the five Great Lakes that’s entirely within the United States. It’s shores are bordered by Wisconsin on the west, Illinois and Indiana on the south, and Michigan on the east and north.
There are kayak outfitters around the lake in all these states geared up for paddling on Lake Michigan. We’ve limited our list to those that have a website and offer guided tours.
Wisconsin Sea Kayak Outfitters
Door County, the peninsula that creates Green Bay on Lake Michigan’s west side, is the place to go sea kayaking in eastern Wisconsin. There are several outfitters to choose from to explore some of the peninsula’s 300 miles of shoreline.
Cave Point Paddle & Pedal (Jacksonport, WI) has the widest variety of tour options on the Peninsula, from 2 hours to half-day. Your options include high bluffs, Cana Island Lighthouse (includes a tour of the lighthouse itself), sea caves and sunset.
Door County Adventure Center (Sturgeon Bay, WI) offers an array of kayak tours, including several different packages with zip lines and/or Segways. Caves, dunes, shipwrecks, sunsets—it’s all possible. Sea kayaks instead of the sit-on-top variety.
Door County Kayak Tours (Jacksonport, WI) offers several sea kayak tours from two hours to half-day. These include a shipwreck and history tour and a tour with cliff jumping and swimming. All include exploring sea caves and bluffs.
Island Adventure Company (Washington Island, WI) offers three kayak tours from its Washington Island location, at the very tip of Door Peninsula. Shipwrecks and islands are the highlights of their tours. You’ll need to take the ferry to get to the island first.
Kayak Door County (several locations in Door County) has three kayak tours on Lake Michigan. They explore bays, dunes, caves and lighthouses in tours of 1.5 and 2 hours. A sunset paddle is one of your options.
Lakeshore Adventures (Bailey’s Harbor, WI) offers 2-3 hour sea kayak tours including a shipwreck tour, Cana Island Lighthouse and sea caves along the shoreline. They even have the option of a clear-bottom kayak for the shipwreck tour!
Peninsula Kayak Company (Jacksonport, WI) offers 1.5-2 hour sea kayak tours including a sea cave tour, Eagle Harbor tour and sunset tour. Like quite a few of these outfitters, they use mostly sit-on-top tandem kayaks rather than traditional sea kayaks.
Indiana Sea Kayak Outfitters
Shurr Adventures (Indiana) is a small family adventure company that offers a 2.5-hour sea kayak tour along the Lake Michigan shoreline. This husband-wife team are naturalists as well, so your tour will include the history, flora and fauna of the area.
Illinois Sea Kayak Outfitters
Kayak Chicago (Chicago, IL) combines great paddling on the Big Lake with views of the Chicago skyline. Their offerings on Lake Michigan are 2.5-3.5 hour tours, including a sunset tour. One even happens during Chicago’s Air and Water Show every August.
Michigan Sea Kayak Outfitters
All About Water (Glen Arbor, MI) brings their kayak guests along Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore for a tour of about 2.5 hours. They use sit-on-top kayaks for their tours.
Clear Water Kayaks (Traverse City, MI) takes experienced kayakers in completely see-through kayaks on a couple different tours of the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. Their unique offerings include a Twilight Tour and Fall Color Tour.
Sleeping Bear Tours (Empire, MI) takes their tour guests on a sea kayak journey along Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, including Empire Bluff. For the real adventurers, you can sign up for the all day M-22 tour that includes biking and SUP along with the kayaking.
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