Things to Do in Michigan: Alpena

Amy S. Eckert
| February 23, 2024 | 4 Minute Read
A scuba diver explores a shipwreck. Jennifer Idol

Michigan’s Lake Huron freshwater marine sanctuary forms the centerpiece of things to see and do in Alpena.


Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Set on Lake Huron’s Thunder Bay, this marine sanctuary (above)—one of only two freshwater preserves in the country—contains the remains of nearly 100 shipwrecks dating back to the Civil War era. The sanctuary offers visitors opportunities to see the ships up close via diving excursions, glass bottom boat tours and SUP or kayak outings.

Visitors gather around the exhibits of the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center. One exhibit is a model boat named “Western Hope” where the visitors can climb aboard. NOAA, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center

Walk across the lurching deck of a life-sized schooner in a thunderstorm, discover the histories of Thunder Bay’s dozens of shipwrecks, try your hand at tying sailors’ knots, and hear how Michigan’s indigenous people navigated the waters of the Great Lakes at this impressive museum (above) on the Thunder Bay River.

A dwarf lake iris with its blue flower petals on full display. Larry Johns

Thompson’s Harbor State Park

A pristine pebble beach, dense purple clusters of dwarf lake irises (Michigan’s state wildflower, above) and a million stars draw outdoor enthusiasts to this park named an official Michigan dark sky preserve.

Presque Isle Township Museum with its lighthouse on the right Presque Isle Township Museum Society

Presque Isle Lighthouses

Three Lake Huron beacons—Old Presque Isle (1840), New Presque Isle (1870; above) and the Harbor Range (1870)—and the 1905 Keeper’s House Museum lure lighthouse lovers to Alpena. The New Presque Isle Light is the tallest Great Lakes lighthouse open to tower climbers.


Tents full of produce and other goods. Friends of Alpena Farmers Market

Alpena Farmers Market

Load up on locally sourced berries, peaches, tomatoes and fresh-baked breads and baked goods at this popular market (above) held every Saturday (Wednesdays, too, beginning on July 4) for a picnic on the Lake Huron shore.

Display of Austin Brothers Beer Company’s offerings, two canned packs and two draft beers in glasses. Austin Brothers Beer Company

Austin Brothers Beer Co.

Founded by two brothers from Southern California who fell in love with Alpena on a cross-country road trip, this popular microbrewery (above) serves burgers, salads, pitas and sandwiches piled high with house-smoked meats and locally sourced produce.

Breakfast area with glass cases of pastries and baked items IHG Hotels & Resorts

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Alpena–Downtown

Enjoy the AAA Three Diamond Holiday Inn Express’s oversized guestrooms, free hot breakfast (above) and its ideal location. The hotel is an easy walk from the Alpena Lighthouse (locally known as “Little Red”), the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center and the shops and restaurants of downtown Alpena.  

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