The opposite ends of this tour take in two different worlds connected by great scenic roads. In Bay City, you can stay busy sightseeing, shopping or sampling the night life. And over in Presque Isle County where the simplest pleasures hold sway, you can stroll in settings of undeveloped serenity along the Lake Huron shoreline or sit beside an inland lake and listen to the loons.
Geography made the location a natural place for settlement. Fulfilling the needs of lumber barons and shipbuilders, Bay City was built on the Saginaw River, at the mouth of Saginaw Bay, more than 170 years ago. Today the diverse community of Bay City venerates its heritage and thrives in a strong economy.
There are three historic districts in or near downtown, including an architectural dream street of baronial homes in the Central Avenue Historic District. Current tenants in the Midland Street Historic District, once the business center of West Bay City, have filled the old buildings with specialty shops, restaurants and pubs. The Bay City Convention and Visitor's Bureau (CVB) describes this district, situated on the river's western shore near Veteran's Memorial Park, as the "Entertainment Capital of Mid-Michigan."
The Downtown Bay City Historic District features great architecture, specialty shops, antique stores, restaurants and coffee houses. City Hall, the County Building, U.S. Post Office, the police and bus stations are all located on the east side of the river in the downtown. There are two hotels there, the Holiday Inn and Doubletree, which put the downtown historic districts within walking distance. Leslie Thompson, the sales manager of the Doubletree, says she and Shirley Roberts of the CVB are happy to organize pub-crawls for groups. "From the downtown hotels, there are 30 pubs and eateries within walking distance," she adds.
Another highly recommended lodging choice is the Bay Valley Hotel & Resort located in the southwest corner of the city. Although it is a few minutes from downtown, it offers numerous amenities, including a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, an indoor-outdoor pool, whirlpool, free wireless Internet access, and a restaurant and lounge.
And appealing to those seeking a unique sightseeing experience, Bay City comes through with cruises aboard its two schooners, the Appledore IV and V. The Appledore line of schooners, built in Maine, are named after an island. Ships I, II and III, are somewhere sailing the globe. The tall ships are docked downtown and routinely set sail for three-hour cruises on Saginaw Bay, with dinner and extended trips available from May through September.
One of the best-known haunts for birdwatchers is found north of town. More than 200 species of songbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl inhabit this marshland lining Lake Huron. After a quick ride to the Bay City State Recreation Area on Lake Huron, you can also pick a path and hike along this shoreline.
You want Festivals? Bay City has them, putting on everything from art fairs to car shows to ethnic festivities. Organizers also intend to get your motors running during the Graf Bike Bash, the Tall Ship Festival and the River Roar Powerboat Races. And then there's the Pig Gig Midwest Rib Cook-off. Mmmm, now that sounds delicious! Check with the CVB for all the festival dates and other travel information.
Navigating a motorcycle in and around Bay City is easy. The roads are well marked and in very good condition. When reprising this tour, head north out of town, take M-13, connecting in Standish with U.S. 23, the Sunrise-Side Highway, for a great scenic ride to your northern destination, Rogers City.
Rogers City and Presque Isle County
"This area is one of the last undeveloped areas of Michigan," says Presque Isle County Tourism Council Executive Director Kammie Dennis. That's one of the reasons for people to visit. The council is creating other reasons too - for example, during the five-day Nautical Festival held in Rogers City, they expect to draw more than 30,000 the first full weekend in August. Dennis describes the festival as a "homecoming," meant to honor the Great Lakes Fleet of shipping. The council also hosts a salmon fishing tournament in August, and in September, Posen (a small town on route M-65) celebrates with its annual potato festival.