By Lynn Burkhead - December 2, 2013
The historic port city of Alpena is nestled between a lush green forest and the vast Thunder Bay. A community founded on the fishing and timber industry, Alpena is now the place where cultural heritage collides with relaxed outdoor adventure.
Spend a day kayaking over 19th century shipwrecks or trek through the forest to hunt for fossils, then freshen up and head downtown for wine tasting and attend a live theater show in the evening.
Alpena offers all the modern conveniences of a sophisticated city without the hassle and congestion of big city living. Escape the stress of everyday life and relax, restore and rejuvenate in the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes.
Just north of Alpena, you’ll discover the Old and New Presque Isle Lighthouses. Built in 1840, the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse is the oldest climbable lighthouse still accessible on the Great Lakes.
The New Presque Isle Lighthouse was built in 1870 to replace the old lighthouse and is the tallest accessible lighthouse on the Great Lakes.
Historic guides help interpret the life of lighthouses on the Great Lakes as beacons of hope guiding sailors to safe harbor during treacherous storms.
Climb the 30 hand-hewn stone steps to the top of the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse and then head just one mile down the road to climb 130 steps to see striking views from the top of the New Presque Isle Lighthouse.
If you make it all the way to the top of the New Lighthouse, you can show your bravery by purchasing the “I survived the climb!” t-shirt.
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Alpena is home to the nation’s only freshwater marine sanctuary. Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary protects a nationally significant collection of historic shipwrecks that together tell the story of the growth and development of our nation.
Everything from wooden schooners to steel freighters can be found in the clear blue depths of Lake Huron just off the coast of Alpena in an area known as Shipwreck Alley.
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is also a hub for NOAA scientific research and exploration. The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center offers an interactive experience that guides you through the story of shipping on the Great Lakes without leaving dry land. Tour a replica of a real hand-built wooden schooner or climb through the dive tubes to see what it feels like to dive a shipwreck.
Since the early 1800s, Alpena has been a hotspot for sport and commercial fishing. The community’s position on Lake Huron, as well as the generous amount of inland lakes and rivers, provides the perfect opportunity for sport fisherman to connect with our fishing heritage. In fact, 66 percent of Alpena County is water. Salmon, walleye, bass, perch, trout, musky, sturgeon and more lurk beneath the pristine waters.
Alpena is the perfect location for a challenging fishing adventure as well as a great place to bring your family and recreate some long lost childhood memories.
Hiking and Biking
Numerous trail systems swirl throughout the Alpena area, offering great backdrops for trail biking, road cycling, hiking and nature walks.
In addition to the comfortable 18.5-mile path that snakes throughout the city, there are miles and miles of groomed trails throughout the surrounding forests, as well as backcountry roads to make any cyclist happy.