by Jill P

You may not be able to sail the high seas, but right here in West and Southwest Michigan there are many exciting ways to take to the waters. Whether it’s cruising Lake Michigan on a historic tall ship, traveling down a scenic river on a paddleboat, or exploring the history of a WWII ship, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to explore boats of all kinds.


1. Star of Saugatuck Boat Cruises, Saugatuck

Sit back and relax on a 1.5 hour cruise on Star of Saugatuck Boat Cruises. Listen to the water running off the paddlewheels of an authentic sternwheel paddleboat as you gently glide down the Kalamazoo River and  enter majestic Lake Michigan (conditions permitting). View the area from the water on one of their daytime or a sunset cruise. Snack bars onboard serve cold pop, water, beer, wine, mixed drinks, chips, and candy on a cash basis. Onboard they provide a live narration which points out local landmarks and points of interest, and tells you some of the local maritime history, as well.  Upper deck is open and seats 80 passengers, lower deck is enclosed and climate controlled and seats 70 passengers. There are also restroom facilities onboard and at their dockside gift shop.

2. Holland Princess, Holland

This 65′ Victorian style paddle-wheel river boat is one of the newest vacation attractions in Holland, MI. You will tour through beautiful Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan and cruise past the BIG RED lighthouse. Enjoy a scenic cruise with lunch or dinner. You will pass by picturesque lake homes, historic land marks, and nature at its best. Kids can pick a treasure from the Captains treasure chest, or blow the loud whistle.


3. Michigan Maritime Museum, South Haven

Friends Good Will is a replica of a sloop built in Michigan in 1810. The ship sailed the Great Lakes as a merchant vessel, a Royal Navy vessel, and a United States Navy vessel over the course of her life. The Michigan Maritime Museum is proud to be home to Friends Good Will and be able to provide their visitors with a unique on-water experience aboard this historic tall ship. Have kids that love pirates and adventures? Check out our review of the Pirate Chaser Adventure Cruise.


Lindy Lou, an electric powered river launch, is ready for boarding. This attraction provides passengers with a chance to recapture those days from the late 1890s through the 1930s when launches plied the Black River, delivering guests to resorts, taking picnickers to up-river parks and pavilions, and generally helping fill the lazy hours of summer with relaxing diversions. Lindy Lou makes daily cruises on the Black River (five per day, seven days a week in high season), boarding at the Museum and cruising first downstream to the river clock at the foot of North Shore Drive, then traveling upstream to the covered bridge on the North Branch of the river and finally returning to the Orley Dock at the Museum. Each cruise will cover about six miles and last an hour.

4. Port City Princess, Muskegon

The Port City Princess is the only ship that tours Muskegon Lake & the Gold Coast of Lake Michigan with its sugar sand beaches and brilliant sunsets. Port City Princess offers daily cruises, including lunch, scenic, cocktail, and dinner cruises. They also offer theme cruises, including luau, margaritaville, blues cruise, blessing of the boats, and more.

5. S.S. Milwaukee Clipper, Muskegon

On your way to Pere Marquette Beach, visit the Lakeside Area of Muskegon County and take a tour of the S.S. Milwaukee Clipper, Muskegon’s original ferry, featuring art deco interiors, a soda fountain, ballroom and movie theater. Built in 1904, eight years before the Titanic, the Clipper traversed Lake Michigan from 1941 until 1970 carrying untold thousands of passengers and automobiles between Muskegon and Milwaukee!

6. USS LST 393, Muskegon

History jumps out at you from every deck and corner of this veteran of Omaha Beach.  She earned 3 battle stars in World War II and is one of only two ships of her kind that remain in the United States. This landing ship tank turned museum is filled with artifacts and displays honoring those who served America and fought for the freedoms we enjoy today!

Tour one of America’s last two LSTs (Landing Ship Tank) of the 1,051 built during World War II. Marvel at state-of-the-art technology circa 1942.

Throughout most of the summer, tours are 10-5 seven days a week with the last tour ticket sold at 4 p.m. Tours are weekends only at the beginning of May and the end of September. The museum is closed October through April.

See the uniforms, weapons, equipment of the men who rode LST 393 to invasions of Sicily, Italy and D-Day in France. Read the stories of area veterans honored by the LST 393 museum. Learn about the wide range of vehicles of war carried by the LSTs. The museum honors all branches of service and offers displays from the Spanish-American War to Iraq-Afghanistan.


7. USS Silversides Submarine Museum, Muskegon

Tour a restored WWII Submarine, a Prohibition-Era Coast Guard Cutter and wonderful exhibits at this maritime museum!  Self-guided tours let you experience what it was really like to sail a sub trolling the waters of the South Pacific 60-plus years ago. Guests can walk the deck topside as well as the major internal compartments below deck. Your tour also includes access to the Coast Guard Cutter McLane, a rare prohibition era vessel from 1927 and the fully handicap accessible museum.

Situated on the south side of the Muskegon Lake Channel near beautiful Lake Michigan, the USS SILVERSIDES Submarine Museum has been the home of the World War II submarine USS Silversides since 1987. In addition to the Silversides, the USS SILVERSIDES Submarine Museum is also home to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter McLane, a Prohibition-era Coast Guard Cutter that is one of the last of its class in existence.

Climb aboard, immerse yourself in the past and discover the future at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum. Students dive into science aboard the USS Silversides and travel through history aboard the USCGC McLane. GLNMM is open 362 days each year. Free parking. Gift shop. Reservations required for group tours and overnights.

8. Pictured Rocks Boat Cruises, Munising

Pictured Rocks Cruises, LLC is an authorized concessionaire of the National Park Service Department of the Interior. For over 50 years, their summer cruises have been guiding visitors to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a top Lake Michigan vacation spot. Boat cruises are 2 1/2 to 3 hours and will travel into and alongside the most visually stunning 40 miles of shoreline on the Great Lakes! They offer three distinct Michigan cruises: the Regular Cruise, the Spray Falls Cruise, and the Sunset Cruise. Each cruise departs from the Munising, Michigan City Dock. The crew will assist in ticketing, safety instructions, and other needs. The day cruises are narrated by the captain and will inform you of a brief history of the tour boat, local area facts, and Michigan points of interest on this national park tour.

9. Beaver Island Boat Company, Charlevoix

Hop aboard one of the Beaver Island Boat Company’s two ferry boats to beautiful Beaver Island! The Emerald Isle is a 130 foot three story vessel with comfortable seating, open air decks and plenty of space for you to roam while you cruise across Lake Michigan. The historic Beaver Islander has taken the Charlevoix-Beaver Island route for over 50 years but has the updates and amenities you need! The best way to get acquainted to island life is a relaxing cruise on our vessels. Beaver Island is the perfect getaway for just the day, weekend or week! Call us today for more information 888-446-4095

10. Traverse Tall Ship Co., Traverse City

Join the Traverse Tall Ship Co. aboard the 114’ tall ship Manitou or the classic sailing yacht Scout for a thrilling adventure on the spectacular waters of Grand Traverse Bay. With cruises ranging from two hours to six days, they have something for everyone! Step into “the age of sail” aboard this majestic replica of an 1800’s coasting cargo schooner. Manitou offers two hour sails, “Floating Bed & Breakfast”, and multi-day windjammer cruises.


11. SS Badger

Watch the SS Badger Carferry come in to dock. This carferry makes a daily trip to Wisconsin and offers the largest cross-lake passenger service on the Great Lakes and an authentic steamship experience. Thinking about taking the carferry over to Wisconsin? There is plenty to do on the SS Badger. They have free movies, television, games, free Badger Bingo, kids’ activities, and more!