Alpena Michigan: Ultimate Travel Guide of Things to Do, How To See Shipwrecks (+ Find Fossils!) and Where to Stay 

Alpena MI | by Sherry Trautman | Traveling Michigan

Alpena Michigan is the ultimate destination for all things outdoors: hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, exploring and fossil hunting. There are so many things to do!

This beautiful lakeside city also offers maritime museums, glass bottom shipwreck tours, boat and bike rentals, light houses, art galleries, covered bridges, wineries, great restaurants, dark sky parks and fun shopping. 

We spent three full days in beautiful Alpena Michigan and we still didn't have time to do everything!  So pack your bags, let's go exploring!


Frequently Asked Questions About Alpena MI

Where is Alpena Michigan?  Alpena is located at the north-eastern tip of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Alpena is about 2 hours east of Mackinaw City.

What is Alpena Known For? The Sanctuary of the Great Lakes.  You can dive to discover hundreds of shipwrecks or take a glass bottom boat tour to see from above water. It's a great place to relax, enjoy nature and spend time with your family while decompressing from the stresses of everyday hectic life.

How far is Alpena from Detroit? Alpena is about 4 hours north of Detroit.  

Is Alpena Michigan safe? Absolutely. We love wandering the town, even in the evenings.  It's a pretty small town so it's great for visiting families with small children.


Interactive Map of Alpena Michigan: Includes Great Things to do, Restaurants, Biking Tours and Shopping!


Utilize this map to plan your day and to discover our favorite stops, restaurants and fun in Alpena!


Recommended Hotels in Alpena

Ramada Inn, Alpena

We spent the weekend at the Ramada Inn, it was centrally located, clean and very quiet. 

The Days Inn by Wyndham is also a convenient location with a good morning breakfast and indoor pool. 


Glassbottom Boat Shipwreck Tours at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary are INCREDIBLE!


Address: 500 W Fletcher St, Alpena, MI 49707 (Inside the big blue NOAA building)

Did you know there are approximately 200 shipwrecks in the Thunder Bay region?  Two more were just discovered last year!!

If you are a boating and shipwreck fan, you will absolutely lose your mind on this 2.5 hour glass bottom shipwreck tour in Alpena MI!


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We are aboard the Lady Michigan glass bottom boat in Alpena to view the exquisite shipwrecks! We saw the W.P Rend and the Monohansett which was absolutely breathtaking. . The Monohansett is very close to the island that features the Thunder Bay Island Light so we got to see that also! . I will be posting more photos with a map of the shipwrecks and our shipwreck adventure. If you have never seen shipwrecks before, you will definitely find this 2.5 hour experience jaw-dropping! . . . #visitalpena #thunderbay #alpena #alpenamichigan #lakehuron #puremichigan #michigan #michiganders #greatlakesstateofmind #greatlakesstate #gogreatlakesbay #michigander #sanctuaryofthegreatlakes #michigantravel #onlyinmichigan #rockportstaterecreationarea #michiganstate #travelphotography

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Click on the video above to experience one of the shipwrecks we "discovered" while on our Alpena Michigan glass bottom boat tour.


The spacious boat has an inside area that is protected from the sun and wind plus an upper deck seating area with padded benches for phenomenal views!  

We were thrilled to watch the bridge raise and everyone waved to the bridge operator!

FYI, there is a bathroom on the boat.



There are vast amounts of shipwreck in the Alpena area.  We saw the W.P. Rend (can you find it on the map?) and the Monohansett which is on the south side of the National Wildlife Refuse island east of Sugar Island.

So depending on the weather, time of year and time of day, you will see different shipwrecks due to depth and visibility of the wrecks. That's super cool-this way you can go on the tour several times and never see the same thing twice!



There are two large viewing areas on the boat so you will definitely get a great view of the Michigan shipwrecks!



We were very excited to see the propeller in the upper left photo and the Thunder Bay Island Light in the right photo.  It was such a gorgeous area!


Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center


Address: 500 W Fletcher St, Alpena, MI 49707 (Inside the big blue NOAA building)

Be sure to reserve about an hour either before or after your glass bottom shipwreck tour to explore this amazing maritime museum. 

This 9,000 square foot maritime center includes a shipwreck gallery, theater & archaeology lab. The center is free and quite amazing so don't miss out!


Besser Natural Area

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Want to kayak over a shipwreck? Well...just beyond this point is a buoy marking a very shallow shipwreck called the Portland. You just need a calm day and a kayak to go check it out in Presque Isle, about 20 minutes from Alpena, Michigan!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Oh, and this beach is so pretty, easy to get to and quiet! Great place to relax, grab some sun and enjoy your day!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #visitalpena #thunderbay #alpena #alpenamichigan #rockportrecreationarea #lakehuron #puremichigan #michiganders #greatlakesstateofmind #greatlakesstate #gogreatlakesbay #michigander #sanctuaryofthegreatlakes #michigantravel #presqueisle #onlyinmichigan #rockportstaterecreationarea #michiganhiking #michiganstate #travelphotography #Michigan #michigantravel #greatlakesstate #michiganstate #travelingmichigan #puremittenpride #lovemichigan #michiganders #exploremichigan #puremittigan

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The Besser Natural Area is located north of Alpena and features a great beach, a shallow shipwreck, hiking and exploring!


Visit a Dark Sky Park! (There's Three Nearby!)


Alpena offers three nearby dark sky parks so you can experience the night sky and sparkly stars without light pollution! Read more here 


Super Easy Michigan Fossil Hunting!


Rockport State Park Recreational Area is a hotbed for Devonian fossil hunting!  See our Rockport State Park tips, guide, map and photos to inspire your fossil hunting adventures! 


Rockport State Park and Recreational Area


Rockport State Park and Recreational Area is an absolutely fascinating place to hunt fossils, learn about bats, find a quarry and so much more! Read more here!


Island Park and Wildlife Sanctuary


Rent kayaks, canoes or bikes near the scenic covered bridge by the hour. You can reserve them by visiting performancelocker.com/rentals which is usually a good idea if you want them earlier in the morning.  The on-site rentals start at noon. 

If you love hiking, be sure to cross over the covered bridge (photo at the top of this page) to the island where you can explore the beautiful wooded trails. There is a map just as you cross over the covered bridge!

FYI, no bikes are allowed on the island.


Gorgeous Alpena Michigan Lighthouse!


Calling all lighthouse fanatics!!  The Alpena Light or fondly nicknamed Sputnik or Little Red is a gorgeous lighthouse located on Lake Huron in Alpena, Michigan.

Standing on the north breakwater of Alpena Harbor, the light marks the entrance to the Thunder Bay River from Thunder Bay.  The steel skeletal style lighthouse is viewable from Alpena’s boat harbor, breakwall or during a shipwreck tour.

The Alpena Light was erected in 1914, replacing earlier wooden structures that guided ships to safe port since the late 1800’s. Little Red was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.



Across from the Alpena Light is the beautiful Range Light which is currently in operation.  We glided past this striking light and lonely fisherman around 10:00 a.m. aboard the Lady Michigan. It was such a calm and peaceful morning!


Calling All Music Lovers!


We enjoyed a Jimmy Buffet tribute concert on a beautiful Saturday evening at the band shell in Alpena Michigan.  We brought our lawn chairs and bought hamburgers from the food truck.  A food stand was giving away popcorn so we enjoyed a nice free snack as we listened to the music!  Bonus! 


Wander the Sparkling Alpena Marina!


Next to the band shell is a beautiful marina and boardwalk.  Grab your sweetie's hand and mosey along the boardwalk in the evening, as the sun just begins to set, for a relaxing and romantic close of the day.


Alpena Michigan Visitors Center


Be sure to stop by the super friendly group at the Alpena Visitor's Center located at 420 N. 2nd Avenue, in Downtown Alpena Michigan to grab some brochures of things to do and ideas of the current happenings in the city!

Also, check out Visit Alpena for more information on the city!


Great Restaurants in Downtown Alpena MI


We absolutely loved strolling throughout downtown Alpena.  We discovered several great places to eat and a wonderful ice cream shop!


Alpena Shopping


Be sure to save time for some downtown Alpena Michigan shopping!  There are art galleries and cute shops such as Rusty Petunias Marketplace, shown above!  I am just dying for that "No Shoes Required" pillow!

Several great shops, including the Rusty Petunia are marked on the map at the top of this page.

What to Bring to Alpena Michigan

  • Dry Bags-I utilize these three pack dry bags ALL THE TIME.  Many people prefer the thicker, heavier dry bags but for me they are too bulky and take up too much space in the kayak or boat.  It's my personal preference to use the thinner ones.  I've had these three bags for 5 years and they are still going strong.
  • Bikes to explore the bike paths shown in the map and to explore Rockport State Park. This Bike Lock is incredibly strong and comes with 2 keys.
  • Need a Bike Rack? This super affordable trunk mount rack works great!
  • Bug Spray-This one is made with lemon eucalyptus and is a DEET-free insect repellent.  
  • Walking Shoes
  • Kayaking Attire
  • Phone Dry Bag-don't risk dropping your phone in the lake!
  • Lightweight and compact biking backpack-crazy useful during biking or hiking so you have water, sunscreen, snacks and a place to bring back your fossils! We love this inexpensive backpack (around $20) as it is very lightweight, has lots of pockets and is extremely compactable. OH and it comes in a TON of vibrant colors and fits a laptop.
  • Water Shoes-I have these red Keens!  I love that the toes are protected and it has a great wide toe base-I hate squished toes.
  • Sunscreen-I'm a huge fan of this Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Water Resistant and Non-Greasy Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 100+. I buy a new bottle each spring. I don't feel trapped when I use this unlike the sport sunscreens. 

Travel Lawn Chairs (CRAZY CHEAP)


These Travel Lawn Chairs are crazy cheap (well under $20), come in a travel bag and are very portable and light weight. Grab 'em on Amazon to make sure you get them quick and have seating during your stay.

We have these exact chairs and I carried two to the band shell in Alpena to listen to music. OH, and they come in this fantastic red, deep blue (we have the blue) and green. 


Visit Cheboygan!  


Cheboygan Michigan is only 1 hour, 22 minutes west of Alpena!  Check out this lovely quaint city located on the Straits of Mackinac! 


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