Best Grayling Michigan Things To Do | Tourism Info | Photos, Incredible Hiking, Downtown Grayling Shopping, Restaurants, Kayaking, Fish Hatchery

Top 9 Grayling Michigan Things To Do + 2 Must-See Hidden Gems | Plan a Northern Michigan Vacation or Getaway! Incredible Boardwalk Hiking, Kayaking, Fish Hatchery, 1930s Great Depression Farm 

By: Sherry Trautman | | Last updated: October 13, 2023

You are going to love your visit or vacation to Graying Michigan! This small town has flare and seriously big hearts. I met some of the nicest people while touring this Au Sable river town in Northern Michigan.

As such, I highly recommend taking your time. Be open to meeting others along your adventures and really enjoy all the sights and sounds along the way.  If you want to see and do everything on my list, I would suggest two days. Below is exactly how I do it. 

Day 1: 

  • Wellington Farm USA: Explore
  • Camp Au Sable: Breathtaking Hiking, Photography
  • Lunch Downtown at Paddle Hard Yard, Bear's Den Pizzaria or Paddle Hard Brewing
  • Downtown Grayling: Explore, shop, dine!
  • Grayling Fish Hatchery: See the Grayling fish and trout!

Day 2:

  • Kayak, raft, canoe first thing in the morning while it's cooler
  • Lunch Downtown at Michigan Brew or another great spot
  • Check out the Crawford County Historical Museum
  • Hartwick Pines State Park: Explore, Hike

Map of Grayling Michigan (Lower Peninsula) - Fun Things To Do! 

Here are several fun things to do in the Grayling Michigan area, located in Crawford County. 

1. Step Back in Time at Wellington Farm USA: See Their Cute Goats and Sheep Too! Michigan Hidden Gem!

Location: 6944 S Military Rd, Grayling Michigan, just a few minutes from I-75 at exit 251. The parking area is gravel/grass. 

Time Needed: I spent about 2 hours there. The guided tours are about 1.5-2 hours and then you need some time to enjoy the animals, explore their several acres on your own a bit and shop in their gift shop. It's one of the most popular attractions in Grayling!

Bathrooms: Yes. There are also drinks in the gift shop refrigerator. 

Wellington Farm, USA is a 60-acre living history complex that shows visitors how life was lived in a Midwestern farming community during the Great Depression. 

  • I HIGHLY recommend a tour as your guide will make history come alive with exciting historical stories.  All the farm implements, buildings and shops will be much more fascinating and instill deep meaning. 

The farm opened in 1996 with one storage building, a sawmill and an outhouse.  Today the complex has 26 structures and new artifacts are constantly added throughout the years. In fact, new buildings are in the works!

Your first stop after buying your tickets and checking out the gift shop is the cute goats!  They are all about a good rubbin'.

The Stittsville Church Relocated to Grayling Michigan

The Stittsville Church: Originally there were 4 churches in the area but as the population dwindled, there wasn't a need for so many churches. Plus, there was just one minister for all four churches. He would ride from church to church to hold services. To simplify things, the congregation was combined and this lovely church was abandoned.

The original stained glass was removed and many of the beautiful etched windows were taken by the members of the church.  After the church was abandoned for several years, it was scheduled to be burned but money was raised to have it saved and moved to Wellington Farm USA. 

After word got around...

that Wellington Farm USA had moved the Stittsville Church to their location, a few of the original stained glass windows were returned to be reinstalled. The rest were replaced by a glass company in Lansing.

Additionally, churches during the Great Depression were a gathering place for the community and often times included social events like potlucks, singings and picnics.

Explore Crafter's Alley!

Be sure to stop by all the buildings at Crafter's Alley! It's a lovely walk through the woods too. 

  • The basket shop, grist mill, loom house, broom shop, blacksmith shop and broom factory are all very interesting and informative! 
  • Several of the brooms shown above (all made by the founder of Wellington Farm USA in Grayling Michigan) are for sale in the shop!

See the Summer Kitchen!

I found the Summer Kitchen fascinating.  When Wellington Farm has volunteers, people will be cooking in this 1932 kitchen.  Back in the day, women would be canning and cooking 18 hours a day. 

As you could image, the heat from the wood-burning stove would seriously heat up the the Summer Kitchen concept was born! What a great idea to move the hot stove out of the house!  

Don't you love this wood-burning stove? 

By the way, I learned a fascinating fact.

  • Everything, including the sheets, clothing, towels were ironed.  Do you know why?  It was to rid the clothing and bedding of bacteria! 

Lard, cream and butter were used in these kitchens that may make you wonder about their health...but then again, today's meals are made from packaged food or fast foods that are laden with preservatives and additives. 

See Perry T. Lamkin's Broom Handle Factory

In 1887, Perry Lamkin built a broom handle factory in Whittaker, Michigan.  He invented the first mechanical belt sander that would give a smooth finish to his broom handles. 

Mr. Lamkin also added a sawmill and gristmill to his operation. After he passed in 1936, his son Roland took over the milling operation until he retired in 1950s.  The lovely belt sander and other machinery were stored in an old barn for over 50 years until someone connected with the Wellington Farm overhead some hunters talking about a barn they found with strange equipment inside.

He was curious so he asked the hunters where the barn was located. He eventually found the barn and was shocked to discover these incredible machines! 

He tried for several years to obtain the machines from Mr. Lamkin's son but Roland refused. Eventually, several years later, Roland agreed to allow Wellington Farm to clean out the barn and save the old machines. 

But Wellington Farm was in for another surprise... 

Roland showed up with a manila envelope filled with priceless patents, machine drawings and parts lists! What a treasure!

And here's the kicker...the envelope had never been opened and Roland had no idea what was inside!! He gifted it to the Wellington Farm Board of Directors under the stipulation that if it held anything negative about his family that it must be destroyed.

How are Blacksmith Shops and Chestnut Trees Connected?

Outside the blacksmith shop is a "famous" chestnut tree that is from the founder's own home. After a blight killed most of the chestnut trees in Michigan in the 1800's, the founder's father played an integral part in reintroducing these lovely trees back into Michigan.  

  • The chestnut tree was placed in front of the blacksmith shop to give homage to a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called, "The Village Blacksmith." The first few lines of the poem says,

"Under a spreading chestnut-tree
     ⁠The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
     With large and sinewy hands,
And the muscles of his brawny arms
     Are strong as iron bands..."

Check out the Machine Shed

Oh and something way cool is the Eclipse steam engine by Frick Co.  Did you know they have two? 

There's also a thresher (or thrasher) that I find fascinating as my grandparents were farmers. I always heard stories about how much work it was to cook for the thrashers (the workers, as they ate a ton!!).  And I never knew what a thrasher was before now! (A threshing machine or a thresher is a piece of farm equipment that threshes grain-removes the seeds from the stalks and husks.) 

I Love the Animal Barn!

I loved seeing the absolutely adorable chickens, sheep and horses.  Gotta love the critters!

A Must-See: The Annis House-Ordered from a Montgomery Ward Catalog!

Did you know you could order a prefabricated home out of a catalog? 

Can you guess how much it cost?  This 4 bedroom, 2 story Montgomery Ward home cost $1,850!  The last owner of the home had a 4,000 sf house on the same land and when zoning noticed, he was forced to move one off the property.  As you can guess, the Annis home was delivered to Wellington Farm Park. 

The man in the center of the photo above is Mr. Homer Annis, the original owner.  He was photographed with his daughters, sons and their spouses. 

Check out the Loom House!

Here's Interesting story about weaving that I learned from my guide:  To simplify the names of the spinning wheel, the shaft was called a mulberry bush, the top was called a monkey. In addition, the spinner's weasel consists of a wheel that spun to measure off thread or yarn after it has been produced on the spinning wheel.

As it spun to make skein, the wooden gears inside and cam were designed to make a popping sound after the 40th revolution, indicating that the work or measurement was done.  And so, the popular nursery rhyme was born,

"Around and round the cobbler’s bench
The monkey chased the weasel;
The monkey thought ’twas all in good fun,
Pop! goes the weasel."

Cool, huh!?

Be sure to visit in the fall when the pumpkin catapult is in action and the corn maze is ready. 

In a previous year, the owner cut the field into the shape of the Alzheimer's Association's logo with one entry and 10 exits signifying the warning signs of Alzheimer's (In honor of his wife that is fighting this horrible disease).  But here's the kicker, only one of the exits actually leads out, again in reference to the disease. 

This year, the corn maze will be for our Military Veterans.  Money is then given to each organization.  What an incredible mission! 

Before you leave be sure to check out their gift shop.  All of the times are handmade by locals.  I purchased two brooms made by the founder of Wellington Farm USA and I also purchased some artisan soap.  I really wanted a couple of the handmade rugs...chances are I'll buy one in the fall when I return for their corn maze and fall events. 

2. Hartwick Pines State Park: Hike, Explore, Camp

Location: Hartwick Pines Logging Museum is located within Hartwick Pines State Park: 3612 State Park Drive, Grayling, MI 49738

Time Needed: Depends on how long you explore the logging museum, how far you hike and well, how hot it is!   

Bathrooms: Yes

Admission is free; however, a Recreation Passport is required for vehicle entry to the park.

Visitor center hours: 

  • Memorial Day - Labor Day: open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Sept.-Oct. - open daily, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Nov.-April - weekends only, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Logging Museum hours:

  • Memorial Day - Labor Day: open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • May, Sept.-Oct. - open daily, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Nov.-April -CLOSED

The Hartwick Pines Visitor Center, located at Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling Michigan, draws visitors and campers to see one of Michigan's last stands of majestic old-growth pine forest.

There are several miles of trails so you can get out in nature!  See diverse wildlife and forest landscapes all year round! Check out the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum located inside the visitor center to learn more about Michigan's forests beginning with the Ice Age. 

3. Penrod's Au Sable Canoe and Kayak-Get Out on the AuSable River! Super Popular in July!

Location:  100 Maple St, Grayling, MI

Let's go kayaking or canoeing at Penrod's Au Sable Canoe and Kayak !  See wildlife and enjoy northern Michigan's great outdoors along the Au Sable River in Grayling Michigan!

Penrod’s opens at 8:00 am on Saturday and 8:30 am Sunday – Friday. You will be leaving from the canoe office so there are no set departure times, which I love. Check their website for more information. 

4. Visit the Grayling Fish Hatchery!

Grayling Fish Hatchery Location: 4890 W North Down River Rd, Grayling, MI 49738. The drive and parking lot are all paved.

Time Needed: 30 minutes to see the fish.  If you wish to go fishing in the Children's Pond allow more time. It's one of the most popular attractions in Grayling during the summer months!

Bathrooms: Yes

The Grayling Fish Hatchery, located in Grayling Michigan was founded in 1919! It's a cool place to check out, for sure.

  • The Hatchery is open to the public from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend! (Closed most of September, October, November, December, January, February, March, April and May.) 

The Grayling Fish Hatchery is proud to have Grayling (the fish) return to Grayling!!

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has agreed to donate 50 adult grayling for everyone to enjoy.  Come see trout, and now the grayling!

This is a big deal as Grayling fish are now extinct in Michigan.  They are found in Montana, Europe and the Arctic. 

Come see the Grayling Fish Hatchery's 1,000+ rainbow trout in their raceways, provided by the Michigan DNR.  

The types of fish that are found swimming in Northern Michigan rivers include Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout.

  • WOW!  Many of the raceways are covered with netting as osprey and other birds think these fish are delicious! I was told the fish hatchery can lose about 50% of their fish if the raceways weren't covered by nets!

You can feed the fish, look for turtles and frogs along their pathways, and kids 16 and under can fish at the Bluegill Fishing Fishing Pond for free. It has such a pretty boardwalk overlook! I love it! Just bring your own equipment and bait to practice catch and release only. 

5. Camp Au Sable-Michigan Hidden Gem!  Incredible Michigan Boardwalk Hiking Trail!

Location: 2590 Camp Au Sable Rd, Grayling, MI 49738. The drive in is completely paved and the parking lot is paved.

Time Needed: 2-2 1/2 hours

Bathrooms: Yes. There are bathrooms where you check in and porta johns along the walk. 

Camp Au Sable is a 7th Day Adventist church camp in Grayling Michigan that is open to the public (closed during camp in the summer) for you to enjoy their incredible walking trails.

So Friends, I'm blown away by the beauty, cleanliness and just overall WOW factor of Camp Au Sable. This incredible Michigan Hidden Gem is open to the public year round for walking. 

You will need to check in at the large stone building near the parking area for the Lake Trail. 

  •  NOTE: Camp Au Sable closed to the public Mid-June through Mid-August while the kids are at summer camp. Check their website or call them for exact dates of when they are closed or have events scheduled that could impact your visit.

I highly recommend walking around the Shellenbarger Lake! It's exquisite! The camp encircles the entire lake. If you are looking for boardwalks in Michigan, well, this it!

  • There are 2 miles of boardwalks which takes you about 3/4 of the way around the lake and then the trail continues but it consists of woodchips/mulch for the last mile.  

Isn't this bridge incredible!?  You can see more of it in my video above.

And the scenery is exquisite!  Be sure to take your time and enjoy the lake, ducks and other woodland critters along the way. 

I so love this gazebo at Camp Au Sable in Grayling Michigan!  You can dip your toes in the water at this spot as the water is almost level with the stone pavers. 

6. Shopping and Dining in Downtown Grayling Michigan

The downtown area is super cute! Be sure to walk Michigan Avenue! I loved shopping at the AuSable Artisan Village Art Center, I purchased a fantastic handmade pottery piece for my mother-in-law.

Grab coffee as you shop.  Super fun restaurants include Paddle Hard and also Paddle Hard Yard.  Paddle Hard Brewing has a great shop with t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and gifts. You can also eat outside under the umbrellas, shown above.

The Paddle Hard Yard, located about 3 blocks down has super cool outside dining on their roof, shown below. 

7. W.J. Beal Tree Plantation: Learn Its Invaluable Contribution to Michigan Forests

Location: Head east on M-72 to Industrial Park Road and turn right. The parking lot can be seen on the left, just before Alro Steel (2471 Industrial St, Grayling, MI 49738.)  Parking lot is gravel. 

Time Needed: 15-20 minutes. If you are short on time, skip this stop.

Bathrooms: No

Planted in 1888, it may be the oldest documented tree plantation in North America.

With 40 species of trees, the purpose of the planting was to determine and demonstrate how well various trees and shrubs would be most suitable to reforest the cut and burned pine lands. 

  • It is possibly the first step toward forest management in Michigan. 

This spot is the first real forest planting in Michigan and is an early recognition of efforts to recover exploitative logging. 

Per the sign at the plantation: "Prior to European settlement, forest covered nearly all of Michigan. Late in the 19th century, logging operations cleared the state of most forest cover. As a result of major reforestation efforts during te 1930s and early 1940s, Michigan has 19.3 million acres of forestland with about 35% in public ownership." 

Another sign reads, "On this site, in 1888, Professor Beal established the Grayling Experimental Station for the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. This 80-acre parcel of land would be the focus of research for decades to help local farmers and landowners increase the productivity of their farms and land. To determine which crops would grow best on the sand soils, Professor Beal experimented with pasture grasses, clovers, vegetable and fruit crops and trees. For his treee study, Professor Beal planted 5260 cuttings and seedlings from 41 species of trees in three plots."

There is a short nature trail through the plantation. This spot is interesting for its historical significance. 

8. Grayling Michigan Farmers Market

Location: Grayling City Park Pavilion 

The Farmers Market starts in June through the first week of October!

10:00 AM to 4:00 PM at the Grayling City Park Pavilion 

  • Thursdays: 10:00 am - 4:00pm
  • Saturdays: 10:00am - 3:00pm

9. Visit the Crawford County Historical Museum!

The Crawford County Historical Museum was previously a railroad depot and is now a museum that shares the history of the Grayling area, focusing on the 19th and 20th centuries. The quaint museum shows visitors what it was like during the lumbering era that once shaped Grayling’s economy.

At that time, Grayling was well suited for the lumber industry due several acres of forests and the close AuSable and Manistee rivers where were logs floated out to the Great Lakes. 

YouTube Video Below

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    Sherry Trautman is a seasoned business owner and a multifaceted content creator, deeply entrenched in the world of travel in Michigan. With her extensive background in writing, editing, photography, marketing, website design, web mastering, social media, and publishing, she is the driving force behind the acclaimed Michigan Travel site "" A lifelong Michigander, Sherry's journey began in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan led her to St. Joseph during her formative years, and further to Kalamazoo for her higher education. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design and Fine Art from Western Michigan University. Her career initially blossomed in Battle Creek, where she contributed significantly to aviation, marketing, and the art industry.

    In 2018, Sherry, alongside her husband Chris, embarked on a passionate endeavor with the inception of This venture was not just a business but a full-time commitment to exploring and celebrating the diverse landscapes and communities of Michigan. Together, they tirelessly traverse the state, curating unique experiences, capturing stunning visuals, and weaving engaging narratives that showcase Michigan's rich cultural tapestry and natural beauty. From her early experiences in different Michigander locales to her extensive professional background, Sherry's life and work epitomize a deep-rooted expertise in Michigan travel, making her an authoritative voice in this niche.

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