At first glance the small farming town of Posen, which is situated along State Route 65 in northeastern Michigan and hosts an annual Potato Festival, doesn’t appear to be a logical meet-up spot to kick off a daylong motorcycle tour. But the Route 65 Diner offers up classic breakfast and lunch fare, the nearby Posen EZ Mart is a convenient place to fill up, and the village is near Lake Huron, the second largest of the Great Lakes, so it’s perfect starting point for a Lake Huron lighthouses loop.
This scenic route through the northeast corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is about 180 miles and provides a leisurely day of riding with stops for sightseeing and food. It offers unique historical sites, lighthouses, shipwrecks, wildlife sanctuaries, parks and beaches on Lake Huron, and paved roads through deep timber forests.
The ride is best done between Memorial Day and Labor Day but could be done earlier in the spring or later in the fall depending on the weather. We took our ride in September.
About 5 miles north of Posen, Route 65 dead-ends at U.S. Route 23, which runs along the edge of Lake Huron’s Michigan shore from Mackinaw City to Saginaw. We headed east on Route 23 and soon entered Thompson’s Harbor State Park. We turned onto Old State Road, followed it to the end, and went north on East Grand Lake Road, which took us onto a narrow peninsula that juts into Lake Huron between North Bay and Presque Isle Bay.
On the right, we saw the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, which was built in 1840. Due to the harsh weather on Lake Huron, the original lighthouse deteriorated, and the New Presque Isle Lighthouse was built in 1870 farther north near the end of the peninsula. Standing 113.5 feet tall, it is one of the tallest lighthouses on the Great Lakes. Both lighthouses have been restored and are part of a 99-acre park that includes a playground, picnic area, pavilion, gift shop, museum, and nature trails.
Adjacent to the New Presque Isle Lighthouse is a keeper’s house that was built in 1905 and is now a museum. Admission is free, but we paid $5 to climb the 130 steps to the top of the lighthouse for excellent views of Lake Huron and the Presque Isle area. The buildings and grounds are open to the public daily from mid-May through mid-October.
We returned to U.S. Route 23 and rode south, finding a few curves along the edges of Grand Lake and Long Lake, which are just inland from Lake Huron. We made our way to Alpena, a town of about 10,000 residents that sits on the northern shore of Thunder Bay. Nearby are two lighthouses, but they are out in the lake on islands and only accessible by boat.
The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary protects an area of Lake Huron known as “Shipwreck Alley” where there have been more than 100 historically significant shipwrecks. Some of the wrecks are close enough to the surface for sightseeing, which we did on a two-hour shipwreck tour on a glass-bottom boat called the Lady Michigan. We also visited the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, a museum with exhibits and pieces of boats that washed ashore.
When we left the museum, the Royal Enfield and Triumph riders in our group insisted we check out a British tavern in downtown Alpena called the Black Sheep Pub. It is decorated with British flags and memorabilia, and the menu includes rich and tasty pub grub like fish and chips, a pork burger drizzled with vinegar, Scotch eggs, and pickled chips.
After lunch, we continued south on Route 23 through parts of Thunder Bay River State Forest, Au Sable State Forest, and Huron National Forest. This is chainsaw country. In Ossineke, we passed colorful concrete statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox built in the 1940s by Paul Domke, who also built the creatures in the nearby Dinosaur Gardens Prehistoric Zoo.
South of Alcona, we visited Sturgeon Point Lighthouse, which was built in 1870. The 70-foot lighthouse is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard and is open to the public. The keeper’s house is a maritime museum open from Memorial Day to mid-September.
At Harrisville, the Harley and Indian riders in our group made it known that it was time for some American food. We rode west on State Route 72 into the heart of Huron National Forest and then turned north on State Route 65 to Curran. Just north of town, we stopped at the Lunch Block and had a proper lumberjack breakfast.
Full from our hearty meal, we further compressed the suspension of our motorcycles and continued north on Route 65 through a section of forest so dense that no paved roads cross to the east. Werth Road finally appeared and provided a paved route with a few curves back to Alpena. Alternatively, you can continue north on 65 and turn east on State Route 32.
Just north of Alpena, past the wildlife sanctuary, we picked up Long Rapids Road, which meanders along the Thunder Bay River heading northwest to the town of Bolton. We continued north on Bolton Road, then west on Long Lake Highway, and finally back onto Route 65 for our return to Posen.
If Michigan is in your motorcycle travel plans, check out the northeastern part of the state near the Lake Huron shore. The roads provide scenic views of the lake and some mellow curves and hills, and the lighthouses and historic sites are a nice diversion when it’s time to stretch your legs.