Mitten List: Pictured Rocks Boat Cruise

August 13, 2015


If you’re planning on seeing the Pictured Rocks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you need to do it by boat, as these uniquely marked, sandstone cliffs are only really visible from the water.

And you should TOTALLY plan on seeing the Pictured Rocks. Not only are they stunning, but also you’ll get to confuse and amaze your Instagram and Facebook friends who will respond to your photos with stuff like, “Wait… how is this in MICHIGAN? Seriously, HOW?”

Seriously, this is MICHIGAN???

Seriously, this is MICHIGAN???

Now if you’re one of those sporty types of people who can be trusted to be in a water-bearing vessel and not totally tip it over, you can go by kayak.

Or if you’re me and you’ve been known to capsize canoes just by looking at them, you can go by boat cruise.

Now if you’re planning on taking the boat cruise, there are two things you need to know:

1. Arrive early so you can get a seat on the upper deck of the boat — preferably on the right-hand side, which is the side that the rocks will be on for the first half of the tour.

Sure, you could sit on the left-hand side of the boat and save all the good stuff for the return trip. But delayed gratification? I’m not about that.


Delayed WHAT-NOW???

Delayed WHAT-NOW???

2. Bring lots of layers because it’s much, MUCH colder on the lake than it is on land. Basically, Lake Superior is like the Arctic Ocean if the Arctic Ocean existed in the Michigan.

It doesn’t matter if it was ninety-jillion degrees out that day and you’re sporting a left-arm sunburn from being baked alive in your car all day. It’s still going to be super cold on Lake Superior. Trust me on this.

Mind you, I did neither of these two things. Because I’m an idiot. And because I was too busy drinking beer in the bowling alley across the street from the dock, talking to the bartender about circus folk. (THESE THINGS HAPPEN, YOU GUYS.)

2015-07-09 18.47.55

Bowling alley beer. Because priorities.

When I finally arrived minutes before the boat was scheduled to leave, I was the last one in line. And I was sporting only a hoodie and some hope that I might actually be able to see a rock or two.

Luckily, I overheard one of the boat attendants say that we could stand on the back deck of the boat once the boat had left the dock.

So as soon as the boat was on the water, I rushed to the back deck before anyone else had a chance to. I chose what I figured was the best photo-taking spot possible, and I didn’t move from that spot for the entire boat ride out — a total of an hour and fifteen minutes.

Not that this was easy.

First, I was freezing. I even pulled my hoodie up over my hair despite the fact that it made me look like a sad hobo in all my selfies. But the hoodie did nothing to stop me from feeling like I was rapidly turning into a human-popsicle.



Secondly, I was repeatedly jostled and elbowed by all the other people on the back deck, fellow late-comers like me whose only chance at getting a decent photo of the rocks was to huddle on the back deck like a bunch of sad hobos.

But I wasn’t about to let a little bit of cold and a few disgruntled passengers make me move from my prime picture-taking spot. If there’s one thing that living for a year and a half in China has taught me, it’s that you stand your ground no matter what and no matter how many people are behind you and how disgruntled they might be about being behind you. And when those people start expressing their disgruntlement by, say, suggesting that you stop hogging the same spot and move aside so other people can see, all you have to do is pretend you don’t speak the language they’re speaking.

Being jostled by my fellow back-deck-dwellers. I CAN'T UNDERSTAND YOU PEOPLE.

Hello, fellow back-deck-dwellers. I CAN’T UNDERSTAND YOU.

Luckily, the scenery was totally worth all my shivering and hoodie-hair-having and fending off the disgruntled elbows of my fellow passengers and pretending to not speak English.

I mean, look at this:


Even I found myself questioning the fact that I was in Michigan. I started to wonder if I hadn’t been transported to some magic cliff-land where the rocks can talk and fairies frolic in the trees.


How is this Michigan? HOW???

And then an arctic wind off of Lake Superior would blast me in the face and remind me that I was, in fact, just another sad hobo hanging out on the back deck of a boat.



What’s your favorite boat cruise you’ve ever been on?


I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On August 13, 2015 at 8:21 pm Leslie in Oregon said:

    My favorite boat cruise has been every cruise my family has taken on our older-than-our-adult-children-but-extremely-reliable-and-dog-friendly motorboat. We mainly use it to cruise down the Willamette River to the Columbia River and our swimming favorite beach or to cruise on Wallowa Lake in the northeast corner of Oregon. My second favorite boat cruises have been cruises on lakes in Oregon and the Upper Midwest in a small sailing craft, kayak or canoe. Now I want to sail or kayak to the Pictured Rocks!

    • On August 15, 2015 at 11:09 am Sally said:

      The kayakers at Pictured Rocks looked like they were having SO MUCH FUN! I would totally love to do that one day. But, seeing as I’ve kayaked once in my life (and it was a DISASTER!), I figured I should probably get a bit more experience before attempting anything on Lake Superior (which I hear has quite a strong undertow and can be difficult to navigate by new kayakers).

  2. On August 14, 2015 at 12:11 pm Joanne said:

    Do they still tell you which rocks fell off? Miners Castle lost a turret in 2006. I thought something else had fallen since then. Was it calm enough to go into Chapel Cove? It’s rarely calm enough. Did you get to see Chapel Rock?

    • On August 15, 2015 at 10:52 am Sally said:

      To be honest with you since I was on the back deck for most of the boat tour, I missed their whole spiel about which rocks fell off/how the formations have changed. But we did go into Chapel Cove, which was pretty special.

  3. On August 16, 2015 at 12:13 am Priya said:

    Pretending to not speak English… I think I can pull that off. I would say my favorite boat cruise has to be in Fiji. Not because it’s Fuji but because the staff went above and beyond to make it a great day. And I don’t say that a lot about tourist workers.
    Priya recently posted..Confession: I’m Not A Writer

  4. On March 8, 2017 at 2:07 am krishnakumarpradhan said:

    It all reminds me of an event whichis perhaps irrelevant,when I went in a hired launch to tour the docks full of steamers at the marmagoa harbour in India.I was a student with no pocket money whatever, and was travelling free ona season ticket pass soldcheap by te railways at that time.Whatever little amount I had brought was stolen probably by a servant of a relative in Bengaluru from where I travelled with about half a Rupee in my pocket.I was watching the harbour from the coast and was eager to go to the sea to watch the steames from a near distance.Luckily I saw a villager watching as I did.I had a Camera with smoe old type of film inside, so I offered to photograph him facing the sea, and after it was done I promised to send a copy of the photograph afterwards if he pays me 12 annas ,i.e.3/4th of a the lanuch operator was to charge me 6 annas to take around.I kept m promise after coming home,but I never forgot the commercial use of my camera for the first time


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