Kayak / Paddle / Surf

As a beach town oasis tucked into the shores of Lake Michigan, Empire is a haven for outdoor recreation enthusiasts, especially water lovers. Visitors to the shores of Lake Michigan enjoy a lake full of possibilities. Choose from kayaking, stand up paddleboarding or even surfing! With over 35 miles of pristine beaches and sandy bluffs up to 500 feet above Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a perfect place to get out on a kayak or paddleboard. Paddling on the lake is a great way to see the Dunes and glacial moraine bluffs that make our corner of the world so unique.

Empire is the perfect getaway for freshwater surfers who love the waves and the sand, but aren’t big on the sharks. If you’re a newbie to the surfing game, make sure to take a local surfing lesson before hitting up the waves.

Lake Michigan may be beautiful, but it’s also unpredictable! Kayakers and surfers must be prepared for cold temperatures, high winds, fog, and rough seas that may occur at any time. Make sure you have sea kayak (not a recreational kayak), a wet/dry suit, and plenty of experience.

Empire Beach Village Park

Easy access to put your kayak, SUP, or surfboard into Lake Michigan. Just west of downtown – public beach with bathrooms, playground and onsite parking for a small fee.

North Bar Lake

Carry-In Access - This spot is popular for a reason. Launch your kayak or SUP in North Bar or venture a little farther to on Lake Michigan where the outlet of North Bar meets the Lake.

Crystal River

With kayak and SUP rentals available, this winding trip takes you from the Glen Lake dam to Glen Arbor and snakes between sandy ridges that are remnants of ancient Lake Michigan shorelines. The clear water of the Crystal allows you to see fish and the shallow bottom.

Platte River

The area's easiest and most popular paddling option. With rentals available, enjoy a gentle float on clear, sandy bottom river. The wide, shallow river empties into Lake Michigan—the perfect place to end the day with a beach picnic.

Esch Road Beach

Carry-In Access to Lake Michigan. 3 miles south of Empire, it is in a great location to take in dunes while kitesurfing.

Peterson Beach

Carry-In Access to Lake Michigan. This secluded beach is one of the area's best spots to spend the day. Dogs are welcome on the south end of the beach.