Only 160 miles long, M-25 can be a quick half day run or a leisurely visit on a sunny weekend. It's your choice, but there are plenty of good reasons to plan for that sunny weekend, especially during the quiet 'Shoulder Seasons' of the busy Michigan summer.
The route offers no great challenge for those eager to find hills and twisty roads, but it more than makes up for it with great views of the halcyon lifestyle found on the Lake Huron shore. At each end of the route are large cities with lodging opportunities to fit every budget.
It's not hard to figure out why Bay City was once known as the lumbering capitol of the world. The dense hardwood forests of 18th century Michigan were difficult to reach overland and the bay and river system here were natural highways for first logging the land, and then shipping it to outbound points.
The river remains a center of commerce even today as ocean going freighters, and the occasional tour ship, tie up at the docks and ply their trade just as ships have done here for over two centuries. Downtown walking tours are easily accomplished from many parking areas near the river.
M-25 starts from the east side of the river as a busy four lane street flanked by beautiful historic homes. The route is well marked with "Lake Huron Circle Tour" signage and additional signs indicate the Hertiage Tour area. Huge wooden and brick homes dating back to the 1860's and 1870's put any riders head on a swivel as you eagerly look for the next colorful paint scheme or flower garden.
Agriculture Dominates Sebewaing Area
There's no interesting way to describe the scenery between Bay City and the next town of any size, Sebewaing. The ground couldn't be any flatter if a bulldozer worked on the countryside for the next five decades. The road is in decent condition and generally straight. Corn, beans, and beats are the crops of choice here. To find the Lake Huron shore you must travel away from the highway down county roads, usually gravel. Undoubtably there are precious treasures out there, but the lure isn't that strong for most riders.
Sebewaing hosts a couple of small museums, the annual Sugar Festival, and a large marina with campground for those inclined to tent out for an evening. Expectations for an extended stay here are low, but it does offer a variety of places to get gas or a nice slice of pie.
Caseville to Pt Aux Barques
Suddenly, the road gets interesting. Just prior to entering Caseville we glimpse the Huron shore for the first time since leaving Bay City and the asphalt path begins to follow the natural sweep of the rivers and creeks that feed the big lake. It's a pleasant looking little town with a couple of nice parks that offer some facilities for those in need of a good stretch and walk. At this point most riders have traveled only 50 miles from the start of M-25 but it's easy to invest a couple of hours stopping to gawk and wander about. Southbounders begin make their decision to spend the sunny weekend somewhere between here and Pt Aux Barques. It's really a treat during the autumn color season.
The number of state parks and county campground areas is astounding. The largest of these is the Albert E. Sleeper State Park. Sleeper was Govenor of Michigan during World War I and his best claim to fame is the formation of the Michigan State Troops Permanent Force, a horse mounted government agency instituted to protect the citizens. After the war the Force became the Michigan State Police and now you know why our state policemen are called "Troopers."
For those of you that are REAL history geeks, you might want to stop at the Park Rangers office at Sleeper and arrange to see the Sanilac Petryogryphs and then join the discussion about what is, or isn't - and that's not a President Clinton joke!
At Port Austin you will find another serene Huron village with its' roots deep into lumbering, fishing, and waterborne cartage. The place started from a sawmill and dock and just grew from that, surviving fire and flood at various times, but always rebuilding like most of the pioneer establishments of the area. At this point the urge to wander overtakes the casual rider and prompts a diversion from M-25 toward the local road that leads to Grind Stone City. It's easy to find, just don't make the turn on M-25 through downtown...stay by the lakeshore.
Grind Stone is a collection of no more than 20 homes and businesses,each with a large old
grindstone somehow planted in the front yard, and are centered around a small marina. The
area was a grain mill decades ago and the industry simply died away. Today about the only
excitement is landing a big fish or dragging a shipwrecked sailor from the water. And that
still happens. When the big Noreasters blow this area tends to collect the flotsam
generated by the storms.
The book entitled Great Lakes Survivor
is the story of once such sailor that drifted to this area in 1966 from the lakes freighter
Daniel J. Morrell. AB Watchman Dennis Hale was the only survivor of this November wreck from a
crew of 29 men.
Historic church at Huron City
Just past Grindstone is the museum village of Huron City. This collection of ten buildings
dates from about 1881, the year of the last really big fire to revamp the landscape of the
Thumb. The lumber town was a "Company Town" that rebuilt TWICE because of huge forest fires
that ravaged the area in 1871 and again ten years later.
The buildings may be seen on a guided tour or you may wander about yourself. Each are stuffed
with artifacts of the era and the welcome center building holds a small gift shop. One of
the buildings is the Pt Aux Barques Life Saving Station.
Pt Aux Barques lighthouse is a 'Must Stop' spot on the M-25 weekend tour The U.S. Life Saving Service, U.S. Lighthouse Service, and U.S. Revenue Marine all combined at the turn of the 20th century to become the U.S. Coast Guard. The Pt Aux Barques LSS is one of the only buildings that exist today from that time before the combined Coast Guard. The men that manned the stations were truly courageous, living the spirit of the adage, "You must always go out when called, but you won't always come back!" The lure of an old lighthouse can't be ignored by anybody but the fast paced crotch rockets, so keep a lookout for the sign that says "Pt Aux Barques Lighthouse Park", on Lighthouse Road. The Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse Society now maintains the 1857 lighthouse that is still an active maritime aid. There is a nice campground and picnic area adjacent to the lighthouse compound and, at 87 miles, this is the halfway point of our ride to Port Huron.
The Lighthouse Museum has lots of interesting photos, logbooks, and maritime items on display. Hung from one wall is a life ring from the steamer Daniel J. Morrell, wrecked near here in 1966. As a former Coast Guardsman, I know firsthand the emotions involved with a water rescue. Many of them came to me at the instant I saw this single piece of safety equipment from a ship that never made its' last port of call and instead became a legend of the Great Lakes.
Divers will enjoy the underwater photos of local wrecks. Unlike many lighthouses open to the
public, this one does not allow tours to the top of the beacon. Sorry.
South To Harbor Beach
Upon leaving the Pt Aux Barques lighthouse the road returns to long sections of generally straight and flat, interrupted only by broad views of Lake Huron. In any other setting, this could be a very dull ride, just making miles instead of smiles. Houses and cottages randomly dot the countryside; working man to the west side of the road and leisure time retreats to the east. There isn't a great difference between the two here, but it is evident that high tax rates aren't a natural fit for modular housing.
For those making a casual ride, Harbor Beach is a logical place to stop for the night, although motel rooms are a bit scarce. You will want to call ahead, especially in the summer. BUT, summer travel does open up some opportunities for a lakeside rental of a small cottage. There are plenty of campgrounds in the area, both commercial and public.
Harbor Beach is a lopsided mix of industrial and tourist trade, and probably has been throughout it's history. The shallow waters made it necessary to construct a man made harbor and that is a great playground for visitors. The beachside park offers a long, long, long pier for fishing and relaxing, and hundreds of feet of shoreline are dedicated to a nice sandy swimming area.
Port Sanilac Begins Transition Area
No really good ride lasts forever, and the M-25 run is no exception. The 29 miles between Harbor Beach and Port Sanilac is the last area where the big lake is the foremost attraction. The broad, bluff based, vistas are now replaced by quick glimpses of shoreline three or four blocks from the highway as it leads commercial traffic through towns that understand the lake is nice to have - but there are other things to consider in life...like making a living.
Dr. Joseph Loop made his living here in Sanilac County for many decades, beginning in 1855, and built a fine house in 1870. Three generations of family resided here and in 1964 his Grandson donated the house and grounds as a museum. His gift has led to a complete historic village full of working shops, school houses, and log cabins that fairly depict the comforts found in eastern Michigan during the 1870's and 1880's.
Blended seamlessly into the grounds presentation are wildflowers and native plants. Not content with just shoving a sign into the ground to explain a display, the curators have created tasteful beds of flowers that showcase things like ancient anchors found in the nearby waters of Lake Huron. Very cool.
And lucky us are on the motorcycle, without a trunk or luggage rack that could haul off a precious antique found in many stores of the area. But, most of the merchants will make arrangements to send your new treasure home if you make a purchase. The shops here are thriving, thanks to their proximity to Detroit. You'll find dozens of day trippers from the big city sharing the roadway with you now, so be very aware of your traffic situation.
M-46 intersects M-25 here and you may elect to head inland toward Saginaw or continue to
Port Huron, a large port city with an interesting past and very bright future.
Gateway to lower Ontario - The Bluewater Bridge is one of three crossing points to Canada in southeast Michigan
Port Huron - "Maritime Capital of the Great Lakes”
The marketing phrase may be a bone of contention with the fine people of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, but Maritime Capital aptly describes Port Huron. It's the northern terminus of the St Clair River and literally all of the shipping that enters the upper Great Lakes passes within a stones throw of the Port Huron shoreline.
The area has hosted foreign visitors wanting to ply their trade goods for over 300 years, since the first British, French, and Dutch explorers found friendly indians here. The natives are still friendly, greeting visitors with a smile and knowing full well that tourism is a great income generator for the community of 35,000.
The most popular way to enjoy time spent here is to find your way to Pine Grove Park, about two miles south from the very end of M-25. Just stay on 10th Street and it will drop you off at the right spot. Just be careful of the heavy traffic. The park has lots of benches for sitting and acres of grass for dog walking....another caution, watch where you step - that ain't squirrel dropping in that grass!
There is an elevated viewing area at the edge of the river, right next to the mooring area of the U.S. Coast Guards newest buoy tender, the Cutter Hollyhock. You can spend hour watching thousand foot long freighters moving up and down the river, meeting the pilot boat to drop off or pick up the local ship Captains that intimately know these swift waters. The ability to people watch or just enjoy the sun here is unmatched, enjoy it.
There are plenty of motels and resorts in the immediate area, but camping space is limited. Overnight accomodations run from about $50 to well over $250. There are restaurants to match every taste and budget, and if you get bored here you can easily jump across the bridge to Sarnia to enjoy a bit of Ontario, including casino slots and other gambling. IF you do plan to cross into Canada, be aware there might be long lines at the border...BOTH WAYS. And do have at least two forms of photo identification from government agencies. It's a good idea to have your US Passport handy if you possess one...even if it is expired. After 2008 it is likely you might be forced to have a valid passport in your possession.
Yes, Port Huron is a gateway city. From the park you can decide to head further to the densely populated areas of Detroit, just 55 miles south, or west to Lansing and Chicago, or even back east through Canada to Niagara Falls which is only 184 miles! Just remember, when folks ask why you are here you should say, "It's one of our Favorite Roads!", and you found here it at Roads And Riders.