Paddlers who come out on the Straits of Mackinac with Mackinac Island’s Great Turtle Kayak Tours ask a good many questions. But the question that often comes before all others, especially for first time Mackinac Island visitors is this: Which is the better time for a kayak tour, sunrise or sunset?
Let’s first look at the sunrise kayak tour on Mackinac Island
For starters, a big upside here is that we typically have the water to ourselves. The ferry boats don’t start running until the sun is up, so if you paddle at sunrise you can avoid any ferry traffic. There is also little pleasure boat traffic, which means the harbor can be easier to navigate as well.
Some paddlers prefer not to leave the beach while it’s still dark. We often don’t see a glimmer of the sun’s promise until we are beyond the east breakwall, which means we are moving as much by sound as by sight to start.
The sunrise tour most commonly moves east toward Mission Point and then beyond, commonly taking us as far as Mackinac Island’s Arch Rock before we turn back toward home.
Another common upside to the early morning tour is the winds are most calm at this time of day, meaning fewer waves and water that is flatter. This all means easier paddling, whether from a kayak or atop a paddleboard.
For some, the major downside of sunrise is the early hour. While the time changes as the season unfolds, early summer paddlers might be pushing off from the beach as early as 5 a.m. But for those undaunted by the hour, you can catch the beauty of the day’s first light and have your first cup of coffee back on Main Street while most Mackinac Island visitors are still in bed.
Now let’s look at the sunset kayak tour on Mackinac Island
A major advantage here is paddlers can put in a full day of Mackinac Island adventure before heading to the beach. Another upside to the sunset tour is that it combines the best of the marina area viewing with a trip to the west side of Mackinac Island. This tour typically finds us watching the sunset from the area near the public school and Grand Hotel before heading back to the beach.
This part of the day can mean a bit more wind to start, but the winds commonly calm just before and after sunset, meaning smoother paddling as the tour moves along.
Coast Guard regulations require that we return before dark, so after some great photo opportunities as the sun sets over the Mackinac Bridge or the Upper Peninsula, we turn back toward home, where it’s not too late to enjoy some after-paddling fun as well.
As with sunrise, the times change throughout the season, with sunset occurring latest in midsummer, and earlier at the start and the end of the season.
Both sunrise and sunset tours provide advantages and considerations, but any tour with trained guides from Mackinac Island’s Great Turtle Kayak Tours means a safe and memorable journey along the coast with spectacular views.
Guest Blogger Glen Young has been a seasonal resident of Mackinac Island since the early 1980s. After stints as a bartender, retail clerk, and house painter, he started guiding tours for Great Turtle Kayak Tours in 2019. When he’s not paddling, he’s either writing or running trails with his dogs, or playing cornhole. He divides his time between Mackinac Island and Petoskey.