Getting around by wooden boats is a tradition to the people of the Les Cheneaux Islands - a fact that is no surprise given that 36 islands line 12 miles of Lake Huron shoreline on coast of the Eastern Upper Peninsula. The second Saturday in August, the islanders boat across the channel to Hessel to exhibit their wooden beauties at the Les Cheneaux Antique Wooden Boat Show and Arts Festival. (906-484-2821, lescheneaux.org)
Be there early and let members of the local Lions Club serve you up breakfast in one of the big boat sheds at the Hessel Marina.
Many of the boats on display hail from these islands, where getting around in these old but sleek beauties is a way of life. But the crafts also come from all corners of the United States. The lineup along the waterfront includes a medley of up to 150 dinghies, large cruisers, canoes and sailboats of all sizes. Making your way up and down the marina should take the better part of your morning and into the afternoon.
For lunch, stop by Harbor Market (Pickford Ave. at Lake, 906-484-2435) and grab the essentials for a picnic. Go to the gourmet deli for a sandwich, then, for a special touch, check out their selection of imported wines and cheeses.
Next, head to Hessel Beach (on Lake west of Pickford Ave.), where you can claim a picnic table on this small, sandy bit of coastline and gaze at the six islands in the distance. Or, for a more private, out-of-the-way beach, check out St. Martin's Point on Search Bay (end of Search Bay Road, 1 1/2 miles from M-134). Once you've eaten and taken a moment to relax in this water-lovers' haven, head back toward the marina to peruse the Festival of Arts, held in conjunction with the boat show and featuring photography, paintings, pottery and other works of art by 70 artists.
Be sure to return to the boat show in time to catch the trophy ceremony. Have dinner at the Hessel Bay Inn (906-484-2460) where the house specialty is fresh whitefish prepared by chef James Romanuk paired with a view of the water. For the perfect end to your day, call ahead and rent a sea kayak with Woods & Water Ecotours (20 Pickford Ave., 905-484-4157, woodswaterecotours.com) to enjoy the sun setting over the Les Cheneaux Islands from your own spot on the water.
Jaime Delp was an intern at Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
Note: This article was first published in June 2006 and was updated for the web February 2008.