Lovely Lake Michigan is the lone Great Lake located entirely within the United States and is the fifth-largest lake in the world. 307 miles long by 118 miles wide, with a shoreline 1,640 miles long, the lake is our city's deep blue gem. While you can always stroll along the beautiful lakefront or swim at one of the many city beaches, why not hop into a kayak, step atop a paddleboard, snorkel, scuba or even surf Lake Michigan? Here are five unique, active ways to experience Chicago's beautiful stretch of Lake Michigan.
By Stand-Up Paddle Board...
Stand-up paddle boarding is a hybrid of surfing and kayaking that made its way to Chicago from Hawaii. CrossTown Fitness teamed up with Chicago SUP, the city’s premier stand-up paddle-board outfitter, to offer a one-of-a-kind total body SUP workout this summer: Every Saturday morning (8:30–9:30 a.m.), participants are invited to warm up with a variety of drills and then step aboard a paddle board for a paddle to remember. You'll feel like Moana as you steer your way along the high seas of Lake Michigan with a single-bladed paddle. Chicago SUP hut is located just south of Castaways Bar and Grill on North Avenue Beach. For rental info, community paddleboard excursions, and SUP lesson details, visit chicagosup.com.
By Snorkel or Scuba...
Did you know that you can snorkel a 32-acre shoal—the Midwest's version of a coral reef—on Chicago's South Side? About 300 feet off the Chicago shoreline at a depth of about 20 feet, the Morgan Shoal represents one of the most biodiverse ecologies in the Midwest.
Snorkel out to this underwater Atlantis and you won't believe you're in Chicago. On a clear, calm day, visibility can reach about 20 feet, making it easy to spot the many creatures swimming the shallow shoal. It's an easy, 350-ft. swim out to this unofficial wildlife reserve from Morgan Point (E. 47th Street and S. Lake Shore Drive). Immediately southwest of the Morgan Shoal lies what remains of the Silver Spray, an 1894 excursion ship.
Underwater Safaris (2950 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-348-3999) rents snorkeling and scuba gear and can also arrange for private, guided snorkel and scuba dives of Morgan Shoal and the Silver Spray, as well as other Lake Michigan wrecks.
Did you know you can hang ten... in Chicago? Lake Michigan's waves are wind powered, and the Windy City makes for waves year round! Lake waves come in quicker succession and are less powerful than their ocean counterparts, but surfing Chicago is both do-able and unforgettable. Surfing is allowed year-round at Montrose, 57th Street, Osterman and Rainbow beaches.
You'll need a wetsuit, a surf buddy and a board. Third Coast Surf Shop (110 N. Whittaker St,, New Buffalo, MI) is one of the best shops catered to surfers in the Midwest and you'll find boards and wetsuits for sale and for rent.
Hop into a single or double kayak and paddle Lake Michigan with the help of an expert guide from Kayak Chicago. This city outfitter offers tours, classes and rentals, as well as guided tours and individual and group instruction. Set off on the guided Firework Float and you'll catch the Navy Pier fireworks from one of the best seats in the house; or take a Sunset on the Lake tour for a zen kayaking experience like no other. For more info or to book a guided kayak tour, visit kayakchicago.com.
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Photo credits: Adam Alexander Photography; ChicagoSUP