Near the southern end of Northeast Michigan , in Roscommon County, lie two of the state’s largest inland lakes—22,000-acre Houghton Lake and 10,200-acre Higgins Lake—both of which entice plenty of anglers, boaters, canoeists, swimmers, hikers, and campers during the summer months. In winter, this area is also popular among hunters, ice fishermen, and cross-country skiers.
Both lakes present a number of terrific beaches. On Higgins Lake, you’ll find the North Higgins Lake State Park Day Use Area, situated on North Higgins Lake Drive, and the South Higgins Lake State Park Day Use Area, located on County Road 100. Each offers a sandy swimming beach, a bathhouse, a playground, picnic shelters, and a boat launch. You’ll need a state park vehicle permit in order to utilize either of these beaches.
Meanwhile, on Houghton Lake, you’ll discover the Roscommon Township Beach (Sanford St.), which has a pleasant sandy beach on the south shore, ideal for swimmers of all ages. The area also offers a sheltered picnic area, a small playground, and restrooms.
Houghton and Higgins Lakes are both well known among boaters, canoeists, and anglers. Together, the two enormous lakes offer a dozen launch sites and tons of water to explore. Although Houghton and Higgins are particularly ideal for those with their own canoes, kayaks, and fishing boats, several facilities do rent boats as well.
For more information about renting pontoon and fishing boats, check out Houghton Lake Marina (13710 W. Shore Dr., 989/422-7257). It’s a terrific way for those without boats of their own to enjoy drifting around the lake, savoring the sunshine, or trying their luck at snagging bass, bluegill, walleye, and pike.
Of course, if you’d rather have someone else at the helm, consider taking a 2.5-hour lunchtime or dinnertime cruise aboard the Cumberland Princess (6560 W. Houghton Lake Dr.). The boat operates out of the Comfort Suites Lakeside (989/422-4000) on Houghton Lake.
You’ll find a decent variety of lodgings in the area, including chain hotels. The Holiday Inn Express Houghton Lake (200 Cloverleaf Ln., 877/863-4780, www.hiexpress.com , $63–149 d) and the Comfort Suites Lakeside (100 Clearview Dr., Houghton Lake, 989/422-4000, www.comfortsuites.com , $80–180 d) each offer terrific access to the lakes as well as numerous water-related amenities, such as canoeing packages and watercraft rentals. Comfort Suites also features a 9,000-square-foot water park, a boat dock, and the Blue Bayou Restaurant and Lounge, with a deck bar that overlooks the majestic lake.
Houghton and Higgins Lakes both have numerous campgrounds, too, some catering to RVs, others allowing both tent and RV camping. On Houghton Lake, you’ll find the Houghton Lake Travel Park (370 Cloverleaf Ln., 989/422-3931, www.michcampgrounds.com/hnlktlpk , Apr.–Oct., $28–41), which has something for everyone. On Higgins Lake, check out the Higgins Lake KOA (3800 W. Federal Hwy., 989/275-8151, www.koa.com , $28–34).
Coyles Restaurant (9074 Old U.S. 27, 989/422-3812, www.coylesrestaurant.com , 8 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, $5–13) offers breakfast, a lunch buffet, and a huge dinner buffet, for those hungry after a long day of boating.
Buccilli’s Pizza (2949 W. Houghton Lake Dr., 989/366-5374, www.buccillispizza.com , 11 a.m.–10 p.m. daily, $5–19) offers good pizza for dine-in, take-out, or delivery.
The easiest way to reach the lakes is via car. From West Branch , take I-75 to M-55, which hugs the southern shore of Houghton Lake. From Grayling , head south on I-75 and take U.S. 127 to Higgins Lake. Once you reach the lakes, you can explore the area via boat, bicycle, or foot.