Touring the Mitten’s “thumb”

Part 2: Michigan’s less-traveled region offers more than most realize in Sanilac County.

As noted in Part 1 of this “Thumb” tourism series, Huron County, located at the tip of the Thumb, provides a number of activities and attractions summer travelers can enjoy. However, Huron County alone doesn’t make up the entire Thumb, but the Counties of Tuscola and Sanilac too.

Sanilac County borders along Huron County’s east-southern border and Tuscola’s eastern county line, making up a large portion of the Thumb’s eastern shoreline. Sanilac County is home to several communities offering plenty in terms of dining, music, art, and history as well as out-of-the-ordinary attractions.

One attraction that might not make it on the normal “to do” list while visiting Sanilac county (or Huron) is a drive inland to witness the gigantic wind-turbines widely scattered in pockets around the farmland of inland communities. One wouldn’t think massive towers and twirling blades would offer any appeal, but after seeing one from one up close (or from afar) you would be intrigued by just their sheer magnitude. Near Forestville, just West of M-25, wind-turbines begin to dot the landscape like small twigs with oblong blades. One cannot help to wonder the process for erecting these state-of-the-art energy generators which offer alternative income-generation methods for agricultural communities struggling with changes in unpredictable weather patterns and economies.

If wind-turbines don’t suit your Saturday afternoon tourism plans then perhaps you should consider a visit to Michigan’s only known rock carvings by Native Americans at The Sanilac Petroglyphs. Located near Cass City, the historic site is free to the public and offers education via a self-guided walking tour on the grounds. From the site, visitors can venture into Cass City or head south to Sandusky for inland viewing of towns that still carry rural charm of Michigan’s Thumb.

Sanilac County, though, is probably better known for their coastal villages along Lake Huron, such as Port Sanilac and/or Lexington. Both communities draw visitors for a wide-range of activities, such as festival, fine dining, and just a more laid-back getaway. Lexington has a wide-range of local businesses that caters to the consumer seeking to support local Michigan businesses. One example is the Old Town Hall Winery & Lexington Brewing Company just off the main street in town. Port Sanilac, located north of Lexington along M-25, and promotes the Blue Water Winery and the Barn Theatre to both visitors and locals as a way to support the community.

With the right amount of time, visitors to this part of the Thumb can make their weekend ideal by visiting both the coastal and inland communities.

Michigan’s Original Thumb Area Vacation Guide, a free hard copy booklet found can be found at most Visitors Bureaus around the region, offering enough suggestions for your summer vacation and quite possibly some for the years to come. A digital version also exists for smart-phone users on the go and/or for “eco-friendly” travelers looking to reduce (or eliminate all together) the use of paper. Resources for just about everything related to the Thumb can be found at

Michigan State University Extension and Sea Grant both have experts in tourism working throughout the Thumb that can assist communities and counties in tourism development. For more information, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office or on the web at

Other articles in this series:

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