Destinations

Bike Ride On Harsens Island

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One of the nice, usually quiet, scenic destinations for a day bike ride in southeastern Michigan is Harsens Island. The island is located at the mouth of Saint Clair River, which connects lake Huron with Lake St. Clair.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with local geography, Lake Saint Clair is located north of Detroit, about half-way between Lake Huron and Lake Erie.

 

Harsens Island ferry

Harsens Island ferry.

 

Harsens Island

Harsens Island is about 8 miles long and 3 miles wide. It used to be a popular weekend cottage destination for Detroit’s affluent society in the early to mid 20th century. Now, there are still some cottages there, that are used on weekends, but there is also a permanent population on the island.

The island usually sees very little traffic, even on weekends. Only at times of some organized events, the traffic gets heavy. So, if you plan on going there for a bike ride, check, to make sure that there are no festivals, sport events, or other celebrations happening at that time. Otherwise, you might encounter a busy traffic of people and vehicles.

 

Harssens Islad

Harsens Island – local landscape.

 

How To Get There

From Detroit area you need to take I-94 East towards Port Huron. Then, few miles after you pass M-59, you will come up to the exit for M-29. You take the M-29 exit and keep going east. You need to take it all the way to downtown of Algonac. Shortly before you reach downtown, you will pass a sign for the Harsens Island ferry.

 

Harsens Island ferry

On the ferry to the island

 

If you want, you can take a ferry to the island, and park somewhere there before you begin riding. However, many people park at McDonald’s. The place has a pretty big parking lot (behind the building), and they don’t mind (unlike some other business with huge parking lots in town). The restaurant is located at the intersection of M-29 and State St. So, a little further down M-29 east from the ferry dock.  If you park there, it is a good idea to support the place and get a coffee or something to eat there.

Then you can get on the bike and ride, on the road, if there is not much traffic, or on the sidewalk, towards the ferry dock. It is only about half a mile.

When you get to the dock, you need to stay to the side. The cars drive first onto the ferry, before the cyclists. For the cyclists, the ferry service is free. However, it’s nice to tip the operators with few bucks.

The ferry ride takes only few minutes. There are two ferries going back and forth. So, if you have to wait, it’s only few minutes.

 

Map showing the route including the optional detour to Harsens Island Schoolhouse Grille (created in Google Maps).

 

Bike Ride On The Island – West Side

Once on the island, the connector from the ferry dock to the main road is short. Again, the cars exit ferry first, then bikes.

The main road – N Channel Dr goes left and right. We will take it right. We will continue on it for about three quarters of the mile. Then, after sharp turn to the left, it turns into Golf Course Rd, which you continue on for only a brief period, till you get to the intersection with Cottage Ln. You turn right onto Cottage Ln and continue on it. It will, eventually, turn into Middle Channel Dr. You continue on it all the way to the end of the peninsula at the southern end of the island.

On the way, you will pass some bridges, boat launch areas, boat docks, and many residential homes. You also pass by the Brown’s Bar somewhere in the vicinity of the boat launch ramp (on the opposite side).

I have never visited it, so can’t say anything about it.

Most of that route is paved. Only the last few miles are gravel road.

Somewhere towards the end of the road you will pass a sign stating that it’s a private road. That’s ok, the residents of the island are pretty friendly. As long as you not doing something crazy, nobody will mind.

 

Bike Ride On Harsens Island

Riding on Harsens Island.

 

Bike Ride On The Island – East Side

From that point, to continue you need to retrace part of you route back – all the way to Krispin Road. At Krispin Road you turn right (east). Here the road turns into dirt/gravel till you get to the other side of the island. Krispin Road winds and you continue on it till you get to Columbine Road on which you turn left. Soon, you reach M-154, which is paved, but unfortunately also has more traffic. It has the fairly wide shoulder. Turn right on M-154 and continue on it south. It will make few turns and eventually turn into S Channel Dr. You keep going on it for a while till you come up to a small circle. This is as far south you can go on this side of the island. Further is a private road with a fence and a gate.

You can take a break here. You can even jump in the water, if it’s hot.

 

Harsens Island

Cooling off in the Little Muscamoot Bay.

 

Return Route

When you are ready, you again have to retrace part of your route. You take it back all the way to the intersection with St Aubin Street, on which you turn right, which immediately turns into S Channel Dr which you follow along the eastern shoreline of the island. Here you encounter some older residences on the island. You also pass through what could be considered a very tiny downtown. There you will pass by one of the very few places on the island, where you can get something to eat and drink – Sans Souci Bar (unfortunately, the place just closed down).

If you do not want to stop to eat and drink you can continue north on S Channel Dr all the way to Orchid Blvd. Then take Orchid Blvd to N Channel Dr. Turn left on it and continue all the way back to the ferry dock.

All the riding from McDonald’s parking lot, around the island, and back to your vehicle should amounts to about 35 miles. If you parked somewhere on the island, it will be more about 30 miles. So, a nice distance for an easy day of riding.

 

Freighter passing by Harsens Island

Freighter passing by Harsens Island.

 

Where To Eat On The Island

There not many choices on the island. On the west side there is Brown’s Bar on Middle Channel Dr across from the boat launch. As i mentioned before, I have never eaten there, so I cannot provide any personal experience about it. However, on my favorite app – Yelp – it has 3 stars. Yelp says that the place serves a traditional American food.

Next one, on the opposite side of the island is Sans Souci Bar on S Channel Dr. It also serves traditional American bar food. I has better rating with 3.5 stars. It is a great place to watch freighters pass by going up or down the channel.

Unfortunately, the Sans Souci Bar has closed its doors indefinitely. You can read more about it here. I found out about it, while checking the information for the post. I hope that somebody will reopen the place.

The last one is off the above described route. It is Harsens Island Schoolhouse Grille. It is located on Columbine St.

To get there, from S Channel Dr, you take La Croix Rd all the way to Columbine St. Soon, after you make a turn from La Croix on Columbine, you will see the Schoolhouse Grille on the right hand side. The place has the highest rating of 4 stars among the bars and restaurants on the island. And, I would say – well deserved. They also serve traditional American food.

The one caution about it is that they close at 2pm on Sunday.

If you do not want to eat on the island, or there is no room, there are plenty of places around Algonac or on the way west towards New Baltimore.

 

Harsens Island Schoolhouse Grille

Harsens Island Schoolhouse Grille.

 

Where To Buy Food

If you want to get something to eat or drink from a store. There is only one left on the island. It is the Sans Souci Market, located right next to Sans Souci Bar, at 3060 S Channel Dr.

 

Jane's Sans Souci Market

Jane’s Sans Souci Market.

 

Final Thoughts

I have done many rides on the island over the years. And I like to go back. Harsens Island reminds me of Michigan “Up North”. It has the relaxing, leisurely atmosphere, that not many other locations that close to the city can provide.

If you decide to go, check the business hours of places you plan on visiting, as they change with seasons.

 

Harsens Island

 

 

 

Rich S. is a lifetime photographer and traveler based in Metro Detroit area. He has been traveling the Great Lakes area for over 30 years. Follow his blog about his trips, interesting activities and destinations in the Great Lakes region.