With summer underway and scenic small towns and vast landscapes calling, many fresh-coast lovers are making plans to enjoy the splendor of Lake Michigan.

Although, no adventure can be made without the proper gear — and with the help of one of the many outfitters located along The Pike, your trip along West Michigan’s coast will keep your spirits high.

Located in Glen Arbor, Crystal River Outfitters Recreational District’s owner Katy Wiesen knows travelers will experience “fresh air adventures” with kayak and canoe rentals made for the Crystal River, which runs through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Stand-up paddleboard and kayak deliveries to nearby cottages, bike rentals for the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail and so much more is also available through this local family-owned company.

Photo: Crystal River Outfitters

In addition to Crystal River Outfitters, the district includes The Cyclery, Coastal and M22 Glen Arbor. Wiesen and her husband have owned Crystal River Outfitters since 2004, although the store opened in 1994.

After buying the outfitter, the Wiesens soon recognized a need for additional resources right next to the national park.

“We eventually took our bike rental operations across the street and opened The Cyclery where we offer bike service, rentals and sales,” Wiesen said. “Over time, we expanded by opening M22 Glen Arbor — featuring the full M22 line, plus wine tasting both inside and at our outdoor wine patio.”

Coastal was soon opened and sells high-end gear, attire and more.

The district has truly taken advantage of its perfect location near the Crystal River and has made the Wiesen’s family of stores popular with any vacationer.

“The Crystal River is a naturally shallow river making it great for all ages and ability levels,” Wiesen said. “It also showcases a part of the national park that is different than what most see when going to the Dune Climb or beaches.”

Travelling south down The Pike, you’ll find Unsalted Outfitters in Holland. U.S. Coast Guard-licensed Captain Scott Charon began his charter fishing business four years ago and fosters a love for the outdoors in every single trip.

“I want people to understand the story of the Great Lakes and the fishery,” Charon said. “I want them to understand the beauty that’s out here and the complexity of this natural resource.”

An adventure begins at Yacht Basin Marina, where the company’s charter fishing boat — Unsalted — awaits travelers and locals alike to board and cruise out onto Lake Michigan. After a day of fishing, enjoy your tasty catch and watch the sun set.

The Unsalted is a 3000 Pursuit Offshore that was built in Holland and has recently been upgraded.

“We upgraded to a brand-new, large-screen Garmin system with the latest and greatest technology for sonar, radar and GPS,” Charon said. “The boat is equipped with four down riggers and all the different rods and reels for targeting salmon and trout that you could ever imagine.”

Photo: David DeJonge

For 20 years now, Charon has been a sustainability professional at Herman Miller and has seen both his work at Herman Miller and at Unsalted Outfitters intersect.

“I grew up as an avid outdoorsman and have always had a passion for keeping our natural resources clean and fresh,” Charon said.

At the end of the day, Charon says his job is not just that of a fishing captain, but most importantly as an entertainer and educator. Charon and his crew are able to take up to six people out for fishing trips. 

Book an excursion on Unsalted Outfitters’ website or give Captain Scott a call directly. Get out with Charon and his crew and soak up the unsalted blue waters and breathtaking coastline of Lake Michigan.

Many cities and quaint villages dotted along The Pike are home to local outfitters; In Petoskey, Bearcub Outfitters’ goal is to carry brands that tell “an environmental story,” cultivating a place where adventure and nature are celebrated. WaterDog Outfitters in Montague lets you try out a kayak, paddle board or bike for a 20-minute spin before buying, so you’ll know exactly what you want.

Make sure to look one up on your next trip and revisit the simplicity of nature and the friendliness of small-town streets with the lending hand of a local outfitter.

Check out these other outfitters along The Pike: