If you love cruising and exploring on two wheels, then you will love the opportunities found for biking on the Coolest Coast! The Mariners Trail is, as it states, a trail that hugs the beautiful Lake Michigan for 7 miles, forging a connection between the cities of Manitowoc and Two Rivers. A smooth paved route, what may appear to be a simple path for all to leisurely stroll upon is quickly realized to be the basis for a personal and customizable experience that anybody can enjoy, from the individual stopping in town for nothing more than a gas refill and looking for a place to stretch their legs, to the residents of Manitowoc who know the trail and its many features by heart.
No matter how one enjoys traveling, the trail is more than able to assist in getting patrons up and moving along the coast of Lake Michigan. The trails are open to all, free of charge, whether they be traveling by foot, bike, skateboard or in-line skates. The trails are wheelchair accessible, and can be accessed from nearly any spot on the route, with options for parking readily available. There are public restroom facilities along the trail and even a trailside bike repair station. With plenty of options for rest stops and leisure, the trail is a wonderful choice for all! Even a beloved pet dog can enjoy the Mariners Trail, with the full seven mile route being dog friendly, with plastic bags and garbage cans available.
Whether traveling the entire route, or looking for a specific site to visit, the Mariners Trail has opportunities for all to explore and enjoy, with the passionate Friends of the Mariners Trail organization maintaining the trail and providing many of its man made features. Lighthouse-to-lighthouse, from the Manitowoc Breakwater lighthouse to the Two Rivers Rawley Point lighthouse, many an adventure can be found for the nature enthusiast to the thrill seeker! The Mariners Trail also provides an opening to learning more about the history of both the Coolest Coast and Lake Michigan itself. From the nearby location of the Maritime Museum to the various sculptures and other features of the trail, patrons have the ability to learn about the various histories of the area, from the very first settlers of the area to the maritime treasures of the coast. A vast history of travel by water and shipbuilding has led to Manitowoc having a rich reserve of learning and more for visitors and locals to discover. And, why Manitowoc is known as Wisconsin’s Maritime Capital!
West of the Lake Gardens is an admission free six-acre area of gardens featuring flora from Manitowoc and Japan, sunken and formal gardens, and countless seasonal blooms to stroll and take in. Funded and maintained by the West Foundation, the gardens represent a history of care and love via art and beauty. West of the Lake Gardens was the passion project of Mrs. Ruth West whose philanthropy greatly contributed to the community, including the public Rahr West Art Museum with a world class collection and historic mansion. Ruth West is celebrated in a mural that can be found at the corner of N. 8th/Maritime Streets.
Sculptures along the trail have been created by various local Manitowoc artisans, and funded as a result of contributions from various individuals and groups throughout the county. Pieces include the Spirit of the Rivers monument, which honors the legacy of Manitowoc’s first people, the Native Americans. Other interactive sculptures include those donated by the Manitowoc Garden club, which come in the form of the human sundial and giant kaleidoscope found near the Chamber of Manitowoc County building. Visitors are able to become one with their surroundings, using their own forms to work as a clock and finding a magical form of beauty with the kaleidoscope using the nearby flowers and light to create an incredible image.
Situated on the lake, the Mariners Trail holds several access points to beautiful water features. From the beaches situated directly off the trail in Two Rivers to visiting the Manitowoc Lighthouse near the YMCA, or even the beach expanses at Point Beach State Park and Silver Creek Park, visitors can take part in all of the joys of staying on what feels like an ocean (without any of the hurricanes or sharks!). For those interested in the maritime history of the lake, the Mariners Trail hugs an area of the lake that has been designated as an NOAA Shipwreck Marine Sanctuary, meaning that both potential and confirmed shipwrecks can be found right off the shores of Lake Michigan. The Sanctuary as a whole currently protects 36 nationally significant shipwrecks over a nearly 1,000 square mile area of the lake, and provides many educational opportunities in the form of informational markers along the trail.
Of course, the Mariners Trail is not the only biking opportunity the Coolest Coast has to offer! The trail serves as a connection to other trails throughout the area, with an experience for every skill level and intention. In Two Rivers, Mariners Trail connect to Rawley Point Trail. Traveling a little farther north leads to the Devil’s River Trail, spanning from Francis Creek to Denmark, which once served as a railroad bed for Wisconsin’s trains. For more extreme bicyclists, adventure can be found at locations such as the mountain bike trail at Cherney Maribel Caves County Park, or the Fat Bike trails at Silver Creek Park. Whether it be for relaxation, fitness, or an adrenaline rush, the biking opportunities are endless on the Coolest Coast!
What may at first glance appear to be nothing more than a long trail with a few benches to sit down at and some nice artwork to look at very quickly becomes a visual and interactive representation of life on the Coolest Coast. With an incredible amount of passion, talent, and love for the Port Cities coming together, a gift for all comes in the form of a feature that can provide whatever form of respite or enjoyment its patrons may be seeking. Whether it be a place to catch your breath, a setting to begin a new journey for better health and wellness, to simply having a spot to come together in community, the Mariners trail is there for all to explore and call home.
Worn out after a long day of biking and exploring the coolest coast? No worries, put your bike on the Maritime Metro Bus bike rack for a ride back to your destination.