Manistee Harbor is known for its historic Victorian downtown boasting many original buildings from the 19th Century. Victorian buildings line River Street running beside the Manistee River to the shores of Lake Michigan. Along the way are great restaurants, gift shops, antique stores, the Manistee Harbor City Marina, bakeries, and unique shops offering unusual and nautical gifts.
Manistee Harbor has a humid continental climate with large differences between seasons. Summers are warm but can be very hot and humid. Winters are cold and can sometimes be severely cold. Rain is heaviest in August and lightest in February. Humidity is high in Manistee Harbor, ranging from around 80% in the winter to as much as 90% in late August and early September. Snow falls from mid-October through April, and Manistee Harbor can get as much as 22 inches of snow in January. Temperatures in Manistee Harbor range from an average high of 21°C (70°F) in July to an average low of -5°C (23°F) in December and January.
One of the most popular attractions in Manistee Harbor is the 2.4-kilometer (1.5-mile) Riverwalk. Running beside the Manistee River past marinas and drawbridges to Lake Michigan. Strollers may see Great Lakes' ships in the river channel. Manistee Harbor's Riverwalk is lined with stairs leading to its shops, and restaurants and with historic markers telling about the many historical sites along the way. On Spruce Street is a park with bench swings, picnic tables, and grills. With ramps at each end, the Riverwalk in Manistee Harbor is accessible for wheelchairs.
Manistee Harbor has many places where anglers can find a wide range of fish species. It also has many opportunities to charter fishing boats for some Lake Michigan salmon or trout. The 306-kilometer (190-mile) Manistee River is one of the best locations in the great Lakes region for steelhead, salmon, and trout. Blessed with a year-round even flow of cold clean water, the Manistee River is a magnet for fishers.
Bordering Manistee Harbor on two sides, the Manistee National Forest covers 480 thousand acres. Combined with the Huron National Forest, the forests cover nearly one million acres on the lower peninsula of Michigan. Outdoor types enjoy diverse opportunities that include hiking, camping, hunting, off-road riding, snowmobiling, canoeing, and fishing. Although the area was cleared of forest in the late 19th Century, it was reforested with pine trees in the late 1930s and early 1940s. With land broken up by towns and private lands, the Manistee National Forest is home to three big rivers: the Manistee, Pere Marquette, and Pine. Being relatively calm, the Manistee River is great for families. The best fishing for trout, salmon, and steelhead is on the Pere Marquette River.
About 20 kilometers (12 miles) southwest of Manistee Harbor is the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness on the shore of Lake Michigan. Some of the 43-meter (140-foot) dunes are as much as four thousand years old, and they border a large beach. To the north is the Lake Michigan Recreation Area (16 kilometers or 10 miles southwest of Manistee Harbor), with 99 campsites, beaches, biking and hiking trails, and picnic facilities.
Between Tippy Dam and the M-55 Bridge to the east of Manistee Harbor is the Manistee National Recreation River. With steep banks and sharp bends, this section of the river has a swift current that supports a wide range of activities that include hiking, hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing (including the red-shouldered hawk).