Insider Guide: Chris Boyle

Chris Boyle attended law school in New York before joining the Air Force. After four years, he and his wife decided to move back to their home state of Michigan, but they didn’t want to move to the suburbs. “We wanted to go somewhere with more opportunity for outdoor activities,” he says. He had a cottage in Port Austin when he was growing up; his grandmother still had a place in the area and was selling it so he bought the house and began practicing law in nearby Bad Axe.

In 2006 he opened Port Austin Kayak. He always loved outdoor activities and felt that there was a real need and interest for something like that in Port Austin, so he ordered 15 kayaks and some bikes and opened up the shop. “It’s really taken off from there,” he says … so much so that he just recently bought an old marina with the hopes of rehabilitating the property and create a nice space in Port Austin to draw and attract tourists while expanding his operation.

One of the most scenic spots in Port Austin is Turnip Rock – so name because it sticks out of the water like a turnip. At Port Austin Kayak, they will give you your kayak and a map and point you in the direction of Turnip Rock, about three miles out of town. It is all private property between the rental shop and the Rock, and the water is very shallow. The Rock can only be accessed by kayak, and the journey itself is very quiet and safe (no boats can enter that area). The secluded wooded area is also home to several bald eagles, which kayakers often see. This summer Port Austin Kayak will also be offering guided eco tours.
Port Austin is surrounded by farmland, so it’s no surprise that one of their top restaurants is called The Farm Restaurant. Farm-to-table cuisine in the absolute truest sense, and located quite literally in an old farmhouse, the Farm offers local, seasonal, sustainable cuisine in a very comfortable, homey environment. The Bank 1884 (also cleverly named in that it is in a former bank) also has excellent food. Boyle also recommends Joe’s Pizzeria downtown for a relaxing and inexpensive Italian meal. For bars, Lee’s Landing is a popular local haunt, but the nearby city of Caseville is really the hub of nightlife in the area (and a short drive away). “Port Austin is more the quaint, historic part of the thumb, and we like it like that,” he states.

For more outdoor activities, the Port Crescent State Park has miles and miles of great hiking trails and dunes. You can also rent a canoe at Tip-A-Thumb Canoe Rental. Port Austin also offers horseback riding and “some of the most beautiful beaches and sand in the state.” And once again, because this is an area surrounded by farmland, the Port Austin Farmers' Market is massive, and Boyle promises it is one of the best in the state. It is truly a paradise for outdoor lovers and foodies alike.