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How to get away from it all, right in the heart of Detroit



Like a midwestern Venice, canals line Detroit’s Harbor and Kent Island communities. - JUSTIN MACONOCHIE
  • Justin Maconochie
  • Like a midwestern Venice, canals line Detroit’s Harbor and Kent Island communities.

Canal district

To call the enchanted community tucked away at Detroit's southeastern-most point a "hidden gem" would be an understatement. If it's a gem, it's Detroit's blue diamond. The man-made canals made possible by the waters of Fox Creek carve out the "island" communities of Harbor and Klenk, often drawing comparisons to Venice. But unlike their Italian counterparts, Detroit's canals are virtually unadulterated in terms of pollution, rich in vegetation, and home to a fair amount of wildlife. When traveling them by light water craft, it's not uncommon to find a cormorant bobbing around nearby, sort of like a personal sidekick. Lily pads and seaweed line the waterways, as do the backyards and boat launches of people so friendly you'd think they were on permanent vacation (some of them are). If you don't own a boat or aren't one of the perma-vacationers lucky enough to live there, you'll do best to explore the canals via kayak tour. Detroit River Sports offers tours that start and end at a neighborhood marina, where, if you strike the right timing, you can score an outdoor farm-to-table meal under the golden glow of Edison light bulbs after your journey. The Riverside Kayak Connection also offers historic canal tours that detail the district's Prohibition lore — a tower on a Spanish-style house at the end of Harbor Island is said to have once served as a lookout point for patrol boats; an island-dweller is said to have created an underwater cable strong enough to pull vessels loaded with booze across the river from Canada. If you have independent access to a watercraft and can pull off some autonomous canal-cruising, pay homage to a world where booze is readily available with a trip up Fox Creek. At the point where the water cuts off at Jefferson Avenue lives a dive bar, Marshall's, where you can dock and hop in for a drink.

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