Michigan is a beautiful state, and truly shines in the warm weather months. If you are looking to “get away from it all” and enjoy the outdoors without getting on a plane, Michigan’s upper peninsula is the perfect destination. I have enjoyed the U.P. nearly every summer of my life, and I continue to be amazed. I will add that I am by no means an outdoorsy type. While the U.P. is a truly beautiful place to take in the scenery, you certainly don’t have to rough it if camping just isn’t your thing.
If you have a weekend:
A 4.5 hour drive from Metro Detroit, Mackinac Island is “One of the top 10 islands in the world” according to Condé Nast Traveler. The ferry ride you must take to the island is in itself an adventure that most kids will love. Mackinac Island is a car free zone, which adds to the character and old fashioned charm but more importantly allows you to really relax and slow down. Bike rentals are widely available on the island and offer a great way to explore at your leisure. Watching the creation of delicious fudge, carriage rides, and high tea at the beautiful Grand Hotel are a few of my favorite memories of the island. Staying the night on the island is amazing, but can be pricey. Hotels and camping are both available in Mackinaw City or St. Ignace (across the bridge) to keep things more budget friendly.
The drive over the Mackinac bridge is a childhood memory I will never forget. Kids love these simple things, so if you go to all the trouble of driving this far, go across the bridge and explore the other side. If you head west on US 2 for about 20 minutes you will see beautiful sandy stretches of beach along the roadside. There is space to pull over and park. Stop and take a walk, a swim, or have a little picnic. For more info on planning a visit to Mackinac, go to www.mackinacisland.org
If you have a long weekend:
Sault Ste. Marie, what yoopers call “the Soo” is a truly unique place. Home to the Soo Locks, the busiest locks in the world, this is an area rich with treasures to be uncovered. Watching a giant freighter pass through the locks is amazing, an experience found nowhere else in the United States. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is a great way to explore the history of the many shipwrecks of our area. If you want to get a closer look, take a kayak tour to explore some of the shallow water shipwrecks in the area. Tahquamenon Falls State Park is home to the Tahquamenon Falls, the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River.
If you have a week:
About a 10 hour drive from Metro Detroit, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is a beautiful 60,000 acre area of forests, lakes and rivers. A truly serene place full of beauty and wildlife, you will feel truly “away from it all” as you explore all of the hidden treasures of this park. Take the time to walk along the Lake Superior shore, pick some colorful rocks, and find a spot of beach that is all your own. Easily done in this picturesque place. This vast park has an enormous variety ofareas and trails, which allows you to choose just how deep into nature you would like to travel. With over 90 miles of hiking trails there is something for every age and interest.
About an hour inland of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is Lake Gogebic. Lake Gogebic is the largest inland lake in the U.P. and is well worth the trip. It’s enormous at 14 miles long and 2.5miles wide, covering 13,380 acres.
I have wonderful memories from each of my trips to the U.P. and I know my kids do as well. While I have touched on a few spectacular places to visit, there are many others that would make for an amazing trip. Pictured Rocks is another beautiful destination and has a scenic boat tour, for example. Spend some time in the U.P. and gain a true appreciation for the beautiful state you live it. While you’re here you just may get lucky enough to witness the beautiful Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis. Go explore, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is full of things you likely never knew were right here in your own backyard.