The Must-See Sights of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
If you’ve never been to the Upper Peninsula – aka the UP – of Michigan, it’s time to plan your excursion. It’s a nature-lover’s paradise. The UP is home to vast wilderness dotted with stunning waterfalls and endless forests, and its northern border is none other than the wild waters of Lake Superior.
But make no mistake, the UP isn’t just shimmering lakes and deep green woodlands. It’s also home to many historic landmarks and quaint towns, and there’s so much to see! Here are a few of the region’s most stunning and interesting features.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: This stretch of multicolored sandstone cliffs spans 15 miles along Lake Superior. The magnificent formations, waterfalls, and beaches make it a top destination. The best way to see the gorgeous scenery is to join a boat tour. You can visit the charming lakeside town of Munising to do so. While in Munising, don’t miss out on the quaint local shops and delicious restaurants.
Shipwreck Tours in Munising: Speaking of this delightful town, you can dive into history with a glass-bottom boat tour showcasing the shipwrecks of Lake Superior. These tours provide a unique glimpse into the maritime history of the region, revealing vessels that met their end in the treacherous waters of the lake. As you peer through the clear bottom of the boat, the stories of these sunken ships come alive, making it a memorable experience for history and adventure enthusiasts alike.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park: Home to one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, the park’s Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls are a sight to behold, especially in the fall. The vibrant autumn foliage surrounding the cascading waters creates a mesmerizing contrast, turning the area into a photographer’s dream.
Mackinac Island: A step back in time, this car-free island offers historic architecture, the famous Grand Hotel, and scrumptious fudge. Accessible only by ferry, it’s a unique experience with horse-drawn carriages and bicycles as the primary means of transport. Even if you don’t make it to the island, check out Mackinaw City and its scenic views of the Mackinac Bridge. The town also boasts a vibrant waterfront and a charming downtown area with incredible restaurants – and more fudge!
Keweenaw Peninsula: Rich in copper mining history, this area provides scenic drives, historic towns, and the chance to visit old mine shafts. It’s home to Mount Bohemia, one of the country’s wildest ski resorts, and Houghton and Hancock, twin cities that span the Portage Canal. Don’t miss the iconic Lift Bridge that connects the two cities, a marvel of engineering and a testament to the region’s rich industrial past.
Copper Harbor: At the very tip of the Keweenaw, you’ll find the tiny town of Copper Harbor, with stunning mountain biking and hiking trails. Copper Harbor is also home to Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, a well-preserved military outpost and lighthouse that offers a glimpse into the life of a soldier in the mid-1800s.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park: This park contains nearly 60,000 acres of forests, lakes, and rivers. The “Porkies” are ideal for hiking, camping, and winter sports. The park winds along Lake Superior, where you’ll find stunning sandy beaches where you can tip your toes in the chilly waters of the great lake or collect agates and other stones. Don’t miss the Lake of the Clouds, just a short hike from a convenient parking area!
Isle Royale National Park: Located in Lake Superior, this remote island park is a haven for backpackers, hikers, and those seeking solitude; with its untouched wilderness, it’s not only a paradise for nature lovers but also one of the best places to spot moose in the wild.
Marquette: The largest city in the U.P., Marquette offers beautiful lakeside views, historic buildings, and a rich cultural scene with museums and festivals. It’s one of the few places in the wild north where you’ll find chain restaurants like Red Lobster, but consider checking out the local eateries instead for unique cuisine.
Hiawatha National Forest: Spanning nearly 900,000 acres, this forest is filled with wetlands, waterfalls, lakes, and streams, providing a diverse landscape that beckons outdoor enthusiasts for all kinds of adventures.
Manistique: On the shore of Lake Michigan you’ll find the popular vacation destination, a small town called Manistique. It’s as beautiful as the mysterious name suggests; walk the boardwalk and enjoy the sandy beaches, browse shops downtown, or get bold and rent a 100-year-old trapper cabin along the shores of Indian Lake nearby and visit Kitch Iti Kippi, the largest freshwater spring in Michigan. With crystal-clear waters, you can gaze down into the depths and witness the mesmerizing sight of trout swimming against the strong current.
Fayette Historic State Park: Near Manistique is a journey back in time to a 19th-century industrial community. Nestled on the stunning Garden Peninsula overlooking Snail Shell Harbor, Fayette provides a vivid snapshot of what life was like in a bustling iron-smelting town. Today, visitors can wander through well-preserved historic buildings, including the impressive blast furnace and elegant hotel, and learn about the iron-making process and the people who lived there. The town’s beautiful cliff-side setting against the backdrop of Lake Michigan makes it not only an educational trip but also a scenic escape, blending history with natural beauty.