Sunshine glints off shimmering Lake Superior, sprinkling its sapphire surface with a shower of sparkles which illuminate the largest freshwater lake in the world — one of the key locations featured in this visitor’s guide to Michigan.
Michigan is a Midwestern jewel where the aquamarine water of the five Great Lakes — Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior — laps against tree-lined cliffs. In the Upper Peninsula, trees burst into vibrant hues of red, yellow and orange during the hazy autumn months, splashing bright colors across the fog-kissed hillsides. Use this visitor’s guide to Michigan to find the best places to see during your trip.
Start your trip at Mackinaw City, a charming Michigan village in the Mackinac Straits. The key attraction is Fort Michilimackinac State Historic Park, which gives a magnificent view of the Upper Peninsula. Around 1715, the French built the historic fort, which served as a fur trading post for the French and British until 1781. Over two centuries later, visitors travel back in time as they tour the compound where Redcoat troops patrol old wooden buildings, colonists cook in rowhouse kitchens and cannons thunder atop rocky bluffs.
After visiting the fort, head to Darrow’s Family Restaurant for a cup of slow-simmered creamy potato soup and a delicious raspberry chicken salad. Finish your meal with a slice of homemade strawberry rhubarb pie, a delectable concoction where sweet berries juxtaposed with rhubarb’s tangy crunch explode with freshness and flavor. As of Oct. 16, Darrow’s is closed for the season — check their website for updates on when they will reopen.
An idyllic haven easily accessible by ferry, Mackinac Island is renowned for prohibiting motor vehicles. Visitors must walk, bicycle or ride in a horse-drawn carriage to get around as the only automobiles permitted on the island are emergency vehicles, city service trucks and snowmobiles in winter. If you rent a bicycle from one of the many shops on the island, consider pedaling the full 8.2 miles around Mackinac, a beautiful route with views of the charming city on one side and sparkling water on the other. The bike path is predominantly flat and paved, making it an easy ride with gorgeous panoramas of the majestic Arch Rock and British Landing, the second of which marks the halfway point of the trek. Snap some pictures before finishing the loop —these marvelous lakeshore views are not seen anywhere else in the United States.
After your jaunt, head to the stately Grand Hotel, a gleaming white resort nestled among dark green trees and hillsides. The cascading fountain in the center of a deep-blue pond showers the placid water with foaming spray, a picture-perfect paradise which invites visitors to sip afternoon tea in the parlor and play croquet in the Tea Garden. End your day on the island with a delicious dessert from the Original Mackinac Island Fudge Co., an old-fashioned shop which features mouthwatering slabs of maple walnut fudge alongside delectable cheesecake chocolate brownies, gourmet butter toffee popcorn and salt water taffy.
The caramel-colored water of Tahquamenon Falls rushes over the edge of the rock, smearing the pool below with the light brown shade unique to this Upper Michigan landmark. It looks as though a cosmic jar of honey suddenly tipped over into the cascade, staining its foaming waters to a golden tan. The source of its peculiar hue, however, is tannin, an acid which oozes into the cataract from nearby cedar, spruce and hemlock tree roots and discolors the formerly white froth.
There are a variety of hiking trails near the Falls, ranging from the short 0.5-mile Nature Trail to the strenuous 7-mile Wilderness Loop trek. If you would prefer to float to the rapids overlooking the cataract, take the Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat Tour, where you will begin with a 35-minute train ride and end with a 2-hour narrated cruise aboard the Riverboat Hiawatha through the emerald wilds of Soo Junction.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Finish your unforgettable Michigan vacation at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a dazzling stretch of coastline where the cobalt water of Lake Superior glistens beneath towering cliffs. Tan bluffs speckled with olive-green groves overlook the astonishingly clear water which fades into the horizon at some distant, hazy region. Shafts of sunlight illuminate rocky promontories with a golden glow and pierce hidden caves with flashing rays, lighting up the shadowy hollows and brightening the azure waves.
Pictured Rocks boasts a plethora of overlooks, each with a uniquely breathtaking view of Lake Superior and the surrounding sandstone. Take a flight of stairs and follow a steep trail to a viewpoint where you can see Miners Castle, a snow-white cape which juts out into the water. For a stroll along the shore, head to Twelvemile Beach, where foaming surf crashes over the light gray rocks that stud the sand.
Visit these awe-inspiring landmarks to make the most of your trip to the Great Lakes State.