places to visit in northern Michigan

I’ll be taking a road trip through Northern Michigan from the evening of July 1 through the end of July 4. It will be my first time traveling anywhere through Michigan north of Auburn Hills, and quite frankly, this is a trip that’s long overdue. Since I moved here from Portland, Oregon three and a half years ago, I’ve heard many recommendations to visit northern Michigan.

My initial plan is to first head up to Mackinac Island, (and time permitting possibly scoot a little bit further north to Sault Ste. Marie). Then I plan to make my way over to Traverse City, and then take a route that would take me through Lansing on the way home. This plan is naturally subject to change pending on the responses I get to this OP.

I’m posting this to find out if any Michigan Dopers have recommendations for places to visit. I’m interested in particular in any places that has any historical significance or excellent natural outdoor scenery. Bonus points if any recommended place meets both of these criteria. I recently obtained a very fancy digital SLR camera, so I’m itching to take lots of pictures of northern Michigan.

So, any places in particular I should check out?

If you mean the northern lower peninsula of Michigan, I would recommend Sleeping Bear Dunes.

If you mean the UP, then I’ve a longer list of neat places to visit.

If you make it to Sault Ste. Marie, you need to visit the locks, of course. There is a viewing stand and interpretative center, downtown, that is free.
There is also a locks boat tour that takes about two hours. It starts below the locks, goes up the American side and returns through the smaller Canadian lock.

In any trip to the Eastern UP, a visit to Taquahmenon Falls is de rigeur. (And just North of Paradise, MI (where the road heads West for the falls), is the old Whitefish Point lighthouse with a museum dedicated to shipwrecks, specializing in the Edmund Fitzgerald.

(You will need to figure your own time constraints to decide whether to take the two hours to go to Tahquamenon from Sault Ste. Marie, adding the time to actually look at the falls and/or add the forty minute round trip drive to Whitefish Point to see the museum (plus the time for the falls and museum, of course).

St. Ignace, at the Northern end of Big Mac, has both tourist traps and actual history, but (no offense to St. Ignace residents) someone with a tight schedule can probably skip it.

Mackinac Island, (The second National Park in the U.S., although the Feds returned it to the state of Michigan), is wonderful, but a day hardly does it justice. I’d recommend making a trip to see it, alone, later. (No private motor vehicles are allowed on the island, so if you bike it is a great place to explore.) You can do the island (village, fort, shops, and scenery) in one very full day, but it is a bit rushed. If you are set on visiting the island, the ferries are run by Shepler, Arnold, and Star Line. (Rooms at the Grand Hotel are based on prestige, with tiny rooms costing a fortune. The hotels in “town” are cheaper (not cheap). (You do not want a room facing the harbor: the sun will bake the tiny room and the building across the street will block the view of the lake.) The B&Bs are probably nice–and expensive. If you are not going to spend more than a day on the island, consider sleeping on the “mainland” and taking early and late boats to get on and off the island.

On the south end of Big Mac is Mackinaw City (village). It is even more touristy than St. Ignace, but it does have a good replica of Fort Michilimackinac that shares space with an historic lighthouse and archaeological information of shipbuilding. (All the parks in the area have a joint web site at Mackinac State Historic Parks. Mackinac and Mackinaw are both pronounced “MACK in aw”.

Cheboygan and Alpena has some historic stuff, but since you seem to be tilting Westward (where there is more stuff), I will concentrate on that side.

Take US-31 South from Mackinaw City to County road C-66 toward Levering and Cross Village. In Cross Village, pick up M-119, South, and follow it along the lake shore for a psychedelic, (and occasionally hair-raising) twisty trail with intermittent views of Lake Michigan through beech/birch/pine forest. (If your ball joints are not 100% reliable or you are concerned about highways that are uncharacteristically (for Michigan) shoulderless, skip this excursion.)

At the South end of M-119, the village of Harbor Springs has some beautiful 19th century mansions. Following the shore of Lake Michigan, you pass through Petoskey, Charlevoix, and Traverse City. From Traverse, M-72 takes you to Empire and the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. (Local/County web site.) (Take the time to study the maps and pick a good place to cross the dunes to Lake Michigan. The old “traditional” location for starting a dunes hike (on M-109, North of Empire, at the West end of Glen Lake) began with an 800+ foot high trudge up shifting sands, only to discover at the top that you were still one and a half miles from the beach, (to which you had to hike down, then back up to return.) (There are now other, shorter, park trails through lower dunes and forests for those with less stamina or less spirit of adventure. You’ll need to pick up a decent map from the NPS.)

That should take care of about six of the three days you have allotted.

For future (longer) vacations, there are a myriad of cabins throughout the whole Lake Michigan shore region, at least as far South as Muskegon and as far North as Petoskey. All the Boynes are in the Petoskey neighborhood, and there are a number of placid rivers with canoe rentals in the area. (Michigan has several challenging canoe rivers, but I do not believe that any of them are in that area.)

Another trip that is too long for your current vacation, but which you may want to keep in mind for the same region is a tour of the Hemingway sites, in which the locations of the “Nick Adams” stories (written using locations where Hemingway had lived and toured) are highlighted for touring.

Your route doesn’t take you into the UP at all. So you’re not visiting “Northern” Michigan in the slightest.

On the plus side, you’ve hit the fudge, cherries…aw, screw it. I’m not nice enough…

When are you planning on going up? I’m taking my family next weekend (Leaving on the 24th and coming back on the 28th) and will be on Mackinac Island most of that time, but we are taking time to stop in Mackinac City and Onaway.

Sure you are. Geography in Michigan is screwy.

“Northern Michigan” refers to the northern area of the lower peninsula - depending on from where you live, this could be anywhere from Lansing or Mount Pleasant on up to Mackinaw City.

North of Northern Michigan is the UP (Upper Peninsula). It’s barely part of Michigan so it’s OK that it’s actually north of Northern Michigan :smiley:

Judging from where the OP says he’s visiting, he’s entirely correct to say “Northern Michigan.”

Having lived my whole life along I-96, I’ve never heard Lansing referred to as “northern Michigan”. For my two bits worth, I consider Clare as the southern end of northern Michigan. Of course, to yoopers even Clare folks are fudgies or flatlanders or trolls.

Please don’t miss the Cross in the Woods. . This is an amazing bit of sculpting and you don’t even have to be Christian to appreciate its beauty.

I didn’t see the Lansing reference in the OP as a claim that Lansing was “northern,” only that Atreyu wanted to pass “through Lansing on the way home.”

Despite the claims of some Yoopers, “Northern” Michigan does not begin at the Straits.
Manistee, Cadillac, West Branch, and (for most folks) Tawas City are all in Northern Michigan.
Big Rapids, Mount Pleasant, Midland, and Bay City would not be recognized as “Northern” by anyone living North of Luna Pier or Niles.
We can fight over Ludington, Reed City, Clare, Gladwin, and Standish.

Running up I-75 or US-27, you are generally considered to have entered the Northern area when open plains and farms give way to conifers. (Farther west, (M-37 or US-131 to the Lake?) the moderating breezes from Lake Michigan tend to encourage both more farms and more deciduous forests.)


I just noticed this

To be more clear, (and to avoid implying that the dunes are 800’ high–they are only a bit more than 400’), the initial trudge goes up a dune that is from 120’ to 150’ high and it is about 800 feet from the parking lot to the first crest.

I was going by this quote, perhaps misreading it:

Sleeping Bear is a must if you have kids. You’ll have to convince them that climbing the dune is a good idea, but once up to the first crest (going beyond that is for the serious) you not only have a magnificent view of Glen Lake, but now the kids get to run down the dune as fast as they can. Once back to the bottom, you will be glad you packed some drinks.

Again, one could argue if Hart/Mears is Northern MI, but if you get down that far, make sure you ride Mac’s Dune Rides.

Nope. You correctly interpreted that statement and I missed it.

Does Athena live in Sturgis? :wink:

Where ever you travel in our fair state, make sure you hit an indy bookstore
booksense will guide you to a better choice o’books.

Please, spend lots of money in the Mitten State. :smiley:

And, of course, though waaaay out of Atreyu’s way, there is yet another part of Michigan that is north of the U.P. part that’s north of Northern Michigan – Isle Royale National Park.

Every road trip needs a cheesy stop or two, and I’ve got one for you.

When a pal and I bicycled through northern Michigan back in the 1990s we made a trip to an amusement spot called (…forgive me if I get this a little wrong…) Michihistrigan. It was, essentially, a giant miniature golf course themed around the history of Michigan. It may have even been shaped like the state too – I forget. Don’t know where it was or if it even still exists. I thought I had a MI guide book, but I can’t seem to find it.

If you pass up that site, somewhere in the vicinity is a giant fiberglass fish (a Muskie, I think) you can pose under. IIRC, it was the largest such plastic Muskie in the world.

Biking through MI was fun.

Don’t ask me about the names you silly Trolls give to Michigan’s geography. I’m just repeatin’ what some of you have told me.

As for us Yoopers, we vacillate between being mildly annoyed that you all sorta decided we weren’t “Michigan” enough to rate being called the Northern section of the state since geographically speaking that’s what we are, and being happy that you trolls manage to forget we exist (and thus not bother us) a lot of the time.

The upshot is… though we acknowledge that you’ve decided the Northern LP is “Northern Michigan”, once you cross the bridge we laugh at you and call ourselves Northern Michigan. 'Round here, Traverse City is down south in the Banana Belt :smiley:

Me too… The Cherry Hut in Beulah. Lots of cherry-related stuff on the menu, but mostknown for their cherry pie. If you’re heading to Sleeping Bear, this could be a good lunch stop to/from there.

Sorry - forgot the link .

Thanks to everyone who has replied so far. I’ve gotten lots of great ideas here. I didn’t realize that I was going to initiate a spat over the geographic nomenclature of Michigan, though. I did not intend to do that, and I apologize. I guess I should have just been more general and said that I was heading north of where I currently live in Troy.

It looks like Sleeping Bear Dunes has been definitely added to my itinerary.

As for the UP, I’ll have to figure out the time constraints to find out whether or not I could check anything out besides Sault Ste. Marie.

Dragwyr, I plan to be on Mackinac Island on July 2. I’ll be driving up there after I get off work on July 1.

Hey, anyone whose main highway is named Big Beaver gets to start any nomenclature wars they want.

theres a huuuge fiberglass paul bunyan somewhere in there i went to once when i was a kid. really cheesy in the way that only highway attractions can be…

Michigan has several cheesy Pauls, as listed by Roadsideamerica.com :

[quote]
[ul][li]Alpena: Paul Bunyan Made Of Car Parts. 30 feet tall. Built for defunct Paul Bunyan Gas Station on Main Street of Grayling, at original cost of $4,500, by artist Betty Conn and architect Edward X. Tuttle. Old Kaisers parts were gleaned from Detroit junk yards. Moved to the grounds of Alpena Community College in 1998. 666 Johnson St. Alpena, 49707. [/li][li]Manistique: Alert! Muffler Man disguised as Paul Bunyan Sighted in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on Highway 2 outside of Manistique. Hard to believe he’s gone undetected all this time. Guess he blended in with the natives! [Sasha & Gretchen Dziadosz, 4/4/98] [/li][li]Careful inspection of the Paul Bunyan in Manistique, Michigan, reveals that his boots, jeans, belt, rolled-up shirt sleeves, and even his beard are integral sculpted parts of his fiberglass body. This is definitely no converted Muffler Man. [Craig Thom, 5/28/98] [/li][li]Oscoda: On US 23,in a park near a school, inside a chain-link fence. Tribute to James MacGillivary, author of Bunyan tales, who was town native and is buried here. May be accompanied by a Babe the Blue Ox. [/li][li]Ossineke: Paul Bunyan is 25.5 feet, 11.5 tons; Babe is 10.5 feet, 4.5 tons. Has been victim of an eerie act of vandalism. Three miles south of Dinosaur Gardens. [/li][li]St. Ignace: Seated Paul Bunyan and Babe, after a long day felling trees. He sits below the Castle Rock Lookout, about an hour south of the Canadian border. [/ul][/li][/quote]