Top Attractions in Michigan's Upper Peninsula | Midwest Living
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Top Attractions in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

The UP has four-seasons of getaways - for those seeking adventure or peace.
  • An island of North Woods activities

    Bounded on three sides by Great Lakes, Michigan's Upper Peninsula is a natural for water-related activities. However, forests, cliffs and mountains beckon, too.

    Laze away warm summer days on lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan. Along the water you'll find grassy spots, sandy dunes and rocky outcroppings. Inland there are waterfalls and glacial lakes. If you crave more activity, find shipwrecks, explore lighthouses, hit some golf balls. Hikers venture through old-growth forests, over peaks and along rivers tumbling to the Great Lakes.

    Winter has its own beauty -- and activities such as snowmobiling, ice fishing and skiing -- with three digits worth of snowfall. Spring is bright with wildflowers. Fall stuns with foliage. No matter when or where you go, striking scenery awaits.

    But the UP isn't only about the great outdoors. Marquette and the UP's smaller towns, such as Sault Ste. Marie, Houghton and Hancock, charm with attractions.

    Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association

  • Climb a lighthouse

    Standing guard over treacherous waters, 40 lighthouses dot the UP, including 12 open to the public. Among our favorites:

    Eagle Harbor Lighthouse and Museum Period furnishings decorate this 1871 redbrick Keweenaw Peninsula light (pictured). Also explore maritime, Keweenaw history and commercial fishing museums on the grounds. (906) 289-4990; keweenawhistory.org

    Peninsula Point Built of Cream City brick, the square tower attracts butterfly-watchers in the fall. Located in Hiawatha National Forest at the southern tip of the Stonington Peninsula between Bays de Noc. (800) 533-4386

    Point Iroquois Lighthouse Resting on a bluff overlooking the lake and Whitefish Bay, this lighthouse is part of Hiawatha National Forest. Visitors can climb the 72 steps to the lantern deck or take a wooden walkway to the beach. (906) 437-5272; fs.usda.gov

     

  • Explore shipping

    Shipping is a major industry on the Great Lakes. Watch the freighters inch their way through locks, or learn about those that never made it to dock.

    Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum Whitefish Point Light station (pictured) houses accounts of shipwrecks, artifacts (the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald), restored keeper's quarters and more. (800) 635-1742; shipwreckmuseum.com

    Marquette Maritime Museum and Lighthouse The museum is small, but the lighthouse tour is a great way to get a glimpse of what a keeper's life was like. (906) 226-2006; mqtmaritimemuseum.com

    Portage Lake Lift Bridge The widest and heaviest double-decker vertical lift bridge in the world raises its deck for traffic on the Portage Canal in Houghton. michigan.gov/mdot

    Soo Locks Park and Visitors Center Boats lock through and cruise the busy international harbor in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan's oldest city. Viewing platforms provide vantage points for watching ships navigate the 21-foot drop between Superior and Huron lakes. (906) 635-4236; Soo Locks Visitors Center

    Museum Ship Valley Camp In Sault Ste. Marie, this museum is more than a tour of a ship deck. The cargo holds include 100-plus exhibits and aquariums. (906) 632-3658; saulthistoricsites.com

     

  • Dig deeper into the history

    Much of the history of the area revolves around mining. Learn about the boom and decline at these sites.

    Fayette Historic State Park On the south shore of the UP, explore eerie remains of an iron-smelting town (pictured). Camping and recreation also available, near Fayette. (906) 644-2603; michigandnr.com

    Fort Wilkins Historic State Park Costumed interpreters re-create life at this restored 1844 military outpost and one of the first lighthouses on Lake Superior near Copper Harbor. Camping and day-use facilities available. (906) 289-4215; michigandnr.com

    Keweenaw National Historical Park Sites related to the UP copper mining boom days scatter across the Keweenaw Peninsula. (906) 337-3168; nps.gov/kewe

     

  • Take to the trails

    Get up and close to the wonders of this region while hiking some of the many trails.

    Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park Michigan's largest state park has 90 miles of trails leading to waterfalls, rustic campsites and mountain views. Near White Pine, the park's paths lead along Presque Isle River (pictured), up to Summit Peak and an overlook of Lake of the Clouds, and past evidence of copper mines. (906) 885-5275; michigan.gov/porkies

    Tahquamenon Falls State Park The region's largest waterfall stars at this park 73 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie. Stop at Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub near the park entrance. (906) 492-3415; michigandnr.com

     

  • Escape to an island

    Camping, hiking, biking, fishing and relaxing are plentiful on these North Woods islands. Ferries shuttle visitors from nearby cities.

    Isle Royal National Park Unspoiled forests, wilderness lakes and rugged shoreline are the attractions at this remote island (pictured), the least-visited of the national parks. Ferries from Houghton and Copper Harbor carry nature lovers to this 45-mile-long wilderness anchoring 454 islands. Stay at Rock Harbor Lodge near the dock. (906) 482-0984; nps.gov.isro

    Les Cheneaux Islands Towering forests and sheltered bays and channels dot these 36 islands. Families return each summer to simple cabin resorts in Hessel and Cedarville along Lake Huron. (888) 364-7526; lescheneaux.org

     

  • Enjoy natural beauty

    Miles of shore mean access to a wealth of beauty.

    Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore The area encompasses sandstone cliffs, beaches, sand dunes, waterfalls, lakes and forest, not to mention 40 miles of Lake Superior shoreline (pictured). Before exploring, get a map at the visitors center at the park's western gateway in Munsing. (906) 387-3700; nps.gov/piro

    Northern Waters Adventures This outfitter (based in Munising) leads kayak trips along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore or Grand Island Recreational Area. Paddle through sea caves, under arches, over shipwrecks or past a lighthouse. (906) 387-2323; northernwaters.com

    Seney National Wildlife Refuge This 150-square-mile mosaic of wetlands, bogs and forest draws 200 bird species. Explore by car, canoe, foot or bike. (906) 586-9851; fws.gov/refuge/seney

    Menominee River North of Iron Mountain, tributaries spill across the forest and into deep, clear reservoirs including Michigamme Reservoir and Peavey Pond. These waterways provide idyllic boating, fishing and primitive camping. The Wilderness Shores recreation area includes several boat launches and rustic campgrounds. michigandnr.com

    Sylvania Wilderness Area Some 34 crystalline lakes hide behind a forest of century-old trees southwest of Watersmeet. Previously a private estate and now a federal wilderness area in the Ottawa National Forest, Sylvania has barely changed in more than 100 years. Fifteen miles of hiking trails and portages link the lakes. (906) 932-1330; fs.usda.gov

     

  • Take a tour

    See the sights in comfort by taking a tour.

    Soo Lock Boat Tours (Pictured) Choose from multiple tours—through the locks, past lighthouses, buffets, fireworks and more. (800) 432-6301; soolocks.com

    Munsing Bay Shipwreck Tours Boats cruise past cliffs and waterfalls or show shipwrecks through glass viewing wells. (906) 387-4477; shipwrecktours.com

     

  • Town offerings

    Small towns capture the charm and distill the history of the North Woods.

    Houghton and Hancock An enormous lift bridge and the towering Quincy Mine Hoist (quincymine.com) dominate the skylines of Houghton and Hancock (pictured) on the Keweenaw Peninsula. keweenaw.info

    Marquette With a population of 19,600, it's the largest town on the UP. Come for top-rated Presque Isle Beach and stay for an afternoon of eating and browsing along Washington Street. travelmarquettemichigan.com

    Calumet and Copper Harbor Visit the Calumet Theatre (calumettheatre.com), one of a dozen 19th-century buildings in this historic copper mining town. Snowmobile along more than 200 miles of trails to Copper Harbor, another former copper boomtown. Take the scenic Brockway Mountain Drive, which looks down on tour boats traveling to the 1866 Copper Harbor Lighthouse (keweenaw.info; copperharbor.org).

    Sault Ste. Marie In this historic riverfront town of 16,630, boat tours and maritime attractions fill a weekend. Find beaches, shipwreck lore and roaring waterfalls. Sault Historic Sites features a museum ship, Tower of History and River of History. saultstemarie.com

    St. Ignace Videos at the Museum of Ojibwa Culture (stignace.com) show how Native Americans made birch-bark canoes. Down the street at the Fort de Buade Indian Museum, see more artifacts, including weapons. stignace.com

    Newberry The Tahquamenon Logging Museum chronicles the region's 19th-century timber era with displays and photos depicting lumberjack life. Rescued black bears wander outdoor enclosures at Oswald's Bear Ranch (oswaldsbearranch.com; newberrytourism.com).

     

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