Everything seems grander in the Upper Peninsula. Three Great Lakes lap against the shore of this rugged 350-mile-long wedge of land, known for its timeless beauty. Discover the region while dipping a paddle or relaxing on a guided boat tour of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Marquette, the largest city, makes a nice base before heading west to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
Spruce-and-pine forest and granite cliffs define much of these 16,000-plus square miles surrounded by lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior. Watch freighters navigate the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan’s oldest city, and experience it yourself on Soo Locks Boat Tours.
Hundreds of mounted creatures fill the walls at The Antlers, where you’ll find northern Michigan dishes like the Paul Bunyan burger and Soo Stew Canoes (gumbo or chili in a sourdough “canoe”).
An hour’s drive west, Tahquamenon Falls State Park’s copper-color water tumbles and crashes over a series of waterfalls.
In the same vicinity as the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, the 1923 Crews Quarters at Whitefish Point Light Station provide a restful stay (from $150).
After breakfast at the light station, explore the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, which holds the bell recovered from the 1975 wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Your westward journey along the Lake Superior Circle Tour leads to Grand Marais and its smattering of shops, casual restaurants and places to stay. The West Bay Diner serves fish and chips, and burgers made with beef or buffalo.
Journey out to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, named for mineral stains on the rocks. Rent gear from local outfitters.
The excursion stimulates an appetite for dinner; we suggest the beer-battered Lake Superior whitefish and microbrews at the Dunes Saloon.
Check into one of the three guest rooms with private baths at the Agate Cross Bed and Breakfast (from $130); Up North decor suits its setting perfectly.
Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association (800) 562-7134; uptravel.com
Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 338-7982; keweenaw.info
Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 647-2858; saultstemarie.com
Add a day
In Marquette, the Upper Peninsula's biggest city, three distinctively different city beaches provide a choice of mood for sunning, swimming and ... cliff jumping at Black Rocks. Stay in one of the 62 rooms at the Landmark Inn (Amelia Earhart stayed in room 502); starting at $166. Italian dishes satisfy families at the elegant but reasonably priced Casa Calabria; you’ll find steak and/or veggie pasties at Jean Kay’s Pasties and Subs.
5 Great Places to Stop on the Keweenaw Peninsula
1 Keweenaw Adventure Company The Copper Harbor crew leads hikes, mountain bike jaunts and kayaking trips ranging from hours to overnights. (906) 289-4303; keweenawadventure.com
2 Fort Wilkins State Park Interpreters and displays in 14 whitewashed buildings re-create 1840s life at this restored outpost in Copper Harbor. (906) 289-4215; michigan.gov/historicfortwilkins
3 The Pines Resort A great breakfast spot with friendly servers and a cheery dining room in Copper Harbor gets visitors stoked for days outdoors. Try the omelets and French toast, and don’t be shy about coming back for lunch. (906) 289-4222; pinesresort.net
4 Harbor Haus Fine dining meets postcard-worthy Lake Superior views in Copper Harbor. The restaurant bills itself as German, but the ever-changing menu goes way beyond what you might expect to find. Visitors also can reserve a single luxury bed-and-breakfast suite run by the same owners. From $150. (906) 289-4502; harborhaus.com
5 Laurium Manor Inn An exquisite restoration has turned an Edwardian mansion into a luxurious place to stay in Laurium. Ten guest rooms, each with a private bath, fill this 13,000-square-foot property. From $125 during the summer. (906) 337-2549; laurium.info
Bring the Kids
Munising Bay Shipwreck Tours History lessons about Lake Superior’s stormy wrath take on sober meaning during two-hour tours from Grand Island. The boats have a glass viewing area so visitors can see the shipwrecks below. Learn how the lake’s 40-degree temps preserve the vessels, then snap great pictures of the East Channel Lighthouse. (906) 387-4477; shipwrecktours.com
Isle Royale National Park To get there, catch the three-hour ferry ride on the Queen IV in Copper Harbor. The journey to the western side of the world’s largest freshwater lake is as much a part of the experience as days in the park. And all that water buffers the island from the outside world, preserving the landscape and delicate ecosystem. The majority of the island is backcountry wilderness, with 165 miles of trails, 46 lakes and plenty of scalloped shoreline, all ripe for adventure.
Plan to explore the 50-mile-long island and more than 400 islets and outcrops on all-day hikes, ranger-led boat excursions and paddling trips. Places to stay include two rustic cabins in Windigo and the Rock Harbor Lodge, which is within walking distance of the dock and features motel-style rooms, cabins, a dining room, a store and marina. (906) 482-0984; nps.gov/isro