Where to Go in Upper Peninsula Michigan

With no shortage of beautiful, engaging places to visit, it’s hard to know where to go in Upper Peninsula Michigan. Below you’ll find summaries of all the major areas, highlighting local draws such as natural wonders, cultural experiences, long-time visitor favourites, and more.

The Straits of Mackinac

As the only physical connection between the two peninsulas, all the traffic from the Lower Peninsula funnels into the five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge and into the great northern counterpart. This is the place where many travelers choose to stop. Picturesque Mackinac Island is one of America’s more perfect getaways, while historic sites and state parks both on and off the island bring the region’s long history to life. For some fascinating exposure to this history, visit Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City and Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island.

Horse and buggy wait outside the Grand Hotel.
The Grand Hotel’s taxi waits for passengers outside—all transport on Mackinac Island is by horse, bicycle, or foot. Photo © Calm Vistas, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Escanaba and the Lake Michigan Shore

The Lake Michigan shoreline makes a pleasant drive with many worthy stops along the way. Sandy beaches off U.S. 2 invite travelers to pull over and wade into the water. The Garden Peninsula, which juts out into Lake Michigan, is home to Fayette Historic State Park, which memorializes the region’s mining history. Continuing to the southwest, Escanaba and Menominee, two of the Upper Peninsula’s largest cities, each offer their own unique charm. An old mining town, Escanaba has seen better days, but don’t let that keep you from the city’s pleasant waterfront, where you can tour the Sand Point Lighthouse and spend time in Ludington Park.

The Superior Upland

The western U.P. is best known for downhill skiing and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (aka “the Porkies”). The area’s relatively mountainous terrain and extreme levels of snowfall combine to make Ironwood and its environs the top downhill ski destination in the Midwest. Ski Brule, Big Powderhorn Mountain, or Blackjack Ski Resort make this area of the U.P. a celebrated winter destination. In summer the draw is the miles and miles of hiking trails that wind through the pristine wilderness. When it comes to outdoor pursuits, only Isle Royale National Park surpasses the Porkies.

Waterfall in Porcupine Mountains State Park in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Porcupine Mountains State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Photo © Jason Ross/123rf.

Keweenaw Peninsula and Isle Royale

Copper Harbor, at the top of the Keweenaw Peninsula, is mainland Michigan’s “end of the road.” But along the journey, the twin cities of Houghton and Hancock offer a cosmopolitan experience characteristic of college towns. Continuing on, you’ll find the quaint historic town of Calumet, perhaps the most telling remnant of the glory days of Michigan copper miming.

The island of Isle Royale would be Michigan’s true end of the road if it were part of the mainland. The rugged Isle Royale National Park can be reached only by boat or plane. The quiet isolation of the island park offers a chance to see reclusive moose and wolves.

Marquette and the Lake Superior Shore

Lake Superior provides some of the nation’s most beautiful scenery: tough pine, stony beaches, and craggy rocks carved into dramatic figures by centuries of relentless waves. Renting a sea kayak (or taking a boat tour) is a wonderful way to get a panorama of the formations at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Marquette offers a vibrant arts scene, historic downtown, and the tranquil Presque Isle Park. A darling town located on a picturesque bay, Munising is flanked by Grand Island, an offshore recreation area.

Whitefish Bay to the Lake Huron Shore

Whitefish Bay offers natural protection from Lake Superior’s wildly inclement weather. The bay drains south into the St. Mary’s River like a giant funnel, guiding ships through the Soo Locks that connect Lakes Superior and Huron, providing the Great Lakes with an essential shipping lane. A visit to the famous locks when visiting Sault Ste. Marie is not to be missed. On the shore of Lake Huron, Les Cheneaux and Drummond Island are remote, quiet destinations largely forgotten by travelers and perfect for secluded relaxation.

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