Your entry point into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from the “mainland” is the magnificent Mackinac Bridge. This beautiful suspension bridge was opened in 1957, has a tower height of 552 feet, a length of 26,372 feet, and $4 toll for cars – well worth the “price of admission”! A wild, wonderful wilderness awaits on the other side! My anticipation escalated as I traversed this awe-inspiring bridge, and when I arrived on the U.P. side I was not disappointed!
The Upper Peninsula boasts many natural wonders, and a visit is not complete without checking out the Painted Rocks near Munising. Two of the most popular ways of exploring the rocks are by taking a cruise tour or by renting a kayak. If you partake in one of the cruises, I highly recommend lining up EARLY if you want to avoid getting a seat in the middle of the boat, for the best view. At least half an hour before sailing or even more is recommended in the summer. The rocky cliffs are described as “painted” because of the brilliant stripes and splashes of different colors composed on them. You will also notice many waterfalls and delightfully strange rock formations, and pine trees that seem to grow out of solid rock!
The Tahquamenon Falls are another must-see in the U.P., and are located in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. In addition to the spectacular falls (the color is derived from high copper content), there are many hiking trails and a wonderful restaurant and brewery on-site, where I ordered delicious fresh whitefish and a flight of craft beers brewed on site. You can enjoy many different viewpoints of the falls by taking the provided walking paths. Almost as enthralling as the sight of the falls is the sound of the falls, leaving an amazing impression of their power on the senses.
The peak of Brockway Mountain, near Copper Harbor, is accessible to vehicles, and the views are awe-inspiring! If anyone had any doubt that the U.P. is covered in unspoiled wilderness, these views of endless gloriously green forest and brilliantly blue lakes will remove all doubt! My only regret about visiting this site is that I didn’t do so during the peak of the fall leaf-turning season! Another great way to enjoy the U.P.’s beautiful forests: drive through the “Tunnel of Trees,” which hang over the road in a way that seemingly envelops you in a passage through wild wonderland!
The U.P. is chock full of lighthouses of all shapes, sizes, and styles! There are over 40 lighthouses in the U.P. mostly from the 1800s. The lighthouse at Point Iroquois is one of many that you can climb to the top of (nice views!), and view the preserved, historic living quarters of former lighthouse-keepers, and visit a small museum at. If you’re into lighthouses, you’ll be spoiled rotten in the U.P.! They are a major part of the area’s history and culture. You’ll have no trouble finding them either; the Michigan Tourism Bureau has done an outstanding job with attraction signage throughout the state, and the lighthouses are no exception.
The Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point provides a fascinating look into the mysterious world of shipwrecks! As an Art History major I have a lot of education on museums and their curation, and I can tell you the installations here are very well done, very interesting and informative, and include many fascinating historical artifacts, including underwater explorer suits, parts of shipwrecked vessels, historic articles found at shipwreck sites, and more.
You’ll never know what you’re going to find when you wander the back streets of U.P. towns. For example, this house in the above photo! There’s something particularly rewarding about stumbling on something quirky and unusual like this taking the time to get off the beaten path – often some of the most rewarding travel experiences of all. I found this house taking the back roads in Calumet.
There is an abundance of things to see and do in the U.P., and I can’t wait to return!
You can view my video tour of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula here!:
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