Time to Travel Michigan!
This is the second installment in my two part Travel Michigan series. We visited the Upper Peninsula last time. Today we’ll explore the mainland, or, as locals call it, “the mitten.” Michigan was previously not on my radar. But it didn’t take long to reach the conclusion that Michigan is, in my opinion, the most underrated destination in the United States. The scenic beauty up there was well beyond what my wildest imagination could conceive! I plan to return to Michigan again and again… and that’s no exaggeration… I literally put my money where my mouth is on the topic and put an offer on a vacation cabin in Michigan. I will go over that in another post.
Fort Michimilackinac is a National Historic Landmark in Mackinaw, Michigan. It was built in 1715, and served first as a fort, trading post, and supply depot for the French and later for the British. Today you can explore the myriad of brilliantly restored buildings contemplating a much different way of life in an era lifetimes away. A blacksmith shop (complete with re-enactor) is among the buildings, along with barracks, officers’ quarters, a medical clinic, a chapel, Native American teepees, gardens, and so much more. Old cannons, weaponry, and artifacts are also on display. Get lost in history at Fort Michimilackinac – you might not be able to pronounce it but chances are you will be able to appreciate it!
Lots of Lighthouses!
Hardy builders constructed the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in 1889. The lighthouse remained in operation until 1957. Durable and resilient, it served many a hard-bitten sailor in the treacherous waters and fierce fog of the Straits of Mackinac. This lighthouse is located next to Fort Michimilackinac in Mackinaw, so it makes a convenient stop during your day at the Fort. You’re welcome to head inside and browse the museum. Signature lighthouse pepper the Michigan coastline far and wide. Visit them and experience Michigan’s rich nautical history!
Victorian Architecture in Petoskey
One of the reasons that road trips are such a great way to travel are the unexpected pleasures you stumble upon just exploring – or, better yet, getting lost on purpose! I have enjoyed some of my most rewarding travel experiences ever this way. Petoskey has an attractive historic gaslight district in town with many buildings from the 1700s and 1800s and quaint cobbled streets and gas lamps. It’s well worth the detour!
The most fascinating neighborhood in Petoskey is off the beaten path, however. When you get back up into the residential areas you stumble on stopped time – a Victorian village of summer cottages (more like mansions) with the most intricate and ornate detail on each and every colorfully endowed house. The entire neighborhood is completely closed off for the winter, but blossoms in all of its beautiful brilliance again every spring. Don’t be afraid to get lost in Petoskey, and have the chance to enjoy this hidden gem!
One of my favorite things about Michigan are the apple orchards. Miles of rows of apple trees, cider mill barns, and wineries dot the landscape. Crane’s Apple Orchard in Fennville is one of my favorites. Here you can pick-your-own apples, and you have a choice from many different varieties. My favorite are the Honeycrisp! It was here that I picked the most delectable, delicious, sweet and juicy fresh apples I’ve ever tried in my life. You haven’t had an apple until you’ve picked one fresh in Michigan!
Delicious Local Delights
When you’re done filling up your apple sack, head over to the restaurant, where you can try a flight of pie (think flight of beer or whiskey – only with fresh-baked pie varieties instead…), fresh milled apple cider, piping hot apple cider donuts (a Michigan specialty!), and many other local delicacies. Many delicious products are grown and produced locally, including a cheese selection from local farms, local fruits and jams, and farmhouse breads. I always advocate experiencing a travel destination with all five senses – and this is the perfect place to do that. The sights, sounds, scents, touches, and tastes are all here to delight.
Hard Cider and Wine Tastings
Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. Johns, Michigan is another great stop on the apple hopping trail. Here you can indulge in a hard cider tasting (or, if you prefer, wine) for free! Servers hand you a menu, and you choose from a variety of hard ciders, wines, and more. And you get to imbibe on a gauntlet of your own selections after that! Uncle John’s produces all of the delicious ciders and wines on-site. I didn’t want the experience to end, so I got some to go! You can also visit Uncle John’s country store. Let your nose guide you to the freshly baked pies and cider donuts. And while you’re there, watch the cider-making process in action with a bird’s-eye view above the small factory. Travel Michigan and stimulate ALL of your senses!
As enthralling as Michigan’s countryside is, you’ll want to venture out into some of the bigger cities, too. Traverse City is the largest city in the northern area of the state, and the largest cherry producer in the country. TripAdvisor has named Traverse City the number 2 “small town travel destination in the U.S.” While I wouldn’t call it a “small town,” more of a small “city,” I would agree it’s a travel destination worth venturing to. The older buildings and quirky shops and pubs are bursting with character, and a stroll along the lake is a great pleasure indeed.
Higgins Lake is another media favorite. National Geographic rated Higgins Lake the 6th most beautiful lake in the world. The shallow waters are ideal for wading near the shoreline, and pontoon boats and jet skis provide playful pastimes here. Dogs particularly love it here, because they can splash and run to their heart’s content without running into a deep end. There is a state park on the shore with public access, where you can just breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the views from swing benches or delight in a peaceful picnic (hopefully with some local Michigan wine!) You will need to buy a $10 day pass at the gate if you’re not a Michigan resident with an annual pass for entry to all of the state parks.
Chocolates by Grimaldi is a chocolate factory and shop in Grand Haven, Michigan. You can call ahead for a tour of the factory and see how the chocolate is made from scratch. The irresistible aromas will have your mouth watering long before the end of the tour… luckily it comes with a scrumptious goody bag to reward you for your patience at the end! For a fascinating, fun foodie experience be sure to check it out! What a great way to cap things off when you travel Michigan.
Travel Michigan and Make your Adventure!
Michigan is one of the best places in the country for a road trip, because so many of its delights are off the beaten path. I love road trips, so I just can’t get enough of marvelous Michigan! Michigan is amazing; it’s one of the United States’ hidden gems! If you haven’t had a chance to check out my other blog posts on Michigan, you can do so here! (I will probably post more Michigan travel soon!)
Also, view the video of my Mainland Michigan Road Trip tour here!:
Finally, check out my Michigan cabin video tour!:
For more great travel adventures, check out my YouTube channel here!: