My Michigan road trip changed everything. Previously not on my radar, 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 could easily spend a lifetime there… 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 last month. (No, I’m not relocating out of Florida. This will be a recreational getaway!) But I digress… more on that in another post!
Fort Michimilackinac is a National Historic Landmark in Mackinaw, Michigan. Built in 1715 it 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. Among the buildings are a blacksmith shop (complete with re-enactor), 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!
Built in 1889, the Old Mackinac Point 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.
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, but the most fascinating neighborhood in Petoskey is off the beaten path. 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 blooms 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. The landscape is dotted with miles of rows of apple trees, cider mill barns, and wineries. 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!
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, 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.
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! All of the delicious ciders and wines are produced on-site. I didn’t want the experience to end, so I got some to go!
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.
Another media favorite, Higgins Lake was rated 6th most beautiful lake in the world by National Geographic. The shallow waters are ideal for wading near the shoreline, and pontoon boats and jet skis provide playful pastimes here. On the shore is a state park with public access, where you can just enjoy the views from swing benches or delight in a peaceful picnic (hopefully with some local Michigan wine!)
Chocolates by Grimaldi is a chocolate factory and shop in Grand Haven, Michigan where 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!
As I’m sure you’re well aware by now, I just can’t get enough of marvelous Michigan! If you haven’t had a chance to check out my other blog posts on Michigan, you can do so here! (And don’t be surprised to see more soon!):
And you can view the video of my Mainland Michigan Road Trip tour here!:
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