Shot by Instagram user @lily_solgat
Whether you’re a natural born-Michigander or a first time visitor, summer is a great (if not the best) time to explore all that the Great Lakes State has to offer. No matter where you find yourself while in ‘The Mitten,’ you’re never more than 6 miles from one of the state’s 11,000 inland lakes, and never further than 85 miles from one of the Great Lakes. That means that when someone tells you to “Go Jump In A Lake” this summer, there are plenty of options to choose from, both near and far. Here are a few of our personal favorite spots for summer fun in Michigan...
1. Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes
Shot by Instagram user @bosexposures
According to the Ojibwe legend of the sleeping bear, Sleeping Bear Dunes was created when a mother bear and her two cubs were forced to swim across Lake Michigan to escape a forest fire. Although the cubs allegedly didn’t make it, legend has it that The Great Spirit created two islands, North and South Manitou, in their honor. The mother bear is still waiting on the other side of the lake for them, but has waited so long that she was covered in sand by the winds, creating the now-famous dunes.
Voted “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America in 2011, there are a number of ways to take in the views that this Leelanau County destination has to offer. A favorite spot among hiking enthusiasts, check out the Empire Bluff or Pyramid Point trails for a fairly easy trek to take in some of the most beautiful views in Northern Michigan. If you want to put your muscles to work, be sure to try your hand at the 300-foot Dune Climb, a Sleeping Bear favorite. Other popular attractions include canoeing or kayaking down the Platte River, taking in the scenery while still enjoying the AC via the Pierce Stocking Scenic drive, or visiting one of the Manitou Islands (North or South) to hike, camp, or just hang out at the beach.
The rich history of the area coupled with the abundance of things to do and see make the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore a must-see northern Michigan spot.
Learn more here.
TGLS Insider Tip: Get to the top, and don’t stop! Once you’ve completed the dune climb, walk in another 3 miles on flat, sandy terrain, and your reward is a virtually uninhabited beachfront with spectacular views!
2. Pictured Rocks
An awesome shot of the Pictured Rocks in Munising, MI. Posted by Instagram user @bosexposures
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is named after its 15 miles of colorful sandstone cliffs, which have been naturally eroded into a variety of formations, arches and caves. Fan favorites include Miners Castle Rock and Chapel Rock, and be sure to check out some of the awesome waterfalls as well. Our personal favorite is Au Train Falls, and be sure to hike to the Upper Falls while you’re there for a more scenic and off-the-beaten path view.
There are also a ton of hiking trails, so you’re sure to find one suitable for you, no matter your skill level. If aquatic activities are more your thing, there are a number of guided boat tours of the cliffs, and boat rentals are available if you prefer to be the captain of your own ship. With 21 waterfalls and a variety of unique rock formations, The Pictured Rocks will keep you busy and have you planning your next hike or boating excursion in no time.
Check out this link to start planning your Pictured Rocks adventure.
TGLS Insider Tip: Reserve your spot on a glass bottom shipwreck tour to get a unique view of Lake Superior and get a look at an amazing, fully intact sailing ship that dates back to before the Civil War!
3. Porcupine Mountains
The beautiful Porcupine Mountains, shot by Instagram user @deftony83.
Most people don’t think of mountains when they think of Michigan, but the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula proves that we truly have it all. While the area is obviously a great destination for cross-country skiers and backpackers in the winter, there are plenty of activities to do there in the summertime as well, making the Porkies a perfect four-season adventure. The Upper Peninsula’s expansive list of native wildlife make the area a hotspot for bird watching, but visitors will probably see some of the region’s four-legged animals as well, including beavers, black bears and otters.
Located on Lake Superior, the area is a great spot for fishing as well. Several boat charter companies operate in the area, making it easy to get out there and catch trout and salmon. Trials that are great for cross-country skiing in the winter are awesome for mountain biking in the summer, and with more than 20 miles of designated mountain biking trails, there is sure to be an option everyone, beginners and experts alike. If vehicles with an engine are more your speed, the region boasts several scenic motorcycle and automobile routes as well.
For a truly unique experience, check out Adventure Mine Tours to repel and climb through an authentic copper mine. The tour company offers a variety of packages and tours appropriate for all ages and skill levels, and is sure to be an experience you won’t forget.
Click here to learn more about the park and all it has to offer.
TGLS Insider tip: The Porkies are home to Summit Peak, a short but challenging hike that will take you to the highest point in the State of Michigan. Although the trail is steep and involves a lot of stairs, the views once you get to the top are worth the trek.
4. Blue Water Area
Turnip Rock in Port Austin, MI. Posted by Instagram user @sarahpacholski
The East Coast of Michigan (Better known as the Thumb if you’re a true Michigander) has a ton to offer when it comes to summer activities. Appropriately named the Blue Water Region after its over 140 miles of waterfront, the Thumb is lined with ten amazing beach town destinations. Whether you just visit one or take a road trip down the Eastern shores and hit all ten, there are endless amounts of entertainment and summer fun waiting for you in the Blue Water Region. Some highlights include:
- An extensive list of hiking and biking trails, both along the Huron River and St. Clair River
- Visit one of the seven lighthouses in the region, explore the museums or go on informational tours
- Go back in time and catch a movie at the Hi-Way Drive In Theater, the longest running drive in theater in Michigan
- Scuba Dive in Port Sanilac to view historic shipwrecks up close and personal
- Kayak to Turnip Rock in Port Austin, one of Michigan’s most unique natural rock formations
With ten cities to visit along the shore, it’s impossible to see everything the Blue Water Region has to offer in one visit. If you don’t believe us, check out their website to start planning your next trip (or your next few trips!)
TGLS Insider tip: The Blue has a well kept secret, a dark sky preserve at the Port Crescent State Park in Port Austin. A designated area with no electric lights for miles, this is a stargazers paradise with unobstructed night views.
5. Saugatuck & Douglas
Sunset at Oval Beach in Saugatuck, MI. Shot by Instagram user @nicsagodic
These twin cities on the Western Coast of Michigan are home to one of Conde’ Nast Traveler’s “Top 25 Beaches in the World” and recognized by USA Today as the “Best Small Coastal Town”. Visit one of the six public beaches stationed along the region’s 10 miles of coastline. Whether you’re there to catch some rays or watch the spectacular nature-made show that is a Lake Michigan sunset, you surely won’t be disappointed.
With numerous rental and chartering options in the area, cruising around Lake Michigan by canoe, kayak or even yacht is a breeze - literally. With a variety of trout and salmon species in the area, Saugatuck is a great place for fishing as well. If you consider yourself more of a landlubber, Butler Street is an awesome spot for shopping and dining, featuring a ton of cute shops, ice cream parlors and restaurants.
Learn more here.
TGLS Insider tip: There’s no better way to explore the Saugatuck Sand Dunes than on an exhilarating Dune Ride, it’s like an amusement attraction!
With so many amazing destinations to visit in Michigan, these are only a scratch on the surface of places to see this summer. Here at The Great Lakes State, we are always looking for new places to explore, so let us know your favorite Michigan summertime spots in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter.