11 of the best places to visit in Michigan

Michigan’s mojo comes from its beaches, forests, and small towns. Visitors are often surprised to learn that four of the five Great Lakes encompass the state and more than half of the place is forested. What should a visitor do in the midst of all this natural generosity? We have answers. And don’t worry, you’ll get an urban solution as well.

Here are the best places to go in Michigan.

Detroit offers one of Michigan’s best nightlife © Photo by Mike Kline (notkalvin) / Getty Images

Detroit

Great for art and nightlife

It’s hard not to fall for the contagious and dynamic spirit of Detroit. The avant-garde public art scene meets you at every turn, from the Heidelberg multi-dot block project to the more than 100 murals remaking warehouses in the Eastern Market. Traditionalists can ogle one of the best collections in the world at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

At night, the city moves and live music comes out of clubs like Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, a jazz hotbed stuck in time. Designer hotels and welcoming restaurants in formerly abandoned buildings add to the buzz. Plus, Detroit is easy on the wallet, with plenty of free stuff to do.

Sand dunes at the edge of a body of water with the setting sun
There are 14 different beaches at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore © Delcroix Romain / Shutterstock

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Ideal for days at the beach

One of Michigan’s little-known national parks, Sleeping Bear Dunes stretches 35 miles (56 km) of Lake Michigan shoreline. There are two main ways to absorb the views of the true blue lake. One is Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, a one-lane 7-mile loop dotted with a picnic grove. The other is the Dune Climb, which involves climbing a 200-foot-high (61m) pile of sand. It will punish your leg muscles, but the view at the top – scenic Caribbean-hued water – is well worth it.

The park’s 14 beaches and 100 miles (161 km) of wooded hiking trails provide more magnificent views and many families return here year after year to indulge in them.

A close up of a traditional style bicycle in a rural setting
Cycle the wine routes near Traverse City © Aubrie Pick / Lonely Planet

Cross the city

Ideal for couples

It may only have about 15,000 residents, but it’s the “big” city in northern Michigan, with its great restaurants and cool shops to prove it. Lounging on the beach, parasailing, bucolic cycle paths and kayaking to breweries with outfitters like Paddle TC provide the action.

Vineyards cover the nearby Old Mission Peninsula, where 10 wineries across 30 km serve Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. The region has the same microclimate as the French regions of Bordeaux and Piedmont in Italy, and the results are just as breathtaking. Brys Estate and Peninsula Cellars showcase how it’s done, with bottles perfect for a picnic on the beach.

A pedestrian street lined with young and old cycling
Car-free Mackinac Island is perfect for exploring with the family on two wheels © NicoleTaklaPhotography / Shutterstock

Mackinac Island

Ideal for families

A 20-minute ferry ride from the mainland, Mackinac Island is a charming little town dotted with fudge shops, Victorian cottages and 18th-century hilltop forts. Cars are prohibited and all trips are made by horse-drawn carriage or by bicycle, which reinforces the atmosphere distorted by time.

It only takes an hour to cycle around the island – it’s one of Michigan’s best experiences – but allow more time and detour to Fort Mackinac, where costumed interpreters fire cannons ( always a great pleasure for children). Mackinac is silent the night after the excursionists have left and a million stars flash in the dark sky.

An aerial view of a densely forested island in a lake
Isle Royale National Park is at least three hours by ferry from the mainland © Photo by Geoffrey George / Getty Images

Isle Royale National Park

Ideal for unspoiled wilderness

Morning fog hangs over the lake. You hear the lapping on the shore and see a moose coming for a drink. A loonie is calling. Or maybe it’s a howling wolf? Either is likely on Isle Royale, one of the least visited national parks in the country. The 45-mile-long island floats on the shores of Lake Superior, a three to six hour ferry ride from Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. There are no roads in the untouched forest, only 165 miles of hiking trails, 36 rustic campgrounds, and a secluded lodge. Hikes range from the multi-day Greenstone Ridge Trail on the island to the easy but dramatic Stoll Trail.

A shore with wooden houses and a lot of wood
Saugatuck is a friendly town known for its golden beaches © William Reagan / Getty Images

Saugatuck

Best city for LGBTQ + travelers

Known for its golden beaches, pine breezes, fruit pies and a welcome, welcome to all spirits, Saugatuck attracts tons of vacationers. Oval Beach ranks among Michigan’s best for its soft sands and psychedelic sunsets. For a spectacular entrance, take the Saugatuck chain ferry from downtown, then follow the path up and through the dunes.

Artists can seek out the century-old Ox-Bow School in the woods for lessons in painting, glassblowing, and goldsmithing. LGBTQ-friendly businesses are proliferating in the region, including The Dunes, one of the largest LGBTQ complexes in the country.

Kayaking along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Ideal for kayaking and boating

This area of ​​shimmering cliffs and caves in wild colors is the flagship site of the Upper Peninsula. The optics come from blue and green minerals that streak the red and yellow sandstone in an artist’s palette of hues. See them from the water to get the full range. Pictured Rocks Kayaking and other outfitters can prepare you to paddle among arches, caves, waterfalls, and rock formations with names like Lovers Leap and Flower Vase. If that’s too much work, sit on Pictured Rock Cruises or Glass-bottom Shipwreck Tours as they glide over the wonders.

A cityscape at dusk, with several high-rise buildings overlooking a river
Grand Rapids is home to many craft breweries © DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Grand Rapids

Best city for craft breweries

Michigan’s second largest city, Grand Rapids, has taken off thanks to beer. About 25 craft breweries operate in the city proper, plus scores more in neighboring towns. The beer trail takes you there. What makes the scene so popular is the density of the breweries – you can walk between many manufacturers – and the relatively low cost of drinking alcohol.

Trees with red and orange autumn leaves with a lake in the background
Fall colors are vibrant on the Keweenaw Peninsula © dszc / Getty Images

Keweenaw Peninsula

Ideal for fall colors

The rugged woodland region of the Keweenaw Peninsula sits atop Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The area was once the largest producer of copper in the world, and Keweenaw National Historic Park tells the story. But what you’re really here for is Brockway Mountain Drive, soaring high into the sky.

The 10 mile getaway offers stunning views of Lake Superior and is particularly impressive in early October when the leaves are blazing. The outdoor towns of Houghton and Copper Harbor hug the peninsula. Both have breweries, snowboarding, mountain biking, and ferries that sail to Isle Royale.

A red wooden building stands on top of the sand dunes
There are campsites near the vast beaches of Holland © Neil Weaver Photography / Shutterstock

Holland

Best place to camp

Yes, the city is named after the European country. And yes, there are tulips, windmills and kitsch clogs galore. This is not the selling point. Holland State Park is. Its expansive beaches are some of the most popular in the state, where vacationers come to paddle in the surf, fish off the coast, hoist a sail, admire fiery sunsets and snap photos of Big Red, the lighthouse that watches over everything. that. Camping is a must, especially in the oceanfront park just steps from Lake Michigan.

A shot looking out from the mouth of a cave towards a snowy landscape.  The cave is covered with ice cubes
Marquette is home to many adrenaline-fueled sports, including exploring ice caves © Posnov / Getty Images

Marquette

Ideal for adrenaline sports

So you want to explore the Upper Peninsula in all its wild, secluded and independent splendor? Marquette makes a perfect base. It’s UP’s largest city and a hot spot for adrenaline junkies. Locals ski, snow bike, and explore ice caves in the winter, and kayaking, rock climbing and mountain biking like crazy in the summer.

Much of the action takes place in Presque Isle Park, a rugged forest that juts out into Lake Superior north of downtown. Nearby, Sugarloaf Mountain offers easy hiking trails and glimpses of the Northern Lights. Everyone gathers at Black Rocks Brewery to discuss their exploits and bruises afterwards.

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