Michigan's UP is hemmed in by three of the Great Lakes. Everyone knows about Superior and Huron but the lake on the UP's southern border has some great camping and exploring opportunities, too.
So. after three weeks of travel on our Verizon Great Lakes Roadtreking Shoreline Tour, we have now arrived at the fifth of the big lakes – Lake Michigan.
Lake Michigan touches four states and is the only one of the Great Lakes that doesn’t share a coastline with Canada.
We started out following it across the bottom of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near the Wisconsin border and because it has so much shoreline, we’ll cover it in three segments.
You can see the first of our Lake Michigan reports and the 7th in our series by clicking above.
Our first destination was a 17 mile long appendage called the Garden Peninsula that juts out into the UP’s Big Bay de Noc. There, we toured a ghost town of sorts, the once thriving iron smelting town town of Fayette. The state has restored many of the mid-19th century buildings.
Today, it’s a reminder that nothing lasts forever. There's a nice campground there with electric hookups. But there are just vault toilets, no shower facilities and there is no dump facilities. Park officials say they are planning to upgrade the campground next year, pending budget approval. But you can walk through a narrow forest and get right to the rocky shoreline. Be sure and wear real shoes instead of flip flops if you plan to walk the stone beach.
Further east and just yards off US 2, Lake Michigan offers swimming beaches that beckon a stop by the traveler. There are several state campgrounds along the lake, too. Our favorite is Hog Island Point, a niftly little hideaway campground, nestled into the cedars and hardwoods of a small peninsula that juts into a pretty little Lake Michigan bay just off US-2, about 35 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge. There are 59 rustic sites and because of the name, perhaps, and the lack of hookups, most are usually vacant.
Then it was across the Mackinac Bridge and the Lower Peninsula and Michigan coastal highway 119 – known as the Tunnel of Trees, one of the most scenic roads in Michigan, running 20 miles from Cross Village to Harbor Springs.
This is the heart of Michigan’s “Up North” vacation land, characterized by the sparkling water of Lake Michigan, gently rolling hills, lots of scenery and beautiful beaches in Petoskey and the Traverse City area. As you drive south along the shore, vast cherry orchards line both sides of US 31, thriving in the unique glacial soil and climate along the Lake Michigan coastline.
At Empire, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a true national treasure with miles of sugar sand beach, bluffs that tower 450 feet above the lake, lush forests, clear inland lakes and spectacular views that had this area named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by the ABC Televisions Good Morning America show.
You can even make your way down the dunes the water below… just remember, though, you’ll also have to climb back up.
It’s also a place where the National park service is experimenting with an innovate high tech guide service that works with cellular phones at various spots along the lakeshore.
Verizon’s robust 4g LTE network up here lets you dial in with your phone and hear interpretive descriptions of the exact location you are visiting, almost as if you had a park ranger at your side.
This end of the tour ends at the port city of Ludington, about midway down the western shore of the Michigan Mitt.
From there, we’ll temporarily leave Michigan and steam across the lake to Wisconsin on a 410-foot car ferry. Well tell you all about that in our next report.