Michigan is a state renowned for its vast freshwater coastlines and vibrant cities and offers diverse travel opportunities that appeal to every type of traveler. From the bustling streets of Detroit to the tranquil shores of the Upper Peninsula, Michigan’s landscape is as varied as it is beautiful. 

However, beyond the well-known attractions and tourist hotspots lies a wealth of lesser-known destinations that promise unique experiences for those willing to explore off the beaten path. In this post, we invite you on a 9-day adventure to uncover five of Michigan’s hidden gems. 

These carefully selected locations offer a mix of natural beauty, historical richness, and cultural charm, providing a deeper glimpse into the heart and soul of the Great Lakes State. Join us as we explore Michigan’s unspoiled wonders beyond the usual tourist paths everyone travels!

Day 1-2: Kayaking to Turnip Rock, Port Austin

Overview of Port Austin: Nestled at the tip of Michigan’s Thumb, Port Austin is a small village with a quaint, almost storybook charm. This lakeside haven is known for its stunning waterfront views, welcoming community, and laid-back atmosphere. As a gateway to Lake Huron, Port Austin offers visitors a picturesque backdrop against which they can unwind and reconnect with nature.

Adventure at Turnip Rock: Turnip Rock, a stunning rock formation off Port Austin, is accessible only by kayak. This excursion offers a glimpse of one of Michigan’s most photogenic locations. Local shops provide kayaks and helpful paddling tips for the 7-mile round trip through calm waters, ideal for those with some kayaking experience. As you paddle, enjoy the peaceful surroundings and distinctive shoreline views that enrich this memorable adventure.

Stay at Lakeside Motor Lodge: After a day of paddling, relax at the Lakeside Motor Lodge, a cozy retreat known for its friendly service and comfortable accommodations. With amenities such as an outdoor pool and picnic areas overlooking the lake, this motel offers a perfect blend of simplicity and comfort, ensuring a restful stay. Its proximity to the town center and the natural attractions of Port Austin make it an ideal base to explore the area. Discover your room here.

Extra Stop: Port Austin Farmer’s Market should definitely be on your list of destinations on this trip! Enhance your visit by stopping at the Port Austin Farmer’s Market. Held on Saturdays, this local market features a variety of vendors selling fresh produce, artisan crafts, and unique local goods. It’s a great place to mingle with locals, sample regional flavors, and pick up a souvenir that captures Michigan’s Thumb’s spirit.

Image/ Expedia – Lakeside Motor Lodge, Port Austin, MI

Day 3-4: The Magic of Kitch-iti-kipi, Manistique

Journey to Manistique: The drive to Manistique is as enchanting as the destination. Winding through the scenic Upper Peninsula, the route showcases dense forests, rolling hills, and occasional glimpses of the Great Lakes. This peaceful drive is not just a transition but a part of the experience, setting the tone for a tranquil escape into nature.

Exploring Kitch-iti-kipi: Arriving in Manistique, the highlight is Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan’s most significant natural freshwater spring. Known as the “Big Spring,” its crystal-clear waters allow visitors to see straight through to the bottom, where ancient tree trunks, trout, and underwater flora are visible from a self-operated raft that crosses the water. The emerald green water, constantly at 45 degrees Fahrenheit, creates a mystical atmosphere that captivates photographers and nature lovers alike.

Stay at Quality Inn Manistique: This cozy retreat offers modern amenities that ensure a comfortable stay. Its prime location makes it easy to access local attractions, and its welcoming atmosphere and friendly staff provide a perfect end to adventurous days.

Extra Stop: Mackinac Island is a must-stop destination! If your schedule allows, consider a quick detour to Mackinac Island. Just a short drive and ferry ride away, the island offers a step back in time with its car-free streets, historic forts, and famous fudge shops. It’s an ideal complement to the natural beauty of Kitch-iti-kipi, offering a glimpse of Michigan’s rich history and charming island life.

Image/ Expedia – Quality Inn, Manistique, MI

Day 5: Step Back in Time in Fishtown, Leland

Discovering Leland: Leland, a captivating town on the shores of Lake Michigan, holds a rich historical narrative rooted in its maritime heritage. Known affectionately as the heart of the Leelanau Peninsula, Leland’s history as a thriving fishing village is still visible in its well-preserved architecture and local culture. This town offers a picturesque glimpse into Michigan’s past, where visitors feel like they’ve stepped back in time.

Visiting Fishtown: In the historic district of Fishtown, rustic shanties, weathered fishing boats, and quaint docks provide a scenic backdrop reminiscent of a bygone era. Wander through this charming village to explore unique shops offering local crafts and fresh catch. Don’t miss tasting the smoked fish, a local delicacy, and make sure to capture the timeless beauty of the area with plenty of photos. Here, every corner tells a story of tradition and resilience.

Stay at The Leland Lodge: Just a stone’s throw from the heart of Fishtown, The Leland Lodge offers guests a blend of rustic elegance and modern comfort. This lodge is not just a place to stay but a part of the local charm, featuring beautifully appointed rooms, a cozy lounge, and stunning views of the surrounding natural beauty. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploration.

Extra Stop: Traverse City Wine Tasting! Enhance your experience with a trip to nearby Traverse City, known for its vibrant winery scene. Just a short drive from Leland, you can tour several vineyards, taste renowned Michigan wines, and enjoy the lush landscapes that make this region a wine lover’s paradise. It’s a delightful way to complement your historical exploration of Leland.

Image/ Expedia – Leland Lodge, Leland, Michigan

Day 6-7: Wilderness Adventure at Isle Royale National Park

Getting to Isle Royale: The journey to Isle Royale National Park begins with a scenic ferry ride from Copper Harbor. This remote part of Michigan offers travelers a serene departure point, with the ferry crossing taking you across the crisp waters of Lake Superior. The ride itself provides a sense of isolation and wilderness, setting the stage for the unique experience that awaits on the island. Due to its remote location, Isle Royale National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the United States.

Experiencing Isle Royale: Isle Royale offers an exceptional back-to-nature experience. As you step off the ferry, prepare for days of hiking through rugged landscapes and spotting diverse wildlife. The island’s trails range from short scenic loops to challenging treks across the island, catering to all levels of hikers. Keep your eyes peeled for the moose and wolves that call this park home, offering rare wildlife viewing opportunities. The island’s isolation contributes to an almost untouched ecological haven, ideal for those who appreciate pristine wilderness.

Stay at Rock Harbor Lodge: Nestled in the heart of Isle Royale, Rock Harbor Lodge provides comfortable, full-service accommodations in one of the most unique settings within the National Park Service. As the only full-service lodging on the island, the lodge offers rooms with stunning views of Lake Superior. After a day of adventure, the lodge is a welcoming place to relax, with facilities that ensure your stay is as comfortable as it is memorable. Operating Season: June 7, 2024 – September 10, 2024

Extra Stop: A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum in Houghton is another must-stop! Consider stopping at the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum in Houghton on your return trip. This museum is home to the most extensive collection of minerals from the Great Lakes region and is renowned for its impressive display of native copper and historic specimens. A visit here is educational and a fascinating glimpse into the geological beauty underpinning the region’s natural history.

Image/ Flikr – Joe Ross | Ferry to Rock Harbor Lodge on Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Day 8-9: The Wonder of Tahquamenon Falls, Paradise

Travel to Paradise: Your journey continues as you head to the small yet aptly named town of Paradise, Michigan, which serves as the gateway to the majestic Tahquamenon Falls. The drive is picturesque, with roads lined by dense forests that occasionally open up to reveal sweeping vistas of the Michigan wilderness. As you approach, the anticipation builds, with each mile bringing you closer to one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi.

Exploring Tahquamenon Falls State Park: Discover the stunning Tahquamenon Falls within the park, featuring the Upper and Lower Falls. The Upper Falls, one of the largest east of the Mississippi, impresses with a 50-foot drop and a 200-foot span. Well-maintained trails and platforms offer excellent photo opportunities. Nearby, the Lower Falls consist of smaller cascades around a tranquil island, where you can rent a rowboat or relax to the soothing sounds of nature.

Stay at Magnuson Grand Lakefront Hotel: Enhance your visit by staying at the Magnuson Grand Lakefront Hotel. Perfectly located with direct views of Whitefish Bay, this hotel offers guests a comfortable retreat after a day of exploration. Rooms equipped with modern amenities ensure a restful stay, while the hotel’s lakeside setting provides spectacular sunrise and sunset views over Lake Superior.

Extra Stop: A Meal with a View in Marquette! Before concluding your journey, stop in Marquette for a meal with a scenic view. This charming town boasts various restaurants that offer delicious local cuisine and breathtaking views of Lake Superior. Enjoying a meal here is the perfect way to reflect on the unforgettable experiences and scenic beauty you’ve encountered throughout your Michigan adventure.

Image/ Expedia – Magnuson Grand Lakefront Hotel Paradise Michigan

Get Inspired and Inspire Others

We encourage you to explore beyond the familiar paths and immerse yourself in Michigan’s unique beauty and rich culture. Discovering these less-traveled locales provides a more intimate and personal experience of the state’s stunning natural landscapes and vibrant communities.

We’d love to hear about your adventures! Please share your experiences and any hidden gems you’ve uncovered in Michigan in the comments below. Your stories and discoveries can inspire fellow travelers to embark on unforgettable Michigan journeys! 

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