For sheer driving pleasure, there are few places as scenic and special as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The scenic wonders abound. The UP (pronounced “you-pea”) is shaped like a seagull in flight. We will start at the easternmost tip and work our way around it by going westward along the Lake and then and back again eastward along the Wisconsin border, more or less.
This is an uncovered quiet corner of the UP, overlooking the scenic DeTour Passage, St. Marys – Detour Village is a community on Lake Huron at the extreme eastern tip of the Upper Peninsula some 25 miles east of Les Cheneaux. For even more remote beauty you can take the car ferry that links Drummond Island to the mainland at Detour Village. North of the village, stop to watch the huge Great Lakes vessels as they travel the North Channel that connects Lake Superior to Lake Huron.
Sault Ste. Marie
Sault Ste. Marie predates the arrival of the Europeans. The name means The Rapids Of The St Mary, and the city is perched on the northeastern end of the UP. Sites to see include the historic 1927 landmark Ramada Plaza Sault Ste. Marie Ojibway hotel in the Lockside District and the Soo Locks, where the big ships squeeze their way through between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Take in a live performance at the Soo Theatre. If you want to say you have been to Canada now is your chance. Travel across to the Canadian sister city also known as Sault Ste. Marie. They were once one community. Be sure you have proper ID to leave and enter the USA. For dining, try Karl’s Cuisine, a café specializing in pasties (pronounced “pass-tees”, these hand pies are UP’s official food), salads and sandwiches, that looks like it will set sail through the Soo Locks; sit by the window, to watch the huge freighters passing through the locks only a few hundred feet away. Lodging choices include the quaint, pretty Plaza Motor Motel. Askwith Lockview Motel with its view of the Locks, and the Best Western Sault Ste. Marie.
Toonerville Trolley To Tahquamenon Falls – Soo Junction
The Toonerville Trolley Riverboat Tour lets you travel by trail and by boat – a great combination – as you make your way to the lovely T Falls. The trip begins with a 5 ½ mile ride on a 24 inch gage railroad and then continues in a 21 mile boat ride to impressive Tahquamenon Falls , where the water runs brown due to all the cedar tannins. It is the third most voluminous vertical waterfall east of the Mississippi. The ship’s captain will give you a running commentary of the sites to behold. It is an all-day event, with only one tour that starts at 10:30 and returns at 5. So plan ahead!
Pictured Rocks National Seashore
Because of the remoteness of these cliffs we recommend that you see the Pictured Rocks by boat, setting out from 100 City Park Drive, in Munising, Michigan for the adventure. See the Indian Head and Miner’s Castle rock formations as well as waterfalls sipping into the lake and small caverns inaccessible from the high cliffs above. While in Munising, have a meal at the Falling Rock Café and Bookstore, or hot dogs at Johnny Dogs, or pasties at Muldoon’s.
Marquette has a charming downtown to explore. It has been called one of Americans great walking-around towns with its nice restaurants, pubs, and shops. You can relax at Presque Isle state park or enjoy the hiking and the views from Sugarloaf Mountain. There is a UP dining theme going here, have the pasties at Jean Kay’s Pasties, or for other eating options, try Donkers for Grass Fed Burgers and Organic Chicken sandwiches with gourmet toppings and don’t miss the Cranberry Scones at Huron Mountain Bakery. Lodging options abound, we recommend the Hampton, the Comfort Inn and the Country Inn and Suites.
Keweenaw Peninsula is the largest of the many peninsulas that help comprise the UP. Think of it as the UP’s Cape Cod. Get out to the end at Copper Harbor. Take the Brockway Mountain Drive for majestic views. Take the Copper Harbor Lighthouse Tours and see Eagle Harbor Lighthouse and Museums. Stay at the Bella Vista, the Brockway Inn, or the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. Have a meal at Harbor Haus, with wonderful view of Lake Superior from the dining room. For a one of a kind treat, go west on route 26 out of Copper Harbor to the Jampot at 6500 State Highway M26, Eagle Harbor, for muffins and seasonal jams, made by the bearded monks of the Holy Transfiguration Skete Monetary.
Back on the main UP, go inland to visit The Agate Falls Scenic Site, a waterfall and scenic site located in Interior Township, in southeastern Ontonagon County. See the 39 foot high Agate Falls, accessible by trail from a parking area. Not far away, visit Bond Falls, with a total drop of about 50 feet. Cool and refreshing for the senses.
Escanaba is a little bit of Sweden on Lake Michigan’s northern shore, is the third-largest city in the Upper Peninsula, after Marquette and S S M. Be sure to see the Sand Point Lighthouse. Visit the Swedish Pantry for Swedish pancakes with lingonberries., or Bobaloons for cheese steak sandwich or a tuna salad pita pocket.
Garden Peninsula is another peninsula that helps define the coastline of the UP. You thought ghost towns were only for the Wild West? Think again, and visit Fayette state park’s ghost town. Limestone bluffs and blue water form the backdrop for the empty buildings including opera house, the old hotel and the impressive stone company store. The tour is self-guided. Make sure you visit the harbor at the end of the peninsula with its shops and art galleries.
Cut River Gorge and the Cut River Bridge State Roadside Park
Near E Epoufette, – this is a great stop on US 2, with beautiful scenery with the small swift-flowing river tumbling under the bridge as it rushes to the lake. It is worth the hike down the 231 steps to the lake Well worth a stop as you drive along US hwy 2. The park is not to far from St Ignace near Epoufette.
Saint Ignace is a charming town. Visit the Museum of Ojibwa Culture and Father Marquette Mission Park, indoor and outdoor exhibits which allow you a glimpse into Ojibwa culture and the lifestyle of the Huron and the French Jesuit Mission where Father Marquette resided, as well as his grave. The Straits State Park offers great views of the Mackinac Bridge, as well as a memorial honoring of Pere Marquette. For another great view visit Castle Rock, but keep in mind that the 200 stairway climb is not for the skittish or faint of heart. Legendary giant Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox will great you – larger than life statues at the base of the climb.
Mackinac can really be claimed by both the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. It is the perfect place to relax and slow down after driving the UP. There are no cars allowed. This storied setting takes you back to a bygone era, of strolling, horse and buggies and the pursuit of leisurely recreation. To get there, take the Star Line Mackinac Island Hydro-Jet Ferry, from St. Ignace. Go to the Seabiscuit Café, named for the famous racehorse, for a nice meal.
People who live in the UP all year long call themselves “Yoopers; they might welcome you with these words: “Say Ya To Da UP.” You will be glad you have been among the Yoopers in the UP, as you “Drive the Nation”.