Best Places to Visit Lake Michigan Guide for 2023

oval beach saugatuck lake michigan

The Best Places to Visit Lake Michigan Have Unique Attractions and Appeal

When it comes to touring Lake Michigan, one of the largest freshwater bodies of water in the Western Hemisphere, you’ll find an array of remarkable spots that will certainly entrance you. Lake Michigan is home to attractions in the lower peninsula like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and charming beach towns like Holland and Grand Haven. The best places to visit Lake Michigan can boast something for everyone along the scenic shoreline.

To help you decide which of these idyllic destinations along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan suits you best, I’ll briefly cover the unique attractions each location has to offer. Enjoy the beach life at Traverse City’s beautiful beaches, experience sun-soaked relaxation at Ludington State Park, or plan for solitude amidst natural surroundings in the Upper Peninsula. Your Lake Michigan vacation can be as unique as you are!

Enthusiasts looking for outdoor adventures will find Silver Lake Sand Dunes particularly appealing, with breathtaking views across Lake Michigan at the crest of the 450 foot high summit. Or ride the roller coasters or bumper boats at a nearby adventure amusement and water park for family fun!

Importantly, I’ve included wheelchair accessible locations at several beaches around Grand Traverse Bay, ensuring an inclusive travel guide for all visitors seeking the best places to visit Lake Michigan in every season. As a native to the state, I can assure you Michigan has something to draw just about anyone in.

best places to visit lake michigan
Image by WOKANDAPIX from Pixabay

Closer to Chicago lie New Buffalo, Saugatuck, and Holland offering cultural immersion in their downtown areas as well as wine-tasting experiences at local wineries. Whether you’re soaking up culture in museums or unwinding at local wineries, these Michigan gems near Chicago have something for everyone. Don’t miss your opportunity to escape and explore all the Lake Michigan beaches offer!

Note: The high season for visitors to the coast of Lake Michigan occurs between Memorial Day through Labor Day. Many Lake Michigan beaches and attractions will be crowded with throngs of visitors. Plan your summer vacation accordingly!

Table of Contents

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Warren Dunes State Park

For those seeking a summertime escape, this Lake Michigan state park offers an array of activities centering on its sandy shoreline and impressive dunes. Six miles of hiking trails round out the offerings that attract over one million visitors each year.

Camping at Warren Dunes State Park

The combination of towering sand dunes and 3 miles of sandy Lake Michigan beach makes Warren Dunes an ideal spot for camping. There are two camping areas – the Mt. Randall modern/dunes (with electrical at all sites and modern restrooms with showers) and the Hildebrandt semi-modern, which is more rustic (with vault toilets and no electrical service available). There is a concession and camp store at the entrance to Mt. Randall camping area.

Want more information on camping and reservations at Warren Dunes? Click here.

Not a camper? Choose a place to stay and book nearby Warren Dunes with our interactive map:

Check out our complete write-up on great places to stay in the New Buffalo area if you’d like to investigate other places to stay close by.

Saugatuck: The Perfect Getaway Near the City of Chicago

Escape the hustle and bustle of Chicago and head to Saugatuck, one of the most charming Lake Michigan beach towns within a convenient drive of Chicago.Click To Tweet 

Discover Saugatuck’s Downtown Area

Saugatuck is a charming town that offers a lot of attractions for visitors.

oval beach saugatuck lake michigan
tb2bfit, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stroll through Saugatuck’s picturesque waterfront and explore its unique shops, art galleries, and delightful eateries. You won’t be disappointed.

Relaxing at Saugatuck’s Oval Beach

Saugatuck is a charming town that offers a lot of attractions for visitors. Of all the beaches along Lake Michigan, Oval Beach is one of my personal favorites. In Saugatuck’s downtown area you’ll find a variety of art galleries, shops, and restaurants; don’t miss the ice cream!

Finding the perfect rental in Saugatuck

Part of Saugatuck’s charm to visitors is that it offers a wide variety of vacation rentals. You could choose a charming cottage, a rustic cabin, or a family-sized house, depending on your preferences. This is perfect for those who want a more individual vacation experience outside of a traditional hotel.

Use our interactive map to find and book the perfect place to stay:

Exploring the Charming Town of Holland

The town of Holland, nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan, is a gem waiting to be discovered. Known for its Dutch heritage, it offers visitors an array of unique attractions and shopping opportunities.

Discover Holland’s Dutch Heritage

Experience Holland’s Dutch heritage through its architecture and attractions like the Windmill Island Gardens. Don’t miss the vibrant farmers market, where you can find fresh produce and handmade crafts.

Discovering Nelis’ Dutch Village

Step back in time with a visit to Nelis’ Dutch Village. This theme park offers a glimpse into 19th-century Netherlands with authentic buildings, traditional crafts, and even a petting zoo.

Check out our post on finding the Best Place to See Tulips in Holland Michigan.

Shopping at the Renowned Holland Bowl Mill

Looking for a unique souvenir or gift? Check out the Holland Bowl Mill, one of America’s last commercial wooden bowl mills. Their beautifully handcrafted bowls are a perfect memento of your trip.

Recreation at Holland State Park

Holland State Park is one of the most beautiful state parks in Michigan. Visitors can bike down the miles of trails, enjoy a game at the volleyball courts, take in scenic views of Lake Michigan, or relax on the beach.

Grand Haven State Park – A Hub for Water-Based Activities

If you’re a fan of activities on the water, then Grand Haven is the place to be. This picturesque town along Lake Michigan’s shoreline offers an array of exciting attractions and landmarks.

Visiting the Grand Haven Musical Fountain

A must-see attraction in Grand Haven is the Grand Haven Musical Fountain. This mesmerizing spectacle combines music, lights, and water choreography into one unforgettable show that enchants visitors every evening during summer months.

Experiencing Nature at Galien River County Park

Beyond its urban charm, Grand Haven also provides opportunities for nature exploration. The Galien River County Park, with its boardwalks winding through wetlands and forests, offers a serene escape from city life. Whether you prefer kayaking down tranquil rivers or simply enjoying scenic views from observation decks, this park has something for everyone.

In addition to these highlights, don’t forget about sailing tours on Lake Michigan or fishing trips off the pier – both popular pastimes among locals and tourists alike.

Check out the best things to do in Grand Haven.

Use our interactive map to find and book a place to stay in Grand Haven:

Experience Pere Marquette Park in Muskegon

At Pere Marquette Park, you’ll want to check out the Pere Marquette Lighthouse Museum, and the Muskegon Channel with the USS Silversides, a WWII era submarine. Visitors with differing abilities will appreciate an accessible walkway to the beach. This location is popular with kite-boarders and paddlers.

Places to stay in Muskegon:

Silver Lake Sand Dunes for Adventure Enthusiasts

If you’re an adventure enthusiast, the sheer enormity of Silver Lake Sand Dunes are sure to provide adrenaline-pumping vacations.

Breathtaking Geological Attractions of Silver Lake Sand Dunes

The Silver Lake Sand Dunes offer a unique landscape that’s perfect for thrill-seekers. Whether it’s sandboarding down steep dune faces or taking a scenic drive along the shoreline, there are plenty of ways to experience these natural wonders firsthand.

See our write-up on 10 Fun Things to Do in Silver Lake.

Pack your stuff and prepare for an extraordinary excursion. Check out and book places to stay in Silver Lake with our interactive map:

Ludington State Park – A Solitude Seeker’s Paradise

If you’re craving a peaceful escape, look no further than Ludington State Park. Nestled near the historic Big Sable Point Lighthouse, this state park boasts pristine Lake Michigan beaches that offer more tranquility than other popular spots.

Experience a tranquil haven at Ludington State Park, where the picturesque views and calming ambiance make it an ideal spot for anyone seeking peace. Take a peaceful walk along the shoreline, observe avian life, or just take in the stunning scenery. Click To Tweet 

History buffs won’t want to miss a visit to the nearby Big Sable Point Lighthouse. This iconic beacon has been guiding mariners since 1867 and offers breathtaking views of Lake Michigan from its tower.

But Ludington State Park isn’t just a pretty face. For those seeking an outdoor escape, Ludington State Park offers a variety of activities such as fishing, hiking trails and camping facilities.

Discover great places to stay in Ludington and book with our interactive map:

Traverse City and Its Beautiful Beaches

For a beach retreat, Traverse City is an ideal destination with its picturesque sandy beaches perfect for scaling the dunes at North Beach. This charming town on Lake Michigan’s shoreline is known for its stunning white-sand beaches that are perfect for dune climbing.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

The beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park extends beyond North Beach. With over 35 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and numerous hiking trails, it provides endless opportunities for nature lovers. Whether you prefer bird watching, fishing, or just relaxing by the water, this state park has something to offer everyone.

Dune Climbing at North Beach

North Beach, located within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, is one of the top attractions near Traverse City. The park offers an unforgettable experience with its forests, bluffs, lakes, and miles-long sandy beach. Climbing the dunes can be strenuous, but the run back down to the shore is exhilarating!

Check out places to stay in the Traverse City area, and book with our interactive map:

Wheelchair Accessible Locations

If you’re organizing a journey to Michigan and require wheelchair access, Traverse City and other locations within the Michigan State Park system have it all sorted out.

The shoreline of these areas has been designed with wheelchair users in mind, with accessible beach walkways and beach wheelchair rentals ensuring that everyone can experience their beauty regardless of mobility levels.

Some notable accessible locations include Traverse City State Park, where paved trails provide easy access to scenic views of Lake Michigan. Beyond accessibility features, the area boasts an array of attractions, such as wineries, art galleries, and gourmet restaurants, making it an ideal vacation spot for all travelers.

Other accessible beach access locations in the Lake Michigan State Park system are: Grand Haven State Park, Holland State Park, Interlochen State Park, Ludington State Park, Mears State Park, Muskegon State Park, Petoskey State Park, Warren Dunes State Park, and Wilderness State Park.

A Day Out in Manistique

Last but not least is Manistique, one of my favorite small towns situated right on Lake Michigan’s shore offering picturesque views and plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking and bird watching. Escape the clamor of urban life and relish in the serenity of nature in the Upper Peninsula northwest of the Mackinac Bridge.

Manistique is a gateway to one of Michigan’s natural wonders, Kitchi-Iti-Kipi Spring, called the “Mirror of Heaven” because of its crystal clear water in Native American lore. You’ll want to leave the beach for a day to see it!

Close by is the Garden Peninsula, with the historic Fayette Townsite. On the water’s edge of the east shore of Big Bay de Noc, this is the first ghost town I ever visited and one of my favorite historic sites. With thoughtfully laid out historic buildings, it is a great place to get the kids interested in history.

Book your family vacation in or around Manistique using our interactive map:

What makes Lake Michigan a great vacation spot?

Visitors can explore the sandy beaches and picturesque towns all along the coast. They can also visit more than 100 lighthouses, which evoke the extensive maritime history of the Great Lakes. Or, just chill out, one of the most popular activities visitors can do on their summer vacation.

What are the best beach towns to visit on Lake Michigan?

Petoskey, Traverse City, and Saugatuck are among the most popular destinations. Our write-up of top 5 beach towns on Lake Michigan includes: Leland, Bay View (Petoskey, Saugatuck, Manistique, and Charlevoix.

Discovering the charm of Petoskey

Petoskey is a charming town that offers a lot of attractions: art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and a marina. Petoskey also has a beautiful beach that’s perfect for relaxing and swimming.

Find and book a great place to stay in Petoskey:

Exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Traverse City

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of Lake Michigan’s most popular destinations, with vast sand dunes to climb, several trails of varying difficulty to hike, and cold, crystal-clear water to swim in, if you dare!

Which state parks are a must-visit on Lake Michigan?

Ludington State Park, Warren Dunes State Park, and Holland State Park are among the most popular destinations.

Discovering the beauty of Ludington State Park

Between Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan, Ludington State Park has sand dunes, miles of trails, and a relaxing beach.

Exploring the sand dunes at Warren Dunes State Park

Visitors to Warren Dunes State Park can climb the dunes, hike miles of trails, or swim in Lake Michigan.

What are the best Lake Michigan beaches?

Grand Haven State Park Beach, Silver Lake State Park, and Saugatuck Dunes State Park beach are among the best.

Relaxing at Grand Haven State Park beach

Grand Haven State Park, where the Grand River flows into Lake Michigan, has one of the best beaches in Michigan. Visitors can relax, swim, or take a walk along the pier.

Exploring the sand dunes at Silver Lake State Park

Silver Lake State Park is a great place to climb, hike or explore on an off-road vehicle. The park also has a beautiful swimming beach.

Sunbathing at Saugatuck Dunes State Park beach

Saugatuck Dunes State Park beach is one of the best beaches in Michigan. Visitors can relax on 2.5 miles of sand, swim and sunbathe, or hike 13 miles of trails.

Wineries near Traverse City, the northern Michigan shoreline, and Muskegon’s beaches are among the most popular destinations for Michigan travel other than the ones mentioned above.

Visiting wineries near Traverse City

Traverse City is known for its wineries. Visitors can take a tour of the wineries, sample the local wines, and learn about the winemaking process. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon in Michigan.

See our comprehensive write-ups on wineries you’ll want to visit:

Best Leelanau Peninsula Wineries and Vineyards Guide

Michigan Wineries and Vineyards Guide: Michigan’s Best Wine

Exploring the Northern Michigan shoreline

The northern Michigan shoreline is one of the most beautiful in the country. Visitors can explore the charming towns, take in the natural beauty of the area, or relax on the sandy beaches.

Check out our write-up on Best Northern Michigan Beaches to Visit This Summer

Relaxing at Muskegon’s beaches

Muskegon is a beautiful town that offers a lot of attractions: sandy beaches, unique shopping, and a marina.

Where can I find the best Lake Michigan rentals and campgrounds?

Michigan has many great rental properties and campgrounds along Lake Michigan.

Check out our write-ups on great places to visit in Michigan with recommendations and interactive maps you can use to find places to stay:

13 Best Places to Stay in New Buffalo Michigan

5 Best Small Towns in Michigan on Lake Michigan

Best Northern Michigan Beaches to Visit This Summer

Camping at Ludington State Park or Warren Dunes State Park

Ludington State Park and Warren Dunes State Park are great camping destinations in Michigan for a family getaway along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Campers can pitch a tent or park their RV, and enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan with lots of amenities, including hiking trails, picnic areas, family-friendly beaches and playgrounds.

Hiking at Silver Lake State Park or Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Warren Dunes State Park, Silver Lake State Park, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offer miles of hiking trails that wind through the beautiful sand dunes with great Lake Michigan views.

Which location on Lake Michigan has a 26-mile long beach?

Wilderness State Park near Mackinaw City has 26 miles of pristine, natural shoreline and a wide variety of campsites and cabins.

Discover the Best Fit for Your Interests on the Scenic Shores of Lake Michigan

I have traveled around the world to around 50 countries, and I can attest the Lake Michigan shore is an ideal place to plan a great getaway at one of the most scenic destinations within the largest freshwater system in the world. With gorgeous beaches, magnificent sand dunes, charming towns, and year-round activities for visitors, the best places to visit Lake Michigan will provide a lifetime of memories to savor.

beautiful lake michigan scenery

Best Time to See Fall Colors in Upper Michigan

best time to see fall colors in upper michigan

There’s no better time as the fall harvest season in Michigan gets underway and colors begin to change to consider a memorable fall trip. As the best time to see fall colors in upper Michigan approaches, nature enthusiasts and travelers alike eagerly anticipate the brilliant display of foliage that adorns this picturesque region.

Throughout the fall, the dazzling array of bright reds, deep oranges, and vibrant yellows creates a breathtaking backdrop for outdoor adventures or leisurely drives through Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula’s scenic landscapes.

best time to see fall colors in upper michigan
Image by sjsecretary from Pixabay

Plan the Perfect Time for Michigan Travel as Fall Colors Peak

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into considerations that affect the best time to see fall colors in upper Michigan. These factors determine peak fall colors and underscore the importance of using a reliable fall color map.

Fall is the Best Time to Visit Certain Destinations

Discover some of Upper Peninsula’s stunning destinations like Copper Harbor Lighthouse and the Porcupine Mountains, as well as color in the Northern Lower Peninsula along Tunnel of Trees M-119 Scenic Highway and River Road Scenic Byway. Autumn colors make their natural beauty even more spectacular.

We also unveil must-visit places in Michigan for seeing the best fall colors, such as Palms Book State Park, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore area. Our guide will help you plan your trip during the best time during peak season and choose among the best places to see fall colors in upper Michigan.

upper tahquamenon falls fall colors michigan
Image by Meg Bell from Pixabay

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2023 Michigan Fall Color Prediction Map Shows Times for Fall Transitions

The updated 2023 Michigan Peak Fall Color Map predicts peak fall colors in Michigan 2023 to occur between October 9 and October 29. This map is an essential tool for leaf-peeping enthusiasts to pinpoint the times for fall colors and for planning their trip to witness the stunning autumn hues in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

Factors Affecting Fall Colors in Michigan As They Change

Temperature, sunlight and precipitation all play a role in the transformation of autumn hues. In general, Michigan in the fall has cool nights with sunny days encouraging the development of brilliant fall foliage. Leaves begin to change color in September; however, early frost or heavy rainfall can shorten the display period or dull the display.

To ensure you experience Michigan’s best fall colors during your visit, it’s crucial to keep track of these factors affecting peak times and plan accordingly for the best places to enjoy fall color viewing.

upper tahquamenon falls fall colors in michigan
Image by Jason Gillman from Pixabay

Importance of Using a Reliable Fall Color Map to See Michigan in Her Autumn Glory

Weekly updates on changing conditions across different regions in the entire state help travelers make informed decisions about when and where to go for optimal leaf-peeping experiences. By referring to such resources before embarking on your journey through picturesque landscapes adorned with bright reds, deep oranges, golden yellows – all set against clear blue skies – you’ll be able to enjoy every moment spent exploring beautiful places throughout both the upper and lower peninsulas.

  • Lake Superior: The largest Great Lake provides a stunning backdrop for enjoying spectacular views along its shoreline as leaves change color from late September into early October.
  • Tahquamenon Falls: One of Michigan’s most famous waterfalls becomes even more breathtaking surrounded by vibrant autumn foliage during peak color season.
  • Lake Michigan: Sweeping vistas from the heights of Sleeping Bear Dunes along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive provide outstanding views during peak fall color in west Michigan.
  • Lake Huron: Multiple lookout points along US-23 and the River Road Scenic Byway are perfect places to picnic.

In conclusion, using a reliable fall color map like the 2023 Michigan Peak Fall Color Map is essential for planning your perfect autumn getaway. Keep an eye on changing conditions and explore popular destinations in both the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula to make the most out of your trip.

Key Takeaway: 

The 2023 Michigan Peak Fall Color Map predicts peak fall color to occur between October 9 and October 29, making it an essential tool for leaf-peeping enthusiasts planning a fall getaway. To ensure the best experience, keep track of factors affecting fall color change such as cooler temperatures, sunlight, and precipitation. A reliable Michigan Fall Color Blog offers weekly updates on changing conditions across different regions in the state to help travelers make informed decisions about when and where to go for optimal leaf-peeping experiences.

Seeing the Best Fall Colors in the Upper Peninsula

In the first week of October, visitors can expect peak colors in the Upper Peninsula (UP). This region boasts some of Michigan’s most breathtaking landscapes and offers a variety of popular destinations for leaf peepers to explore.

Must-visit locations in UP for Fall Foliage

  • Copper Harbor Lighthouse: A historic landmark with panoramic views of Lake Superior and surrounding foliage, this is one of the best places to visit to see colors against the blue water backdrop.
  • Brockway Mountain: A scenic drive offering the best views of Copper Harbor and one of the best spots to view fall colors from an aerial perspective.
  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Explore miles of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along Lake Superior, including the iconic sandstone cliffs that give this area its name. Visit their official website here.
  • Tahquamenon Falls State Park: Home to two majestic waterfalls surrounded by picturesque forests, this park showcases breathtaking views of beautiful colors during the autumn months, particularly from vantage points by the Upper Falls. Learn more about Tahquamenon Falls and other natural attractions in Michigan.
  • Palms Book State Park: See Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan’s largest natural spring at over 200 feet across and 40 feet deep from a self-operated observation raft.

Accommodations amidst nature’s beauty

For those seeking an immersive experience in the natural beauty of Michigan, a variety of accommodation options are available. Some popular choices include:

  • Pictured Rocks Inn & Suites: A comfortable hotel located near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, offering easy access to hiking trails and other outdoor activities.
  • The Deer Drop Inn: This cozy vacation rental offers a serene retreat in the heart of UP’s wilderness. You’re “in the middle of nowhere, but in the middle of everything.”
  • Keweenaw Castle Resort Grand Suite: A luxurious suite fit for a king and queen with floor to ceiling views of Lake Superior.

Explore Upper Peninsula’s vibrant fall foliage. Visit Copper Harbor Lighthouse, Brockway Mountain, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore & more. #Michigan #FallColors #TravelTipsClick to Tweet

best places to see michigan fall color

Discovering Northern Michigan Peak Fall Color

In the second half of October, northern lower Michigan transforms into a kaleidoscope of brilliant fall foliage. The region offers numerous popular spots for visitors to explore and enjoy the vibrant colors that paint the landscape.

Best Time to See the Fall Colors in Northern Michigan

The peak color in this area typically occurs between mid-October and late October. However, it is essential to keep an eye on Michigan’s Fall Color Map for updated predictions on when you can witness these stunning hues at their best.

Attractions Worth Visiting For Fall Color Viewing

  • Hartwick Pines State Park: With over 9,000 acres of forested land near Grayling town, Hartwick Pines provides ample opportunities for hiking amidst vibrant fall foliage. Discover more about Hartwick Pines State Park by visiting its official website here.

Discover and book places to stay near Hartwick Pines:

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: This national lakeshore boasts miles of sandy beaches and towering sand dunes along the shores of Lake Michigan adorned with bright reds, oranges, and yellows during the fall season. Find more information about Sleeping Bear Dunes here.

Find and reserve places to stay near Sleeping Bear:

  • Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail: Traverse through rolling hills covered in vineyards while enjoying a wine tasting tour amidst stunning autumn scenery. Check out the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail’s official website for more details on wineries and events by clicking here.

Check out accommodations along the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail:

  • Tunnel Trees M-119 Scenic Highway: Take a leisurely drive through dense forests showcasing brilliant fall foliage along Lake Michigan’s shoreline. More details about the “M-119 Tunnel Of Trees” can be discovered in our post: Scenic Tunnel of Trees Michigan Best Time to Visit.
ocqueoc falls
Photo Credit: Tony Faiola from Mid-Michigan, U.S.A., CC BY 2.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Ocqueoc Falls: The largest waterfall in Lower Peninsula surrounded by lush forests – perfect for hiking or picnicking amidst nature’s beauty. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to experience the spectacular colors Michigan’s northern lower peninsula displays. It’s a great time to visit at this enchanting time of year.

“Experience the vibrant fall foliage of Michigan’s northern lower peninsula. Discover stunning attractions and plan your visit during mid to late October. #TravelMichigan #FallColors”Click to Tweet

Scenic Drives for Leaf Peepers

For those who prefer scenic drives rather than hikes, Michigan offers a variety of picturesque routes to witness the beautiful fall colors. One such route is the M-22 highway, which stretches across northern lower peninsula from Manistee to Arcadia. This stunning drive showcases landscapes along Lake Michigan’s shoreline accompanied by numerous opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and kayaking.

Must-drive Routes during Fall Season

  • M-119 Tunnel of Trees: A breathtaking stretch between Harbor Springs and Cross Village that features a canopy of trees arching over the road, creating a tunnel-like effect. Find more information here.
  • Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive: Located within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is a 7.4-mile loop offering panoramic views of Lake Michigan and brilliant fall foliage.
  • Brockway Mountain Drive: Situated in Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula, Brockway Mountain Drive provides spectacular vistas overlooking Lake Superior and surrounding forests ablaze with color.
  • River Road National Scenic Byway: Following the Au Sable River through Huron-Manistee National Forests in the northeastern Lower Peninsula, the River Road Scenic Byway presents an array of deep reds and bright oranges against a backdrop of pristine waters.

Tips for Planning a Road Trip

  1. Prioritize your must-see destinations: Create an itinerary that highlights your favorite fall destination spots while also incorporating lesser-known gems.
  2. Check the weather forecast: Fall weather can be unpredictable, so it’s essential to plan for potential rain or snow. Check the National Weather Service website for potential weather updates before setting out.
  3. Pack essentials: Bring a camera, binoculars, comfortable clothing layers, and snacks to make your road trips more enjoyable.
  4. Fuel up: Ensure your vehicle is in good condition and has enough gas before embarking on long drives through remote areas with limited services available.

Taking a scenic drive during Michigan’s fall color season is an unforgettable experience that showcases the Great Lakes State’s natural beauty at its finest. With numerous routes to choose from and breathtaking landscapes around every corner, there truly is no better way to enjoy fall in Michigan than by hitting the open road.

Key Takeaway: 

Michigan offers several picturesque routes to witness the vibrant fall colors, including M-22 highway and must-drive routes such as Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, Brockway Mountain Drive, and River Road National Scenic Byway. To plan a road trip during Michigan’s fall color season, prioritize your must-see destinations, check the weather forecast for potential rain or snow, pack essentials like a camera and snacks while ensuring your vehicle is in good condition with enough gas before embarking on long drives through remote areas with limited services available.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park Adventure

A breathtaking experience awaits in the western Upper Peninsula at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – Michigan’s second-largest state park. Check out the Observation Tower at Summit Peak, the highest point in the park, from which you can see Isle Royale and the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior on a clear day.

Unique experiences at Porcupine Mountains

The Porcupine Mountains offer a variety of unique experiences for visitors to see peak colors, including hiking through crisp fall temperatures along the Escarpment Trail, exploring picturesque waterfalls like the Manabezho Falls and Nawadaha Falls, and marveling at Lake Superior’s stunning shoreline from atop Lake of the Clouds Overlook. The park is also home to several historic sites such as Nonesuch Mine ruins and old-growth forests that showcase Michigan’s rich history.

Other must-do activities within the park

  • Hiking: With over 90 miles of trails, hikers can explore diverse landscapes ranging from dense forests to rugged cliffs. Popular trails include Big Carp River Trail, Little Carp River Trail, and Government Peak Loop.
  • Camping: Immerse yourself in nature by staying overnight in one of the many campgrounds available within the park. Options range from rustic backcountry campsites to modern cabins with amenities like electricity and indoor plumbing.
  • Fishing: Anglers will find plenty of opportunities for fishing on inland lakes and streams, as well as along the Lake Superior shoreline. The waters in the area are known to contain a variety of species, including brookies, rainbows and salmon.
  • Wildlife Viewing: The park is home to a diverse array of wildlife such as black bears, white-tailed deer, bald eagles, and even moose. Keep an eye out for these majestic creatures while exploring the park’s trails and scenic overlooks.

In addition to its natural beauty and recreational opportunities, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park also hosts various events throughout the year like the Porcupine Mountains Music Festival, making it a perfect destination for visitors seeking both adventure and entertainment during their Michigan fall color tour.

Key Takeaway: 

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Upper Michigan is a must-visit destination for fall color tours. Visitors can hike through vibrant fall colors along the Escarpment Trail, explore picturesque waterfalls like Manabezho Falls and Nawadaha Falls, marvel at Lake Superior’s stunning shoreline from atop Lake of the Clouds Overlook, camp overnight in one of the many campgrounds available within the park and participate in various events throughout the year like Porcupine Mountains Music Festival.

fall colors in michigan
Image by kurtschwoppe from Pixabay

FAQs in Relation to Best Time to See Fall Colors in Upper Michigan

What is the Best Week for Fall Colors in the Upper Peninsula Michigan?

The best week for fall colors in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan typically falls between late September and mid-October. However, peak foliage can vary depending on factors such as temperature, rainfall, and elevation. To get accurate predictions closer to your visit, check a reliable Fall Foliage Map. Generally speaking, the last week of September should be your best bet.

Which Michigan Spot is Named the No. 1 Best for Fall Foliage?

M-22 Highway has been named one of America’s Best Scenic Autumn Drives by USA Today due to its stunning lakeshore scenery and vibrant autumn hues. The highway stretches from Manistee to Traverse City along Lake Michigan’s shoreline, with abundant small town stops along the way.

What are the Best Weeks for Fall Colors?

The best weeks for fall colors in Michigan generally range from late September through October, with peak foliage occurring at different times across the state. To plan your visit accordingly, it’s best to refer to a Michigan Fall Color Prediction Map that provides updated information on peak color periods.

What Month do the Leaves Change Color in Michigan?

In Michigan, leaves typically begin changing color around mid-September and continue throughout October. Peak foliage varies depending on location within the state and environmental factors such as temperature and rainfall. Past peak viewing in early November can still be spectacular, but as weather conditions can become less predictable, earlier in the season would be a better time.

best time to see fall colors in michigan

Conclusion: Fall in Michigan is Spectacular!

If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience amidst nature’s splendor, Michigan is one of the most outstanding locations in the world you could choose during autumn. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula fall display and its Northern Lower Peninsula natural attractions offer some of the most breathtaking foliage in the country.

To plan your trip to coincide with the best time to see the colors in Upper Michigan, use a reliable 2023 Michigan fall color map. There is something for everyone during autumn in Michigan, from exploring lighthouses and scenic drives to hiking through state parks and enjoying boutique accommodations.

Best Camping Sites Upper Peninsula Michigan Offers

lower tahquamenon falls

Camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is akin to paradise for every kind of camping enthusiast. The area offers an array of camping choices, from state parks to national forests to lakeside campgrounds to RV parks to rustic campground options.

Whether you’re looking for stunning fall scenery or a summer beach vacation, Upper Peninsula’s camping destinations have recreation for everyone. Here’s our guide to camping at some of the best camping sites Upper Peninsula Michigan offers:

What are the top state park campgrounds in Upper Peninsula Michigan?

Reserve your site at any state park at Michigan State Parks and Harbors online system.

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1. Tahquamenon Falls State Park – Top Upper Peninsula Camping Destination

Any list of the best campgrounds in the Upper Peninsula will rate Tahquamenon Falls State Park as among the most picturesque places to camp in the state of Michigan. The 40,000-acre park features two stunning waterfalls and more than 35 miles of hiking trails, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers. Visitors can also enjoy fishing, canoeing, and kayaking on the Tahquamenon River. It’s no small coincidence that the mailing address for this park is Paradise, Michigan.

The Upper Tahquamenon is over 200 feet wide, and is the second-largest waterfall east of the Mississippi in the United States. The Lower Tahquamenon Falls is a group of five waterfalls clustered around a footbridge-accessible island. The four-mile hike between the Upper Falls and Lower Falls is a favorite among trekkers but is a short drive for those who are differently abled.

tahquamenon falls
Image by Jason Gillman from Pixabay

This state park has over 300 campsites divided into three areas that accommodate both tent and RV camper requirements. Additionally, the park offers on-site facilities, including restrooms, showers, and fire rings to make camping comfortable.

lower tahquamenon falls
Image by Meg Bell from Pixabay

2. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – One of the Best Camping Sites Upper Peninsula Michigan Offers

Covering over 60,000 acres in area, Porcupine Wilderness State Park is a massive, rugged park with varied wilderness landscapes. This park has over 90 miles of trails for hikers, anglers, and cross-country skiers. The “Porkies” offer the rugged 16-mile-long Lake Superior Trail with a range of hiking from along the Lake Superior shore to pathways through virgin forests and along Lake of the Clouds to Presque Isle River and Falls.

trail to lake superior best camping sites upper peninsula michigan
Image by Meg Bell from Pixabay

The park has four rustic campgrounds that cater to tent campers and seasonal cottages for RVs with electric hookups. On-site facilities include primitive toilets and showers. Camping in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is an excellent way to experience the northern Michigan wilderness.

best places to camp in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Image by David Sieberg from Pixabay

3. Fort Wilkins State Park

Located near the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Copper Harbor, Fort Wilkins State Park has more than 175 campsites, two lighthouses, and a historic fort complex dating from the 1840s, at which visitors can learn from a living history program with costumed interpreters presented by the Michigan History Center. With frontage on Lake Fanny Hooe, Lake Manganese, and Lake Superior shoreline, the park offers watercraft-accessible and backcountry sites as well as more conventional sites you can park next to or walk to from your vehicle.

fort wilkins state park
Pavel Trebukov, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What are the best RV camping sites in Upper Peninsula Michigan?

1. Straits State Park

Straits State Park is an ideal camping location for RV enthusiasts. The park sits on the shore of Lake Huron and offers breathtaking views of “Big Mac” – the Mackinac Bridge to the Lower Peninsula. Straits’ RV sites are equipped with modern amenities, including electrical hookups, restrooms, and showers. Visitors can engage in different recreational activities, such as hunting, fishing, and hiking in the park.

view of bridge from straits state park
Notorious4life (talk) (Uploads), CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

2. Soo Locks Campground

Soo Locks Campground is a popular campground among RV enthusiasts. It provides a perfect location for those looking to explore and experience Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The campground features around 20 RV campsites with full hookups and includes picnic tables and fire rings. Visitors can also opt for the Soo Locks Boat Tour.

3. Tourist Park Campground

Tourist Park Campground is located just west of Munising and is a great place for RV or tent camping. This is one of our favorite campgrounds in all of Michigan, in a great location right on the shore of Lake Superior. Campsites have full hookups and include free Wi-Fi, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is a 14-day limit on your stay; you won’t want to leave! Visitors can take a walk on the nearby sandy beach and local trails or explore local shops and restaurants in Munising. Make reservations as soon as they open up, or they’ll be gone in a flash.

4. Aune Osborn Campground

No one camping in Upper Peninsula Michigan should miss the opportunity to view freighter traffic on the St. Mary’s River from Aune-Osborn Campground at Sault Ste Marie in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Unlike state forest campgrounds, there is far less privacy here, but the views of the ships making their way to and from the Soo Locks are the star attraction. The campground lies on 20 riverfront acres; park your RV on one of the premium waterfront sites for the best view of the action on the water.

Book your camping reservations for Aune Osborn by clicking here.

What are the top scenic campsites in Upper Peninsula Michigan?

1. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, located in Munising, offers something new for campers to see. The park, characterized by its colorful rock formations, offers campers a chance to experience the stunning dunes and beaches. It also has numerous hiking trails, and visitors can take boat tours to explore the colorful cliffs. The drive-in campsites provide utility hookups, restrooms, and showers. Make your reservations here.

pictured rocks camping sites upper peninsula michigan
Image by jjgunn from Pixabay

2. Keweenaw Peninsula

Keweenaw Peninsula is known for its serene natural beauty and breathtaking views. The site features a unique camping experience in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The peninsula is rich in history and culture, and campers can enjoy exploring the local mining towns and sampling the local cuisine. Some of the campsites provide restroom facilities while others have full utility hookups. Choose from the following: Fort Wilkins State Park (mentioned above), McLain State ParkBaraga State Park, and Twin Lakes State Park.

keweenaw map
Photo by Betsy Wuebker

3. Castle Rock Lakefront Campground

Castle Rock Lakefront Campgrounds is a picturesque camping site located on the shores of Lake Huron in the St. Ignace area. It provides a splendid view of Lake Huron with 2000 feet of beachfront, which provides a serene and beautiful camping experience. The campsite offers modern amenities, including water and electrical hookups.

castle rock
Bobak Ha’Eri, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What are the best fall camping spots in Upper Peninsula Michigan?

1. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

In the autumn months, the Porcupine Mountains State Park offers a range of beautiful colors on the trees and changing foliage. The park has an extensive network of hiking trails with picturesque views of Mirror Lake and the Lake of the Clouds. The park also has four camping areas in different locations and offers amenities, including fire rings, restrooms, and showers. See additional information above.

2. Keweenaw Peninsula

The Keweenaw Peninsula provides scenic views in the fall. Campsites offer brilliant reflections from the shores of Lake Superior and the breathtaking color story of leaves changing throughout the area. Hikers and anglers will enjoy outstanding experiences. Campsites will have a range of amenities such as restrooms, showers, and hookups.

Copper Harbor – Photo by Betsy Wuebker

3. Hiawatha National Forest

Hiawatha National Forest is a serene location to go camping near Munising. The site provides campers with a breathtaking view of fall colors and serene nature walks in the surrounding area. The site also offers several hiking trails and biking tours for visitors. The campsite has numerous amenities, including fire rings, restrooms, and modern showers.

What are the top lakefront camping sites in Upper Peninsula Michigan?

1. Michigamme Shores Campgrounds

Michigamme Shores Campgrounds offers an array of recreational activities to visitors, including birdwatching and swimming. Located on the shores of Lake Michigamme in the western Upper Peninsula, the campground offers fun activities for the kids, including water park, train ride and bounce pad. The campground features both rustic and modern campsites, including fire rings, restrooms, and showers. There is a camp store and laundry facility on site.

2. Van Riper State Park

Van Riper State Park is one of the Upper Peninsula’s most popular camping sites. It offers campers a variety of outdoor recreational activities, including boating, fishing, and swimming. This campground also sits on the shores of Lake Michigamme. Van Riper features rustic and modern campsites with full hookups, fire rings, and modern restrooms.

3. Otter Lake Campground

The Otter Lake Campground is one of the best inland lakes camping sites for families with kids in Upper Peninsula Michigan. The campground sits on the shores of Otter Lake, offering visitors beautiful views of the lake. Visitors can engage in recreational activities such as boating, fishing, and hiking in the surrounding area. The campsite features modern amenities such as water, electrical hookups, and septic dumps. Reserve from their website.

4. Muskallonge Lake State Park

Muskallonge Lake State Park is one of the popular places for camping in the central Upper Peninsula if you prefer a seemingly remote, yet convenient camping experience. About 45 minutes either way from Pictured Rocks or Tahquamenon Falls, it’s great for swimming and fishing. The park is also the darkest sky State Park in the system, making it one of the best camping opportunities to see Northern Lights in Michigan.

copper country sign info keweenaw michigan
Photo by Betsy Wuebker

Overall, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula offers numerous developed campgrounds and primitive camping options that offer visitors an unforgettable outdoor experience. If you enjoy camping in the comfort of your RV or tent camping under the stars, UP Michigan camping provides endless opportunities for exciting outdoor fun. Plan your camping trip in Upper Peninsula Michigan and enjoy the great outdoors now!

15 best camping sites Michigan Upper Peninsula forest trail to lake

How to See Northern Lights in Michigan: 10 Best Tips

mackinac bridge northern lights

Thinking about Northern Lights viewing? The Great Lakes State can offer fans who are willing to seek out the right locations and times a memorable reward! If you’ve ever dreamt of seeing a magnificent Aurora Borealis light display, use these 10 tips to help you plan to see Northern Lights in Michigan.

see northern lights in michigan mackinac bridge at night

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Discover the best place and time to see Northern Lights in Michigan

The Upper Peninsula is a perfect spot to view the Aurora Borealis light show in the dark sky, while the Lower Peninsula can also provide a way to witness this natural phenomenon. Learn where to go and when to catch the best display of the Northern Lights in Michigan using the following tips.

What are Northern Lights and What is the Science Behind the Northern Lights?

How do Northern Lights form?

Northern Lights, which are also known by the Greek-derived name Aurora Borealis – meaning “windy sunrise,” are a natural phenomenon that occurs in the Earth’s atmosphere at high latitudes. Solar wind carries the sun’s charged particles to interact with our Earth’s geomagnetic field and atmospheric gases. This interaction stimulates atoms and molecules and produces a bright, colorful light display that can be seen in the night sky.

What causes the different colors in Northern Lights?

The colors of Northern Lights depend on the atmospheric gas that is being affected by the charged particles. The most common colors are green caused by oxygen atoms and pink, caused by nitrogen molecules. Sometimes Northern Lights may have red, blue, yellow, or purple colorations, depending on the altitude of the display and other factors.

How does the interaction of solar wind and Earth’s atmosphere create Aurora?

The fascinating science behind Northern Lights has documented the interaction of charged sun particles, which are carried by solar wind, with our planet’s electromagnetic field and gases in our atmosphere. When the charged particles hit our magnetic field, they are funneled toward the North and South Poles, Along the way, they collide with atmospheric gases. This collision releases energy in the form of light.

Do latitude and hemisphere affect Aurora visibility?

Your location probably has the biggest impact on your chances of seeing the elusive Northern Lights, which are most commonly seen at higher latitudes. This is where our planetary magnetic field is the strongest. For example, people living in the northern hemisphere are more likely to get a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis, while those in the southern hemisphere may witness Aurora Australis (same phenomenon, different location).

mackinac bridge northern lights
Image by Jason Gillman from Pixabay

What is the connection between Aurora and Earth’s magnetic field?

The connection between Northern Lights and Earth is a scientifically complex and fascinating phenomenon. Basically, the magnetic properties here help to funnel charged particles from the sun towards the poles, where they collide with gases in the atmosphere and create the glowing lights of the Aurora.

Why is Michigan a Great Place to see the Northern Lights?

Michigan is Geographically Desirable for a Date with the Aurora

Michigan is located in Northern Hemisphere at and around the 45th parallel. Its extensive shoreline along Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron makes it a prime spot to see the best Northern Lights activity in the continental United States. The state’s geography also offers a variety of landscapes, from dense forests and rocky shore areas to wide-open fields and dark sky parks to isolated island locations. Any of these can provide ample opportunities for aurora-seekers to appreciate the beauty at different angles and elevations.

Michigan has historic connections to Northern Lights and indigenous culture

Native American cultures in the Midwest region have revered and studied the Northern Lights for centuries. The Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) people in this region interpret the Waawaate (the Ojibwe name for the Aurora) as a continuation of a Great Flood legend. Indicative of their rich traditions of storytelling and mythology, they believe the waawaate to be a spiritual manifestation with the healing and protective powers. Today, visitors to Michigan can learn more about this cultural connection through museums and educational programs throughout the state.

What is the best time to see Northern Lights in Michigan?

Northern Lights can happen during any time of the year, but usually the best time to see them in Michigan is in winter. Michigan winter nights are longer and darker, and the skies are usually clearer in colder weather. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t see them during other seasons. The key is to find clear, dark skies with low light pollution to distract from a full view. Also, be aware that the intensity of the show cannot always be discerned with the naked eye, so come prepared with your camera (even your smartphone can be superior) or other night vision equipment in order to get a full experience.

Where are the best places to see Northern Lights in Michigan?

Michigan has Several Dark Sky Parks and Preserves

In recent years, Michigan has taken steps to protect its dark night skies and offer more opportunities for stargazing and Aurora hunting. Several parks and wildlife preserves have been officially designated by the International Dark-Sky Association, offering some of the darkest and clearest skies in the state.

Top spots to see Northern Lights in the Upper Peninsula

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is the best bet with its miles of shoreline on the south shore of Lake Superior, offering some of the darkest and most remote skies in the state, This makes it a prime spot for Northern Lights to appear. In particular, places in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula like the Keweenaw’s Eagle Harbor, the Houghton area, Marquette, and Copper Harbor make for great locations north of the Mackinac Bridge to witness the Aurora Borealis.

Great locations in the Keweenaw Peninsula

The Keweenaw Peninsula is another hotspot with breathtaking views for Northern Lights, thanks to its position jutting out into Lake Superior and its high elevation. Places like the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park – one of only three internationally designated parks in the state, Bete Grise Preserve, and the Copper Harbor lighthouse are the best viewing spots for Aurora hunters.

Isle Royale National Park

If you’re lucky enough to score an overnight stay in Isle Royale National Park, you may be rewarded with a celestial show which could include a meteor shower, a full view of the Milky Way, and planets in our solar system, including the moon. 

Lower Peninsula Michigan parks with good Aurora viewing chances

While the Upper Peninsula takes the cake for the darkest skies in Michigan, there are still a number of places in the Lower Peninsula that offer good chances for observing the Northern Lights. Use our links from any of the interactive maps below to book your stay. 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore a must-see natural attraction in Michigan about 25 miles west of Traverse City.

Port Crescent State Park near Port Austin is at the tip of Michigan’s thumb.

Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Emmet County outside of Mackinaw City in Northern Michigan are some of the best spots with less light pollution and good open views of the northern horizon.

What time of year is best to see Northern Lights in Michigan?

Month-by-month guide to Northern Lights in Michigan

The factors that affect Northern Lights visibility – solar activity and geomagnetic conditions – are always changing, This constant state of change makes it difficult to predict the optimum times to see them. Generally, however, the winter months from November to March tend to offer the most chances for clear skies, which make for unimpeded views opportunities, with peak months being December and January.

In 2023, magnificent displays occurred well into April. A major solar flare burst of energy was observed on March 3.  But an even better precursor of Aurora activity was to follow the next month. A coronal mass ejection, a stronger force than the typical solar wind interactions, occurred on April 21, resulting in excitement for sky-watchers far more south in America than usual.

photographer silhouette northern lights

How to use Aurora forecast websites to plan your visit

There are several websites and apps that can help you track the conditions for Northern Lights appearances in Michigan, providing real-time data on the KP (geomagnetic activity) index, solar flares, and other variables that can influence local Aurora visibility. Some of the most popular Northern Lights forecasts include the Space Weather Prediction Center operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), AuroraWatch from our neighbors to the north, and the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Why fall is a great time to witness magnetic activity in Michigan

Although winter is often thought of as the best time to view Northern Lights in Michigan, fall can be a lucrative bet for great opportunities to catch a glimpse of what can seem to be a very elusive phenomenon. In particular, the months of September and October flanking the Autumn Equinox can be a good time to witness the Aurora, with clear skies and the added bonus of autumn foliage.

How do I increase my chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Michigan?

Tips for finding light pollution-free areas in Michigan

One of the most important factors in improving your chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Michigan is finding a location with little to no light pollution. This means your best chance to see them is to avoid cities and other areas with bright lights and instead seek out remote areas with a lack of light. State and national parks, wildlife preserves, and camping areas can all provide some of the best opportunities for dark sky viewing.

How to take great photos of the Northern Lights in Michigan

Capturing the beauty of the Northern Lights in photos can be challenging, but with a little practice and the right equipment, it is possible to take enviable shots. To get the best results, you will need a camera with manual controls, a wide-angle lens, and a sturdy tripod. Experiment with high ISO settings and longer exposure times, and also try a remote shutter release to avoid the dreaded camera shake.

What to pack for your Michigan Aurora viewing trip

To have a successful and comfortable Northern Lights experience, you will need to be prepared for the cold and changing weather conditions Michigan blesses us with. We all know the drill: dress in layers that you can add or subtract, and bring warm footwear – socks and sturdy, weatherproof boots.  Gloves or mittens for frosty finger protection and hats to help maintain body temperature are imperative.

Make sure you have a good supply of food and water on hand. It’s possible you will be out in the elements for hours, so be prepared for any development.

Don’t forget to pack your camera and tripod, and any other equipment you need for taking photos of the lights.


In conclusion, experiencing the beauty of Northern Lights in Michigan is an awe-inspiring sight. The Great Lakes State provides numerous opportunities to see the Aurora Borealis in all its glory, and with the help of the tips provided in this post, you can be well on your way to witnessing a stunning light display. Remember these 3 things:

  •  plan your trip ahead of time, 
  • stay up-to-date with the latest weather forecasts,
  • and find a location with low light pollution to get the best vantage. 

Don’t wait any longer, start planning for a Northern Lights trip in Michigan today!

7 Must-See Natural Attractions in Michigan Outdoors with Serious Wow Factor

Our list of top 7 natural attractions in Michigan outdoors, each with its own variation of a simple recipe for happiness: simply add fresh water.

natural attractions in Michigan Pinterest Pin

Michigan’s natural beauty is due to its abundance of fresh water, with ample opportunities for recreation and soaking in the scenery. For those new to Michigan, or for residents eager to explore Michigan’s natural attractions, our list of places to see in the Michigan outdoors covers all parts of the state.

This post contains affiliate links and/or references to our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on or make a purchase using these links.

Turnip Rock

Ecosystems rich with diversity and picturesque rock formations left by receding glaciers along the shores of Lake Huron comprise the Tip of the Thumb Heritage Water Trail, a 110-mile paddler’s playground.

All skill levels will enjoy scenery that ranges from undeveloped wetlands, which are wildlife havens, to sand dunes, cliffs, sea caves and ruggedly stacked rocks. The most famous of these rock formations is Turnip Rock, which is only accessible by water.

Public domain image from 1906 postcard

To get to Turnip Rock, rent kayaks or stand up boards at Port Austin Kayak Rental. From there, it’s a short, easy paddle.

Lighthouses, small town festivals, wineries and campgrounds complete the shore experience throughout the Blue Water Area. For places to stay in Port Austin, check out our map:

Silver Lake Sand Dunes

Over 2,000 acres of sugary sand dunes are a favorite destination for off-road vehicle enthusiasts, hikers, and sunbathers on a strip of Oceana County between Lake Michigan and Silver Lake.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Safety rules and regulations are the name of the game for all vehicles and passengers entering the dunes.

Comfortable resorts and campgrounds, friendly B&Bs and cottages await in the towns of Hart, Mears, and Pentwater. For more information on where to stay and activities in the area see our post: 10 Fun Things to Do in Silver Lake Michigan

Tahquamenon Falls

Comprised of upper and lower falls about four miles apart from each other on the Tahquamenon River in the eastern Upper Peninsula, Michigan’s most famous falls are a popular destination in any season, and one of the most photographed natural attractions in Michigan.

Tahquamenon Falls Michigan natural wonder
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Mentioned in Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha, the Falls are located within Tahquamenon Falls State Park, whose mailing address is apt: Paradise, Michigan.

Image by Jason Gillman from Pixabay

A restaurant and gift shop is housed in a logging camp building replica. Hikers and picnickers will enjoy a variety of designated trails and relaxation areas. Fishing, canoeing, hunting and camping are all available.

7 amazing Michigan natural wonders Pinterest pin

For places to stay near Tahquamenon Falls, check out our map:

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Take a boat from our favorite town in the Upper Peninsula, Munising, to America’s first National Lakeshore, Pictured Rocks. This is one of two National Lakeshore sites included in our list of natural attractions in Michigan.

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Your leisurely tour will take you along Lake Superior’s beaches, dunes, and waterfalls. Majestic sandstone cliffs painted by Nature’s hand in rich mineral colors rise high above the emerald waters to make ever-changing abstract vistas.

bridal veil falls pictured rocks national lakeshore
Bridal Veil Falls Public Domain Image

You’ll imagine battleships, castles and battleships, even an Indian head, in the enormous formations. The photographer in you will be inspired!

See boat tour options for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Charles Dawley from Petoskey. Cropped and color-corrected 2008-07-29 by Daniel Case [CC BY 2.0 (]

Click on the map below to see places to stay near the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

With bluffs up to 450 feet high over Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes can boast sweeping vistas over 35 miles of shoreline to the Manitou Islands beyond.

Ashinaabe legend tells of a grieving mother bear forever waiting on shore for her two cubs who have fallen behind. They, in turn, become the two islands while the sands of time blanket her in repose.

Sleeping Bear Dunes aerial view Michigan natural attraction
National Park Service employee [Public domain]

Set aside for preservation in 1970, the protected area also comprises the traditional Manitou Passage between shore and islands where many 19th century commercial vessels make their graves, lost due to unpredictable weather conditions and unmarked shoals.

Check out places to stay near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Lake of the Clouds

Located in the Porcupine Wilderness State Park in Ontonogan County in the Upper Peninsula, pristine Lake in the Clouds is positioned between two protective ridges.

Troy A Heck, Public Domain

Two trails provide access to the lake: the Big Carp River Trail and the Escarpment Trail. The lake can also be viewed from a scenic, accessible overlook on M-107.

Stevenliuyi [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

For places to stay in the Lake of the Clouds area, click on the map below.

Kitchi-Iti-Kipi Spring

Michigan’s largest freshwater spring, Kitchi-Iti-Kipi was called “Mirror of Heaven” by early Native Americans, and is the subject of other indigenous legends.

Doug Coldwell [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

Located in the Palms Book State Park near Manistique, Kitchi-Iti-Kipi is a low-key attraction which features a hand-operated viewing raft over the 40 foot deep pool, which has a constant year-round temperature of 45 degrees.

Kitchi-Iti-Kipi Michigan freshwater spring natural attraction
Doug Coldwell [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

The spring’s moving water creates a changing kaleidoscope of sand formations, with seemingly suspended fish and branches in its depths, for one of the most unique natural attractions in Michigan.

For more things to do and places to stay in the Kitchi-Iti-Kipi area, check out the section on Manistique in our post: 5 Best Small Towns in Michigan on Lake Michigan or click on the listing in the map below:

Pinnable Images

Michigan natural wonders
michigan natural attractions

5 Best Small Towns in Michigan on Lake Michigan

best small towns in michigan on lake michigan

You can find some of the best small towns in Michigan on Lake Michigan. They’re also some of the prettiest places in Michigan, so don’t miss!

best small towns in michigan on lake michigan

Michigan has some of the prettiest small towns in America. For atmosphere, you’ll want to visit the best small towns on Lake Michigan for a variety of activities in all seasons.

Our five recommendations for the best small towns in Michigan on Lake Michigan were all settled in the 19th century, and boast architecture, atmosphere, and great places to stay and eat. Read on for our tips and put them on your list!

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best small towns in Michigan - Saugatuck aerial view
Robert Moore [Public domain]

Location: West Michigan, on the Lake Michigan shoreline south of Holland.

Notable for: A celebrated artistic community since the 19th century, Saugatuck was prominent in the Arts and Crafts movement.  More than a dozen art galleries and many small, independent shops make this a tourist mecca.

Where to Eat: Grow for all day breakfast and lunch in a café style environment, The Southerner for traditional cuisine flavored in the American South, the Wild Dog Grille for pretty patio dining, and the Saugatuck Drugstore Fountain for authentic vintage fare.

Where to Stay: The Hotel Saugatuck – a new luxury hideaway B&B with 18 king suites, many with water views. The hip and historic Judson Heath Colonial Inn has eight guest rooms with garden or village views, full breakfast.

Use and book with our interactive map for other stay options!

Don’t Miss: Oval Beach – a tropics-caliber beach with sugar sand and sweeping sunset views. The Chain Ferry – an old-fashioned hand-propelled trip across the Kalamazoo River, the only chain ferry remaining in the United States.

saugatuck chain ferry best small town on lake michigan
Parkerdr [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]


aerial view of leland best lake michigan town
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, photographer not specified or unknown [Public domain]

Location: Western Leelanau County on the Lake Michigan shoreline north of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Notable for: A thriving 19th century commercial fishing center on the site of a former Ottawa village located adjacent to a natural fish ladder, turned elite summer resort served by steamship traffic.

Where to Eat: Fish is what you’re here for and several places in town know just how to do it. Try The Riverside Inn’s Gallic-influenced menu for a special occasion, Village Cheese Shanty for box lunches,  and Carlson’s of Fishtown for specialty fresh and smoked fish to take home.

Where to Stay: The Leland Lodge – family owned and operated next to the golf course with its own Bogey’s 19th Hole restaurant on site. The Whaleback Inn – a classic Northern Michigan experience on Lake Leelanau.

Use and book with our interactive map for other stay options!

Don’t Miss: Fishtown – the historic fishing village and wharf area preserved by a dedicated non-profit. A day trip to South Manitou Island will take you on a 90-minute ferry ride where you can enjoy a lighthouse tour and a beach hike next to a shipwreck.

fishtown area of leland in winter
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Bay View

bay view chapel
Bobak Ha’Eri [CC BY 3.0 (]

Location: just east of the city of Petoskey on US 31

Notable for: A 19th century community modeled on the Methodist Camp Meeting concept, with the Chautauqua movement incorporated. Consisting of more than 30 community-owned buildings and about 440 residential “cottages,” Bay View is famous for its Eastlake, Queen Anne, Stick and Shingle Style architecture, with its buildings dating from 1875 – 1900. The entire community is on the National Historic Register.

Where to Eat: If you’re not going to eat at the fine restaurants located in your vintage hotel (see below), try The Side Door Saloon for great bar and grill fare, or The Palette Bistro, which offers Mediterranean flair.

Where to Stay: For a vintage experience, book a stay at Stafford’s Bay View Inn (check out the murder mystery weekend options in the fall) or The Terrace Inn and 1911 Restaurant, both within the community. A mile away, in downtown Petoskey, is Stafford’s Perry Hotel, which dates from 1899 and has 75 guest rooms. Or, try the Gingerbread House for a B&B experience in a historic rooming house.

bay view cottages best small lake michigan town
Bobak Ha’Eri [CC BY 3.0 (]

Use and book through our interactive map for accommodations!

Don’t Miss: The Bay View Music Festival – the oldest continuous music festival in North America, since 1886, with a wide variety of options for various musical tastes. Wander through the Bay View Association to enjoy the architectural riches and read the history of the buildings.


chicago club in charlevoix
Bobak Ha’Eri [CC BY 3.0 (]

Location: Southwest of Petoskey on US 31 along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Notable for: A late 19th century resort developed by the Chicago-based First Congregational Church, and expanded with the advent of rail service and Lake Michigan passenger liners around the turn of the 20th century. The Loeb family, founders of Sears, Roebuck & Company, built an experimental farm here, and Charlevoix was popular with Chicago gangsters during Prohibition.

aerial view of charlevoix
User:My name [CC BY 3.0 (]

Where to Eat: For breakfast and brisket BBQ, check out Smoke on the Water. Sandwich and burger fans will want to visit Scovie’s Gourmet. Terry’s Place is the number one rated restaurant in town and you’ll not be disappointed.

Where to Stay: Weathervane Terrace Inn is an historic, romantic hotel centrally located. Charlevoix House offers a B&B experience in the heart of town.

Use and book through our interactive map for accommodations!

Don’t Miss: The Mushroom House Tour – 28 magical structures designed by Earl Young in a storybook style. Castle Farms Guided Tour – the restored 1918 experimental farmhouse modeled after stone buildings in Normandy. Now a premier wedding venue and home to Michigan’s largest outdoor model railroad and a WWI museum.

mushroom house in charlevoix
Kathleen Conklin from Falls Church, USA [CC BY 2.0 (]


red lighthouse in manistique small town on lake michigan
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Location: On Lake Michigan’s North Shore on US2 in Schoolcraft County, Upper Peninsula

Notable for: Nicknamed the “Emerald City” after the nearby Kitch-iti-kipi springs.

aerial view of manistique
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, photographer not specified or unknown [Public domain]

Where to Eat: For waterfront dining, The Upper Crust gets top marks. We like the vintage speakeasy atmosphere at Tap 21. Try the Cedar Street Café for an outstanding breakfast in a quaint atmosphere.

Where to Stay: Top rated Quality Inn gets good reviews, but our surprise preference is the Econolodge.

Don’t Miss: Kitch-iti-kipi – Michigan’s largest freshwater spring, also known as the “Mirror of Heaven.” The Manistique Boardwalk and River Walk is a lovely shoreline stroll with informational signage and views of the famous red lighthouse.

kitch-iti-kipi spring near manistique
Doug Coldwell [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

If you enjoyed this post on the 5 Best Small Towns in Michigan on Lake Michigan, you may want to check out 10 Fun Things to Do in Silver Lake, Michigan – another favorite area with dunes right on Lake Michigan.