Coastlines of Michigan's Upper Peninsula
There is something to be said about living in Michigan. Its beauty is just stunning. There are areas that seem to be untouched while other areas are filled with the hustle and bustle of the big city. But one of the most amazing things about Michigan is that we are surrounded by the awe and beauty of the Great Lakes. No other state can claim this. There are many unbelievable places to view the beauty of the Great Lakes, some in Michigan and some in the other states that share a border with one of the lakes. Michigan has the longest shoreline coast of any state in the union with an amazing 2,147 miles of mainland coast. This is not including any of the large number of islands that you will find in any one of the Great Lakes.
Upper Michigan's Coasts
With all of the coastlines, Michigan has some of the most beautiful beaches around. Exploring the Great Lakes of Michigan is an experience not to be missed. I’ll share an amazing, almost secret beach with you that is along Lake Michigan. But for that, we must travel north, to the land of the Yoopers. If you are not familiar with the term Yooper, it will be one that you will hear often on your visit to the Upper Peninsula. This is the term that is used to refer to anyone who lives in the Upper Peninsula. So come along as we explore some of Michigan’s magnificent coastlines.
Lake Michigan is probably most notable for its coast along the great city of Chicago. While I’m sure it is amazing to visit this bustling city with it beautiful coastline, there are some much more quaint places to enjoy this Great Lake. If you plan to cross the Mackinaw Bridge, be prepared that once you pass through the city of St.Ignace that is immediately after the bridge, you will be hard pressed to find anything that resembles a big city for many, many miles. So in that regard, be prepared with gas, snacks, and beverages. There are no stores or vendors that will sell you food, no place to buy souvenirs, it is truly a spot that entices you simply by its beauty. There are a few places along the way that have some lookout points with some rustic restrooms.
My favorite spot to enjoy the shores of Lake Michigan is along the southern coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We travel each summer to the UP (Upper Peninsula) to visit family. After crossing the Mackinaw Bridge, I always opt to take US 2. The scenery of traveling along Lake Michigan is absolutely breathtaking. You even forget that you are no longer able to get cell phone service! When we go, I also keep the suits, towels, buckets and shovels handy. If it is a sunny day, I suit up the kids and we pull off on the side of the road for a leg stretch and quick dip in the water. The absolute beauty of it all is that the water is shallow for as far out as the eye can see. Even though my kids always have their life jackets on, I have no worries about them going out too deep. You can even stop before the bridge in Mackinaw city for a couple of pasties and make it a picnic on the beach. If you have little ones, they will be sure to sleep after all of that fun in the sand, sun, and water.
Swimming in Lake Michigan
Shores of Lake Michigan
Finding the spot is very easy. Once you cross the Mackinaw Bridge, you will follow I-75 for a very short period of time until you see the junction for US 2. You will take US 2 west and before you know it, you will see the beautiful shoreline of Lake Michigan. In the beginning, it will be grassy and you will not notice a place for you to stop. However, after about 15-20 miles you will see the shores open up. If it is a nice day, you will notice that cars are parked alongside of the road. This is your cue to pull over. Through the tall grasses you will find a beautiful sandy beach with a stretch of inviting water for as far as the eye can see.
Since there is no exact location to point to on a map, I reference a campsite that is within the relative area of this highway beach.
We are now headed west toward the city of Marquette and the shores of Lake Superior. Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes and is in fact the largest fresh water lake in the world when measured in surface area. There are many things to do along the shore. In addition to walking out to the lighthouse, one can also search for beach glass. We used to collect these as kids and challenge each other to see who could find the most. Watching the freighters as they sail into the harbor to load up their ore is another unique experience to have on this Lake Superior shoreline. You can dip your toes in the water, although be prepared because Lake Superior is the coldest of the Great Lakes. The northern proximity and the vastness of this lake does not allow the waters to warm much, even in the summer months.
If you want to view the beauty of Lake Superior from a slightly higher elevation, you can take a drive through the wooded area in Presque Isle Park. As you drive, you may see some deer or other wildlife. If you are exceptionally lucky, you may even see some of the albino deer that are know to inhabit the area. There are several places that you can pull over and look out onto Lake Superior or even walk along some paths and do some exploring. There are spots for you to fish at as well. One of the great catches in the whitefish. Presque Isle Park also has picnic areas, pavilions, playground areas, an ice cream shop and picnic areas with grills. It is a great place to explore and enjoy the sand and water or just watch the beauty of the freighters or other boats sailing on the lake.
There are also a lot of other activities to do along this shoreline. In Mattson Lower Harbor Park, there is a beautiful wooden playground that sits right next to the shore. It is a great way to spend some time and to allow the kids to burn off some energy. There are bathrooms adjacent to the playground and even a snack shop that sells ice cream! During the summer months, this area hosts many festivals and fairs such as the Seafood Festival, the International Festival, concerts, fireworks and more. In the wintertime, it hosts Winterfest and there is an outdoor skating rink. So check the local calendar to find out if there are any special events during your visit. Matteson Lower Harbor Park is located on Lakeshore Boulevard, just before Presque Isle Park.
Along Lake Shore Boulevard, there is also an opportunity for you to visit the Marquette Maritime Museum. The exhibits include the history of Marquette's Maritime History, Native American's birch bark canoes, Coast Guard information, information of Lake Superior shipwrecks, and much more. The cost to tour either the lighthouse or museum is $4.00 or $7.00 for both, children 12 and under are $3.00 for one or $5.00 for both. It is a hidden gem within the city of Marquette.
As you traveled to the shore, you drove through downtown Marquette. There are many unique and wonderful shops and restaurants to explore after you spend some time in the sand and water. If you enjoy shopping, this is a great place to shop for some fantastic finds that are unique to the Upper Peninsula and its Finish heritage.
Again, this area is hard to miss. If you follow the hills of downtown Marquette to the bottom where the shoreline is, you will travel along the shore on Lake Shore Boulevard. As you head toward the shoreline, you will drive right to the entrance of Presque Isle Park.
Although there are countless beaches in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, these are two the ones that we frequent the most often. They are gorgeous and family friendly. If you ever find yourself traveling in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I highly recommend that you experience at least one of these beaches.
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