The Mackinac Bridge, the iconic five-mile gateway between Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas, is the perfect starting point for unforgettable day trips. The second you cross this engineering marvel into St. Ignace, you will feel a burning desire to explore. 

Here are five fantastic day trips, all beginning and ending at the Mackinac Bridge. They will enthrall you whether you are a history buff, nature enthusiast or adventure seeker.

Tahquamenon Falls: A Thundering Wonder

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Morning: Drive to Tahquamenon Falls State Park

As you venture into the Upper Peninsula, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a MUST stop. It will take about 1.5 hours to reach it from the Mackinac Bridge without stopping. The most direct route will bring you north on M-123 through cedar forests and a brief stretch along Lake Superior’s beautiful Whitefish Bay shoreline. 

An alternate route goes along US-2 and Lake Michigan’s shore. Pull over to gaze at the incredible views before heading north on M-117. Take a break in Newberry, the Moose Capital of Michigan, and visit the Tahquamenon Logging Museum where you can see the original buildings and memorabilia from the once-booming lumberjack days. If you can, plan your trip to attend one of the museum’s monthly Lumberjack Breakfasts, but arrive hungry! Continue to the state park on M-123 going through acres of forests. 


Late Morning: Upper Falls Exploration

Upon arrival, head straight to the Upper Falls, one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. Marvel at the sheer power and beauty of the thundering falls as you stroll along the well-maintained boardwalks and observation points. Don’t forget your camera — this is a sight you’ll want to capture!

Afternoon: Lunch at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub

After exploring the Upper Falls, enjoy a hearty lunch at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub in the park. Savor their delicious fare, and if you’re a beer enthusiast, try one of their locally brewed craft beers.


Late Afternoon: Lower Falls Adventure

Spend the remainder of your afternoon exploring the Lower Falls, a series of five smaller cascades tumbling around an island. You can reach the falls from the Upper Tahquamenon Falls with your vehicle or by hiking on a scenic trail.  

Once there, rent a rowboat to get close to the falls or take the 143-foot, universally accessible pedestrian bridge over to the island. Then go around it on an ADA-accessible boardwalk. For an even closer look, wade into the Tahquamenon River — it’s chilly, but you will always remember the water churning and swirling around your feet.

Sault Ste. Marie: Ultimate Freighter Watching

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Morning: Drive to Sault Ste. Marie

Set out early for a day trip to Sault Ste. Marie, about an hour’s drive northeast of St. Ignace. Michigan’s oldest city, known as the Soo, is rich in history and offers an intriguing mix of old and new.


Late Morning: Soo Locks Tour

Start your visit with a tour of the famous Soo Locks, another of Michigan’s engineering feats. This National Historic Site’s two locks are among the longest in the world! They are the only way thousands of domestic and international ships go back and forth between Lake Huron and Lake Superior each year. It is how ships and boats of all sizes navigate the 21-foot drop between the two Great Lakes. 

You can watch how this amazing engineering feat operates from the Visitor Viewing Area’s observation decks in the Soo Locks Park. Or better yet, take an exciting ride through the locks on the Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours or the Original Soo Locks Boat Tours from mid-May to mid-October.

Afternoon: Lunch and Riverfront Walk

Enjoy lunch at one of the riverfront restaurants, offering views of the St. Marys River and freighters. Afterward, take a leisurely walk along the riverfront, where you can learn about the area’s history through interpretive signs and historical markers.


Late Afternoon: Museum of Ojibwa Culture and Tower of History

Explore the Museum of Ojibwa Culture to gain insight into the region’s Indigenous heritage. Then, visit the Tower of History, where a rapid elevator ride takes you to the top for unmatched panoramic views of the busy St. Marys River, the “Twin” Sault Ste. Marie cities (one in America, the other in Canada), the International Bridge and the picturesque Canadian Shield. 


Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: A Natural Masterpiece

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Morning: Drive to Pictured Rocks

When you want to break free from routines, nothing compares to a day spent at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This ancient geological masterpiece stretches 42 miles along Lake Superior between Grand Marais and Munising and is about two hours northwest of St. Ignace. It is renowned for its gorgeous, mineral-stained sandstone cliffs, pristine beaches, historic lighthouses and over 100 miles of trails. While it’s doable to see the high points in a day, you can easily fill several days here. 


Late Morning: Pictured Rocks Cruise

Upon arrival, embark on a Pictured Rocks cruise. These boat tours offer the best views of the cliffs, with their vibrant hues and unique formations. The narrated tour provides fascinating insights into the geology and history of the area.


Afternoon: Picnic and Hiking

After the cruise, enjoy a picnic lunch at Sand Point Beach, the only beach with picnic tables out on the sand (one is wheelchair-accessible). Then, hit one of the park’s many trails. 

Popular hiking options include Chapel Falls Trail, a 2.5-mile round trip hike along an old roadbed, through an upland maple forest (a definite fall color hike from September to early October) and ending at the breathtaking 60-foot high waterfall. Or ​​Munising Falls Trail lets you walk 800 feet one way on a paved, ADA-accessible walkway that takes you to an observation deck to see the falls. 


Late Afternoon: Kayaking Adventure

If you’re up for more adventure and an experienced paddler, rent a kayak and paddle along the shoreline. Less experienced kayakers can take a guided tour to see a different perspective of the cliffs and waterfalls and take a closer look at the caves and arches.

The Les Cheneaux Islands: A Secluded Retreat

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Morning: Drive to Les Cheneaux Islands

From St. Ignace, head east 45 minutes to the Les Cheneaux Islands, an archipelago gem comprising 36 small islands in the northern waters of Lake Huron. You will love the shoreline views along the way!


Late Morning: Island Hopping by Boat or Kayak

The most popular activity is the rare opportunity to boat on Lake Huron in the calmer waters between the islands. Whether you bring a boat or rent one during your visit, touring the area by water is a must. 

If you prefer paddleboarding or kayaking, locations like Search Bay offer some of the calmest and clearest waters on the Great Lakes. Each island has a unique charm with beaches, coves and forests. Look for local wildlife, including deer and various bird species. Woods and Waters offers sunrise, sunset, full moon and stargazing guided tours.

Afternoon: Lunch in Hessel or Cedarville

Stop for lunch in one of the quaint towns of Hessel or Cedarville. Enjoy fresh, local cuisine at a waterfront restaurant, savoring the tranquility and beauty of the area.


Late Afternoon: Immerse in Local Culture

Spend the rest of your afternoon playing at the Les Cheneaux Golf Club, the oldest continuously operating links course in Michigan — it began operation in 1898! Try the Les Cheneaux Distillers’ Straits selection of small-batch vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey. Or delve deeper into the area’s fascinating maritime and wooden boat history at the Historical Museum and Maritime Museum.


Mackinac Island: Go Back in Time

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Morning: Ferry Back in Time to Mackinac Island

Start your day with a scenic ferry ride from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island. The journey is a treat, offering mesmerizing views of Lake Huron and the majestic Mackinac Bridge. Once you step off the ferry, you’ll travel back hundreds of years. This popular vacation destination is famous for its well-preserved 18th-century fort, Victorian-era hotels and mansions and its ban on motor vehicles — plan to explore the island by foot, bicycle or horse-drawn carriage.


Late Morning: Explore Historic Sites

Begin your island adventure with a visit to Fort Mackinac, a former British military outpost offering spectacular views and interactive exhibits. Wander through the well-preserved buildings and learn about the island’s strategic importance during the War of 1812. 

Other historic sites within walking or biking distance of the ferry docks include Mission Church, Michigan’s oldest surviving church building, St. Anne’s Catholic Church, the Biddle House, The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum in the historic Indian Dormitory and the longest porch in the world on the Grand Hotel. 

Afternoon: Lunch and Shopping

Head to downtown Mackinac Island for lunch at one of the charming eateries. Enjoy a leisurely meal indoors or on an outdoor patio, soaking in the island’s quaint atmosphere. Afterward, indulge in some shopping at the unique boutiques and don’t forget to take home some famous Mackinac Island fudge!


Late Afternoon: Bicycle Ride or Carriage Tour

Rent a bicycle and ride around the island’s 8-mile perimeter, taking in the stunning shoreline and lush forests. Alternatively, hop on a horse-drawn carriage for a guided tour of the island’s key attractions, including the legendary Grand Hotel, Arch Rock and the Butterfly House.

Book Your Stay Now!

The Mackinac Bridge is more than an architectural feat; it’s a gateway to some of the most breathtaking and diverse attractions in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Any of these day trips will give you the adventures and refreshing relaxation you need. So, book your stay now, pack your bags and start exploring one glorious day at a time!


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