Visit the Eastern Upper Peninsula’s top attractions with this four-day itinerary
Up here, vacation begins when you cross the Mighty Mackinac Bridge. Hovering halfway over Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, your adventure starts to the soundtrack of the bridge’s rattling grates below you. When you arrive, you’ll land in the Eastern Upper Peninsula.
A trip to the Upper Peninsula for first-timers usually means seeking out the most popular sites, and fitting in as much fun as you can in four days. To help get you started, we’ve curated an Eastern Upper Peninsula itinerary with some of those hot spots and food along the way. Follow along and find destinations on our Google Map.
Day 1: St. Ignace
Now that you’ve driven over the Mighty Mac, get a photo with her. Stop at the Straits State Park scenic outlook. Here, you’ll find a platform with some binoculars so you can see the bridge up close and personal — as long as you have quarters! There are also stairs that lead to a beach. It’s perfect for a family photo with Lake Huron and the bridge.
Swing by Clyde’s Drive Into eat a ¾-pound Big C burger, grab a malt and stretch out your legs before continuing on your trip. Don’t worry, they also have several smaller sandwiches to choose from for those of you with smaller appetites! To get a headstart, call in your order when you’re about 20 minutes out. Be sure to check the Facebook page because this joint is always featuring fun fried foods, slushies and different desserts. Although there is limited seating inside, you can always drive a few minutes to the shores of Lake Huron. This business accepts cash only.
While you’re along the shoreline, you can’t miss Wawatam Lighthouse. This attraction started out in Monroe, Michigan as part of a welcome center in 1998. It came to St. Ignace in 2004. Named after the railroad ferry, Chief Wawatam, this lighthouse is on the same dock the ferry used from 1911 to the 1980s. You can see the Chief’s old liftgate to this day. In the winter, the lighthouse helps to guide snowmobilers across the ice bridge from Mackinac Island.
Museum of Ojibwa Culture at Old Mission: Here, you can learn about the history of the 17th- century Huron Indian Village, Father Marquette’s French Jesuit Mission and local Ojibwa traditions and culture. Admission is by donation.
If you’re big on adventure, climb to new heights by climbing Castle Rock. Stand 200 feet above St. Ignace … just climb a few steep steps to get there! Don’t worry, you can rest halfway up. The cost to climb is $1. When you’re done, take a photo with Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox.
If you have time to spare, add an extra day to your trip. Once you explore St. Ignace, head out to Drummond Island— a unique piece of paradise. Take a ferry or plane, and explore over 100 miles of ATV and ORV trails, kayak the Heritage Water Trail or scuba dive to shipwrecks. Relax and take in the beauty of this gem on Lake Huron.
Coined Michigan’s Crown Jewel, Mackinac Island is a unique experience to get outdoors and travel back in time at one destination. Located between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, this 3.8-square-mile island doesn’t allow cars. You’ll either get around by foot, bicycle and even horse. Each visit can be tailored to the individual, so here are some options to create your own Mackinac Island Adventure:
Get to the Island by ferry: You have two options for ferry rides on your journey to Mackinac. Both Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry and Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry allow you to buy tickets online or in-person at their booths in St. Ignace. Those of you planning to bike later during your U.P. trip can pay extra to bring your bike to the Island. This will save you time and money when trying to get around. If you do take a bike, walk it up the dock when you reach the Island. Wait until you get to Main Street to hop on and take off! Ferry schedules vary depending on the day and time of year, plan accordingly. Many paid Island activities can be packaged with your ferry ticket. Look into the Bridge Tour ferries, which take a slight detour under the Mackinac Bridge for a perfect photo op.
Bike Rentals:Along Main Street, you’ll find several places to rent a bike by the hour or for the day. Rates vary. You can decide which rental location is best for you and learn more about the rules of the road. The Island has 1,400 bikes for rent!
Explore!With a bike, you can go anywhere. Journey around M-185, the 8-mile perimeter of Mackinac Island. Climb up to Arch Rock for a stunning view over Lake Huron. Ride into the center of the Island to discover the many trails of Mackinac Island State Park — which covers over 82% of the Island. A lesser-known botanical trail connects the Scout Barracks of Fort Mackinac to Arch Rock. Ride or walk underneath the trees and read up on the species you see along the way. Lastly, make sure to peruse the hills and valleys of East and West Bluffs. You’ll see beautiful cottages on one side of the road, a watercolor painting come to life on the other.
More sites to see: Mackinac Island has several quick stops perfect for photo ops, learning more about the Island’s history and seeing its natural formations. Make sure to check out Fort Holmes, the highest point on the Island. You can walk inside the fort to read about its role in the War of 1812. Also visit The crack in the Island, Sugarloaf Mountain, the cemeteries, Anne’s Tablet, British Landing (and Mackinac Island Historic State Park British Landing Nature Center), Devil’s Kitchen, the Michigan Governor’s Summer Cottage, Skull Cave and Brown’s Brook.
Visit Fort Mackinac: Walk through the many original buildings inside Fort Mackinac, which was built by the British during the American Revolution. Observe cannon firing demonstrations, rifle firing demonstrations and talk to historic interpreters to gain insight into what life was like in the fort. Make sure your kids swing by the Kids’ Quarters! Admission to Fort Mackinac also gives you access to the Biddle House, American Fur Company Store and Dr. Beaumont Museum, Benjamin Blacksmith Shop, McGulpin House and The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum.
Mackinac Island Carriage Tours: If getting around on bicycle or foot isn’t going to be enjoyable for you, there are still ways to see popular spots on the Island! Take a horse-drawn carriage tour, which will mix facts of the past with education about the city of Mackinac Island. Each tour will take you through the Historic Downtown, to Surrey Hills Museum (Buy a pack of fresh donuts to enjoy during your tour!), through Rifle Range and to Arch Rock with drop-off points at Fort Mackinac and Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory. Some stops may vary depending on the Island’s pandemic protocols. If you’re lucky, the driver may have some carrots for children aboard to feed to their horse teams.
Cindy’s Riding Stable and Jack’s Livery Stable: For the visitor who likes to take the reins, this is a unique twist to transportation! Ride a horse around the Island on a guided tour, or steer your own carriage. Don’t worry, the horses know where they are going and travel this path daily!
Get to know the town: Mackinac Island is home to 500 residents year-round. Much like any other city, it has a post office, UPS delivery service, emergency services, City Hall, school and newspaper. You’ll spot most of these businesses along Market Street, and the school is close to the Grand Hotel. The newspaper, The Mackinac Island Town Crier, charges $1 per paper. You can buy it or subscribe to it inside their office to catch up on the local news. It’s one of the cheapest souvenirs you can purchase on the Island!
See the world’s longest porch at the Grand Hotel: Admission costs $10 if you aren’t staying at the Grand Hotel. This fee gives you access to walk on the lawn (Look for the Secret Garden!) and take a self-guided tour through the hotel. Some rooms have placards signifying celebrities who have stayed at the high-end resort. Admission also gives you access to the porch and Cupola Bar, where you can relax and enjoy a drink among beautiful scenery.
A site for movie fanatics: Although Christopher Reeve was Superman and Jane Seymour was Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, the two also starred in a movie that was filmed on Mackinac Island — Somewhere In Time. Fans of this flick can visit the Somewhere In Time gazebo, the very spot along M-185 where Elisa McKenna and Richard Collier speak for the first time, Mission Point Theater where McKenna performed her play (the seat Reeve sat in is marked with a plaque) and see other memorabilia in the Grand Hotel. The movie plays every Tuesday night at Mission Point Theater, which is free to guests.
Downtime along the main drag:Downtown Mackinac Island, you’ll find plenty of stores, fudge shops and restaurants. Enjoy free fudge samples everywhere, try pecan balls, purchase t-shirts and locally-made art to remember your trip!
Food options: Most restaurants have tables to sit at inside, but on a sunny day, grab food to-go and picnic at Marquette Park or Windermere Point, overlooking the Straits of Mackinac under the fort. Here are some popular food options: Island Slice Pizzeria, Watercolor Cafe, Seabiscuit Cafe, the Chuck Wagon, the Tea Room at Fort Mackinac, Lucky Bean Coffee House, the Pancake House and the Grand Hotel’s buffets and served meals.
Kid-friendly activities: Check out Putt Putt at Mission Point Resort (at night, it becomes glow-in-the-dark), The Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House and Insect World and the I-spy garden at the corner of French Lane and Market Street. Your kids will love these activities!
Once you’ve had your island fun, take the ferry back to St. Ignace to stay the night before continuing your U.P. adventure. Each ferry ticket includes a round trip.
Day 3: Sault Ste. Marie/Paradise
Soo Locks: A colorful history surrounds the world-famous Soo Locks which form a passage for deep-draft ships around the rapids of the St. Mary’s River. The two longest locks in the world are part of this National Historic Site, which has been in operation since 1855. The Visitor Viewing Area includes observation decks so close to the big ships that you feel you can touch them. Take a Soo Locks Boat Tour to learn more.
Whitefish Point: This cape on the northeastern side of the Upper Peninsula is the closest navigation mark to the wreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald site at 17 miles away. The ore freighter sank in 1975. Every vessel leaving or entering Lake Superior must pass Whitefish Point.
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory: Whitefish Point is a phenomenal concentration spot for migrating raptors, waterbirds and songbirds. Learn more about this natural migration corridor on guided tours, both day and night. This nonprofit is an affiliate education and research facility of the Michigan Audubon Society. The American Bird Conservancy has also designated Whitefish Point as a globally Important Bird Area.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum:Learn about shipwreck history and preservation work through top quality exhibits of shipwreck artifacts, artwork, shipwreck models and lifelike mannequins. While here, you can view shipwreck footage, the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald, the 1861 lightkeeper’s quarters and much more.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park: The Upper Tahquamenon Falls is the second-largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. It has a drop of nearly 50 feet, is more than 200 feet across and has a maximum water flow of more than 50,000 gallons per second. Be sure to hike or drive the four miles downstream to the Lower Falls, made up of five smaller waterfalls. Play in the Lower Falls on foot or rent a rowboat and journey out to the small island in between them all.
Crisp Point Lighthouse: This is one of the original five U.S. lifesaving stations on Lake Superior between Whitefish Point and Munising. When volunteers are available, you can explore the Visitors Center and climb to the top of the lighthouse tower for a panoramic view of Lake Superior. Take time to wander the winding shore, keep an eye out for passing freighters and pause to consider all of the stories of ships and keepers this lighthouse holds. Rock hunters may strike treasure as Crisp Point is known for agates.
Muskallonge Lake State Park: Known for its forests, lakes and streams, this area is situated between Lake Superior and Muskallonge Lake. It used to be a lumbering town, Deer Park, in the late 1880s and an Indian encampment before that. By 1900, the white pines that used to be milled in Muskallonge Lake were depleted, and the lumbering operation moved elsewhere. Today, you’ll see remnants of sawdust piles and a few partly submerged logs in the lake.
Oswald’s Bear Ranch: Visit the country’s largest bear-only bear ranch! Oswald’s made a commitment to the conservation science of bears in 1984 and opened to the public in 1997. Today, 40 rescued bears continue their lives while wandering these natural habitats. Explore, observe and take photos with rescued bear cubs. Just make sure to have cash or check on you as Oswald’s doesn’t take cards or have an ATM on site.
If you have spare time, visit Seney National Wildlife Refuge: Seney National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. The 95,238- acre refuge encompasses the 25,150 acres of Seney Wilderness Area, which contains the Strangmoor Bog National Natural Landmark. The Whitefish Point Unit of the Seney National Wildlife Refuge is located nearly 80 miles away from the headquarters. This 53-acre tract is renowned for its concentrations of birds during migration. Whether you would like to drive the self-guided auto tour, stop by the Visitor Center, walk our trails, go hunting or fishing, take photographs, canoe or kayak, you’ll enjoy yourself.
We’ve included some popular eateries in our itineraries, but you can peruse more dining options here. You can also search for lodging by city here. We understand that once you’ve had a taste of the U.P., you can’t get enough of it. We certainly can’t! If you’re looking to continue through the rest of the peninsula, check out our Central and Western U.P. itineraries for ideas.