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1. Keweenaw Peninsula
At the top of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Keweenaw sticks up into Lake Superior. The peninsula is characterized by mountains and cliffs, streams and waterfalls, and splendid views of Lake Superior. Along the shore of the lake, you can collect some interesting rocks, and at night, the clear air gives way to some amazing views of the stars. You will have very limited cell phone reception, but the nature should make up for it. Make your way from the Keweenaw Bay at the Southern end to the small town of Copper Harbor at the Northern tip. Enjoy the hiking and swimming and rock collecting and make sure you eat a pasty or two. Look to the Northwest on a clear day and see if you can spot the next location on the list, Isle Royale.
2. Isle Royale National Park
Get away from it all and take in the beautiful sights of the 900 mile long Island. Experience wildlife up close by backpacking, boating, kayaking, or scuba diving. Isle Royale provides a serene getaway from civilization. Your visit will give you’re the opportunity to experience the breathtaking nature and also to take some time to reflect. The Park is made up of one large island, and 450 smaller islands that surround it. Stepping into the heavily forested land is like stepping back in time. Isle Royale today still looks the way the surrounding mainland looked hundreds of years ago. Come and enjoy the peace and beauty of the large Northern Island.
3. Mackinac Island
Visiting Mackinac Island is also a step back in time, but not quite as far back as Isle Royale. The Island first became a popular tourist destination in the 1880s, and hotels and restaurants were built. Since then, it has remained a popular vacation spot for Great Lakes region residents, but the 1880s charm has been preserved. There are no cars on the Island, only horse drawn carriages, and the buildings maintain an old-fashioned style. But the buildings only occupy one side, and the other side is a State Park. Mackinac Island is a great place to enjoy beautiful nature, water sports, horse-drawn carriage rides, and some of the most delicious fudge you will ever taste! Head over to Michigan’s lower peninsula’s northernmost tip, then hop on a ferry to the island.
4. Warren Dunes State Park
The Dunes in the Southwestern tip of Michigan rise 260 feet above the surface of the lake to offer some spectacular views. Hiking through the sand is beautiful, but don’t underestimate how challenging it gets! It’s a great way to get a work out in. The park also has three miles of shoreline for you to cool down in after hiking, and a campground to settle down in for the night. But before you head back to the tents, be sure to watch the sun set over Lake Michigan. It looks amazing from 260 feet up!
5. Apostle Islands
Lake Superior’s Southwestern tip is home to the amazing rock formations that make up the Apostle Islands (NPS website here). There are 21 islands in all, off the coast of Wisconsin. Among other attractions, it is a popular place to kayak. Kayaking is the perfect way to see the red rock columns that extend from Lake Superior and hold the islands. However, if kayaking isn’t your thing, you can try one of boat cruises that explores the islands. There’s something for everyone! Be sure to bring a camera to capture the amazing geological feature.
6. South Bass Island
South Bass Island offers both a quiet and serene nature experience with its State Park and a more upbeat experience with Put-In-Bay. Choose one or the other or both! South Bass Island State Park is located on the top of the islands’ white cliffs. It is a great place for quiet camping in the woods while enjoying some breathtaking views of Lake Erie. Head to the other side of the Island, and you will find Put-In-Bay. This small but upbeat city is home to hotels, bars, restaurants, historic homes, and an International Peace Memorial. It has been rated one of America’s top 10 party islands, as well as one of the best small cities. Take a boat over to Ohio’s South Bass Island to experience it!
7. Niagara Falls
It’s not a Great Lake, but it is an interesting part of the Great Lakes system. Niagara Falls is where the water that began in Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie plunges down and makes its way to Lake Ontario. The water falls at a rate of 32 feet per second, and each second, 3,160 tons of water flow over the falls. The falls are a beautiful and breathtaking geological feature. You can experience them from an observation deck or from a boat. Just be prepared to get wet!
8. Bruce Peninsula National Park
Bruce Peninsula, located in Ontario, Canada, is home to some of the clearest water in the Great Lakes, as well as forests, cliffs, and diverse wildlife. There are over 200 species of birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. The mountains and rock formations make it a great place to hike along Lake Ontario’s beautiful shore. It is also a popular place for kayaking, canoeing, and swimming in the summer and snowshoeing and skiing in the winter.