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 > That Time of Year Again! Great Lakes Itinerary?

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tragusa3

upstate south carolina

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Posted: 01/12/18 04:32pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

You guys have been invaluable over the last few years helping us to plan our summers. We're hoping you're willing to help again. We will be in a region that we know little about.

Family of 4 with twin 13 year old boys. We will have 6-7 weeks to play around and go as we wish. We have family to visit in Detroit (3-4 days) and Traverse City (4-5 days), so the meat of the trip will center on Michigan, but with this much time, we need some other ideas. Wisconsin? Minnesota?

We don't have passports, so would probably avoid Canada. But, then again, next year is a northeast trip and we might want to include Nova Scotia, Montreal and Quebec...so maybe the passport investment is worth it now? Anyway...

Our tastes lean heavily to outdoors and remote, but are open to must see city stuff. We are equipped for boon-docking and would like to include some.

So, what would you make sure to put on the itinerary?

Thanks in advance!


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bluie5

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Posted: 01/12/18 04:45pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We have Sault St. Marie on our list to visit sometime. Also Lake Itasca in Minnesota where the headwaters of the Mississippi River are. We enjoy history and try to incorporate some of that into our trips. Gerald Ford Museum in Michigan, Herbert Hoover in Iowa, Abraham Lincoln in Illinois, etc.


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rexlion

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Posted: 01/12/18 05:43pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Detroit area: the Henry Ford Museum is very good. Consider camping for a night (or more) at Algonac SP where you can see the ships moving up and down the St. Clair River.

West side: plenty of sandy beaches. Silver Lake SP has dunes that you can drive on (rent a dune buggy or use personal 4WD), and 2 miles south of the dunes is a nice lighthouse, Little Sable Light. You'll find even more sand at Sleeping Bear Dunes, where you can drive to the top in one place (the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive) or just climb the dune; there's nice swimming spot just north of Empire at North Bar Lake, it's a small lake so the water is warm in summer but you can walk about 100 yards to the L. Michigan shore for a colder dip.

There are some great rivers for canoeing or kayaking, or just plain floating downstream. Some others will probably name the ones on the west side. I'm more familiar with the Rifle River on the east, which winds up near Standish (my old stompin' ground). Definitely a good way to spend a summer day.

Farther north on the east side, near Oscoda, is the AuSable River. Well respected trout fishing waters. The Lumbermen's Monument is worth a stop. While there you can get a campsite also, if you like. I recommend this one, for which you must go west, then north, then back east (it's on the north side of the river), then take a sandy 2-track for a few hundred yards to reach this site...
[image]

There's a nice state park at Harrisville. Then if you want to visit a fairly secluded and quiet L. Huron beach, check out Negwegon SP. Last I knew, you had to drive another sandy 2-track to reach this place, so I rarely saw more than 3 or 4 other people there, and sometimes none.
A bit further north, the Presque Isle Lights are worth seeing. The old lighthouse is no longer used, but it's quite picturesque, and you can climb up inside the new lighthouse just up the road.
West of Rogers City, Ocqueoc Falls is pretty even though small, and some folks swim there.

Mackinaw City is touristy, with many small shops you can walk around at. Smell the fudge being made, and caramel corn. Buy souvenirs. At the east end, before going in to the dock parking, walk north a block to the local bakery and pick up some of the best homestyle cinnamon bread ever, or some pecan rolls... yum! There's a park along the north shoreline with another lighthouse, and a great view of the Mackinaw Bridge. There's a fort in town, and another fort on Mackinac Island... take a ferry to this no-motor-vehicles island for a trip back in time; I recommend a bicycle ride around the island. Many people have recommended camping at Mill Creek RV Resort, or you can go west of town to Wilderness SP.

A nice drive will take you into Petoskey where there are many large old homes built by the well-to-do decades ago. And drive the Tunnel of Trees north of Harbor Springs.

In da U.P. (yah, dat's how dey say it), there's tons more to see and do. Along L. Michigan you have a nice open beach along US 2 at one point, stop and feed the gulls and cool your feet in the water. The Seney Wildlife Refuge is north of Engadine. More state parks near Manistique if you are looking to camp, and be sure to day-visit Palms Book SP to see the Big Spring... 40 feet down in water so clear, you can see the fish at the bottom.
[image]
Continuing west and then a bit south, see the historic buildings and artifacts at Fayette SP.

Closer to the L. Superior side, you have the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, watch the big ships working their way through the locks. If your rig isn't too big, you can ferry across to Neebish Island and camp on a quiet island. Pleasant camping at Brimley SP also. Then at Paradise you have Tahquamenon Falls, and also visit the lighthouse-turned-museum at Whitefish Point. Woodland Park CG at Grand Marais affords a good view of the lake. At Munising, the boat ride along Pictured Rocks is entertaining; ideally, try to take the sunset cruise on a calm, sunny day. Bay Furnace CG west of town is supposed to be nice (I haven't been there yet, it's on my list).

Continuing west, the Keweenaw Peninsula is worth a visit. McLain SP is along the water. Drive M-26 along the shore for some great lake views, and there's a waterfall just off the road plus an interesting looking monastery. Buy some thimbleberry jam (it's similar to raspberry). Ft. Wilkins is another good place to visit and/or camp. Then you have the Porcupine Mountains; the east unit features Lake of the Clouds, and the west unit has a great hike along a river with 3 small waterfalls in succession.

Oh, and be sure to visit Bond Falls near Paulding, it's my favorite waterfall in Michigan even if not so famous as Tahquamenon.

I'm sure I have missed more than half of the good stuff!


Mike G.
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2gypsies

Enjoying the West!

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Posted: 01/12/18 10:10pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Since you'll be visiting Traverse City, definitely stay at Platte River Campground in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Get reservation ASAP. It's extremely popular - and it's a gem. We volunteered there for 9 seasons. It's an easy drive into Traverse.

Part of Sleeping Bear is South Manitou Island in Lake Michigan. You can do a day trip by taking the ferry from Leland. Bring your food/drinks along - no stores. We gave the lighthouse tours for 3 summers.

That whole area is awesome!


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rexlion

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Posted: 01/13/18 05:17pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hmm, I hope I didn't scare everyone else away with my long post! I thought of another place you don't want to miss: Frankenmuth. The town has a Bavarian theme. Home of Bronner's Christmas Store (all year around Christmas decorations), Zehnder's Restaurant with their chicken dinners, and dozens of specialty shops and souvenir places. The Frankenmuth Brewery has a variety of good beers (from IPA to Dunkel) and good food; I recommend a pizza and a flight (several small sampler glasses of different beers). You could spend all day here.

If you go beyond the U.P., one area that stands out is the north shore of Superior in Minnesota. There's a series of nice state parks, most with waterfalls because there is a sudden drop-off in topography paralleling the shoreline. Be sure to turn off and see Palisade Head, where you can park and stroll to the edge of a cliff, with the lake straight down below you about 200 feet; if the weather is nice, you're likely to see people rappelling up and down the cliff face. There's a nice hike to a similar overlook just up the highway, in Tettegouche SP. You'll need reservations to camp in a state park here, they're popular, but without reservations you should be able to get into one of the NF CGs, like Eckbeck near Finland (small sites but a few are do-able). At many of these state parks you can find pleasant hikes along the riverbanks above & below the falls, and at one (Temperance or Cascade, I forget which) I saw teens jumping off the rocks into the river below, maybe 15 feet down. (Of course all the bikinis might prove hazardous and cause your boys to suffer eye strain.) At Grand Marais (yes there's one in MI and one in MN!), have a pizza at Sven & Ole's and then walk out past the coast guard station to Artist's Point. Then drive the Gunflint Highway to the NW from town, back into the wild woods where you can hear the loons; you have several NF CGs to choose from along there.

tragusa3

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Posted: 01/13/18 09:46pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

WOW! I've been away from the computer all day and just getting home many hours after my bedtime! I'll read and respond in the morning, but this is amazing so far. Thanks.

dapperdan

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Posted: 01/14/18 07:46pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Yeah, Bond Falls........ We found it by "accident". Worth seeing at least once.
[image]

Lots to see in the UP, it's our favorite place to be in the fall.
Dan





2gypsies

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Posted: 01/14/18 09:26pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

At the west side of the Upper Peninsula is a 'waterfall trail'. Stop at a Visitor Center and they have maps to many falls. Most are easy to get to.

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park at Copper Harbor is a neat place - lots of history and beautiful area in the Upper Peninsula.

Stay at Bay Furnace national forest campground in Munising to tour Pictured Rocks Nat'l Lakeshore. Some Lake Superior lakefront sites. The late afternoon cruise is best for seeing the color on the rocks.

Stop at 'Da Yoopers Tourist Trap' in Ishpening for lots of laughs. Be sure to get some pasties for a scrumptious hearty lunch. They're a miner's sandwich that they took to work.

tragusa3

upstate south carolina

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Posted: 01/15/18 05:54am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Can't thank you guys enough. I've added every mention into our Google Map. Now up to 30 points of interest!

Keep suggestions coming. Probably will end up scooting south along the western shore of Lake Michigan. Don't fancy the cities, but a quick stay in Milwaukee and Chicago are probably merited.

michigansandzilla

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Posted: 01/15/18 06:15pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Don't exclude crossing the border. It can be affordable and uncomplicated. Many people live in Canada and drive into Detroit every day for work without a problem. I took 12 of my daughter's girl scout friends into Canada this past September, they were only 8, their parents weren't present, and they didn't need passports, (only birth certificates for minors). You do not need a passport to cross into Canada by car with your own minor children. You can get an enhanced license (which is cheaper than a passport) and your children only need their birth certificates to travel by car with their parents, until age 16. Those of us living on the border aren't intimidated, we do it all the time.

If you're brave enough to cross into Canada, try a Lake Superior Circle Tour and be sure to take the kids to Niagara Falls. I'm pretty sure Niagara is in the parenting traveling guidebook as a required sightseeing stop.

Lake Superior Circle tours are my dream.
Search Lake Superior Circle Tours for amazing trip ideas. It was 29 degrees a few years ago on our July 4th trip at Tahquamenon. Be sure to pack coats and gloves and bug spray!!


You've received lots of advice already, so here's my two cents without duplicating their advice.

Lake Michigan has the most crowds. On a weekend in the summer, it's almost impossible to get a campsite at a state park on the Lake. The farther north you go, the fewer people you'll see. Book every single campsite for state parks for your entire stay in Michigan in the lower peninsula, even for week days. You'll have more freedom in the UP but don't expect open campgrounds on Lake Michigan at any point in the summer.

Don't waste any time on Lake Erie.

Lake Huron is lovely and not as populated as Lake Michigan. It doesn't have the huge white sand dunes, but it has fewer people.

Traverse City is the single most overrated city I've been too. If you're staying there with family, you can day trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes, it's only 45 minutes away. If you need a campground, you'll want to stay at Platte River, set your alarm to book this site for the minute it's open. Be sure to stop by Cherry Republic. They have free samples and it's delicious. Ferry over to Manitou Islands, there are two, research which you'd prefer to visit. Tube down the Platte River.

Lake Superior is pure bliss. The beaches, the water, the color...spend lots of time on it and visit different areas, each beach is different. Some have sand, some have smooth rocks or agates, some have tons of drift wood, and some have sandstone. The Porkies has all of the above and on the same beach; their Ranger programs are amazing.
You can swim in Lake Superior. We've done it twice. The warmest spot in the Lake is in Whitefish Bay, Brimley state park.

You can't go to Michigan without visiting Mackinac Island. Stay at Wilderness state park, you'll thank me later. If you don't make it to the island, stop into Fort Michilimackinac. It's just like the Fort on the island, with fewer people. Don't take your camper to the fort, it won't fit.

While in the UP, be sure to visit Adventure Mine in Greenland, Mi. It's a closed copper mine that offers tours. My family thoroughly enjoyed this. Very educational, fun, etc, etc. 5 stars. I even bought the tshirt.

If you love national parks, go to Isle Royale and Voyageurs. They are all about the water.

Have a great time. Planning is half the fun!!


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