Are you looking for sandy beaches, great food, lake adventures and a getaway somewhere wild? Then the Upper Peninsula of MI (Michigan) should be on your bucket list! We were blown away by the endless beaches (the water was cold, but besides that, it gave me Florida vibes!), historic downtown and gorgeous hikes. If you are from around the Minneapolis/ St. Paul area, this will be about a 6 hour drive for you. If you are hoping to fly to the nearest airport, you would want to fly into Sawyer International Airport.

Being we are from the Midwest, it saved us a lot of money to road trip to the Upper Peninsula MI, and we even got to see amazing things along the way, making a brief stop in Bayfield, Wisconsin. If you are in the Midwest, I suggest driving. This was a cheaper adventure for us being we were able to drive and you can find affordable lodging experiences- especially in Marquette and Ishpheming.

Are you all about the lake life? Consider reading these articles to plan a North Shore MN adventure: 4 Day Road Trip for North Shore, Best Ways to Experience Grand Marais and Best Places to Eat on the North Shore of MN.

Pro Tip: The Upper Peninsula of MI is very rural, with many places (outside of bigger towns like Marquette) not taking cards of any kind. I highly suggest bringing cash- especially if you are visiting any state parks!

Where We Stayed

Our home base was Marquette, which is the biggest town in the Upper Peninsula. Marquette is located along Lake Superior and is 40 minutes away from Munising, famous for the Pictured Rocks National Shoreline. We stayed the Chickadee Cottage, which was only a few steps away from the beach, McCarty’s Cove. Chickadee Cottage is also located downtown, which was very convenient since Marquette has so many places to explore. Chickadee Cottage can host 4 people, has a washer/dryer, fire place, fully stocked kitchen and beautiful backyard. It averages $130 per night.

Bonus Stop: Bayfield, Wisconsin

If you are traveling to the Upper Peninsula MI from the West on a road trip or from Wisconsin, consider making a stop in Bayfield, Wisconsin, a lovely little harbor town on the Lake Superior Shores. We took a break from our road trip here and fell in love with the adorable downtown area. Bayfield is also home to the iconic Apostle Islands. While we stopped here on a whim and didn’t have time to explore the Apostle Islands, there are cruises and kayak tours available.

We viewed the harbor area, then had a late lunch at The Pickled Herring a few steps away from the harbor area. Their must try is the fish and chips! Next, we viewed a gift shop next to The Pickled Herring, Joanne’s Scandinavian. They have a little bit of everything here and the option of dining outdoors with a view of Lake Superior.

For treats, my kids enjoyed ice cream around the corner from Dessert Dock. Please note, they are cash only. I was craving a Matcha tea on my way out and my mom wanted a coffee, so we stopped at Wonderstate Coffee– and let me tell you, this welcoming, adorable shop had the BEST strawberry matcha iced tea I have ever tasted!

Looking for fun adventures in the Midwest? Check out our articles, Most Charming Towns to Visit in Minnesota and The Ultimate Guide to a Family Vacation in Black Hills, South Dakota.

Road Trip Itinerary for Upper Peninsula MI

Day One: Downtown Marquette and Munising in Upper Peninsula MI

1. Sunrise at McCarty’s Cove

McCarty’s Cove was a 1 minute walk from our Airbnb and the perfect place to watch the sunrise over Lake Superior. The cove, located off Lakeshore Boulevard, is a popular sandy beach area, with a volleyball net and life guard station. You can also see the beautiful, bright red U.S. Coast Guard Station from here.

2. Breakfast in Downtown Marquette

Downtown Marquette is filled with different breakfast options that all have their own specialties. We wanted to try as many of them as we could! Today we to decided to get coffee from Babycakes Muffin Company. Babycakes is known for their square top muffins and numerous options for picture-worthy baked goods.

For breakfast, we decided to try Third Street Bagel, which had tons of sandwich options with fresh baked bagels. My favorite was the Village Veg and my kids loved the “Create Your Own” breakfast bagel. My mom loved the Chicken Asado. They have delicious smoothies too!

Check out our favorite cafes for breakfast and coffee flights in our article, 18 Best Coffee Shops in MN.

3. View the Murals in Upper Peninsula MI

Downtown Marquette is known for it’s art scene and the beautiful murals. If you are an art lover, check out our favorite public art works:

  • Evolve & Stay Involved: An art mural about inspiring people from all backgrounds to consider unity and hope- located at LoyalTees Custom Apparel on 321 S. Front Street.
  • Mino Bimaadiziwin/ Living the Good Life: A celebration of Anishinaabe heritage honoring water walker Josephine Mandamin, who walked the perimeter of all the Great Lakes. Living the Good Life is located at the Peter White Public Library on the corner of Third and Ridge Streets.
  • Natural: This was my favorite mural we viewed, and it honors Mother Nature. The word “natural” could not be more perfect as Marquette is well known for it’s natural beauty. Natural is located on the corner of North Third and West Ohio Streets.
  • Bigfoot: If you are a Bigfoot hunter, you can’t miss checking out the Bigfoot Mural located at Blackrocks, a popular brewery downtown. This mural is not far from the Natural mural and must have been made by someone with a sense of humor!
  • Mondrian Garage: Snap a selfie in front of the lively colored black bird painted on the garage of the Northern Lights Glass located at 415 N. Third Street.

4. Downtown Shopping

If trendy, locally owned boutiques are your thing, downtown shopping in Marquette is heaven. Out of all the Upper Peninsula MI, no other town has the shopping experience that Marquette will offer. Park your care and head out to our favorite stores:

  • 906 and Company: Similar to bath and body works- but better! All candles and luxe bath products are made with safe ingredients.
  • 906 Restyle: If you love thrift shops, add this to your itinerary! 906 Restyle is a trendy thrift shop that buys women’s used clothing, shoes and accessories and sells them all over again.
  • Amelia’s Craft Market and Boutique offers a variety of unique gifts and local creations. They also feature the bohemian brand, Natural Life. I have been a fan of this brand for awhile, so it was nice to shop in person!
  • Blackbird North is an eclectic boutique featuring boho-chic, vintage and hand made clothing.
  • Boomerang Retro and Relics: If you are looking for a unique shopping experience, then you can’t miss Boomerang and Relics! They call themselves the “Retro-Chic Boutique” and offer vintage clothing, house ware and furniture.
  • Upper Peninsula Supply & Co.: This was one of our favorite stores and a must see if you are looking for some gifts or souvineers from the UP. They carry everything from clothing, to books, patches, stickers, mugs and home decor.
  • Snowbound Books: If you are looking for a unique read from a trendy bookstore, look no further!

5. Roadside Beach Area near Munising

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is not short on sandy beaches. We found a lovely one on our drive to Munising from Marquette located 15 minutes west of Munising. It is marked as a Roadside stop and has picnic tables along with sandy trails down to Lake Superior. I suggest stopping here to take in the beautiful shoreline view of Munising.

6. Pictured Rocks Cruise in Munising

Munising in the Upper Peninsula MI is famous for it’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. You can experience this iconic view in many different ways! First, you can book a kayak tour through Paddle Pictured Rocks to get up close and personal with the lakeshore. They offer various tours such as Miner’s Tour (2-3 hours for $99 per person), Grand Island Tour (3 hours, $99 per person) and the Ultimate Kayak Tour (4-5 hours, $158 for kids 5-12 and $168 for adults).

A unique experience is the Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tour, a 2 hour trip that takes you to the site of 2 different shipwrecks, rock cliffs and caves, light house and viewing Grand Island and Munising Bay. This tour is on our list for next time! We did the classic cruise with Pictured Rocks Cruises (2 hour, 40 minutes) that gives you a close up look of all the Pictured Rocks Highlights, such as Mosquito Falls, the Arch, Chapel Rock and Beach and the cove. Other cruise options are Spray Falls Cruise, Sunset Cruise and Sunset Spray Falls Cruise. If this is your first time visiting Pictured Rocks, I recommend the Classic Cruise. Tickets sell fast, so book your cruise in advance.

The main road that travels near Pictured Rocks Lakeshore Alger County Road H-58, providing over 40 miles of stunning views. This road is an overall gorgeous drive, and will take you to scenic viewing areas and Trailheads to hike the views at Pictured Rocks Lakeshore if being on the water is not possible or desirable.

If you love boat cruises and river towns in the Midwest, check out our articles for Taylors Falls and Stillwater.

Have you ever explored the Witch’s Gulch or Lake Pepin? Save our articles for 10 Cozy Things to do in Pepin, WI and 10 Ways to Explore Wisconsin Dells.

7. Munising Falls

We parked at the vistor’s center for Munising Falls to start our hike. This is a perfect initial stop if you are traveling the Alger County Road H-58 drive for Pictured Rocks Lakeshore. Munising Falls is a 50 foot waterfall that drops over a sandstone cliff. The paved 1/4 mile trail winds along a shaded creek, providing a lower and upper view of the falls along sandstone. Please note the mosquitos are bad- cover up as as much as possible and wear bug spray.

Other notable sights in this area are Sand Point, 3.7 miles from the Munising Falls parking lot (trailhead is located here) and Miner’s Castle, a 7 mile hike from the same area.

8. Driftwood Deli and Rustic Ground Coffee in Munising

You can’t go wrong with a visit to Driftwood Deli, a trendy sandwich shop that has way more than sandwiches it’s a little shop as well (we bought some cute fridge magnets from here and the Yoopers candy bar!). I suggest their Strawberry Balsamic Salad, Veggie Burger or any of their wraps!

Munising also has a lot of options for coffee, smoothies or drinks. We wanted something on-the-go to bring with on our Pictured Rocks cruise, and lucked out that Rustic Grounds Coffee was right around the corner! For coffee, try their Bigfoot specialty (dark chocolate, caramel and toffee) and Chai Tea Latte. They also have pastries, but they sell out quickly! Nearby is a breakfast place called Falling Rock Cafe and Bookstore where you can find a book to go along with your coffee if you are looking for a relaxing, slow day.

9. Grand Sable Dunes and Falls

If there is one thing to put on your bucket list, it’s the Grand Sable Dunes, left over by glacial action and perched on top of 300 foot high Grand Sable Banks. The sand dunes cover a 5 mile stretch, formerly a spot where logging companies had a slide to more easily transport wood. The best way to experience the sand dunes is to start your adventure at the Sable Falls Parking lot off Alger County Road H-58, 1 mile West of Grand Marais.

From here, you will hike the Grand Sable Dunes trail, about 0.6 miles, starting in the forest. You will through a bridge over a small creek, then come to a clearing in the forest. Keep walking the mowed out trail until you enter a second forest clearing. From here, you will notice the trail turns to sand. Once you get to the sand dunes, keep right to access the trail taking you to a majestic overlook of Lake Superior. We watched the sunset here and it was one of our favorite parts of our adventure in Upper Peninsula MI!

Please note the mosquitos in wooded areas and the sand dunes are bad! It’s important to come prepared. Also, there are some areas where the hike has inclines. It can take twice the energy as usual to hike the sand dunes, so be sure to wear proper footwear and bring water.

While you are near Sable Falls, you might as well experience this gorgeous view as well! From the parking lot, you will hike a paved 0.4 mile trail round trip (there are also stairs). Sable Falls is 75 feet and cascades over sandstone formations. If you continue on the trail, it takes you to Lake Superior, which Sable Creek flows into. Leashed pets are allowed everywhere but the sand dunes.

10. Grand Marais Lighthouse and Agate Beach

If you thought Minnesota was the only state with a quaint town off Lake Superior named Grand Marais, you thought wrong! The end of our road trip off Pictured Rocks was Grand Marais, 1 mile east of Sable Falls. Here you can view the AuSable Light Station and Grand Marais Outer Range. Our favorite part was Agate Beach, another wonderful spot to view the sunset. There are scenic driftwood scattered around the shore and a boardwalk to make the beach accessible for everyone.

11. Zephyr Winebar and Cafe

If you are looking for the longest by glass wine list, freshly made cocktails, espresso and food, look no further than Zephyr. No reservations are needed, but I encourage you to check out the 20 plus pages of wine options they have on their website!

Day Two: Big Springs and Whitefish Point in Upper Peninsula MI

12. Breakfast at Contrast Coffee

Are you a crepe lover? Look no further than Contrast Coffee, home of the crepes in the Upper Peninsula MI, located in downtown Marquette. Try their Garden Gnome Crepe or if you have a sweet tooth, Strawberry Fields Crepe. They also have gourmet toast creations, a bakery, breakfast sandwiches and Panini. Their must try coffee drink? An Almond Maple- you can’t leave Marquette without trying it if you are a maple syrup fan!

13. View Ore Dock at Lower Harbor Park

The Ore Dock is located in the Lower Harbor Park and is an iconic structure serving as a reminder of the iron ore mining and maritime industry. Built in 1931, it eventually closed in 1971 and has not been used since. Now, it also serves as a perfect place to snap a selfie during a walk in the park. The Lower Harbor Park has a marina, pavilion and large playground that my kids enjoyed. It’s also within walking distance to key areas in downtown Marquette. We made food and had a picnic here.

14. Head Out to The Big Spring, Kitch-Iti-Kipi in Manistique

If you told me there was a natural freshwater spring in Michigan, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you would have showed me the pictures of the bright turquoise blue, clear water I would have thought they were photo shopped- seeing is believing! Kitch-Iti-Kipi is located in Manistique in Palms Book State Park. It averages about 45 degrees in temperature and rarely freeze in the winter. Kitch-Iti-Kipi is 40 feet deep and 200 feet across. It averages about 60,000 visitors each year, making it one of the most popular destinations in the Upper Peninsula MI.

Prior to European settlers, the Ojibwe tribe made this area their home. Today, the springs are available to everyone, and you can glide across the springs on a raft. If you look down in the middle, you can see various kinds of trout swimming and water erupting from fissures in the limestone. There are also board walks built so the spring can be accessed by everyone. No water activities are allowed, but you can swim, fish and paddle at the nearby Indian Lake State Park. They are cash only for the entrance fee.

15. Shipwreck Museum and Whitefish Point Beach in Paradise

The Shipwreck Museum is located at Whitefish Point Beach near Paradise. It is open May 1 to October 31 daily, 9 am to 5 pm. Here you can view the Whitefish Point Light Tower, which has been operating since 1861, making it the oldest operating light house of Lake Superior. This popular destination is a time capsule of ships and sailors who braved the Lake Superior waters. Whitefish Point marks the critical turning point for all ships entering or leaving the lake along the 80-mile stretch of shoreline. This area is also known as “Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast.”

Whitefish Point is home to our favorite beach area of the Upper Peninsula MI. The water is turquoise and clear, with light colored sandy beaches and decorative driftwood underneath the light house. This is a beautiful spot for rock hunting, having a picnic, photography and even taking a dip in the lake. We spent quite a few hours here!

16. Tahquamenon Falls in Paradise

Tahquamenon Falls is located in Paradise and is home to overnight lodging experiences, campgrounds, a boat launch and 35 miles of trails. This 200 feet wide upper falls is considered to be one of the largest falls east of the Mississippi River. The hike to the upper falls is 1/3 mile walk on a paved pathway that is also wheelchair accessible. You will be able to access various viewing areas, walk a bridge over the falls and access a swimming area.

17. Iron Bay Restaurant & Drinkery or Black Rocks in Marquette

Located near the Lower Harbor is a famous restaurant and drinkery, Iron Bay. They have a lot of option on their menu, but I would suggest the Superior Whitefish tacos. Kids meals are also available. If you are looking to get your drink on, there is an extensive menu for beer/cider lovers too!

18. Ice Cream Flights at Provisions in Marquette

Provisions is a fresh roasted specialty coffee bar located near Lower Harbor. They are famous for their small batch artisan gelato flights, which I highly recommend! There is also an adorable kitchen shop attached to Provisions. We loved this coffee shop because they were open until 10 pm.

Day 3: Marquette in Upper Peninsula MI

19. Breakfast at Trenary Toast and 231 West Patisserie

We really enjoyed Trenary Toast because we tried new food and loved it! Trenary Toast features Scandinavian-inspired breakfast, lunch and bakery items. I highly suggest trying the Squeaky Cheese, made from Leipajuusto (Finnish Squeaky Cheese) served with 2 toasted slices of Trenary Sourdough Rye, Cloudberry Preserves, and Butter- yum! Their Cinnamon Latte tastes like Cinnamon Toast crunch if you are a fan of that!

The 231 West Patasserie was the perfect spot to grab some unique baked goods to bring home with us. If you want to try something unique, check out their chocolate coconut frangipane or passion fruit cheese cake!

20. Presque Isle and the Breakwater Lighthouse

You can’t visit Marquette without exploring Presque Isle Park, a 300 acre park located on a peninsula surrounded by Lake Superior. We couldn’t believe how massive the freighters at the ore docks were and spent some time watching them load up. We walked out to the Presque Isle Harbor Breakwater Light, which gave an amazing view of Presque Isle. Please note it is not safe to walk the break wall when the waves are menacing. You can also view the Lake Superior cliffs and Black Rocks from Presque Isle and hike the Bog Walk.

21. Hike Sugarloaf Mountain

Photo credit: Shaun Ober

Six miles north of downtown Marquette off County Road 550 is Sugarloaf Mountain, offering one of the best panoramic views that Marquette has to offer. There are two trails that will take you to the overlook, with the difficult route taking 15-20 minutes to hike, and the easier route taking longer. Hikers need to be careful either way with the rocks and roots sticking up from the ground. The trail will turn into a set of wooden stairs that brings you to the observation decks- make sure to check out all three viewing platforms (also- bring bug spray!).

22. Visit a 125 Year Old Candy Store, Donckers

Donckers is a family owned business that has been hand crafting their chocolates and confections for over 125 years. Downstairs you will find endless options for freshly made chocolates or ice cream, and can shop their store that carries brands such as United by Blue, Natural Life and products made by local artists. There is also a restaurant upstairs.

23. Fish Express and Picnic at Clark Lambros Beach Park

When we were on the way to the Upper Peninsula MI, I couldn’t stop thinking about fresh caught fish! Fish Express had some of the best fish and chips and grilled whitefish sandwiches I have ever had along with hush puppies. We ordered take out and had a wonderful picnic at Clark Lambros Beach Park by Lake Superior.

24. Blossom Bird Bubble Tea

We decided to check out Marquette’s one and only bubble tea shop to order some drinks during the road. Blossom Bird Bubble Tea perhaps is one of the most uniquely decorated boba tea shops I have been to-it’s like stepping into a jungle! They are located downtown next to Snowbound Books.

Do you love visiting places that provide an other worldly experience? Check out our road trips through Arizona, Oregon and Northern California!

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  • Grand Sable Dunes

    Road Trip Itinerary for Upper Peninsula MI

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    Road Trip Itinerary for Upper Peninsula MI

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