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Big Bay Michigan 2023 Ultimate Visitors Guide

big bay lighthouse in big bay michigan

Visitor’s Guide to Big Bay, Michigan

Big Bay, Michigan is a quaint lakeside town that transports its visitors back to a simpler time.

Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in Marquette County, it’s a perfect spring, summer or fall retreat if you’re looking for a memorable outdoor adventure, or simply to relax and take in the Lake Superior breezes. 

Nestled along the scenic shores of Lake Superior, Big Bay offers a unique escape from the motions of daily life. You won’t find bustling chains or constant connectivity here.

What you will discover is an amazing adventure that promises a truly authentic northern Michigan experience.  If you’re looking for an Upper Peninsula trip idea with family and friends, this is definitely a must-visit. 

Join us as we take a closer look at Big Bay, Michigan, and embark on a journey of natural beauty and timeless charm.

Map of Big Bay Michigan

map of Big Bay MI

How to Get to Big Bay Michigan 

By Air: Fly into Sawyer International Airport in Gwinn, just south of Marquette. Car rental is available; the drive to Big Bay will take approximately one hour.  
By Car:  Big Bay is located 27 miles from Marquette, Michigan. Follow County Road 550 northwest along the coast of Lake Superior. 

yellow dog falls in big bay michigan
Yellow Dog Falls in Big Bay Michigan

Historic Downtown Big Bay: Discover Local Treasures

When you make your way to Big Bay from Marquette following the breathtaking shoreline of Lake Superior, you’ll find it at the end of the road. You’ll also find old brick buildings that bring about a sense of nostalgia. Big Bay’s charm lies in its simplicity, offering a glimpse into a past era, when the  timber reigned supreme.

You’ll be enchanted by the small downtown area with all its historic wooden structures. Many of these buildings were built from Henry Ford’s lumber, since Hnery Ford once owned almost the entire town. 

The historic wooden structures and grand forests reflect the old-world circular economy of the area. In fact, many of its buildings were built with home grown timber and the logs felled in the area.

pathway leading to Thomas rock in big bay michgan
Pathway to Thomas Rock in Big Bay MI

Outdoor Adventures in Big Bay: Hiking Trails and Waterfalls 

Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook

Big Bay is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

The area boasts miles of hiking and biking trails that showcase the region’s stunning natural beauty. Start your exploration at Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook, a short ADA-accessible trail that rewards you with panoramic views of Lake Superior.

The views are amazing here, you’ll feel like you could look at the lake for hours. 

Yellow Dog Community Forest

You’ll be amazed by the wilderness in and around the village of Big Bay. Take in the rich history of the area through informative postings along the trail.

For a memorable hiking experience, venture to the Yellow Dog Community Forest. The main trail leads you along the Yellow Dog River to the breathtaking 20-foot Yellow Dog Falls, immersing you in the serenity of nature. If you’re up for a more challenging hike, don’t miss Pinnacle Falls, a hidden gem tucked away in the wilderness.

Discover the Big Bay Pathway and Saux Head Trails, part of the Noquemanon Trail Network. These trail systems offer exceptional opportunities for rejuvenating nature walks during the summer months.

Although primarily groomed for winter skiing, you’ll find countless points of intrigue on these paths year-round. Lose yourself in the tranquility of the forests as you navigate the various loops, soaking in the sights and sounds of this pristine landscape.

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More Things to Do in Big Bay Michigan

Burns Landing Historic Park and Beach

Unwind and soak up the sun at Burns Landing Historic Park and Beach. Here you can take a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear waters of Big Bay on Lake Superior and relax on a soft sand beach.

Recent additions to the park include accessible facilities, a boardwalk connecting the cabin to the beach, and comfortable seating areas with grills. Please note that the beach on Lake Superior is unguarded and maintains its natural, undeveloped charm.

While at the park, be sure to visit Burns Cabin, a historic log structure that stands as a small tribute to the early Native American inhabitants who once called Big Bay home. It was a trading hub amongst the local tribes back as early as the 1600s.

They were protected by the long barrier beach until the mid-1800s. As you stand on Burns Beach, try to imagine the wild rice and cranberries which were once cultivated and exchanged here. You’ll also gain insights into the region’s rich history through engaging historical interpretations provided within the cabin.

Big Bay Harbor and Sore Arms Charters

If you’re a water enthusiast, Big Bay won’t disappoint. Launch your boat at the nearby Big Bay Harbor on Lake Superior or Perkins Park on Lake Independence for a day of fishing or leisurely exploration. Consider booking a tour with Sore Arms Charters, who specialize in family-friendly sightseeing and fishing trips. It will surely be the experience of a lifetime.

Let the captivating beauty of the lakes unfold before your eyes as you navigate the pristine waters.

guide to maquettes Black Rocks

Festivals and Events in Big Bay MI

Bay Cliff Fourth of July Parade

Every Fourth of July, the Bay Cliff camp hosts a parade for their kids and the community. Make sure to check it out! This heartwarming event showcases the creativity and patriotic spirit of the children and counselors of Bay Cliff.

It’s the only full-summer therapy camp for children with physical disabilities in the nation! Join the town in celebrating the kid’s accomplishments and enjoy the lively parade, complete with floats, games, and a festive atmosphere.

Big Bay Relay Event

Big Bay’s close-knit community comes alive during its vibrant festivals and sporting events. If your family enjoys running, plan your visit around the annual Big Bay Relay team running event in May.

Cracked Courts Classic Tennis Tournament

Is tennis more your speed? Try your hand at the Cracked Courts Classic Tennis Tournament in August. These family affairs are sure to enhance your time in Big Bay.

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Discover Charming Restaurants in Big Bay MI

Cram’s General Store
9111 Co Rd 550, Big Bay, MI 49808

As you spend the day exploring the beauty of nature, you’re sure to work up a hunger. Cram’s General Store is located in the heart of Big Bay, and it is the best spot in town to pick up essentials for your time in the bay.

Looking for a hot lunch? The Hungry Howell Cafe attached to Cram’s has been serving the locals and visitors tasty meals since the mid-1900s. This is a great place to talk with locals and get a better understanding of what the town is all about.

Lumberjack Tavern
202 Bensinger St, Big Bay, MI 49808

As for dinner and drinks, the local watering hole is The Lumberjack Tavern. This no-frills pub and restaurant serves up delicious smash burgers and fries in a down-to-earth atmosphere.

They’re a local favorite spot for beer and burgers, but their menu includes many other options! Just know that their menu is not the most sensitive to food intolerances. They will do everything they can to make something special for you if requested.

Duke’s Grill
400 Bensinger. Big Bay, MI 49855

Duke’s Grill is located inside the Thunder Bay Inn. They have the most diverse menu in town, and customers rave about the taste of their various offerings.

You’ll find sandwiches and salads, American and Mexican-inspired platters, fish and seafood, and delicious pizzas here. Make sure to include it in your itinerary!

hotel room in big bay michigan

Where to Stay in Big Bay MI

There are many options for lodging in Big Bay, so the real difficulty is choosing where you want to stay! From rustic cabins to historic inns and everything in between, the options are nearly endless.

The Thunder Bay Inn
400 Bensinger St, Big Bay, MI 49808

The Thunder Bay Inn is a long-established favorite in the area. Built in 1911 and renovated by Henry Ford in 1940, the Thunder Bay Inn has a rich history. In fact, you can stay in the exact room Ford would stay in during his frequent trips to Big Bay. With beachfront access and fast wifi, it’s clear why this is the first choice for many travelers.

Big Bay Motel
96 Bensinger Street C.R. 550, Big Bay, MI 49808

Next to Lake Independence you’ll find the Big Bay Motel. The motel is a more affordable option for those who just need a place to sleep during their time in Big Bay. The rooms are clean and air-conditioned, which you’ll definitely appreciate after a long day of hiking.

Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast
4674 Co Rd KCB, Big Bay, MI 49808

For those looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the Big Bay Point Lighthouse and Bed and Breakfast is the perfect place. In fact, it is one of the few residential lighthouses left in the entire country. Staying here you’ll be fully accommodated with breathtaking views as a bonus.

guide to the central up

Plan Your Trip to Big Bay MI

Escape the ordinary and embrace the allure of Big Bay, Michigan. This hidden gem on the shores of Lake Superior invites you to step back in time, immerse yourself in nature, and connect with a community that cherishes its rich history and natural wonders.

Explore the historic downtown, embark on scenic hikes, relax on a pristine Lake Superior sand beach, partake in water adventures that will create memories to last a lifetime. Get ready to discover the timeless charm of Big Bay, where simplicity and natural beauty meet.

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About the Author-

My name is Robert Trudeau, and I’m a web content writer soon to be graduating with a B.S. in Writing with a minor in Digital Studies. Hailing in from the Upper Peninsula, I’m no stranger to the expansive beauty of Michigan. In this role, I’m excited to share my knowledge of Michigan while working within the web content development process. In the future I hope to work as a web developer and backend content strategist, helping clients build powerful websites with research-driven content and brand-specific strategies to support continued success.