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Eastern Upper Peninsula Travel Guide

Visit the Eastern Upper Peninsula

The eastern part of the Upper Peninsula is a study in contrasts.

Head east along the Lake Huron coast, you’ll find a mix of sandy and rocky beaches ringing tiny islands and coves. Head west and you’ll find thick forests with paths leading to sandy Lake Michigan beaches.

Go north to the bustling city of Sault Ste. Marie, home to the busy Soo Locks. A little west of the Soo, you’ll find a wide, open Lake Superior in her most wild and natural state.

Explore the Eastern Upper Peninsula

Each of these areas is so different, with its own unique charms waiting to be discovered and explored.

It’s one reason many vacations are drawn to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula year after year: there’s always something new waiting to be discovered.

Read on to discover the best spots to visit in the Eastern part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Visit St. Ignace

Take the five-mile drive across the Mackinac Bridge and you’ll land in St. Ignace, also known as the gateway to the Upper Peninsula.

St. Ignace’s counterpart of the southern side of Mackinac Bridge, Mackinaw City, is a bit bigger, but St. Ignace has its own charms.

In addition to tourist and the requisite fudge shops (which are actually fun to explore), you’ll also find well-maintained waterfront parks with both sandy beaches with swimming areas and boardwalks.

There’s also many places to eat and stay in St. Ignace – helpful to the many travelers who take the Mackinac Island Ferries from the docks in St. Ignace.

Things to Do in St. Ignace

Castle Rock

Don’t miss the chance to climb 170 steps to the top of this limestone “sea chimney” rising up almost 200 feet over Lake Huron just north of St. Ignace. You’ll find stunning views of the area – and the chance to stake your picture with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, two statues on the property.

Museum of Ojibwa Culture

Take a peek into the rich Ojibwa history of the area stretching back 300 years and wander among the exhibits explaining Lake Huron life during the time of Father Jacques Marquette. It’s a fun trip back in time and a provides an understanding of the French fur trade for all ages.

Beaches and Parks

American Legion Memorial Park – the beautiful waterfront park offers a spectacular view of Mackinac Bridge, as well as a sandy beach and children’s playground. You’ll also find pavilion, grills, and restrooms.

Kiwanis Beach – This sandy beach on Lake Huron’s Moran bay includes a picnic area and a pavilion.

Mackinac Bridge and Bridge View Park – This well-manicured, wheelchair-accessible spot provides beautiful views of the Mackinac Bridge, as well as comfortable benches and covered picnic shelters. A display inside the pavilion details the history of the building of the Bridge, and also contains clean restrooms.

Eat in St. Ignace

We’ll just address this now: it’s hard to visit anywhere in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and NOT encounter this regional menu staple.

The pasty – a hand-held pie filled with meat and vegetables – can traces its roots back to the miners who needed a satisfying meal that was easy to transport. This flaky-crusted pie has a firm place in most kitchens in the Upper Peninsula, and it’s most definitely worth trying…we’re almost sure you won’t be disappointed.

Here are some great spots in St. Ignace for Pasty’s and other good food:

  • B.C. Pizza
  • Driftwood Restaurant and Sports Bar
  • Lehto’s Pasties
  • Mackinac Grill Waterfront Pub

Where to Stay in St. Ignace

If you’re looking to stay overnight in St. Ignace, try these spots:

  • Bear Cove Inn
  • Best Western Harbor Pointe Lakefront
  • Quality Inn Lakefront

Visit the Northern Lake Huron Shoreline
Head east from St. Ignace among highway M-134 to discover some of unique Michigan coastline, home to tiny islands, pristine blue water and woods.

The Les Cheneaux Island area is an archipelago of 36 island along 12 miles of lake Huron coastline. The area includes the towns of Cedarville and Hessel, popular havens for boaters due to the sheltered waters.

Visit the De Tour Village and Les Cheneaux Islands Area
Don’t miss these spots in the Les Cheneaux Islands Area:

Applecore General Store – Eclectic collection of Michigan-made goods including edibles, gifts, home goods, and accessories, housed in a 120-year-old farmhouse.

DeTour Reef Lighthouse – More than 90 years old, this 83-foot-tall Lighthouse is located a mile offshore in Lake Huron. It offers both tours and weekend stays.

Les Cheneaux Islands Historical Association Maritime Museum -Housed in a circa 1920’s boathouse, this museum is home to displays of vintage boats, marine artifacts, antique outboard motors, historic photos of area boating and a boat building workshop. There’s also a fun gift shop to take home souvenirs of your visit.

Woods & Water Ecotours & Adventure Gear – take an informative guided tour by kayak, bike, snowshoe or regular old hiking boots and explore and share the natural and cultural history of the Upper Peninsula. You can also rent kayaks, bikes and snowshoes.

Visit Sault Ste. Marie

It’s the second largest city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, set on the banks of the St. Mary’s River, and home of the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge to Canada.

It’s also home to the famed Soo Locks, one of the largest waterway traffic systems in the world and considered to be an engineering wonder, raising and lowering the water levels up to 21 feet to allow passage over the rapids.

Visitors from around the world come to watch these massive ships, and comfortable spots for viewing can be found in waterfront parks and from the Soo Locks Visitor Center.

More to Explore in Sault Ste. Marie

If you travel to Sault Ste. Marie, be sure and check out these fun spots in the area:

Museum Ship Valley Camp – an aquarium and museum inside a Great Lakes Freighter.

Rotary Island Park – Located along the St. Mary’s River, this park offers up-close views of the Soo shipping channel. You’ll also find a playground, kayak launches, a gazebo, and benches, as well as a Fishing Pond for kids.

Soo Brewing Company – Craft brewery featuring hand-crafted beers.

Visit Brimley to Whitefish Point

West of Sault Ste. Marie along the Lake Superior Coast is the town of Brimley on Wiaska Bay.

Brimley State Park is a full-service campground with wheelchair accessible features and a nice, sandy beach for swimming and sunbathing. You’ll find the usually cold Lake Superior water is a bit warmer in this shallow bay.

Point Iroqouis Lighthouse – More than 150 years old, this 65-foot Lighthouse marks the entrance of the St. Mary’s River into Lake Superior. Visitors can climb the spiral stairs to the top of the light and take in stunning views of Lake Superior, Canada and ships passing through the Soo Locks.

Whitefish Bay National Forest Scenic Byway – Drive along the shoreline of Lake Superior and find a mix of forests and small turnouts where you can stop and explore the shoreline. It’s a peaceful and pretty drive every season of of the year.

Whitefish Point – is located at the tip of a long cape and marks the entrance of Whitefish Bay into Lake Superior. Visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum & Whitefish Point Light Station, where your can take in sweeping Lake Superior vistas.

tahquamenon falls

Visit Tahquamenon Falls

With more than 50,000 acres deep in the woods of Paradise, Michigan (yes, that’s really the name and it’s not far off), Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a must on any Upper Peninsula Travel list.

There are two waterfalls along this 13-mile stretch of the Tahquamenon River: the Upper Falls and Lower Falls. The Upper falls is a the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River with a drop of more than 50 feet and is dramatically beautiful. The Lower Falls, consists of a series of five waterfalls and are an equally gorgeous.

ADA-Accessiblilty: Please note there is a Track Wheelchair available for use at the park, made possible by Kali’s Cure for Paralysis.

Visit Luce County

West of Tahquamenon Falls and Whitefish Point is Luce County, where you’ll find the Newberry State Forest area. Home to waterfalls, hiking trails, fishing lakes and lots of wildlife there are also two spots you’ll want to explore in this area:

Crisp Point Lighthouse – This pretty lighthouse on Lake Superior is over 100 years old. Although its currently closed due to Covid-19 (as of 9/20), you can still walk the grounds and take in the pretty Lake Superior views.

Muskallonge State Park – Located between the shores of Lake Superior and Muskallonge Lake, this heavily forested park is full of smaller lakes and streams waiting to be explored via kayak and hiking trails.

Two Hearted River – You may have read about this beautiful river in Ernest Hemingway’s story “The Big Two-Hearted River.” Based on the times that Hemingway, a Michigan native, spent on the scenic 23-mile long river that opens into Lake Superior, the story captures the essence of this quiet and pristine natural area.

Travel M-2 and Lake Michigan
Fans of the lower peninsula’s Lake Michigan shoreline may be surprised to discover that the northern shore is equally beautiful.

Follow US-2 west out of St. Ignace along the northern coast of Lake Michigan.

This National Scenic Highway hugs the coastline for much of drive, allowing for beautiful views of the lake as well as multiple opportunities to get out and explore the shore.

As you travel along this highway, watch for the:

Cut River Bridge State Roadside Park – This bridge in Naubinway sits almost 150 feet above the Cut River and provides stunning views of the Hiawatha National Forest.