Top Vacation Spots in Michigan: A Michigan Travel Guide
You’ll find amazing Michigan vacation spots just about anywhere you look in the state.
Whether you want a cozy, romantic getaway in the lower peninsula or a wild outdoor adventure in the U.P., it’s easy to find the perfect spot for a fun trip.
With 3000 miles of dramatic Great Lakes coastline, sprawling forests and clear inland lakes, there’s no end to the natural beauty of Michigan. The spectacular diversity of the land offers something for travelers seeking excitement or serenity.
You’ll find everything from charming small towns to bustling cities filled with rich culture in these Michigan destinations.
Here are 21 of our favorite vacation spots to visit in Michigan. Trust us, there really IS a Michigan travel destination for everyone.
Top Vacation Spots in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Mackinac Island Michigan
Magical Mackinac Island really is the travel gem of Michigan.
Located in Lake Huron between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsula, you’ll find a mix of old-world Victorian charm and, natural beauty, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time from the moment you step off the ferry.
There are no cars allowed on the island, so you can walk, ride a bike or take a horse-drawn carriage to explore unique spots on the island like Arch Rock or Skull Cave. You can catch a glimpse of the Mackinac Bridge, or take in a spectacular sunrise or sunset (depending on where you are on the island) over Lake Huron.
Spend some time exploring the old-fashioned downtown shops like Doud’s General Store, Little Luxuries of Mackinac, and taste-test some original Mackinac Island fudge from Ryba’s, Murdick’s, or one of the many other fudge shops on the island. Stop by the iconic Pink Pony (located in the Chippewa Hotel) or one of the many other amazing Mackinac Island restaurants.
Fort Mackinac in Mackinac Island State Park is a must; the fort played a huge role in United States history in the early 1800’s, around the time of the War of 1812.
Whether you take the ferry from Mackinaw City or St Ignace, use our guide to the best things to do on Mackinac Island for more detailed information.
Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royale is not easy to get to, but it’s definitely worth the trip. Located in Lake Superior (it’s actually closer to Minnesota than Michigan), this isolated island can only be accessed by ferry, seaplane, or private watercraft.
You find 850 acres of pristine wilderness filled with inland lakes and rivers, hiking trails, and forests. You’ll have the chance to see moose, wolves, eagles, and other protected flora and fauna here.
You can choose to camp or stay at the island lodge on the island. Either way your trip is bound to be memorable.
Interestingly enough, Isle Royale is both the least visited national park and the most re-visited. Think about that as you pack your backpack and head for the ferry.
Located in Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is surrounded by 50,000 acres of undeveloped woodland.
Hear the rushing water as it spills over Tahquamenon’s Upper Falls, the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi, with a drop of 50 feet. Lower Tahquamenon Falls, located just four miles downstream, is a series of five smaller waterfalls that are equally beautiful.
Tahquamenon Falls is pretty in the winter when the water freezes and creates unique ice sculptures. You can even take a sled-dog ride to the falls for a thrilling adventure. Check our travel guide to Tahquamenon Falls for more details.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Want a trip idea that you’ll be talking about for years to come? Plan a vacation to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
With 42 miles of dramatically painted sandstone cliffs towering 50 to 200 feet above Lake Superior, this is truly an outdoors paradise with activities like fishing, hiking, kayaking, and rock hunting.
Follow one of endless hiking trails and you’ll find waterfalls, rivers, pristine beaches, and natural beauty. Take a kayaking trip to view the Pictured Rocks from Lake Superior and you’ll find caves and rock formations to explore.
You can choose to camp in the park, and you’ll also find lodging options in Munising.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Ever heard of Lake of the Clouds, a pristine inland lake located high in the mountains of the western UP? You’ll find it here, in one of the largest natural areas in the Midwest.
With around 60,00 acres to explore, you’ll find a mix of old-growth forest, dramatic waterfalls, rivers, streams, and more.
You’ll also find a 35,000-acre forest of towering Hemlock trees, natural springs, and tons of opportunities for back-country camping.
PRO-TIP: Take a quick day trip to Bond Falls Scenic, just an hour southeast of the Porkies, to see one of the prettiest waterfalls in Michigan.
Located at the top of Michigan in the Keweenaw Peninsula, Copper Harbor is a beautiful Michigan vacation spot any time of the year. My favorite time to visit is in the early fall when the brilliant red and yellow fall foliage lights up the whole area.
Home to gorgeous Lake Superior coastline, you’ll also find Brockway Mountain, one of the prettiest drives in Michigan here, too. Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary, the largest set of old-growth Eastern White Pines preserved in Michigan is here as well.
Copper Harbor is a perfect location to catch a glimpse of the northern lights, too.
Bustling Marquette is one of the fastest-growing cities in Michigan, and that’s because it is a perfect mix of stunning natural beauty and rich culture. Home to Northern Michigan University, you’ll find a hip nightlife complete with craft breweries, and fun downtown shopping with cute boutiques and shopping.
Presque Isle Park is home to the Black Rocks Cliffs, where the black rocks tower high above a sparkling blue Lake Superior.
Aake a 15-minute moderate hike to 1000-foot Sugarloaf Mountain for amazing views of Lake Superior.
Top Michigan Vacation Spots in the Lower Peninsula
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Once voted the most beautiful spots in America, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a must-see.
From the aqua waters of Sleeping Bear Bay in Glen Arbor to the rolling sand dunes that cascade into the waters of Lake Michigan, it’s clear that Sleeping Bear Dunes really is special.
Be sure to visit historic Glen Haven, a restored port village in the dunes, and hike the Dune Climb or Sleeping Bear Point Trail in Empire, MI. Winter in Michigan brings snowy fun in the the dunes like snowshoeing and crosscountry skiing in the dunes, too.
Experience the breathtaking vistas from the comfort of your car on Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, a 7.5-mile loop with 12 iconic overlooks.
PRO-TIP: Make sure you visit Art’s Tavern in downtown Glen Arbor for one of the best hamburgers in northern Michigan.
One of Michigan’s best-kept secrets, naturally beautiful Alpena offers some of the best beaches in the state. Located on the shore of Lake Huron in northeast Michigan, you’ll find tons of well-manicured beachfront parks.
The gentle slope of the sand into the shallow water make these beach perfect for swimming and splashing. There’s a charming downtown shopping area set in historic buildings, lined with cafes and cute boutiques.
Known as the sanctuary of the Great Lakes, Alpena is home to the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center and the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Take a ride in a glass-bottom boat to see the remains of shipwrecks below.
Alpena is also home to Rockport Harbor State Park, a designated dark sky park where you might catch a glimpse of the northern lights.
Detroit and Belle Isle Park
You can find a lot to do in Detroit, the Motor City. Take in a show at the historic Fox Theatre or better yet, try and architectural tour. Whatever you do, don’t miss Belle Isle Park.
Known as the jewel of Detroit Michigan, beautiful Belle Isle is a natural oasis in the city Located in the Detroit River, it’s the perfect example of history and natural beauty in the midst of a metropolis.
One of the most culturally significant spots in southeast Michigan, you’ll find a stunning perennial garden, outdoor recreation spaces, museums, and architectural gems like the Anna Whitcomb Scripps Conservatory. You’ll find paved hiking trails, picnic tables, and an amazing giant side that is fun for all ages.
PRO-TIP: Plan a side trip to the Detroit Historical Museum to learn more about Detroit’s rich history.
Known as the “Riviera of the Midwest,” St. Joseph in Southwest Michigan features a vibrant downtown area featuring tasting rooms from award-winning southwest Michigan wineries, fabulous restaurants, and fun boutiques, you’ll find something to do all year long.
There are tons of outdoor activities here, too: boating, fishing, hiking, and biking are big here, too.
Famous Silver Beach has a wide-sandy beach with swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, volleyball, and more. Kids will love the antique carousel and sprawling Splash Pad.
Traverse City is beautiful freshwater beaches, rolling hills dotted with verdant vineyards and cherries. Lots of cherries. It’s a hip and vibrant city, with a bustling downtown shopping area just steps from Lake Michigan. It’s a giant, year-round outdoor playground for sports enthusiasts, too.
Set on the shores of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan’s cherry capital is a a perfect spot for a vacation any time of the year.
In the summer, swim and splash along the shores of Traverse City’s many beautiful beaches. Kayak, paddleboard or sail on Grand Traverse Bay, or go shopping on Front Street.
In the winter, visit one of the ski resorts in the area (Crystal Mountain, Boyne Mountain, Shanty Creek among others).
In the fall, take a drive up the Old Mission Peninsula to visit some of the best wineries in the country while taking in the picturesque views of Lake Michigan.
Follow the road all the way to the end where you’ll find the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, one of the prettiest lighthouses on Lake Michigan.
Visit in the fall when the University of Michigan campus is lit up with golden maples towering high above the historic buildings on campus.
Ann Arbor’s one of the most fun towns in Michigan. You’ll find great restaurants like the Gandy Dancer or Café Zola, and amazing museums like the kid-friendly Hands-On Museum and UM’s Natural History Museum. Explore Main Street and then head over to historic Kerrytown, where you’ll find the famous Zingerman’s Deli.
Great Lakes Bay Area
The Great Lakes Bay region in mid-Michigan, includes Bay City, Saginaw, Midland, Chesaning, Birch Run, and Frankenmuth, all unique spots.
Birch Run is home to Michigan’s largest outlet mall. Midland’s Dow Gardens is home to a stunning botanical garden that includes world’s-longest canopy walk.
Bay City, MI, is home to a historic downtown filled with eclectic boutiques, cafes, and brew pubs, along with an entire block of antique shops. Head to the waterfront to catch a glimpse of the Tall Ship Sailing Schooners.
Saginaw’s Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is a nearly 10,000-acre national wildlife refuge. It’s home to an amazing array of migratory birds including bald eagles, pelicans, and more.
More Top Michigan Vacation Spots
Charming Frankenmuth, also known as Michigan’s “Little Bavaria,” is one of Michigan’s biggest tourist attractions.
Also known as Michigan’s Christmas town, don’t miss world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, filled with endless rooms of holiday décor.
Spend a weekend wandering the downtown streets or make it a quick day trip with the kids. You’ll want to try famous chicken dinners from the iconic Zehnder’s or Bavarian Inn, and take horse-drawn carriage rides around the downtown.
The kids will love Zehnder’s Splash Village indoor water park, and Marv Herzog’s is perfect for a romantic getaway.
Known as “Beer city,” for its numerous craft breweries, you’ll find a bustling west Michigan city filled with endless opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Downtown GR has great restaurants and shops to explore. Don’t miss the sprawling Downtown Market, filled with unique vendors and amazing restaurants, or the Grand Rapids Public Museum and the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum.
Art Prize, one of the largest outdoor art competitions in the country, is held here every fall, too.
At Millennium Park, you’ll find hiking trails and even a small lake with a beach. The Frederik Meijer Gardens and the John Ball Zoo are worth a visit.
Everyone’s favorite West Michigan beach town, Grand Haven is home to gorgeous Lake Michigan beaches, a fun, walkable downtown, and a boardwalk that connects them both.
In the summer, choose from the Grand Haven City Beach or Grand Haven State Park. Both offer excellent ADA accessibility.
Walk the pier to the picturesque lighthouses and then head back to town. Stop in Fortino’s General Store, still operating after 100 years, or the Toasted Pickle for an amazing sandwich.
PRO-TIP: Head south along US-31 to explore Holland Michigan, rich with Dutch tradition. The Holland State Park is home to the picturesque Big Red Lighthouse.
Nestled along Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay, Harbor Springs is another year-round vacation spot.
Harbor Springs is both a summer resort town and a winter sports headquarters.
You’ll find pretty beaches in the summer and ski resorts for outdoor fun when the snowy season hits. Boyne Highlands Resort and Nubs Nob offer excellent skiing and snowboarding.
Thorne Swift Nature Preserve, is located north of Harbor Spring in Michigan’s famed “Tunnel of Trees.” It offers 30 acres of natural area to explore.
Find almost 1,000 feet of pristine Lake Michigan beach, hiking trails and an observation platform to take in the scenic beauty.
Nearby Pond Hill Farm is a working farm. They have farm animals to visit, as well as a café, market, outdoor bar, playground, hiking trails.
Downtown Harbor Springs is charming, too and you’ll find upscale art galleries, boutiques, and cafes to wander.
PRO-TIP: I’ve found many of the elusive Petoskey Stones, Michigan’s official state stone, on beaches in and around Harbor Springs.
Located off the coast of Charlevoix in northern Lake Michigan, Beaver Island boasts some amazing opportunities for outdoor activities. It’s a great place to experience the natural beauty of Michigan in a special island setting.
Also known “America’s Emerald Isle,” for it’s luch green forests, it’s also the third-largest island in Michigan.
It has an interesting history, complete with a self-crowned “King.” You’ll find pretty beaches and lush emerald forests for hiking and biking. Be sure to check out the Mormon Print Shop Museum, the Toy Museum, and the Marine Museum.
Michigan’s Blue Water Area
Also known as Michigan’s Blue Thumb Coast, this area follows the St. Clair River north to Lake Huron. It’s one of the most quietly scenic areas in Michigan. It’s home to riverfront parks, pretty beaches, and quaint towns heavy on charm.
Along the St. Clair River, you’ll find Marine City and St. Clair. Here, you can get a close-up view of the freighters.
They pass so close here that you feel that you can almost touch them; it’s a unique experience. Port Huron is a town filled with history (Thomas Edison lived here). You’ll find the Blue Water International Bridge to Canada and the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in Michigan.
Head farther north along the Lake Huron Coast. You’ll come to Lexington and Port Sanilac, both cute towns with beautiful beaches to explore.