This road trip through northern Michigan has a little something for everyone. Relax at one-of-a-kind sand dunes in the morning, sample wines at local vineyards during the day and retire to stroll the quaint boutiques and Victorian homes of some of the most charming towns in the Midwest as the sun sets. Add a day on the lake — or navigating fun-filled rapids — to the mix and you’ve ticked most of the boxes for a stellar Midwest vacation.
A visit to Frankfort wouldn’t be complete without enjoying the stunning sand and coastline of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore north of town. You can bike, hike and swim at many places throughout the picturesque landscape on the shores of Lake Michigan, while the 7-mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive offers a must-do introduction into the area and its unique geologic history. Back in town, tour historic Victorian homes before you visit the endlessly photogenic Point Betsie Light Station.
2. Traverse City
Drive 40 miles • 52 minutes
Traverse City is one of the Midwest’s premiere “foodie” destinations. From the wineries that dot the landscape to the famed working dairy farm and ice cream shop Moomers, a profusion of flavors awaits visitors. However, it’s the cherry harvest that puts this town on the map. Find an orchard to pick your own, dig into the pies and preserves at roadside stands or have it all at the National Cherry Festival in early July. Head north along the Old Mission Peninsula for swimming, fishing, boating and beachfront walks on Grand Traverse Bay, known for its beautiful sunsets.
Drive 67 miles • 1 hour, 28 minutes
Petoskey is a resort community designed for relaxation. Wandering the historic Gaslight Shopping District and enjoying more than 400 Victoria-era homes on the National Historic register is a classic pastime, while golfers will want to head to the nationally-known courses — Bay Harbor and Crooked Tree, among them — that line the nearby shores. Walloon Lake is a haven for anglers looking to land a big strike from the deep waters’ famed bass and walleye and plenty more opportunities for boating, sailing and fishing abound in the bountiful waters of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay.
4. Mackinaw City
Drive 36 miles • 49 minutes
History comes alive in Mackinaw City, situated at the very tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula. Colonial Michilimackinac gives visitors the chance to step back in time with costumed performers who reenact daily life in an 18th-century fort and fur trading camp. Tours of the nearby Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse also include a costumed guide who walks guests through exhibits and artifacts on the maritime history of the region. Head to Big Bear Adventures in Indian River outside of town, with kayak, raft and tube trips down the scenic Sturgeon River. The city sits at the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and is linked to the Upper Peninsula by five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge, an engineering marvel that’s one of the city’s best-known attractions.
Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping • Mackinaw City, MI – (231)436-5584
5. St. Ignace
Drive 9 miles • 17 minutes
Just across the Mackinac Bridge, St. Ignace is nestled on the shores of the Huron Strait where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. The whipsawing currents of the two lakes makes for a rugged but beautiful coastline best enjoyed from Straits State Park and Bridge View Park, both of which offer excellent views of the water and boat traffic beneath the bridge. In downtown St. Ignace, the historic Huron Boardwalk Walking Tour is a self-guided exploration of the area’s long history up to today, including the photo-friendly Chief Wawatam Lighthouse. Take a 20-minute ferry to Mackinac Island where you can horseback ride, hike or bike your way along 140 miles of trails in the impossibly beautiful Mackinac Island State Park, known for its rugged rock formations.