Thursday, August 29, 2019


We realized that other than visiting family, we hadn't been to Michigan for awhile. We decided to take a trip and return to several places that we went to 21 years ago, long before I started this blog. We didn't make it quite as far as we did that time, and this time we didn't camp but stayed in small motels or B&Bs.

Mackinac Island

I've been to Mackinac Island several times including when I was a kid. The unique thing about Mackinac Island is that there are no cars on the island, just bikes and horses, which is pretty magical when you're a child and still nice as an adult.

Since Mackinac Island is an island, you have to take a short ferry to get to it. There are currently two ferry lines, Shepler's and Star Line and both have regular ferries that go from both Mackinaw City (on the lower peninsula) and St. Ignace (on the upper peninsula). Because we were continuing on to the upper peninsula aka the UP, we crossed the Mackinac Bridge parked in St. Ignace and took the ferry from there.

Where to Stay :
On our first trip, we camped for two nights at the Straits State Park (practically underneath the Mackinac Bridge) and took the ferry over to Mackinac Island for the day. We were able to see most of the sights on that day trip but this time we decided to stay overnight on the island.

While you probably can't go wrong with most of the lodging on the island, I can only offer first hand knowledge from where we stayed, the Cloghaun B&B, one of the oldest Victorian homes on the island. It's a block off the main street so there was a little less tourist traffic but still just a block from the ferry docks. We stayed in the Catherine room and what I liked about it was there were no shared walls with other rooms and no rooms above us so it was very quiet. One thing that was a little odd was that the door to the rest of the house was through the bathroom but since this room also had an outside entrance, we mostly used that.

Where to Eat : 
There are also a lot of restaurants on the island and I doubt you can go wrong with any of those, also.

What to Do :
You can see the Mackinac Bridge in the background, in the upper left corner of this photo

If you like history you can tour Fort Mackinac plus several other historic buildings, some with costumed interpreters. (There is a steep hill leading up to the fort but if you're not up for walking it, I believe you can get a horse and carriage taxi to drop you off at the back entrance.)

More of a nature lover? There are several hikes and you can also see natural features such as Arch Rock and Sugarloaf Rock. For a small island it is surprisingly hilly.

The road around the island is only 8.2 miles so you can bike around the entire island. There are plenty of bike rental companies and they all have several types of bikes to choose from including adult-sized three wheel bikes and tandem bikes. If you'd rather not bike you can rent a horse and carriage or take one of the group carriage tours.

There are also many stores in the downtown district, and while it might seem that most sell t-shirts and fudge, there are also some art galleries, most of which seem to be on Market St.

Other things to do nearby :
In St. Ignace for $1 you can go up on Castle Rock and check out the view from there.

In Mackinac City there are more of the Mackinac State Historic Parks including Colonial Michilimackinac and Mill Creek Discovery Park. We enjoyed both of these places 20 years ago but didn't go back on this trip.

About an hour south of Mackinac City just of I75 is Hartwick Pines which we also went to 20 years ago but didn't have time to stop at on this trip.

Sault Ste Marie

Sault Ste Marie in located in the north eastern part of the Upper Penninsula and is across the St. Mary's River from Salut Ste Marie, Canada. The area is important because of the Soo Locks which allow the large lake freighter ships to travel from Lake Superior to Lake Huron

Where to stay :
The first time we came to Sault Ste Marie we didn't stay overnight.

This time we stayed at the Long Ships Motel, which is across from the Soo Locks where you can see the freighters enter and exit the locks at all times of the day. We paid $10 more to stay in one of the newly remodeled rooms and it was very nice.

Where to Eat :
There are several restaurants in the downtown area withing walking distance of the locks. We enjoyed the Lockview Restaurant, Freigheters (in the Ramada), and Zorba which sells Greek food.

What to Do :
Soo Locks Observation Platform at sunset

Obviously one of the attractions in Sault Ste Marie is going Soo Locks Park and watching the ships in the locks from the observation platform. There's also a Visitor's Center which has some exhibits and also a schedule of when the ships will arrive.

View of the Museum Ship Valley Camp from the Tower of History

If you're curious about the ships, you can visit the Museum Ship Valley Camp which is on an actual Great Lakes Freighter which has exhibits as well as the crews quarters.

Tower of History from the Museum Ship Valley Camp

Personally I like to get a birds eye view and if we visit some place that has a tower which you can go up in, I'm going to go up. The Tower of History doesn't really have much in the way of history but it does have views of the city. Take an elevator ride up to an enclosed platform and if you want to feel the wind in your hair you can walk up or down a short flight of stairs to one of the two outdoor viewing platform. On a clear day you can see Canada!

Other things to do nearby :
When we took this trip 20 years ago we also went to Tahquamenon Falls State Park and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore but unfortunately we didn't have enough time to go to them on this trip.

Sleeping Bear Dunes

What to Do :
Back in the Lower Peninsula on the western edge of the state, on the shores of Lake Michigan there are sand dunes.
A plein air painter along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park

The most famous might be Sleeping Bear Dunes. Here you have three great options that get you out on to the dunes.

The Lake Michigan Overlook is 450 above the lake and goes straight down

My favorite is the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. This 7.4 mile drive takes you through a beech maple forest and to an overlook that is 450 feet above the lake. There is a place where people try to climb down to Lake Michigan but it is much farther than it looks. There is also a Sleeping Bear Dune overlook. And if you really want to get out on the sand dunes, you can take the 1.5 mile Cottonwood Trail loop that takes you above the Dune Climb (below). Just be aware that walking on sand takes longer and more effort than hiking in the woods.

View of the Dune Climb from the Cottonwood Trail on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

You can also get out in the sand at the Dune Climb. This is also more strenuous than hiking and I found it easier to do barefoot.

Lake Michigan at the end of the Sleeping Bear Point Trail dune at sunset

The third option hiking along the Sleeping Bear Point Trail which is just north of the Sleeping Bear Dune. It is close to the Historic Village of Glen Haven, which has costumed interpreters although we've never been there when they've been open.

Where to Eat :
While there are several options in both Glen Arbor and Empire, we ate at the Good Harbor Grill in Glen Arbor on our trip 20 years ago and also on this trip and it hasn't changed one bit (which is a good thing).

Grand Rapids

We were only in Grand Rapids for a few hours, attending a quilt show at the convention center. But we did wander around a little bit and listened to a celtic band perform at Rosa Park Circle. This made me think of a video I had seen set in Grand Rapids so when I got home I looked it up. It was a group lip dub (lip sync) to the song "American Pie" and it took place near the convention center and Rosa Park Circle.

The Frederick Meijer Garden and Sculpture Park was recommended to us but we didn't have time to visit it. Next time, perhaps.


We did not go to Saugatuck on the original trip 20 years ago, so this place was new to us and we really enjoyed it.

Where to Stay :

We stayed at the Bay Side Inn. It's a lovely little B&B that is in a great location on the Kalamazoo River and in the downtown area within walking distance to everything.

What to Do :

The Kalamazoo River runs through Saugatuck and in order to get to the other side you either have to drive around the Kalamazoo Lake (about a 10 minute drive) or in the summer you can take the Saugatuck Chain Ferry (for people and bikes, not cars). The small ferry takes just a few minutes and costs $2 per trip and it's hand cranked along a chain across the river.

Oval Beach is on Lake Michigan and again it's either a 10 minute drive from downtown Saugatuck and park ($10 per car) or you can take the chain ferry and walk one mile to the beach. There are a few options for walking although they all involve hills. You can walk along the road on Perryman Street, along the Mt. Baldy trail (see below), or we walked along a trail that was just south of the Chain Ferry dock and was marked with white and blue striped markers.

The Mt. Baldhead Park Trail starts across from the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum and starts with 300 steps up. It also goes to Oval Beach.

Saugatuck Dunes State Park is a 10 minute drive north. We didn't get a chance to go there but maybe on the next trip.

Where the Kalamazoo River empties into Lake Michigan on our sunset Paddle Wheel cruiese

Take a ride on the Kalamazoo River on the Star of Saugatuck Paddle Wheel Boat. They cruise around Kalamazoo Lake then up the river and out on Lake Michigan (weather permitting).

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