Da Yoop, Eh? Michigan's Upper Peninsula
With the long winter finally about to depart, thoughts turn to excursions best left to the warmer months. For those whose preferences include the road less traveled, we offer some beautiful choices that you may have missed.
Lake Michigan’s beaches teem with sunbathers throughout the summer months, but a visit to the Upper Peninsula (UP) offers many stunning landscapes and fun adventures for the traveler hoping for fewer crowds and more scenery. With 29% of the state’s landmass and only 3% of its population, the UP is a delight for those who enjoy the great outdoors. Bounded by the three largest of the Great Lakes, this peninsula is a gem of the northern midwest.
The city of Marquette is the largest in the UP at just over 21,000 people. With a vibrant population of tourists and locals on the shores of Lake Superior, Marquette is a great base for day trips. Embark on a scenic cruise to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The cruise provides breathtaking views of these colorful sandstone cliffs hewn by centuries of weather and streaked by water and minerals like copper, limonite, and manganese. The 15 miles of cliffs, towering 50-200 feet above the lake, are best seen from the waters of Superior. The entire voyage is about 3 hours long and covers some 40 miles roundtrip.
If you happen to prefer viewing them from dry land, point your car in the direction of Munising, and head for the Miner’s Castle. The “castle,” nestled in a hardwood forest, is a rocky escarpment that is part of the Pictured Rocks cliffs. The lower overlook provides the best view. You can stroll along The Miners Falls Trail which winds for 0.6 miles one way. Waterfall enthusiasts can also sojourn to several other cascades in the Munising area.
Lakenenland provides just the sort offbeat attractions that many road-trippers enjoy throughout the U.S., and it does not disappoint. A sculptor here found his inspiration in scrap iron and created many quirky and topical figures sure to start a conversation. Part junkyard, part outdoor gallery, a walk through this pinewood forest is a fun and interesting way to spend an afternoon. Have a picnic while you're there. There are plenty of tables.
Be sure to stop in at Da Yooper’s Tourist Trap while you’re out and about. Featuring some truly unusual treasures, Da Yooper’s Tourist Trap is the place for unique gifts and souvenirs, especially for those with a quirky sense of humor.
Back in Marquette, no visit to Da Yoop is complete without dinner at the Portside. Get the breadsticks. You won’t regret it. The cheese sauce alone is worth the trip. After dinner, walk over to the Blackrocks Brewery for some locally-made craft beer. If you’re still thirsty, try the Ore Dock Brewing Company, which is named after the nearby structure once used to load iron ore onto freighters during the mining heyday. The Wooden Nickel is another local favorite (with a great jukebox) and is Marquette’s oldest bar.
If you want to take a break from the scenery, the UP offers a few casinos. Ojibwa has two locations (Marquette and Baraga]. Other establishments a bit further away include Lac Vieux Desert Resort Casino, Kewadin Casinos in Christmas and several other locations, to name just a few of the gambling establishments sprinkled throughout this wilderness.
Other adventures await on Isle Royale, Michigan’s only National Park. Over 45 miles in length and a 9 miles wide, the main island is the largest in the big lake of Superior. The park comprises 400 smaller islands as well as the submerged lands surrounding the archipelago.
Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains (affectionately known as the Porkies to locals) is a hidden gem situated in the midsts of dense forests and reached by a picturesque hike on the the Big Carp River Trail or the Escarpment Trail. Don’t forget to stop near Big Bay and check out the vista from Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook of Lake Independence with an expansive panorama of Superior just beyond.
These attractions are just a few of the wonders of a visit to Da Yoop -- far from the madding crowds of the mitten-shaped peninsula.