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All Things Michigan

Michigan travels, events, photos, and more

The places we visited in the U.P. on our Michigan vacation

Andrew Norton

Note: This is the Third and Final post about our vacation in Michigan's Upper Peninsula We had a great time traveling around the Upper Peninsula for a week (which is far too short a time to see all of it). My one real regret is that we ran out of time to see Pictured Rocks. It was on our list of stops, but it just didn't work out. We'll just have to save that for another trip, I guess.

After playing beach bums for a day at the cottage we headed on up to Tahquamenon Falls. North of Newberry we could see the destruction from the 2007 forest fire. The river was running much higher than it was the last time I was there which must have been a good nine or ten years ago. This made for a wonderful view of the "root beer" falls. For those who don't know, the Tahquamenon picks up its distinct amber color due to the "tannins leached from the Cedar, Spruce and Hemlock in the swamps drained by the river."

The famous root beer falls

Unfortunately we only made it to the lower falls. This was the only area in the U.P. that we visited on our vacation where the mosquitoes were truly awful. It didn't matter how many gallons of bug spray we had on - they smelled fresh blood and lit into us. if we didn't have little kiddos I would have gone on to the larger Upper Falls, but I didn't like how bit up our kids were getting.

On the way back from Tahquamenon Falls we stopped in at Oswald's Bear Ranch. It came highly recommended from our hosts at Hog Island Cottages, Tom and Sandy, as well as Joe from Java Joe's in St. Ignace. It was $15 for a carload and it was definitely worth it. This is a must see for anyone visiting the U.P. You get to see black bears right up close while they roam their natural habitat.

Look at those bears climb!

The next day we went to Kitch-iti-kipi (The Big Spring) in Palms Book State Park. This was another place that I had never been but I had wanted to so we stopped in on a foggy morning. We were the first customers of the day and had the observation raft all to ourselves. The crystal clear waters sure were amazing. It was unbelievable how clear you could see the bottom which is 40 feet below.

Beautiful landscape in the 40 foot deep water

Next we went south of Garden Corners to the historic ghost town of Fayette. I could have spent much more time here, but the kids were excellent to stay as long as we did. They were real troopers in putting up with my pedestrian pace and they definitely put on more miles than I did. The only disappointment was that it was decorated for their Christmas in June promotion and the decorations were not period decorations, but modern Christmas decorations of the light up plastic variety. It was tricky to crop my photos and avoid having these tacky decorations obscure an otherwise beautiful scene.

Blacksmith shop at Fayette

The next day we packed up our kids and our luggage and went west down U.S. 2. It was kind of a gray overcast morning with fingers of fog rolling in off of Lake Michigan. A perfect morning to stop in at the Seul Choix Lighthouse. Seul Choix is French for "only choice." For the early travelers on Lake Michigan this was the "only choice" for safe harbor during a particularly rough storm. It's a beautiful lighthouse with a wonderful collection of historical items housed all over the grounds and your whole family can visit for only $8 or so.

Seul Choix Lighthouse

The next day we went up to Marquette to the Upper Peninsula Children's Museum. Hands down, this is the best children's museum we have seen. Having two young kids we have been to a number of children's museums and the Upper Peninsula Children's Museum does it right. We had to drag our kids out of there - they were having so much fun and didn't want to leave. There is so much to do and interact with, I am greatly impressed.

Upper Peninsula Children's Museum - fun!

We wandered around town and stopped in at Snowbound Books. I love to read and am always looking for books about Michigan, that take place in Michigan, or written by someone from Michigan. Snowbound Books highlights books written by someone from the Upper Peninsula or that take place in the Upper Peninsula with a tag that has an outline of the U.P. I can never just "look" at a bookstore and this was no exception - I left with a handful of books and a mental note to stop in again at Snowbound Books the next time we're in Marquette.

Marquette is quite simply one of the most beautiful towns in Michigan. Situated on the rocky shores of Lake Superior with beautiful old homes from the glory days of iron dotting the rolling hills and streets is a unique sight. When we arrived in Marquette a wall of fog was trying hard to come ashore, but a brilliant yellow sun was keeping it at bay. There's so much to see in Marquette that you really need to stay overnight to take it all in, unfortunately that wasn't in our travel plans so we had to reluctantly say goodbye after a visit to Presque Isle Park on the north side of town.

Presque Isle Park

One other item of note about Marquette was that even with Michigan's down economy I didn't see much in the way of vacant storefronts which is quite the feat, especially in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. They must be doing something right up there.

Well, that concludes our trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. We regretfully only had a week to explore and enjoy it which is far too short a time. The long drive back home was spent planning and plotting our next trip to the U.P. and all the places we would visit.

To plan your own U.P. vacation get a copy of Moon Michigan's Upper Peninsula guidebook.