Growing up in Michigan, I never understood why my parents chose to settle down here. I mean come on, why not Denver or Los Angeles or Atlanta or Toronto? Over the years I learned I'm lucky to have grown up here because there is so much more to Michigan than living in the city. I always knew I wanted to travel the world, but the thought of exploring my home state didn't appeal to me much until I realized how breathtakingly beautiful the nature of this place actually is. I was selfish to take it for granted for so long.
People often associate the entire state of Michigan with the misfortune of Detroit, and they couldn't be more wrong. Detroit is rising up, and I am so proud to see its progress. The Great Lakes are home to the largest body of fresh water in the world, and they often forget about the Upper Peninsula which is home to the oldest and largest lava flow on Earth located on the Keweenaw Peninsula. The volcanic activity is the sole purpose for the copper that the U.P. is famous for.
For all you travel junkies out there Michigan may not be on your radar, but I hope this opens your eyes to the beauty trapped between the Great Lakes. Most people relate travel to mountains or the coastline, here is a list of 16 breathtaking places Michigan has to offer. Who knows, you may prefer lakes to oceans after all. In the words of Tim Allen, it's Pure Michigan.
1. Miners Castle, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is 42 miles of Lake Superior Shoreline but also extends to cover a radius of 72,236 acres of nature. Another reason to love Michigan, you get to experience all four seasons.
2. Isle Royale National Park, Houghton
Isle Royale is the least-visited National Park, and for the life of me, I can't understand why. Maybe it's the fact that no one outside of Michigan knows it exists or maybe the fact that it is only accessible by ferry or plane. There are 36 campgrounds along the island which is 45 miles long and nine miles wide at its widest. It is located in the middle of the beautiful Lake Superior. Well what are you waiting for? Visit the island! Fun fact it is closer to Canada than it is to the states.
3. Beaver Island
Beaver Island is only accessible by boat from neighboring city and tourist attraction, Charlevoix, or by air. The island is 13 miles long and three to six miles wide and has become very popular among tourists and lies along Lake Michigan.
4. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore, Empire
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is a whopping 111.2 square miles and covers 35 miles of breathtaking shoreline along Lake Michigan. It was named The Most Beautiful Place in America by "Good Morning America" in 2011, and boy, does it live up to its title. The dunes became popular because of the legend of the sleeping bear where the park got its name.
5. Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Paradise
It's no surprise Tahquamenon Falls State Park is located in Paradise, Michigan, I mean look at it — it's incredible. The Tahquamenon River passes over the falls and drains into the Whitefish Bay which is next on the list. Aside from the falls there are 22 miles of hiking through the park as well as five campgrounds with over 350 campsites. While you're here you might as well take a visit to the Great Lakes Shipwrecked Museum which also makes this list of hidden gems.
6. Whitefish Bay
Whitefish bay is a barrier between Michigan and Ontario, it is part of the Canadian Shied's nature because of its location. The bay runs from Paradise to Sault Ste. Marie and is useful in traffic thanks to the Soo Locks.
7. Black Rocks, Presque Isle Park, Marquette
Our generation has become the definition of wanderlust and the need, not the want, to travel has proceeded us in so many ways. Cliff jumping is often on the bucket list of many so imagine plunging fifteen feet into a 40-degree Lake Superior. Talk about adrenaline rush. Not only is this cliff an attraction but the entire park is mesmerizing, all 323 acres of it.
8. Great Lakes Shipwrecked Museum, Whitefish Point
The museum contains the bell from the wreck of the all famous SS Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck and also artifacts from the Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve. You can scuba dive in the clear waters and the ships are accessible through the water.
9. Belle Isle Park, Detroit
This really is the hidden gem of Michigan because it's located in the Detroit River and connected by the MacArthur Bridge. It is the largest city-owned island in the United States. People associate Detroit as the city it was back in 2013 when it filed for bankruptcy, but since then, the city has flourished and is on the rise for the biggest comeback in national history. Alongside the outdoor adventure offered on Bell Isle there is an aquarium on the island as well.
It is Michigan's largest freshwater spring and goes by its original name which was given by the Native Americans. It means "Mirror of Heaven" and is sometimes referred to as the Big Spring.
11. Mission Point Lighthouse, Old Mission Point Peninsula
The lighthouse is located at the end of Old Mission Point Peninsula, 17 miles north of Traverse City and stands a few hundred yards shy of the 45th parallel north which marks halfway between the north pole and the equator. It is one of six places in Michigan, 29 in the country, that note its location on the parallel.
12. Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, Frankenmuth
Frankenmuth is home to the world's largest Christmas store, Bronner's Christmas Wonderland. It was designed in 1976 to help innovate tourism in Michigan and has done so because it attracts all the Christmas enthusiasts.
Holland is home of the tulip festival where a large portion of the population is of Dutch descent. It's also home to the only working, authentic Dutch windmill in the United States. You can enjoy live music as well as Holland State Park.
14. The Michigan Wine Trail
For all you wine lovers out there, I have a trip that you will want to put on your bucket list. Although we don't have the vineyards of Napa Valley, California we do have 15,000 of our own as we are the fourth largest grape-growing state in the country. If you are a self-proclaimed wine enthusiast this trip through 15 southwest Michigan wineries will fulfill your wine craving.
15. Port Crescent State Park, Port Austin
The population of the city as of 2013 was 648. The amount of kids that attend my high school is nearly ten times that. It's not even considered a city, but a village. The park covers 600 acres and is home to the infamous Turnip Rock. I know what you're thinking, wow finally a place in the lower peninsula. You're welcome.
16. Porcupine Mountains
I saved the best for last. I had no idea this place existed until my dad mentioned it, and I would be insane not to include it on this list. This is the hidden gem of them all, lo and behold Michigan has mountains. Porcupine Mountain is home to Lake of the Clouds (first picture) and Shining Cloud Falls (second picture). The wildlife on the mountains is vast and home to the legendary wolf it also includes bobcats, moose, deer, black bears, coyotes, all types of fish and bald eagles.