I come from a family who was either from "Up North" or was a frequent visitor to the paradise-like environment. It has been a long-standing tradition for me and my immediate family to visit as much as possible. Throughout summers and winters, my family and I have been able to see all parts of northern Michigan and how they change through the seasons. These are locations of my most memorable trips which every traveler in Michigan should experience at least one time.
1. Tahquamenon Falls
Tahquamenon Falls, located in Paradise, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, is a scene from a painting. The falls, located in a state park of the same name, is an easy hike through beautiful and serene forestry. There are other hikes in the park, which I highly recommend you take time to do if you choose to visit. The gift shop is a great place to stop afterward to get a cold drink and a scoop of the UP's best ice cream (IMHO), Jilbert's.
2. Sleeping Bear Dunes
Sleeping Bear Dunes, in Empire, Michigan, is a snapshot that will surely take your breath away; I know it did mine. I recommend taking the Pierce Stocking scenic drive, as this will quickly get you to all the high traffic points on the national lakeshore. There are many lookouts onto Lake Michigan that you do not want to miss, and the drive takes about 2 hours. Be sure to stop at the visitor center to get a map and historical information about the beloved dunes (read the Legend of the Sleeping Bear!) My family and I visited in peak summertime, so it was almost unbearably hot. We also had our dog with us, and at some points, the sand was too blistering for both us and him to stand or walk for prolonged periods. Whichever time of the year you may visit, be prepared with water and snacks because trudging through deep sand can be exhausting (but well worth it).
3. Copper Harbor
While this may not be the upscale tourist town some people are seeking, it is sure to be a town you won't forget. Copper Harbor is the northernmost part of Michigan, besides the island national park of Isle Royale, which is more difficult to access. In this quaint city in the Keweenaw Peninsula, you can visit Fort Wilkins state park (I am not a war/history buff but I thoroughly enjoyed this) or take the scenic Brockway Mountain drive. It is best to do the latter at night because seeing the aurora borealis is quite possible! Beware, as the road can be difficult to drive on. There are a lot of bumps and curves and narrow windings. Make sure you have someone with you and a plan for when cell service runs out! A short drive away is Bete Gris, a town with a beach where, legend has it, the sand whistles when you step on it. Visit and see for yourself, I did!
4. Hubbard Lake
I may be biased about this one, but Hubbard Lake is one of my favorite places on Earth. The sense of community and togetherness from this area is something you should get the experience of. My mom grew up on this lake, so we have visited many times each year. it's best to rent or take your own boat out for the day and anchor at a sandbar (where the party's at!) Bring a pair of waterproof shoes, and there are random rock piles and muscles you could get hurt on. I have not tried it yet, but I hear kayak day trips around the lake are really fun. Hubbard Lake is located on the east side of Michigan, south of the popular town of Alpena.
5. Downtown Traverse CityFront Street in Downtown Traverse City, Michigan.
This is a great city for window shopping as there are many gift shops and boutiques lining the streets. It can get expensive, so if you are on a budget, I recommend visiting a TC beach for the day and soaking in the summer Michigan sun. We visited on the fourth of July, and the fireworks over the lake were like no other. It was truly something I'll remember forever. My family and I took part of a day to just drive wherever the road took us, and we saw some magnificent houses that surely looked like they belonged in an HGTV show. While visiting, try a cherry product, as this is the cherry capital of the world! We had cherry mustard, jelly, soda, etc...
6. Mission Point Lighthouse
Located in Old Mission state park, there is one road in and out of this peninsula. It's a scenic drive with wineries and cherry tree farms dotting the hills. At the very end is the lighthouse and attached museum atop a sandy beach. During our visit, it was storming treacherously, so we didn't get a chance to swim. The water was very visibly shallow though, and looked clear as day, even in the gusting winds. It's a small walk from the parking area to these attractions, but you won't want to miss out.
7. Lake Huron beaches
Lake Huron is lined with sandy beaches that will trick you into thinking you're in a tropical paradise. One of my family's favorite beaches is the beach at Harrisville state park in Harrisville, Michigan. The sand is white and it's a short walk from parking. There is a pavilion for lunch picnics and shade, and a play structure for kids. The beach area gets deep for a few feet, but then it's seemingly miles of knee-deep water. My cousins and I used to always bring a football or volleyball and throw it as far as we could. No matter how far out we went to retrieve it, the water never got above our waists. It's a good spot for kids, adults, dogs, and everyone in between. Another amazing beach is Oscoda Beach Park in Oscoda, MI. The water is shallow and sandy for hundreds of feet and good for wading or floating on a pool lounge. Here, there are more play options for kids. There's a boardwalk with a lookout to Lake Huron, which is astonishing in the summertime. Beware, the black flies can be quite annoying, so bring bug spray and lots of sunscreen!