Michigan is such a beautiful state full of fresh-water lakes, sand dunes, limestone cliffs, waterfalls, and wildlife galore. Did you know that Michigan actually has the largest freshwater coast in the entire world? No matter where you travel to in the state, a body of water is always less than 6 miles away.
We have enjoyed many different trips around the state, all of them are amazing and wonderful. One of our favorites has always been visiting Mackinac Island. So a couple of summers ago we decided to take our kids on a trip to not only Mackinac Island, but also to visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Shoreline and to the Upper Peninsula or UP as we call it.
The last time we had been to Mackinac Island and Mackinac city our 5th kiddo was just a baby and surely didn’t remember it. Our youngest had never even been at all. None of the kids had ever been over to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Shoreline nor had they ever been searching for Petoskey stones, well as the matter of fact I hadn’t either.
Here is a look at our week-long itinerary exploring the area. Including Traverse City, Petoskey, Mackinac City
Day 1 – Sleeping Bear Dunes
On the first day of our trip, we left early in the day and drove from Grand Rapids straight to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Shoreline. In all actuality, we should have driven to our hotel in Traverse City the morning before and spend the rest of that day as well as the next exploring the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Shoreline. There are many great things to do where one day isn’t enough to see all this beautiful place has to offer.
We drove through the main park, climbed the giant dunes and took advantage of the amazing views. After we finished we drove over to Traverse City to our hotel. Once we were settled into our hotel, then went to watch the sunset at Leelanau State Park we ended the day by
Day 2 – Day At The Beach Looking For Petoskey Stones
The next day we spent enjoying the beach, one that we were told was a great and a little less crowded area to search for the well known Petoskey Stones. There is an absolutely incredible amount of beaches around the state and we love exploring new beaches.
We were lucky enough to find quite a few Petoskey stones, however, they were smaller ones and not real big. Some of the kids enjoyed searching, and others just enjoyed playing in the sand and water. I suggest bringing a cooler with food as well as a kite because flying a kite at the beach is always a good idea.
After we left the beach that night we drove over to Mackinaw City where we stayed for the next few days until we headed to the UP of Michigan. Mackinaw City is a perfect place to stay and enjoy the city as well as taking the ferry to head over to Mackinac Island.
Day 3 Explore Mackinac City
Mackinaw city is another great city to spend the day exploring. They have many shops to visit, nighttime light shows, beaches, parks, and the most amazing pasties at Mackinaw Pastie and Cookie Co.
A few places to explore are Colonial Fort Mackinaw, Michilimackinac State Park, Historic Mill Creek, and even Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse. The state park is a perfect place to visit both during the day for a great view of the bridge, but also at night since the bridge is all lit up.
In the downtown part of Mackinaw City, you can see the nighttime light show which you can see nightly between 9-10 Memorial Day through Labor Day. Make sure to arrive early to visit one of the many great shops. After that, you have to visit the International Dark Sky Park Park to view the stars
Day 4 – Mackinac Island
You could spend an entire week exploring this amazing island. There are no cars allowed on the island so you can explore on foot, by horse, or on a bike. Over the very many visits, I have spent on the island we have only seen a very small portion of it. What we have seen is amazingly beautiful.
While visiting the island can be rather expensive, I have put together a list of 25 inexpensive and fun things to do on Mackinac Island. This will help you put together an itinerary of how to spend your day. We enjoy visiting the Fort on the island, and love visiting the views from Arch Rock the photo above I took from Arch Rock.
I also suggest renting a bike and riding around the island. With most of the island being a state park, there are tons of amazing places to see. You also cannot leave the island without experiencing the fudge, you can even watch them make it which is super fun.
Day 5 – Tahquamenon Falls
Spend a day exploring Tahquamenon falls. There are 2 different sets of falls, so make sure to visit both of them. There are the upper falls and the lower falls, both of which have many different trails for exploring. The upper falls are the bigger set of falls, and the lower falls offer activities as well. You should remember to pack a picnic lunch and eat at the picnic tables just outside of the parking lot of the upper falls.
I suggest that you find a small hotel or cabins to stay at while in the Upper Peninsula so you don’t have to drive back and forth between the two peninsulas. We stay at Halfway Lake Resort when we visit the UP. They have perfect little cabins tucked away from all the hustle and bustle of life. It’s peaceful, quiet, and so much fun. I love the fact that they are reasonably priced as well as have a fully stocked kitchen for us to cook meals in. Plus they are only about 30 minutes away from the falls as well, so it’s a short drive after a long day. AirBNB would be a perfect option as well we love renting houses through them.
Day 6 – Upper Peninsula – Pictured Rocks
There are many different entry points along the shoreline. Some of which are a short walk from the parking lot to the shore while others are quite a hike from the parking lot to the shoreline.
About an hour and a half from the Halfway Lake Resort cottages, you will find an absolutely stunning lakeshore. The Picture Rocks National Shoreline is a gem of the Upper Peninsula. It is over 40 miles long, over 70,000 acres, and has sandstone cliffs that stand over the deepest and most pristine of the Great Lakes. You will not only find cliffs but waterfalls, beaches, miles and miles of pristine trails, forests, and small little quaint towns. The amount of time you could spend exploring this area is unbelievable.
Day 7 – Upper Peninsula – Whitefish Point Lighthouse – Soo Locks
There are a few different places you could spend your last day in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We chose to visit Whitefish Point Lighthouse. It was about 1 1/2 hours from the cottages and didn’t take too long to do since we had a long trip home. We enjoyed searching for rocks along the lakeshore here. It is a great way to see just how rocky the Lake Superior shoreline really is. And just how cold the lake really is as well.
Another stop along the way would be to visit the Soo Locks, that is a great way to see just how ships get from Lake Superior to Lake Huron with a 21-foot height difference.
If you were to have older kids who could handle a full day of exploring I would suggest leaving the cabins early in the morning and heading to Whitefish Point Lighthouse. Then heading to the Soo Locks. Finally heading home after that.
Have you ever visited the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? If so what was your favorite destination you visited? Leave a comment below letting me know, I would love to hear from you!