When most people think of Michigan, the familiar mitten shape of the state springs to mind. Most people completely disregard or forget entirely about its Upper Peninsula. Known by residents and visitors alike as the UP, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has its own distinct culture, geography and personality. In many ways, this part of the state has more in common with its Canadian neighbors than with the rest of Michigan. Sparsely populated and wonderfully unspoiled, the UP is a popular place for people to keep cottages and cabins – and is a phenomenal place to go if you want to enjoy pure, unadulterated wilderness and the company of friendly, down-home people. From its western border with Wisconsin to its southern border where the Mackinac Bridge connects it to the Lower Peninsula – all the way to its eastern edge at Sault Ste. Marie – the UP is a magnificent place to get to know.
Sightseeing and Attractions: The UP’s Best Kept Secrets
At more than 16,000 square miles, the UP is a massive place; it seems like virtually every square mile of it presents something fun and different for visitors to enjoy. Consider these top attractions:
Tour Some Shipwrecks
The Great Lakes have been the site of many a shipwreck; if you’d rather not scuba dive to check them out, you can go on a one-of-a-kind glass-bottom boat tour to see some of the most interesting shipwrecks in the UP. You can find such tours in Munising, whose harbor is the site of a couple of shipwrecks.
Go Ice Fishing
You can’t really enjoy the full-fledged UP experience without visiting during the winter – and doing some ice fishing. Ice fishing is definitely a UP tradition, and when it’s cold enough for lakes to freeze over you can find prime ice fishing opportunities all over the UP, from small lakes to the Great Lakes themselves.
Enjoy Some Cross Country Skiing
There are plenty of ski resorts to take advantage of in the UP, but cross country skiing is definitely where it’s at in this compelling place. Some of the best cross country skiing on the peninsula can be found over in Luce County’s Lake Superior State Forest; equipment rentals and instruction are also available, so everyone can get in on the action!
Pick Out Some Unique Rocks
Mining has been a huge part of the economy of the UP throughout its history. You can take home a small piece of the UP by visiting the Caledonia Mine in Mass City, near Ontonagon. Whether you choose quartz, feldspar, silver or copper, you’re not going to find anything quite like it anywhere else in the country. At the same time, you can get a feel for the history and culture of the UP.
Best Kept Secrets For Families & Couples
Families and couples will find plenty to keep themselves busy with when they visit the UP. Although outdoor activities predominate, there are lots of options including:
Tour A Winery
Many people do not realize it, but the UP does grow its own grapes and bottle its own wines – despite its very northern location. Indeed, along its southern extremity – near a town called Garden – visitors can enjoy topnotch winery tours. Along the way, you can sample the merchandise and bask in the company of other oenophiles. Throw in some truly breathtaking scenery, and you’ve got the makings of an unforgettable adventure.
Go Dog Sledding
Families and couples alike will enjoy the unique experience of going on a dog sled tour. For the kids, there are short, day-long excursions and tours available; for couples and intrepid adventurers, there are two, three – and even five – day trips to enjoy. The Triple Creek Kennels in Munising is the place to go, and their dogs will take you around nearby Hiawatha National Forest.
Visit Grand Island
Families who enjoy outdoor activities will find plenty to do over on Grand Island. Located just off the north central shore of the UP – near Munising – Grand Island is a veritable wonderland with snowmobiling, skiing, sledding, mountain biking, camping and fishing all widely available.
Eating - Sample the Local Cuisine
Ask anyone who’s even remotely familiar with the UP what kind of local food they would recommend, and the word “pasty” is bound to be mentioned. These hand-held treats were first made popular by area miners who needed simple, no-fuss – and transportable – foods. A pastry crust is stuffed with potatoes, diced meat, rutabaga, carrots and onions; they can be found all over the Upper Peninsula. Pick up a whole pack of frozen pasties to bring home for a delicious snack.
When To Go & How to Get There
The most popular and memorable way to get into the UP is by crossing the majestic Mackinac Bridge. Spanning the Straits of Mackinac, this feat of engineering connects the Upper Peninsula with the Lower Peninsula. Fly into Traverse City in the Lower Peninsula, then drive approximately one hou to get to the bridge. Without a doubt, this is the most exciting introduction to the UP that anyone could wish for.
For most destinations, spring and summer are the preferred times of year to visit. However, since so many of the UP’s top activities take place in the winter, that is an opportune time to come as well. The truth is, each season has its own unique charms in the UP; feel free to come by any time!