Northwest Lower Michigan is well-known for its scenic beauty, especially in the fall. That’s why it’s been such a popular destination for families for generations. What better way to see all region has to offer than by getting in your RV or toad and traveling to some selected destinations? This driving tour begins near Ludington and works its way up, primarily following the coast, which is a scenic drive in and of itself.
Distance: 287 Miles
Driving Time: 6 hours, 40 minutes
Stop #1: North Breakwater Light, Ludington
Voted one of the top lighthouses to see in the United States by the Weather Channel, the North Breakwater Light at Stearns Park in picturesque Ludington is an ideal way to begin your scenic journey. You can walk the half-mile-long pier to watch the sunset or to wave to passengers on the S.S. Badger car ferry as they begin their voyage across Lake Michigan. It’s a serene spot that helps you tune into the lapping of the waves and the call of the seagulls overhead. There are lighthouse tours from May through September for $5.
Stop #2: Pyramid Point, Empire
To reach this destination, get on highway U.S. 31 or take the more leisurely M-22, known as one of the most beautiful drives in Michigan. After a couple hours in the RV, you’ll be able to stretch your legs by taking a quick walk up the trail head to Pyramid Point, located within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The direct route to the scenic overlook is only 0.6 miles long, but it is hilly. You can do the entire 2.7 mile loop if you want to get a little extra exercise. The view is nothing short of stunning. You’re high above even the birds, with the tantalizing blue of a Great Lake stretching out before you. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a Bald Eagle soaring overhead.
Stop #3: Grand Traverse Lighthouse, Leelanau
Another lighthouse? Yes! Grand Traverse Lighthouse in Leelanau County is a historic landmark as it’s one of the oldest in the state. From May to September, you can walk through the dwelling and climb the tower for a glorious view. There is also a museum, usually with a special exhibit. A recreation passport is required to enter Leelanau State Park.
Stop #4: The Breezeway
You don’t even need to get out of your RV for this next “stop,” unless you want to, of course. C-48 between Atwood and Boyne Falls is known as “The Breezeway.” The 20 mile-long trek gets you off the highway and into some of the smaller towns off the beaten path, including Ellsworth and East Jordan. There are plenty of scenic overlooks, orchards, artist galleries, and locally owned retail shops along the way. Driving this rural route for a color tour is particularly spectacular.
Stop #5: Petoskey Farms and Winery, Petoskey
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into Italy when you reach Petoskey Farms and Winery estate, located just three miles from historic Petoskey. Enjoy a glass of vino out on the deck, where sweeping views of rolling hills, plush vineyards, and blue sky await to give you a magical experience. But it’s not magic; it’s just northern Michigan’s natural charisma.
Stop #6: Boyne Highlands Scenic Chairlift Ride, Harbor Springs
The MacGully chairlift at Boyne Highlands is open for more than just skiing and snowboarding. The view from the chairlift is much different without snow and truly captures the essence of Michigan’s splendor. It’s a unique and fun way to see both the surrounding landscape and those in the distance (including, on clear days, the famous Mackinac Bridge, our next stop in this driving tour). Pricing: $5 per person, check website for dates and times.
Stop #7: Mackinac Bridge, Mackinac City
A journey across northwest Michigan wouldn’t be complete without meeting the Mighty Mac in Mackinac City. There’s a park near the water that gives you a close-up look. Enjoy a picnic with the bridge as your backdrop. At night, the bridge is lined with hundreds of lights that reflect their glow on the Straits of Mackinac below. There are boat tours, including a sunset tour, so that you can get a view of this architectural marvel from the water.
You’ll encounter many other worthy stops and gorgeous views along the way, from parks to downtowns to wineries to trail overlooks. This is not an exhaustive list of everything you can – or should – see while you’re in the area. Enjoy this stunning region of Michigan!