When you’re in the Upper Peninsula you have your choice of roadways and highways, hikes, and beaches. This easy 53-mile drive that primarily follows a stretch of M-28 between historic Marquette to waterfall capital Munising is a favorite for locals and tourists who want to take in the Lake Superior coastline.
If you’ve got time, drive the entire 290 miles of this east-west state highway, which runs between Wakefield to near Sault Ste. Marie.
Mileage: 53 miles
Driving Time: 1 hour, 16 minutes
Stop #1: Marquette
How do we love Marquette? Let us count the ways. This bustling UP college town is situated between the stunning lake and stretches of beautiful northern forest. This port city is definitely worth a stop, and you might find yourself staying longer than expected. Visit the historic downtown and meander down to the old ore docks – one of the most photographed landmarks in the state; the Maritime Museum, which is part of an active lighthouse; several breweries including Black Rocks and Ore Dock Brewing; the campus of Northern Michigan University; and the CR-510 Bridge, both the new and historic versions are accessible and a great place to take in a view and have a picnic.
Stop #2: Presque Isle Park
A short three-mile jaunt from Marquette is the pristine Presque Isle Park. The 323-acre peninsula juts out into Lake Superior. Go to the park’s east side for an unparalleled vantage point from atop sandstone cliffs. You can choose to go on the Peter White Drive – a two-mile scenic roadway accessible by foot, bike, or car (probably not an RV though). Maybe you just want to go on a hike, and you can choose from many trails. If you’re feeling adventurous, following one of the roadways to Blackrocks and dive 10-15 feet from the cliffs into the fresh, cool water. One of the best viewing spots, however, is on the west side of the park: Sunset Point. One of the best times to visit is, you guessed it, sunset.
Stop # 3: Au Train Beach
After you’ve had a taste of the UP wilderness, it’s time to get a feel for a Lake Superior beach. If you didn’t jump in at Blackrocks, or even if you did, Au Train Beach near the town of the same name is a paradise. Go for a walk on the sand, splash in the shallow outlet of the Au Train River (warmer and perfect for kids), or just sit for a while to take in the sunshine and feel the sand between your toes. It’s a perfect place to relax.
Stop # 4: Bay Furnace ruins
Not far down the way and only five miles from Munising is another historic site, the Bay Furnace ruins. You can access the ruins through a 1/8-mile accessible trail. The ruins are the remains of a blast furnace where pig iron was made in the 1870s and is one of the last remaining structures of its kind in Michigan. From the ruins, you can also view Lake Superior and Grand Island.
Stop # 5: Munising
This is where you can hop on a boat tour to cruise around the Pictured Rocks, and you really need to do this because pictures don’t do it justice. Think of the Pictured Rocks, with its collection of colors, as the Grand Canyon, which tower over Lake Superior 50-200 feet. You can see many rock formations and waterfalls on your voyage. If you want to get closer, rent a sea kayak and go on a guided tour. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is the gem of the area, and you could easily spend a several days exploring the vastness, lighthouses, beaches, and hiking trails. In Munising, stop in at Dogpatch– a very popular and famous restaurant that is fun for the whole family – or at one of two breweries.
Stop # 6: Wagner and Alger Falls
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Munising in particular are hotspots for waterfalls, and there are several roadside falls that don’t require much hiking on your part. Wagner Falls is one of the most impressive and located just south of the M-28 junction with M-94. There’s a small parking lot and from there it’s a short, easy walk with a few stairs to the viewing platform. Alger Falls is also nearby, just down the road. If you’re a waterfall hunter, explore other waterfalls in the area, all accessible by less than two-mile easy walks: Tannery Falls, Memorial Falls, Miners Falls, Chapel Falls, and Sable Falls.