A Grand Romantic Getaway to Pure Michigan

Earlier this year, we launched a contest titled Pin to Win: Michigan in Love where we asked fans to create a Pinterest board that represented what an ideal romantic getaway looked like to them. We were blown away by the response and truly enjoyed looking through the submitted boards.

In early March, Megan Battaglia of Buffalo, NY was randomly selected as the winner and began planning a romantic getaway for her and her husband to take to Mackinac Island this month. Today, she tells us what they’re most looking forward to doing during their visit to Pure Michigan.

Photo taken during Megan's trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes in 2012

I have always loved road trips! From the moment I got my driver’s license I would get in my car and drive aimlessly for hours discovering new places and areas I hadn’t seen before. Living in Buffalo, NY, I explored all I could in New York State and Ontario, Canada and eventually New England and the northeast coast.

Back in 2012, an article caught my eye. It said that ABC Good Morning America’s viewers had chosen Sleeping Bear Dunes in Northern Michigan as the most beautiful place in America. Why had I never heard of this place? Now I was intrigued! After all, Michigan is an easy road trip from my home (in my definition, an easy road trip is anything 8 hours or less).

As luck would have it, in fall 2012, I was scheduled to go to a conference in Ann Arbor. This was my chance to take a side trip and see these Sleeping Bear Dunes. I found the Pure Michigan website which provided me with all the information I needed to plan my trip. As soon as I arrived at the National Lakeshore Park, I was enthralled! The dunes were everything I hoped they would be. I took dozens of pictures, climbed the dunes, and discovered as much of Northern Michigan as I could in a day.  

There was so much more in Michigan I wanted to see. So I followed Pure Michigan on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to learn more and see what other places there were to discover. Then this past winter, I saw a contest on Pinterest for “Pin to Win: Michigan in Love”. The prize was described as a Pure Michigan Romantic Getaway – two days on Mackinac Island at Grand Hotel, dinner at the Woods restaurant, round trip air, and a Buick rental car. Since my husband and I had just celebrated our 25th anniversary, I couldn’t have imagined a better trip for us! Mackinac Island was definitely on my list of must see places – seemingly untouched by time, no cars allowed, surrounded by the deepest of the great lakes, beautiful homes and deep history.

So – here I am – the grand prize winner of the Pin to Win: Michigan in Love contest! My husband and I are scheduled to leave for our anniversary trip on Friday, June 7. But I couldn’t help but think that 2 days was not enough. So, we have decided to extend the trip and see as much as we can of Western and Northern Michigan.

Here’s our itinerary so far.

Friday: Head up the coast of Lake Michigan from Chicago stopping along the way at places such as Holland, Grand Haven, the Tunnel of Trees, Mackinaw City.

Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island - where Megan and her husband will spend two nights as part of their prize package

Saturday: Catch the first ferry to Mackinac Island, spend two nights at Grand Hotel, enjoy the Lilac Festival and see as much as we can of the island.

Monday: Take The Mackinac Bridge over to the Upper Peninsula and see where our Buick leads us (maybe St. Ignace, Sault St. Marie, Pictured Rocks, DeTour Village – I would love to see Lake Superior!).

Tuesday and Wednesday: Explore Sleeping Bear Dunes, Traverse City, the wineries and anywhere else along Leelanau Peninsula our Buick may lead us!

Stay tuned – Michigan here we come!

Are there any other must-sees that you’d recommend to Megan while she’s in town? Share your suggestions below!

Sharing History: Summer at Fort Mackinac

By working as a soldier at Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island, Niall Farley’s summer job in Michigan is anything but ordinary. Today he shares a little bit about what this role entails.

I wake up a little before 8am, get ready and grab my bicycle for the short ride to work. Not uncommon for college-aged folks working summer jobs in Michigan, but my summer job is anything but common.

I am a soldier at Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island.

Now in my fourth season, I’m responsible for overseeing the daily interpretative programs as lead interpreter. Dressed as a sergeant in the U.S. Army in the 1880s, I lead tours through the fort, clean, prime, load and fire a model 1841 cannon and an original Springfield 45/70 rifle.

This is the 55th year of historical interpretive programming at Mackinac State Historic Parks. Each year, May through mid-October, we open our gates to visitors from every state and more than 50 countries. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job, seeing how much not just people from Michigan, but people from all over the world enjoy the view, the history and taking part in our interpretive programs

I was drawn to this job for a number of reasons–the chance to spend my summers on beautiful Mackinac Island, the opportunity to tell stories about this fascinating place, and of course, the hats.

During the winter, I study as an English major at Oakland University in Rochester Hills and live in my small hometown of Almont. While history has not been my area of study, I’ve become fascinated by the important events that have taken place throughout the Straits of Mackinac, and sharing them with visitors makes my every day at Fort Mackinac an enjoyable experience, it hardly seems like work.

Are you planning to explore the history at Fort Mackinac this summer? Share with us below!

A Family Camping Trip to Black Lake

Regardless of what type of experience you’re looking for, Michigan has no shortage of lakes and campgrounds to explore year-round. Today, guest blogger Philip Rudy tells us about his favorite family camping destination – Blake Lake State Forest Campground.

For a full listing of campgrounds across the state, visit michigan.org.

In my opinion, there are two types of camping in Michigan: There are the people that go to Higgins Lake with their RV and their TV and then there are people that pitch a tent out basically in the woods.

Not that there is anything wrong with the first type of camping – believe me, I have had my fair share of fun at Higgins Lake and it was a great time indeed. It is a great place to bring all of your friends for a fun, memorable weekend. There are a lot of people that come here from all over Michigan and you can meet tons of people from all over the state and make long lasting relationships.

Black Lake is located in Cheboygan and Presque Isle counties right at the top of the Lower Peninsula, and most people will find themselves driving through it if they chance to go to the Upper Peninsula. At this 9-mile long lake, you will find one of the most enjoyable places there is to go camping on the face of this earth (at least, in my opinion). There are tons of great things about this campsite, but here are the top three reasons that I think make this campground one of the best to go to in Michigan.

The Perfect Family Vacation

This place is somewhat secluded in the woods and for this reason there is a little bit more seclusion and more privacy – allowing you to have the perfect time with your family. It feels like you are a little bit more in the woods and you just get the “roughing it” feel.

This allows you to have large campfires, have the family dog around, cook whatever it was that you caught fishing that day, mess around with slingshots in the background and basically all sorts of things you wouldn’t be able to do at your typical campground in Michigan. It’s a great time to just sit around the campfire, come up with different recipes that make absolutely no sense until you eat them and talk about stories until the late hours of the night.

The Lake

The lake is absolutely gorgeous. It goes out for about 100 yards or more of crystal clear, waist deep water. And for how north this lake is, it really never gets too cold in the winter time. The beach is nice and sandy and it isn’t one of those lakes where you are walking on rocks 90% of the time. It is gentle on the feet, and once again a great place for lots of family fun.

The Fishing

If you are an angler, or if you are interested in going fishing in Michigan for the first time, then Black Lake offers the perfect spot to go fishing. The lake is filled with all different types of bass, pan fish, pike, walleye, and even sturgeon. There are boat rental docks all over the place up and down the shore, and you can get on a boat at a decent price any time of the week during the summer months.

There are also great fishing areas all around the Black Lake Area like Kleber Pond, which is great for fishing off the shoreline over lily pads.

I went to Black Lake many summers of my life in my childhood because my father would take my brother and I out there with our friends for a fun family vacation. I encourage others who enjoy camping and are looking for a more “roughing it” feel to go out and try it as well.

Philip Rudy is the owner of Michigan Wine Trail. He also helps run and maintain Spartan Hall of Fame Café as part of his day job. In his spare time he enjoys blogging and owns a plethora of online websites.