Eight Cool Things to Do in the Eastern U.P. During the Summer

With hidden lakes, coursing waterfalls, fresh local fare and more, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a traveler’s ultimate escape. Featured blogger Jesse Land from Things to Do in the U.P. tells us about eight cool things he has done in the Eastern U.P. to inspire your visit. 

Many people forget just how big the U.P. is. For example, even though I live in Iron Mountain (roughly in the middle of the Upper Peninsula), it still takes me over four hours to get to DeTour, in the far eastern U.P. If I lived in Ironwood, it’d be more like a six hour drive!

Iron Mountain_Joseph Parrott

Iron Mountain, Photo Courtesy of Joseph Parrott

And so it is that the far ends of the U.P. often don’t get as much attention as they should. Well, I decided to at least scratch the surface in the eastern U.P. last summer and am so glad I did. Let me just point out that this is not a “best of” list by any means. One could easily spend a few weeks over in the Eastern U.P. and not take it all in. These are just a few highlights from last summer and hopefully by the time you’re done reading this you’ll want to venture over there to check it out for yourself!

1. Kayak through the Les Cheneaux Islands

One of the highlights from last summer was definitely kayaking through a few of the Les Cheneaux Islands with Woods and Water Ecotours. Our guide Carla was a very experienced kayaker and had moved from out west to the Les Cheaneaux area to attend their famed wooden boat building school. Carla took my wife and I and two other travelers out around a few of the thirty six islands, over some really cool rock formations and even over a shallow water shipwreck.

The short paddle was just long enough for me to realize I need to plan a whole week or more in the Les Cheneaux area with my kayak. What an amazing place.

2. Have lunch at Brown’s Fish House in Paradise

Brown's Fish House. Photo courtesy of Jesse Land - Things to Do in the U.P.

Brown’s Fish House. Photo courtesy of Jesse Land – Things to Do in the U.P.

Ah, Brown’s. It almost seems to good to be true. For some reason I’m afraid that one of these times I’m going to go into Brown’s Fisheries Fish House for lunch and not have an amazing meal. Luckily, that’s never happened and I doubt it ever will. Last summer I had their lake trout basket for the first time and I think I might have found a new favorite. If you like fresh fish, put Brown’s at the top of your U.P. itinerary. (32638 West M28 Paradise, MI)

3. Visit Tahquamenon Falls (and have dinner at the brewery)

Photo Courtesy of Amy Brown

Photo Courtesy of Amy Brown

What’s a trip to to the eastern U.P. without a stop at Tahquamenon Falls? I had the chance to not only see the falls, but have a great chat with Lark Ludlow, the co-owner and brewer at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery.

Lark’s grandfather gifted much of the land that is now Tahquamenon Falls State Park to the state of Michigan so she told my friends and I about the history of the area, what used to be where the restaurant/brewery is now and how the brewery came to be. And we capped off the evening with an excellent dinner. Next time you visit Tahquamenon Falls, make sure to stop in the brewery! Even if you’re not a fan of craft beer, they’ve got great food.

4. Discover Malloney’s Irish Pub in Sault Sainte Marie

We’d planned to visit the locally famous Antlers for dinner in Sault Sainte Marie, but ended up walking into to Maloney’s Alley Irish Pub just to check it out and were very pleasantly surprised, so we stayed for dinner. Prior to that visit I hadn’t heard of Malloney’s, but they ended up having great food and a terrific Michigan craft beer selection! I’ll definitely be back. (227 W Portage Ave. Sault Sainte Marie, MI)

5. Have a picnic lunch at the Hessel marina

Hesel Marina - Photo courtesy of Jesse Land - Things to Do in the U.P.

Hessel Marina – Photo courtesy of Jesse Land – Things to Do in the U.P.

Sometimes it’s the simple things you remember the most. My wife and I packed a cooler for a picnic lunch on our first visit to the eastern U.P. last summer but didn’t have any specific location in mind. Well, we ended up finding the perfect spot as soon as we pulled into Hessel, in the form of the Hessel marina.

We had lunch on a picnic table while gazing at antique wooden boats, water, a beach and the many islands as a few “islanders” came and went in their boats. Whether you have lunch here or not, it’s a great spot for a photo op.

6. Tour Drummond Island on ATV

Another highlight was touring Drummond Island on ATV with Beaver’s ATV Rentals. We were told that Bill Beaver knows Drummond Island as good as anyone, and he sure seemed to. Bill led my wife and I on an excellent several hour tour of various Drummond Island highlights via the island’s designated ORV trails. And once again, it was enough to make us realize we need to block off at least a few days to explore Drummond Island further. We can’t wait to get back.

7. Visit Soo Brewing

While in the Soo we made it a point to stop into Soo Brewing and really enjoyed the place. It’s an open, unassuming space with plenty of board games on hand and lots of couch and table space where friends can relax for hours. And since it’s located right downtown, it’s easy to walk from the brewery to all the other bars, restaurants and things to do in the area.

8.  Visit the Crisp Point Lighthouse

Photo courtesy of Jesse Land - Things to Do in the U.P.

Photo courtesy of Jesse Land – Things to Do in the U.P.

The Crisp Point Lighthouse is one of those places I’ve always wanted to go but for one reason or another I just wasn’t able to make it work. Well, last summer I was determined to get out there and am definitely glad I did. It’s probably the U.P.’s most remote lighthouse (at least that I’ve been to) but wow, what a place. It has a wonderful history, is beautifully restored and the view from the top is amazing!

So, those are just eight of the cool things I did in the Eastern U.P. last summer. I can’t wait to get back there so I can add to this list for next year!

What are some of your favorite things to do in the Eastern U.P.?

JesseLand21111Jesse Land owns Land Family Media and publishes the Upper Peninsula Travel blog Things to do in the U.P.

Here’s What It Takes to Make Mackinac Island Fudge

Happy National Fudge Day! In honor of celebrating a true Pure Michigan delicacy, we reached out to our friends on Mackinac Island to share some insight on the island’s famous fudge and a few fun facts to go along with it. Read more to see how much you know about Mackinac’s historic fudge-making process and three interesting facts below.

What is the most popular thing to do for free on Mackinac Island?  The answer: Sample free fudge! That question is one of the most frequently asked at the island’s downtown information booth. Another is, who makes the best Mackinac Island fudge? Two questions with the same answer: Taste test for yourself.

JoAnn's fudge with walnuts

JoAnns Fudge is one of many shops to explore on Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island is America’s Fudge Capital and our fudge stores take the moniker very seriously. It’s a proud badge of honor to carry and they give back by offering samples to anyone who asks. On Mackinac Island, fudge plays a major tourism role along with our Fort Mackinac, Grand Hotel and 600-working horses on this island without cars.

Who knew making fudge could be so entertaining?

Our visitors are in for a “sweet treat” when they get off one of our ferry boats and roam downtown where 14-fudge shops are collectively making over 10-thousand pounds of fudge per day during the peak travel season. In addition to sampling the taste, they also get to watch the process of making fudge from boiling the ingredients to pouring the hot liquid concoction onto marble tables where expert fudge makers fold and mold it into iconic half pound slices.

Mackinac Island's fudge-making process takes time for perfection

Photo Courtesy of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

One of the best surprises visitors get here is the smell of fudge emanating from every fudge store as its being made. Stores have a ventilation systems emptying into the streets to share the aroma from their boiling vats with temperatures reaching in the 240-degree area. You’ve concluded by now fudge is big business. As many as 10-tons of sugar is imported to the island weekly to match the 10-tons of butter annually!

Today, 80-percent of that sugar comes from the sugar beet fields of Michigan. Back in the late 19th Century the sweetness for fudge making came from local Native American tribes harvesting maple sugar according to Phil Porter’s book, Fudge Mackinac’s Sweet Souvenir.

Toppings are added near the end stages of fudge-making

Photo Courtesy of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

The popularity of Mackinac Island Fudge is at an all-time high. Purchasing fudge over the internet keeps Mackinac Island fudge consumption going year round. It is especially popular during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. So as you read this, chances are someone is being entertained by watching the fudge making process on Mackinac Island! It looks delicious, smells terrific, tastes incredible and is almost as entertaining to watch as it is to eat. Did you know these fun fudge-facts below?

  1. Did you know during World War I, millions of individually wrapped one-ounce portions of chocolate were delivered to our soldiers in Europe?
  2. Did you know during World War II the rationing of sugar adversely effected the quantity of Mackinac Island Fudge being made to satisfy demand?
  3. Did you know President Gerald R. Ford visited Mackinac Island in 1975 and stopped at May’s Fudge on the corner of Astor and Main where it sits today? He sampled then purchased a fresh off the slab slice of vanilla pecan.     

What is your favorite flavor of Mackinac Island fudge? Share with us by commenting below!

5 Things You Can’t Miss On a Pictured Rocks Road Trip

The untouched natural beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is unlike anywhere else in the world, especially near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This stretch of coast from Munising to Paradise is worth a visit for some of the most unbelievably beautiful adventures in the state. This is a great place for a family summer vacation, with a cool to moderate climate and unlimited things to discover. Come along as Jennifer from The Awesome Mitten shares five things that make this gorgeous area Pure Michigan.

The Upper Peninsula seems like it was made for adventures with incredible experiences available in both the summer and winter months. It’s easy to fall in love with the beauty of this area. With eighty four percent of the Upper Peninsula covered by forests and 917 miles of shoreline along the deepest of the Great Lakes – Lake Superior – this is the perfect place to get away from it all and have an unforgettable vacation. Don’t miss these unique experiences during your next trip to the Upper Peninsula.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

1. The Food

Brown Fisheries Fish House

With fresh fish caught within hours of hitting your plate, Brown Fisheries Fish House boasts the tastiest fish near Paradise. Served with either two or three pieces of fish, their ultimate meal is the Lake Superior Whitefish Baskets. It is the most delicious, flaky, perfectly flavorful fish you could imagine and all for an affordable price. This family owned and run business is very low key, so we’re letting you in on the secret of this amazing hidden gem.

Bear Trap Inn

When in the Upper Peninsula you must get a pasty, and you better know how to pronounce it! If you’re looking for a pasty near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, look no further than Bear Trap Inn. Served by some of the friendliest folks, their food is hot, tasty and filling. The unique interior is unforgettable as well, with rooms filled with taxidermy animals exclusive to the area and a bar with hundreds of numbered mugs for all of the locals.

2. Lighthouses on Every Route

Whitefish Point Lighthouse

Jutting out into Lakes Superior, Whitefish Point Lighthouse is the oldest operating light on this Great Lake. All vessels entering and leaving this treacherous shoreline of Lake Superior must pass this light. This light looks out to the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes” where more shipwrecks have occurred than any other area of the lake so it’s full of remarkable and mysterious history.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

Au Sable Light Station

This active lighthouse along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is in the middle of astonishingly beautiful shoreline. Just west of Grand Marais, it is right around the corner from Log Slide lookout and in the opposite direction Twelve Mile Beach. The 1-1/2 mile walk along the historic U.S. coast guard road is worth the trek. With scenic overlooks of Lake Superior and areas that lead out onto Twelve Mile Beach, the beauty only increases the closer you get to Au Sable Light Station. With over 180 degree views, this landmark is a place not to be forgotten.

3. Small Town Adventures

Munising

The name Munising comes from the Ojibwe word for “island at.” This is the gateway to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore since it is the largest and closest city to the area. This city boasts small town charm and great local businesses that are exclusive to the city. You can even see the stars from this city, whether it’s on billboards advertising Kid Rock’s “Born Free” music video that was filmed in the area of the Northern Lights.

Log Slide Lookout

Located about seven miles west of Grand Marais is Log Slide lookout. This incredible place is breathtaking, with views of where loggers used to slide logs down this steep slope and into Lake Superior, where they were then hauled away and turned into products. This is also a good place to glimpse the Au Sable Light Station.

Oswald’s Bear Ranch

With 29 bears, Oswald’s Bear Ranch is the largest Bear Ranch in the entire United States. Just north of Newberry, one man, Dean Oswald, created this preserve for abandoned and orphaned bear cubs from Michigan and other states. This unique experience allows you to see these incredible animals up close and personal while giving a loving home to these bears who weren’t able to live a healthy and normal life until they came to Oswald’s. As a proud associate member of the Zoological Association of America, Oswald’s Bear Ranch is an exciting place for visitors to take part in giving these bears a sanctuary for a better life.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

4. Waterfalls All Around

Munising Falls

The majority of waterfalls in this area are the result of water running over a shelf or cliffs of hard limey sandstone called the Munising Formation. This formation extends from Tahquamenon Falls to Laughing Whitefish Falls. There are quite literally waterfalls all around you when you enter this area, especially near Munising which even has its own waterfall named after the city.  Located within the city limits of Munising, a short paved trail leads you up the cool sandstone canyon along Munising Creek to two viewing platforms at the base of the falls.

Miners Falls

Just a short hike off of Miners Castle Road is the impressively powerful Miners Falls. The gravel path is a beautiful stroll through the northwoods wilderness that ends with two incredible overlooks of the falls. Make sure to bring bug spray, because you won’t want to miss this astounding waterfall.

Tahquamenon Falls

Well known for its sheer size, the Tahquamenon Falls State Park is one of the most popular attractions in the Upper Peninsula. With 46,179 acres, it is the second largest state park in Michigan. Tahquamenon Falls’ Upper Falls has a magnificent 50 foot drop, while the Lower Falls include cascades and rapids. Bordering along Lake Superior, the majority of this state park is located in Whitefish Township.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

5. Not Your Average Tour of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Stretching for about 15 miles along Lake Superior, these incredibly bold and colorful cliffs range from 50 to 200 feet and jut out directly from the lake. There are numerous ways to see these beautiful cliffs including Miners Castle which provides a wonderful vista of Pictured Rocks. However, the best way to experience these cliffs is by water. There’s a variety of different tours to choose from, but the only vessel that will allow you to get within arm’s reach from these massive cliffs is by kayak.

One of the most popular companies is Uncle Ducky’s Paddling Michigan tours. They feature a variety of unique experiences, but the most incredible Pictured Rocks tour is probably their six hour Sunset Paddle. With the sun at a lower angle, the cliff walls are illuminated in beautiful hues of orange and reddish copper. Gliding along the crystal clear waters and feeling the waves crash into the astonishing cliffs that rise up to 200 feet above you is a humbling experience that is breathtaking and mind boggling full of natural beauty. The journey features many landmarks including Miners Castle, Bridalveil Falls, Caves of the Bloody Chiefs, Mosquito river, and circling beneath the iconic Lovers Leap Arch. Whether you’re a novice or expert kayaker this adventure is built for every skillset.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

The beauty of this region is almost indescribable; you just have to go live the adventure for yourself. These were the most unforgettable places I experienced along my last road trip in the Upper Peninsula that I’d recommend over and over again. It’s incredible to live in such a diverse state that offers unlimited adventures. And Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is unlike any other part of Michigan because of the unique experiences that await around every curve.

What’s your favorite landmark near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?

AM1Jennifer Polasek is currently a student at Grand Valley State University earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing. Jennifer splits her time working as a public relation and marketing intern for The Awesome Mitten and Opera Grand Rapids. She’s an avid adventurer and loves exploring the hidden gems within Michigan! She currently resides in Grand Rapids, but loves escaping to Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula during the summertime. She loves promoting Michigan because of its endless adventures and diversity. Follow her Mitten adventures on Twitter and Instagram