Michigan celebrated a big birthday in January, and this blog’s 500th post gives another great excuse for cake! In honor of the milestone, we looked at roads less traveled and came up with a 500-mile (OK, 504 miles) “Top O’ The Mitten To Ya” road trip that encompasses all the natural beauty and relaxation of Pure Michigan.
Start in Muskegon, home to Michigan’s Adventure Amusement and Waterpark. If the season’s not right for the “Shivering Timbers” rollercoaster (or Muskegon’s 27 miles of beach), explore life as an old-timey lumber baron at the Hackley and Hume Historic Site.
Heading north will lead you to the beaches, trails, lighthouses and dunes of beautiful Ludington, where you (and your car) can cruise Lake Michigan aboard a real steamship. While a honey badger might not care, the S.S. Badger does.
Next, head northeast to Manistee – home to quaint Victorian shops, the world-class Arcadia Bluffs golf course and Little River Casino. Manistee County is also one of the best places in the world for rainbow trout and salmon fishing.
Again heading north, stop in at the Sleeping Bear Dunes Natural Lakeshore. Encompassing 35 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, Sleeping Bear Lakeshore is also home to an 1871 lighthouse and an extensive rural historic farm district.
Now, head east, with a quick detour north to the wine country of Suttons Bay. You won’t find a parking meter or stoplight, but you will find art, antiques and Ciccone Vineyard & Winery, owned by the family of a little-known entertainer by the name of Madonna.
Head south again for Traverse City. Grand Traverse Bay is a four-season destination, featuring 180 miles of sugar sand shoreline and extensive snowmobile and ski trails. Chances are good you’ll find cherry everything, among other delicious eats.
Continue northeast towards Charlevoix, where you can catch a ride on the Beaver Island Ferry and Petoskey, known for its fresh air, historic architecture and lending its name to Michigan’s state stone.
From Petoskey, head south towards the charming Alpine delights of Gaylord, and Grayling, for canoeing, kayaking, fishing on the AuSable and Manistee rivers, and snowboarding, sledding and ice skating in the winter. Grayling is even a great place for downhill skiing.
Head southwest towards the Traverse City Forest, and on to Cadillac. In the winter, Cadillac offers 200 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and 34 downhill ski runs with over 485 feet of vertical drop. Year-round, Cadillac offers 90,000 acres of state and national forest.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and this trip winds down in Big Rapids. One of Michigan’s better-kept secrets, Big Rapids offers swimming in the summer, gorgeous color in the fall, snowshoe trekking in the winter and lakefront picnic ground in the spring.