Six Exceptional Things to Do on Mackinac Island

Today, featured blogger Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P. tells about six of his favorite can’t-miss Mackinac Island activities and attractions.

Photo by Eric Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

Growing up in the central Upper Peninsula made it easy for my family to take day occasional day trips to Mackinac Island. My Dad would pack up the car in the early morning and about three hours later my mom, dad, sister and I would be on a ferry to the island.

Those early memories include horses (lots of horses), fudge and ice cream, the hustle and bustle of the downtown area and bike rides around the island. They’re fond memories, but I realize now that my family only scratched the surface. Known for it’s horse and buggy rides, fudge and bicycles, I continue to discover things to do on the island that I never knew about.

Below I’ll list just a few of my favorite things to do on the island. Some you’ve heard of, others you probably haven’t!

The Mackinac Legends and Lore Nature Trek

Photo by Eric Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

Want to to be guided around the lesser known parts of Mackinac by a local? Mary Patay’s “Mackinac Island’s Legends and Lore Trek” will get you just that. On my recent trip to island, Mary guided my friends and I away from the busy downtown and through the solitude of Mackinac Island State Park. We toured Arch Rock, Sugar Loaf, Fort Holmes and caught the view from Robinson’s Folly.

The walk was peaceful, scenic and it was great to get a local’s perspective. The tour is just $10 per person and you can set up your own trek by calling Mary at (231) 590-5731 or emailing her at mackinachealthandfit@yahoo.com.

The Observation Tower and Exhibits at Mission Point

Maybe you’ve seen the tall glass observation tower at Mission Point Resort, maybe you haven’t. But one things for sure, it’s well worth checking out. With five floors of historical exhibits ranging from the filming of Somewhere in Time to the construction of the Mackinac Bridge and much more. And though each level boasts a different enthralling exhibit, they all share one feature, an awesome view!

The Carriage Ride

The Mackinac Island Carriage Tour is popular for a reason! It’s a great way to see some of the islands highlights while experiencing part of what makes Mackinac great, the horses. And the tour guides to a great job with imparting tidbits of history and little known facts as you’re pulled away from downtown, past Arch Rock, to the Butterfly House and back again.

Bike Around the Island

Photo by Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

Also popular for a reason, the eight mile bike ride around the island is one of a kind experience. Even though there was a light rain, we threw on our raincoats, rented bikes from Mackinac Wheels†and had a great time. I love this bike ride because it’s mostly flat, very scenic and of course, there are no cars. And for you fat tire enthusiasts, Jimmy from Mackinac Wheels has been guiding weekly group single track rides through Mackinac’s interior, so be sure to ask about that.

Tour Mackinac by Kayak

Though we weren’t able to make time to get out on kayaks or stand up paddle boards on my last trip, I really, really want to make sure we do next time. Paul and the crew at Great Turtle Kayak Tours have a great selection of kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards to choose from, as well as a few great tour options. Personally, I want to check out the nearby Round Island Lighthouse so I’ll be connecting with them on my next trip!

Stay on the Island!

Photo by Eric Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

One thing we didn’t do during my childhood trips to the island was stay there. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I fist stayed on the island and I’ll never forget how cool it was to wake up to the sound of the horses hooves clopping on the street below our room. On my most recent visit, we stayed in a waterfront suite at the Chippewa Hotel and wow, what a view! And of course, it was nice to be just a few steps from the Pink Pony, too.

Yes, it can cost more to stay on the island but if you sign up for the hotel’s newsletters (like I do) and keep an eye on their social media channels (which I also do) you might be surprised at some of the great deals they offer.

Those are just a few of my favorite things to do on Mackinac Island. What are a few of yours?

Jesse-Land-headshot1Jesse Land writes about Upper Peninsula travel at www.thingstodointheup.com.

Exploring the Eben Ice Caves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Today, featured blogger Jesse Land of Things To Do in the U.P. tells us how to have a fantastic Pure Michigan winter adventure at the Eben Ice Caves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

Photo courtesy of Habibi Photography

The Eben Ice caves in Marquette County are one of Michigan’s prime winter attractions. Each winter, once the ice caves start to freeze up (usually sometime in December), visitor’s flock to the tiny town of Eben Junction to see the ice caves and, while they’re out there, support local businesses like the Eben Ice Caves concession stand, the Rock River Cafe and the New Moon Tavern.

Eben Ice Caves – The Basics

The “Rock River Canyon Ice Caves” better known as the Eben Ice Caves, form when melting snow runs over the edge of a small cliff and freezes, forming “ice caves” Much like the large ice formations along Munising’s Grand Island and parts of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, if you were to visit here in the summer you would see little to no water running over the edge.

It’s the perfect combination of a slow snow melt and frigid temperatures that causes these “caves” of ice to form.

The Hike to the Caves

Photo courtesy of Things to Do in the U.P.

This isn’t an attraction where you can pull up in your car, walk a few feet and be done. It’s not a long hike, but yes, you will have to get out and stretch your legs. And for the pet owners out there, yes, the area is pet friendly. Each time I’ve visited the ice caves I’ve seen more than a few dogs on the trail.

The hike from the parking area to the ice caves is about .75 miles. The first .25 mile stretch is a very flat walk through a farmer’s field. And just a note on that, the farmer allows people like you and me to pass through the field at no charge and if the kind family that owns the land ever stopped allowing this, the hike to the ice caves would be much longer. In addition to that, the land owners now offer portable bathrooms in the parking area at no charge. So, show your thanks by purchasing a hot beverage or a snack at their concession stand if you’re able!

A Word on Snowshoes and Ice Cleats

Photo courtesy of Things to Do in the U.P.

After a foot of snow got dumped on the area just two days before my recent visit, I asked a friend who lives in nearby Chatam if I should bring snowshoes. “It’s never a bad idea to bring the shoes,” he said, “but I”m guessing it’ll be packed down by then.”

He was right. Snowshoes would have only made the hike more difficult. So if you have them, bring them in case you happen to visit right after a big snowstorm. Otherwise, wear ice cleats.

Some form of ice cleats (I like Yaktrax but any of them should help!) can go a long way toward enhancing your Eben Ice Caves experience. Trust me. On any given day, about half the people visiting the caves are wearing cleats, and the other half wish they had them. The main reason is that, with ice cleats, you’re able to walk around inside the ice caves on relatively sure footing. And without them, it’s a little treacherous. The ice inside the caves is very smooth so traditional rubber boots tend to slide around quite a bit.

But another reason to wear cleats is that the trail out to the caves has some steep ups and downs. You’ll see many spots where people slide down hills on their bottoms, and then struggle to get up the other side. In short, if you’re wearing cleats (like myself and my cohorts were on our last outing) you’ll be able to walk right up and down those slippery spots. On my last visit, a college aged girl looked a little stunned as I walked right by her on a slippery hill and said “Oh, so that’s what it’s like when you have traction.”

Okay, enough about the ice cleats. You get the point!

Getting There

Photo courtesy of Habibi Photography

The Eben Ice Caves used to be a little hard to find, but no longer. Just set your GPS for Eben Junction, MI. (Or use Google Maps to find it.) From M-94 in Eben Junction, turn north onto Eben Road and drive about 1.5 miles to Frey Road. Turn right on Frey Road and drive to the end (if you can) or if it’s a busy day just find a spot to park along the road. It’s not unusual to see fifty or more cars parked here on a nice weekend day. Also, Eben Road and Frey Road have yellow signs on them that say “Ice Caves”, so keep an eye out for those.

All in all, though it’s a bit of a drive out to the ice caves, I’d highly recommend checking them out! As far as Michigan ice caves go, these are the most accessible I know of.

Have you been to the Eben Ice Caves? What did you think?

 

Written by Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P. on behalf of Travel Marquette Michigan.

 

 

Six Stunning Marquette County Beaches

Marquette County is home to dozens of beautiful beaches. Today, guest blogger Jesse Land highlights a few of his favorites.

Black Rocks Beach at Presque Isle Park

Black Rocks Beach

Located within Presque Isle Park, this rock beach is a unique find treasured by rock collectors for it’s huge and vast collection of smooth Lake Superior stones. Nestled between two cliffs, Black Rocks Beach is a scenic spot all on it’s own. However, if you happen to visit on a warm summer day you’re likely to see the young (and young at heart) cliff diving off the Black Rocks rock formation right in front of the beach!

McCarty’s Cove

There’s a reason McCarty’s Cove is one of the most popular (and most photographed) beaches in the Upper Peninsula. With it’s rock islands, sand point, proximity to the Marquette bike path and view of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse from anywhere on the beach, this beach is tough to beat.

Pebble Beach

Another popular spot for rock hounds, Pebble Beach is located a little north of McCarty’s Cove (just past Picnic Rocks). This beach is has quite a bit of sand but the sand gives way to smooth stones where Lake Superior meets the land. The pebbles continue into the water so if you plan on wading here, I’d recommend that you bring your water shoes.

South Beach on Marquette's southside

South Beach

This wide, flat beach is located on Marquette’s south side. It’s locally known to be one of the more “kid friendly” beaches, as the water near the beach is very shallow. Playground equipment dots the section of this beach near the lifeguard stand, while the section further south is wide open, dog friendly and not watched by a lifeguard.

Sunset Beach

One of the best beaches for sunset watching near Marquette, this five mile stretch of pristine Upper Peninsula beach is dog friendly and, because it’s a little out of town, often not very busy. A sandy bottom greets you as you wade into Lake Superior. And due to the expansiveness of this particular locale, this beach is blessed with a better than average view of Lake Superior and the surrounding area.

Teal Lake Beach

This small but pleasant beach is located in Negaunee, just a few miles away from Marquette. A shallow, sandy entry makes this a kid friendly beach and it’s distance from Marquette means it’s often less busy than some of the other beaches. Also, because Teal Lake is an inland Lake, its water is often a bit warmer than Lake Superior!

Teal Lake Beach

Details about all of these beaches, plus photos, and a map to twelve waterfalls and thirteen scenic views are all included on the Marquette County Waterfall Map. Get one for free by calling the Marquette Visitor’s Bureau at (906) 228-7749.

This post was written by Jesse Land on behalf of the Marquette County Convention Center and Visitor’s Bureau.