St. Ignace, the Mackinac Bridge gateway to the UP, dates to 1671; the area’s history is portrayed at the Museum of Ojibwa Culture. It’s about a 30 mile drive north and east to Les Cheneaux Islands, a Lake Huron archipelago of 36 islands that The Nature Conservancy recognizes as one of the last great places in the Western Hemisphere. Woods & Water Ecotours offers guided birding, hiking, biking and sea kayaking trips in waters that are ideal for paddling.
See the big boats---Great Lakes and ocean-going freighters, some up to 1,000 feet long---as they negotiate the narrow channels of the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan’s first permanent settlement. Ride through the navigational system on a Soo Locks Boat Tour and visit the fine River of History Museum for an understanding of the area.
Tahquamenon Falls are the largest of the more than 200 known waterfalls in the UP. Paths lead to several vantage points of the Upper and Lower Falls, and the state park has 35 miles of hiking trails, including a route that connects the two sections of rushing waters. A short drive north takes you to the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point on Lake Superior, which tells the story of the majesty and danger of the Great Lakes and the ships they have swallowed. Tragically, the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald went down off this point in a November 1975 storm. You can stay overnight in the handsomely restored Whitefish Point Light Station.
Follow Lake Superior westward from Grand Marais to explore Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This treasure, the country’s first designated national lakeshore, has hiking trails, secluded beaches and backcountry camping, but is best known for the popular Pictured Rocks Boat Tours out of Munising at the park’s western end.
South of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the central UP is Seney National Wildlife Refuge. The 95,000 acre protected area is a diverse habitat that is home to a wide variety of wildlife and migratory birds. A bit south and east of Seney, along highway U.S. 2 and Lake Michigan, are miles of sandy public beaches, the Garlyn Zoological Park and Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway. A popular stop is the climb down the path and stairway to the beach, river and gorge below Cut River Bridge near the town of Epoufette.