Northern Michigan Vacations: Don’t worry if you haven’t started to plan a fall color tour, there’s still plenty of time to get outside and enjoy what is arguably the best time of the year.
While there are dozens of places to see the vibrant oranges, reds and yellows of autumn in the Lower Peninsula, there are endless options north of the Mackinac Bridge for those who desire less civilization and more wilderness.
Think of it this way: If Northern Michigan’s outdoors were a religion then the Upper Peninsula would be its cathedral.
Take off work early and head north to Newberry and check into MacLeod House, a charming Victorian era bed and breakfast on the outskirts of town. After dropping your bags, drive about 30 miles to Tahquamenon Falls, which is second only to much more famous Niagara Falls. Not only is this the best time for pictures — photographers call it the golden hour — but the crowds of tourists will be the smallest.
Avoid the temptation to sleep in and rise at first light, as a long day awaits. Take the full breakfast served at MacLeod House with you and drive due west on M-28 for 60 miles to Munising, which is a good base to explore the vast Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
In Munising, you can take a boat tour along the cliffs of Lake Superior for some of the most impressive sights you can imagine. While this is more than worth it, the tour from Pictured Rocks Cruises lasts nearly three hours — a significant amount of time when conditions on Lake Superior at this time of the year can be unpredictable.
Exploring the miles of nearby trails or the dozen-plus waterfalls, both in and outside the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, might be a better decision. If you do this, be sure to visit the iconic rock formation Miners Castle.
After a day in Munising, drive another 60 miles to Marquette, where your trip will conclude with a stay at the Hampton Inn , which opened last year. Though room rates are a bit high (rooms begin at $189), the hotel has superior views — pun intended — of Lake Superior. For dinner, L’Attitude Café & Bistro offers a big city gourmet-style menu with a trendy atmosphere. Though it’s not what one might expect in the Upper Peninsula, it’s a good example of how Marquette is gentrifying as a result of Northern Michigan University’s continued growth.
Marquette, at least the city proper, may be a bit too urbanized for some, but a few minutes outside of downtown is Sugarloaf Mountain and one of the best panoramic views of Lake Superior. The climb to the top takes about 15 minutes at a medium to brisk pace. Taking in the sunrise from atop Sugarloaf Mountain with some breakfast from the hotel is the perfect end to a memorable weekend in the Upper Peninsula.
Dennis Lennox is a columnist for The Morning Sun of Mt. Pleasant. Follow him on Twitter at @DennisLennox