Main Street inMackinac Island, Michigan. Image credit: Michael Deemer via Shutterstock.

8 Breathtaking Towns to Visit in Michigan

In Michigan, the Great Lakes State, it doesn't take much to leave you breathless in a whirlwind of emotions. Just a tiny town, like one along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, will do. Munising is home to artful geological formations overlooking Lake Superior's best untamed nature, where the turquoise-tinted waters flirt with beaches and bedazzle with over 15 waterfalls cascading through emerald forests.

Nestled along the deep blue Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City is the Cherry Capital, whose character is written all along Front Street with wineries, fine cuisine, and one-of-a-kind shops. Meanwhile, Marquette boasts what is arguably the state's best downtown after Detroit. Thrill seekers can join the locals in cliff diving from the iconic Black Rocks into Lake Superior or simply visit Lakenenland Sculpture Park, just 15 miles away, which awakens your senses.

Grand Marais

Lake Superior's shores in Grand Marais, Michigan.
Lake Superior's shores in Grand Marais, Michigan.

Grand Marais, the eastern entrance to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, is a quaint harbor town, home to under 300 people and a pair of historically registered lighthouses. The Refuge Inner and Outer Lights offer spectacular shots from the west pier against the scenic Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge at sunset. The beachside Woodland Park Campground is incredibly popular in the summer, while in the fall, the lush bluffs catch fire. Here, visitors can enjoy the unique opportunity to camp on the beach under some of the darkest skies in the US, perfect for adventurous couples and those who own a telescope.

Agate Beach, directly north of Main Street, is named after the semi-precious stones to scavenge for your collection or bring home as a gift. Historic and beautiful, the village of Grand Marais is like a shining gem itself along the Upper Peninsula, on the world's largest natural freshwater body by area. Offering easy access to over 50 miles of shoreline, visitors can explore the trails with views of the sea-like Lake Superior and land on a perfect beach to catch the iconic purple sunset. From the epic Pickle Barrel, a museum, to the Grand Marais Historical Marker, the town is a popular stay.


Windmill Island Villiage in Holland, Michigan.
Windmill Island Villiage in Holland, Michigan.

Settled in 1846 by the Dutch, Holland is a delectable slice of culture to discover from the immense shore of the ocean-like Lake Michigan. The hypnotic coastline features trails and busy boardwalks for every adventurer, morning jogger, or leisure seeker on an afternoon stroll. The picture-perfect sunset over the glistening waters and the nearby lighthouse may as well be Holland's postcard. Bringing its heritage into the present day through vibrant attractions and historic sites along the streets, this town in the heart of Michigan has a spirit for adventure, with something engaging for every level and age in the outdoors, picnic spots in nature, and evening venues if relaxing is your purpose.

Home to many museums on Holland's rich history and cultural events like the Tulip Time Festival that honor the Dutch heritage, in winter visitors can enjoy skiing, skating, and sledding, as well as the Dutch Winterfest. Windmill Island Gardens is a park with costumed guides and seasonal tulip gardens centered around the 250-year-old windmill and a beautiful carousel. From the Big Red Lighthouse on the south side of the Holland Channel to over 100 specialty shops, like Nob Hill Again for the antiquers, dotting the cobblestone sidewalks, the sparkling water views in between restaurants, and one too many breweries, Holland makes you fall in love with life again.

Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island, Michigan: Bustling streets of downtown Mackinac Island during tourist season
Mackinac Island, Michigan: Bustling streets of downtown Mackinac Island during tourist season. Editorial Credit: Michael Deemer via Shutterstock.

Mackinac Island is a slice of history and untouched nature, offering a glimpse into the past with its charming Victorian architecture. It inspires a tranquil oasis, with ferry access, horse-drawn carriages, and only pedestrian traffic in town. Greeting you with the mouthwatering scent of fudge from the famous candy shops, it is a perfect treat to energize you for adventures and bring home a gift from America's fudge capital. The historic downtown also offers living history experiences at every turn, such as the costumed interpreters at Fort Mackinac. Visitors can explore the island on a bike along the scenic trails, including Mackinac Island State Park.

The island is home to iconic formations like the 146-foot Arch Rock and the 75-foot Sugar Loaf, as well as other ancient limestone formations like Skull Cave, Devil’s Kitchen, and Eagle Point. These geologically unique features, set within the park, cover a spectrum of forests, sea caves, and beaches. It's easy to fall for the old-world charm and the leisurely pace of life on the island, with charming B&Bs and luxurious resorts like the lavish Grand Hotel, which boasts the world's largest porch with spectacular morning coffee or nightcap views. Staying busy in the summer, there's no wrong time to visit one of the US's most breathtaking islands. Seasonal foliage, inviting restaurants, and cute shops line the streets, and the delicate butterflies at the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory add to the charm.


Kitch-iti-kipi is an amazing natural spring in Manistique, Michigan.
Kitch-iti-kipi is an amazing natural spring in Manistique, Michigan.

Manistique is magnifique, a central town with many attractions within minutes of access, like the Historic Fayette Town Site. The historic Seul Choix Point Lighthouse is open for tours and offers top views for miles over Lake Michigan's uncrowded beaches, stretching both ways. It's easy to find a slice of serenity along the sands even in the summer. The stunning Kitch-iti-kipi, which translates as the Big Spring, is Michigan's largest spring, two hundred feet across and forty feet deep. It gushes over 10,000 gallons of mineral water a minute from fissures in the underlying limestone. Visitors can relax with their pets after a hike through the surrounding Palms Book State Park.

Indian Lake State Park, just four miles west off County Road 442, comprises the South Shore Unit and the West Shore Unit. The former offers 145 fully equipped campsites with all the comforts, like showers, while the West Shore's 72 campsites are very secluded and feature vault toilets, drinking water, and electricity. Campers can enjoy beach volleyball, horseshoe pits, and fishing, as well as step out to breathtaking sunrises over the fourth-largest inland lake in the Upper Peninsula. Teeming with northern pike, bluegill, brown trout, rock bass, walleye, sturgeon, and perch, the 8,400-acre Indian Lake flaunts a clean beach with warm sands and cooling waters.


Business district Marquette Michigan on hill side main street
Business district Marquette Michigan on hill side main street

This historic port town for shipping iron ore boasts what is arguably the state's best small-town downtown area. Notably home to five museums, the Marquette Maritime Museum features the largest collection of Fresnel lenses on the Great Lakes. Just 15 miles away, Lakenenland Sculpture Park, a recipient of the 2023 Tripadvisor Traveller's Choice Awards, awakens all your senses. As the largest city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Marquette deserves a memorable stay at the waterfront Hampton Inn Marquette Shore. Presque Isle features cliffs that take your breath away, even before you see cliff jumpers or decide to join them in a free fall from the iconic Black Rocks into the lake.

Life in Marquette is anything but monotonous, especially with all the classy bars dotting Washington Street and Third Street. Visitors can enjoy fine dining and drinks from the beautiful balconies overlooking Lake Superior. The Marquette Regional History Center features a permanent collection and six interactive exhibits highlighting the connection between humans and the environment throughout history, including a touch-screen kiosk on Lake Superior and Native American culture. Home to Northern Michigan University and the DeVos Art Museum on the campus, visitors are welcome to stroll through the museum and view the permanent collection of 1,500 items by local and regional artists, as well as Japanese art and artifacts.


The beautiful town of Munising, Michigan, in winter.
The beautiful town of Munising, Michigan, in winter.

Home to some of Michigan's best untamed nature, Munising bedazzles with the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where turquoise-tinted waters flirt with beaches and no fewer than 15 waterfalls cascade through emerald forests. The craggy sandstone cliffs echo the tales of time, narrating a story of harsh winds, beating waves, and the sun that painted each stroke. Visitors can paddle amid the artful geological formations or set off on a blufftop hike. The Alger Underwater Diving Preserve is strewn with elements of shipwrecks and sea caves, while the Hiawatha National Forest is a verdant playground for adventures through the rustling leaves or recreation to the serenade of calling birds.

A staple food of the Upper Peninsula is the Cornish meat pie, baked with ground beef, potatoes, carrots, onions, and rutabaga, encrusted in a pie. Eaten from your hand like a pastry, it is easy to pack for your picnic spread and stock up for a ride home from Muldoon’s Pasties and Gifts. For fine dining, it can be served with a dollop of gravy. For easy scenery while straining nothing but your hand muscles with a cocktail, Pictured Rocks Cruises depart from the Munising City Dock on a sail of up to two hours and 15 minutes, covering a 32-mile trip encompassing Spray Falls. The Munising Front Range Lighthouse is a must-see, overlooking the sunset in Munising Bay.

Sault Ste. Marie

Aerial view of Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
Aerial view of Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Editorial credit: Matthew G Eddy /

Affectionately called "Soo" by locals, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, graces the intersection of Lake Superior and Lake Huron, about 50 miles north of the Mackinac Bridge, and is located across from its namesake city in Ontario, Canada. The Soo Locks, a marine museum of incredible engineering feats, attract nature lovers, families, and architects alike. Visitors can climb the observation tower and watch boats pass through the locks, making it a great idea for your next outing. Enjoy splashes and unique photo ops on a boat tour, all while listening to the historical narrative of the city. From a casino to the Michigan Welcome Center and the aptly named Last Resort, don't miss a memento at the incredible Museum Ship Valley Camp.

Globe-trotters can visit another country on foot or by bike during the International Bridge Walk along the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge. The 210-foot Tower of History offers a panoramic view of the area from the deck from May through October. The views encompass the Soo Locks, Sugar Island, the Canadian waterfront, and the cooling wilderness to the north, stretching up to 1,200 square miles. The bottom floor houses a museum with a video, so after the 292-stair climb, you may feel weighed down with knowledge but lightheaded from the scenery or the elevator ride to the 25-plus-story heights.

Traverse City

The charming downtown of Traverse City, Michigan.
The charming downtown of Traverse City, Michigan.

This Lake Michigan gem in the northern part of the state is an eclectic mix of culture and nature, with small-town charm and big-city attractions. Nestled at the "fork" of the crystal-clear waters of Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City offers an idyllic sandy beach stretch backed by a radiant spectrum of flora and trails teeming with wildlife. Renowned for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, it beckons you for adventures and then invites you to unwind on the beach with its breathtaking views of the deep blue lake. Back in town, welcome to the Cherry Republic, where even the airport is called the Cherry Capital Airport. Traverse City's unique character is evident all along Front Street.

Bursting with hospitable venues, visitors can savor an array of cherry-filled treats and celebrate the city's proud cherry-growing tradition at the spirited National Cherry Festival every summer. Attracting thousands for fun events and market stands bursting with plump, juicy fruit, on other days, don't miss the Dennos Museum Center for the artsy types, the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park, and, in the winter, the Hickory Hills Ski Area. Home to irresistible cuisine from gourmet farm-to-table to international flavors, Traverse City boasts one-of-a-kind shops. After enjoying a slab of cherry pie in the radiant atmosphere, why not settle at one of the celebrated wineries with a sparkling glass?

The Wolverine State

The Wolverine State is breathtaking, from the point of entrance at Sault Ste. Marie to the offshore Mackinac Island, the fudge-scented yesteryear of the state and one of its most precious slices of well-preserved history and untouched nature. With no cars but Mackinac Island State Park, it is home to iconic geological formations, beaches, and forests.

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