Panoramic view of the coast at Sandusky, Ohio.

8 Delightful Towns to Visit in the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes, a region in North America consisting of five freshwater lakes, is home to many beautiful towns that may surprise travelers. With a host of fun commercial locales and interesting natural or historic landmarks that will appeal to all ages, there is no shortage of things to see and do. Each town has something unique to share, whether the lighthouse at Grand Marais or the wineries in Leland. Thus, these towns are some of the best vacation destinations to experience: Lake Superior, Lake Ontario, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Michigan.

Grand Marais, Minnesota

The U.S. Coast Guard Station in Grand Marais, Minnesota.
The US Coast Guard Station on Lake Superior in Grand Marais, Minnesota.

Grand Marais is home to around 1,300 residents on Lake Superior's North Shore. It is well known for its delightful landmarks like the Grand Marais Lighthouse, a mainstay for anyone seeking shoreline scenery, and 18th-century lakeshore architecture across the harbor. Nearby, Artists' Point offers a natural escape for tourists with its downtown sunrises and is a famous stop for winter seasons and boating pleasures.

Picnic lovers and hiking enthusiasts can enjoy the Pincushion Mountain Trail System for its mountain solitude and looping trails full of harbor and lighthouse scenery. One can find more delights at Sivertson Gallery, a great stop for memorable local artistry with excellent small rooms full of household antiques and crafts. Similarly, Lake Superior Trading Post offers cute home goods and pottery trinkets that are perfect for souvenirs. After roaming around, those who need a bite can dine at Hungry Hippie Tacos, a satisfying restaurant featuring delightful fish tacos and brisket meals.

Leland, Michigan

Aerial view of Historic Fishtown in Leland, Michigan.
Aerial view of Historic Fishtown in Leland, Michigan. Editorial credit: Matthew G Eddy /

A northeastern town along Lake Michigan, Leland is a delightful option for travelers with 400 residents. Most head straight to Historic Fishtown, a lovely fishing village with iconic waterfalls full of jumping salmon and downtown craft and shop locales. Further out, Van's Beach offers sugary sands and local beach delights for travelers wanting Leland River sights or stunning walks near Fishtown. Similarly, South Manitou Island may also be worth the itinerary for calming dunes and pebble beach footholds, with lots of white cedars that have been around for over 500 years.

Those who love wineries can revel at Verterra Winery, an easygoing and delightful winery that hosts the most pleasant locals and award-winning ciders in town. Along with the drinks, anyone craving a good meal may love The Cove for its gourmet seafood cuisine and fishing cabin waterfront ambiance.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island along Lake Huron in Michigan.
Mackinac Island along Lake Huron in Michigan.

Mackinac Island lies along Lake Huron and has around 600 inhabitants. It is a great trip idea for anyone seeking local thrills and cultural delights. Mackinac Island State Park creates a meaningful itinerary with its natural limestone bluffs, sparkling water vistas, and mystical Native American landscapes that would entice anyone to stick around. The Arch Rock is another delightful limestone landmark worth touring, with its unique native Nipissing foundations and shoreline glaciation that make it stand out from the rest.

Nature lovers would love to visit The Butterfly House, a commercial landmark stop full of tropical gardens and hundreds of exotic butterfly species. Meanwhile, history lovers will find lots of education and knowledge at Fort Holmes, an island fortress at the highest point of town with 18th-century military history related to the War of 1812. Art admirers can check out the Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, where large exhibits full of cultural photography and Victorian-era garments are always on display. Those who want to experience it all at once can opt for the Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, which offers a splendid horse-drawn carriage tour of the entire island.

Arcadia, Michigan

Overlook of Lake Michigan near Arcadia, Michigan.
Overlook of Lake Michigan near Arcadia, Michigan.

Located along the Lake Michigan shoreline, Arcadia has much to offer for a small town with only 300 locals. The natural areas shine, and Arcadia Overlook is a featured stop with its delightful lookout climbs and beautiful Lake Michigan sunsets. Nearby, Arcadia Marsh Nature Preserve is quite a marvel due to its southern coastal marshes and wetland bird habitats. For a more active experience, one can visit Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club, which boasts golfing enjoyment on a 245-acre windswept lakefront property that makes any tourist feel like a special guest.

Back in town, the Arcadia Area Historical Museum provides local memorabilia and German immigration history as a historical stop for travelers needing a taste of European influence and local marina scenery. For comfort dining, Ketch22 Kafe Food Trailer offers friendly service and the best hamburgers in town. Newcomers needing fancy service can check out The Dining Room, a luxury seating experience with high-class buffets and desserts just as good as the view of the Arcadia Bluffs right outside.

Two Harbors, Minnesota

Split Rock Lighthouse on a cliff near Two Harbors, Minnesota.
Split Rock Lighthouse on a cliff near Two Harbors, Minnesota.

Two Harbors is a beautiful Lake Superior shoreline town with 3,600 residents. It is a must-see for Agate Bay, a gigantic harbor area where historical iron ore tankers and the nearby Agate Bay Beach are easy finds for waterfront leisure and delights. At Two Harbors Lighthouse Museum, travelers can check out some of the oldest ship artifacts and red brick architecture that may appeal to lighthouse and marine history enthusiasts. Those seeking even more lighthouse delights can tour the nearby Split Rock Lighthouse, where freighters from the past were once guided through stormy waters for half a century.

Outdoor activities are also abundant, and skiiers may find plenty to see at Erkki Harju Ski Trailan essentialey stop for snowy activities and many scenic birch trails. Lakeview National Golf Course is a delightful golf course with enormous beauty and expansive landscapes that allow one to view the North Shore across a vast green field. Before the day ends, tourists should head to Callie's Sweets within Burlington Station to enjoy North Shore fudge treats, gourmet popcorn, and homemade caramel wonders.

Sandusky, Ohio

View of the harbor along Sandusky, Ohio.
Boats docked along the bustling harbor in Sandusky, Ohio. Editorial credit: Big Joe /

Sandusky is a delightful coastal town on the Lake Erie shoreline with 24,500 residents. The Merry-Go-Round Museum is a historical and cultural highlight with its carved animal displays and the most amusing carousel for all ages. The Maritime Museum of Sandusky is a historical alternative for anyone seeking piracy and fishing history, as well as fun boat-building workshops. At Follett House Museum, Greek Revivalism, and 19th-century artifacts make it easy to fall in love with this town.

After the historic landmarks, enter the present day at Cedar Point, a 364-acre amusement park with adrenaline-filled roller coasters and amazing lunch buffets that immerse visitors. Lagoon Deer Park is the perfect nature spot for tourists who want to pet farm animals originally from countries all around the globe and enjoy shady fishing spots. For those seeking unique haunted houses and mini-golf sessions in one locale, Ghostly Manor Thrill Center has plenty of newfound delights.

Cobourg, Ontario

View of the shoreline along Cobourg, Ontario.
View of the Cobourg Marina and Victoria Hall clock tower in Cobourg, Ontario. Editorial credit: Roy Harris /

A laidback town on Lake Ontario's shoreline, Cobourg is home to 20,500 locals who love historical and natural sights. Cobourg Beach is everyone's best stop in town for an idyllic boardwalk and snack bar that keeps tourists coming back for more. The Cobourg East Pierhead Lighthouse is also an option for scenic marina photography and a pyramidal view of a coastline splendor. At the Cobourg Conservation Area, it is easy to discover more than 29 acres of woodlands and open sports activities with delightful strolling areas nearby.

Back in the town’s street, art enthusiasts adore the Art Gallery of Northumberland, which showcases Canadian modern art and cultural academic presentations. Fans of farmer markets may enjoy Burnham Family Farm Market for the best grocery goods and the happiest locals around.

Alpena, Michigan

Buildings lined along 2nd Avenue in Alpena, Michigan.
Buildings lined along 2nd Avenue in Alpena, Michigan. Editorial credit: Roberto Galan /

On the western coastline of Lake Huron sits Alpena, a small town of 10,000 inhabitants. The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center offers maritime history and shipwreck galleries, making it a worthwhile tourism destination. The Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan is another notable stop, with its delightful space planetarium and cultural state artifacts that have been around for over a century. There is even the historical Thunder Bay Theatre, an entertainment delight for anyone craving evening performances and family-friendly comedy shows.

The Mich-E-Ke-Wis Park is a must-see for Lake Huron shoreline beauty and cozy picnic resting spots, a true delight for casual tourists needing some fresh air. For quiet neighborhood sightseeing and friendly playground conversations, one can also walk around McRae Park.


All of these delightful towns in the Great Lakes are worthy of any travel itinerary. With so many fun and exciting locales and landmarks to witness in person, tourists may find everything they need to have a good time. No matter which town on this list appeals to travelers around the five major lakes of the region, there is always something new and refreshing to look forward to when considering one's next travel plans.

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