Beaches / Michigan
At one time, 30 million tons of cargo were transported along the Detroit River, linking the city with more than 200 overseas ports. Nowadays, you can still feel the water’s tug on Belle Isle (E. Jefferson Ave. and E. Grand Blvd., www.fobi.org), accessible via the Douglas MacArthur Bridge. Belle Isle’s 985-acre urban sanctuary, stranded a half-mile out in the river, has been a public park since 1879, when the city of Detroit purchased it for a now paltry $200,000 from the heirs of a wealthy local family.Destination:Activities:
Sprawling across two counties and some 20,000 acres, the Waterloo Recreation Area (16345 McClure Rd., 734/475-8307, www.michigan.gov/dnr, daily, state park vehicle permit required) counts as the largest park in the Lower Peninsula. Waterloo’s landscape clearly shows evidence of the glaciers that once blanketed this part of the state.Destination:Activities:Destination:Activities:
It would be easy to pass the Presque Isle peninsula and never know it was there. Easy, but a mistake. This almost completely undiscovered resort area off the beaten path between Rogers City and Alpena features two of the jewels in the region’s crown. Both are well worth driving out of the way to see.
On a map, the peninsula looks like a beckoning finger (presqu’île means “peninsula”—“almost an island”—in French). Two classic lighthouses perch at the tip of the strangely shaped peninsula, including the tallest lighthouse on the Great Lakes.Destination:Activities:
Opposite the large beach on the shore of Tawas Bay, part of 183-acre Tawas Point State Park (686 Tawas Beach Rd., East Tawas, 989/362-5041, daily, state park vehicle permit required), the white Victorian-style 1876 Tawas Point Lighthouse is undoubtedly the park’s most-photographed feature and a favorite among lovers of these classic lights. One of the state’s most well-maintained lighthouses, it is often open to the public for self-guided tours.
Not far away, bird-watchers gather at the day-use area and nature trail. A checklist of birds spotted in the park lists more than 250, with 31 species of warblers and 17 species of waterfowl.Destination:Activities:
Near the southern end of Northeast Michigan, in Roscommon County, lie two of the state’s largest inland lakes—22,000-acre Houghton Lake and 10,200-acre Higgins Lake—both of which entice plenty of anglers, boaters, canoeists, swimmers, hikers, and campers during the summer months. In winter, this area is also popular among hunters, ice fishermen, and cross-country skiers.Destination:Activities:
Few would likely guess that low-key Drummond is, in fact, the largest U.S. island in the Great Lakes. About 66 percent of Drummond Island is state-owned; the rest is largely owned by summer residents, who swell the island’s population to about 5,000 in July and August. You’d never know it—life in this fishing-oriented place is focused along the shore, which you can rarely see from the island’s few roads.Destination:Activities:
Though it’s just a 10-minute ferry ride from Munising, the surrounding Lake Superior waters effectively isolate Grand Island. Owned since 1901 by the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company, the 13,000-acre, largely wooded island was maintained for decades as a private hunting playground for the firm’s executives and stockholders.Destination:Activities:
Lake Superior takes center stage at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, just three miles wide but spanning more than 40 miles along this magnificent lake from Munising to Grand Marais. Pictured Rocks derives its name from the sandstone bluffs that rise 200 feet directly up from the water’s surface.Destination:Activities:
Continuing northeast on H-58 from Miners Castle, the next auto-accessible route into the heart of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is at Melstrand, where the gravel/dirt Chapel Road bumps six miles toward the shore and another park highlight, the Chapel Basin area. Park your car here and you’ll find plenty to entertain you during a long day hike or a weekend: three waterfalls, a deep inland lake, Superior beaches, and a good hiking loop.Destination:Activities: