Getting to Michigan
While international tourists will most likely arrive in Michigan via plane or by crossing the U.S.-Canada border, domestic travelers can reach the Great Lakes State by air, water, rail, or road. Consider your budget and intended destinations before choosing the method that’s right for your trip.
The Detroit Metropolitan–Wayne County Airport (DTW) (734/247-7678 or 800/642-1978, www.metroairport.com) is the state’s biggest and busiest. It’s also a hub for Northwest Airlines (800/225-2525, www.nwa.com) and its sister airline KLM (800/225-2525, www.klm.com), so you can fly from Detroit to almost anywhere in the United States and Canada, and to a surprising number of cities around the globe, from Amsterdam to Tokyo.
In early 2008, Northwest and Delta began a lengthy merger, which could affect schedules for both airlines. Since routes and carriers seem to change with the weather, your best bet is to call a travel agent or book your trip online (through such websites as www.orbitz.com, www.cheaptickets.com, www.expedia.com, www.travelocity.com, or www.kayak.com).
Given that Michigan is surrounded by miles and miles of shoreline, it’s no surprise that many visitors arrive via boat, and they’ll find plenty of docks when they get here. The state’s Parks and Recreation Division has established a network of over 90 protected public mooring facilities (fees vary) along the Great Lakes, a “marine highway” that ensures boaters are never far from a safe harbor. For a free Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities, contact the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (Parks and Recreation Division, Mason Building, 3rd floor, P.O. Box 30031, Lansing, MI 48909, 517/373-9900, www.michigan.gov/dnr).
Nonboaters, too, can arrive by water via the S.S. Badger (Lake Michigan Carferry, 701 Maritime Dr., Ludington, 231/845-5555 or 800/841-4243, www.ssbadger.com), the only authentic passenger steamship on the Great Lakes. The 410-foot-long ship ferries up to 620 passengers and 180 vehicles across Lake Michigan, from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to Ludington, Michigan. The four-hour passage spares travelers from a congested auto trip through Chicago, or a lengthy jaunt across the Upper Peninsula. Plus, it saves on gas and is great fun.
The Badger sails daily from mid-May through mid-October. It departs Ludington at 9 a.m. (EST) and Manitowoc at 2 p.m. (CST) from the beginning of the season to early June and from early September to the end of the season. From June to September, it offers two round-trip passages daily, leaving Ludington at 8 a.m. and 7:55 p.m. Rates are $67 one-way or $110 round-trip for adults; $27 or $44 for children 5–15; $61 or $99 for seniors 65 and over; $70 one-way for cars, vans, and pickups; $34 one-way for motorcycles; and $5 one-way for bicycles. There is a $5-per-foot charge for motorhomes. Pets must remain in your vehicle or in a ventilated kennel (which you must provide) on the car deck; this isn’t suggested during the hot summer months. For security reasons, you cannot access your vehicle during the crossing. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Amtrak (800/872-7245, www.amtrak.com), which has a hub in Chicago, runs three regular routes through the southern half of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. One Michigan route, the Pere Marquette, travels from Chicago through St. Joseph and Holland to Grand Rapids. A second route, the Blue Water, travels from Chicago to Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, East Lansing, Flint, and Port Huron. A third Chicago train, the Wolverine, splits at Battle Creek and heads for Jackson, Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Detroit, and Pontiac. From Windsor and Sarnia, the Canadian cities adjacent to Detroit and Port Huron, respectively, you can hop aboard VIA Rail Canada (888/842-7245, www.viarail.ca), which offers service to Toronto, Vancouver, and numerous other cities throughout Canada.
Greyhound (800/231-2222, www.greyhound.com) operates in most major Michigan cities, and plenty of smaller ones, too. It can be a very inexpensive way to travel if you’ve got the time. Traveling from Chicago to Marquette, for example, takes almost 12 hours—but only costs about $100.
About a dozen major interstates and highways make it mighty efficient to zip into and around Michigan. I-75 stretches from the state’s southern border at Toledo through Detroit, and all the way north across the Mackinac Bridge to Sault Ste. Marie. I-69 cruises up the middle of the Lower Peninsula, from Indianapolis through Lansing, then east to Flint and Port Huron. I-94, which comes over from Chicago, traverses the southern tier of the state to Detroit. From I-94 just east of Benton Harbor, I-196 extends north along Lake Michigan and over to Grand Rapids, where I-96 heads east to Lansing and Detroit.
Major highways include U.S. 31, which heads north from Indiana, follows the Lake Michigan shore as a major four-lane to Ludington, becomes a smaller two-lane to Traverse City and Petoskey, and merges with I-75 just south of the Mackinac Bridge. U.S. 131, at first a small road near the southern border, becomes a major highway south of Kalamazoo, linking it to Grand Rapids, Cadillac, and Petoskey. U.S. 127, which also begins as a small road near the border, heads north from Jackson to Lansing, connecting with I-75 near Grayling. U.S. 23, which extends north from Toledo, passes through Ann Arbor, merges with I-75 in Flint, and splits off near Standish, becoming the Sunrise Side Coastal Highway, a scenic route that traces the Lake Huron shore all the way to Mackinaw City.
Meanwhile, two main east-west routes traverse the Upper Peninsula. M-28 is the northern route, starting at I-75 and passing through Munising and Marquette. U.S. 2 is the southern route, starting in St. Ignace, passing through Escanaba, and heading west to Ironwood. Several north-south highways link the two. If you’re traveling all the way from the U.P.’s eastern end to Ironwood, M-28 is usually faster.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel