Planning Your Time
Airports, bus stations, and public transit systems are few and far between in the Upper Peninsula, so while it’s possible to reach the eastern half by flying into Escanaba, Marquette, or Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, you’ll definitely require a car to explore much of the area. Though not a compact region, the eastern U.P. is relatively easy to navigate via its main routes, such as I-75 between St. Ignace and Canada, U.S. 2 along Lake Michigan, M-28 from I-75 to Munising, and M-123 between Paradise and Newberry.
At minimum, you’ll need at least four days to visit St. Ignace, Sault Ste. Marie, Pictured Rocks, and the attractions near Whitefish Bay. A week or more will be necessary for die-hard outdoor enthusiasts or those interested in exploring the Lake Michigan shoreline and inland lakes. Although you don’t have to worry about crowds in much of this region, you do have to bear the seasons in mind.
In general, the U.P. is much harsher than Michigan’s lower half. Summer here is cooler, especially in the evening, and winter tends to come faster and stay longer.
Pictured Rocks’ tourist season, for instance, is short. Most of the park’s 440,000 annual visitors come in July and August when they’re most likely to enjoy daytime temperatures in the 70s. Visit in June and you’ll share the park with fewer people, but the black flies and mosquitoes often aren’t worth the trade-off. May and September may be the park’s finest months. No matter when you go, pack plenty of warm clothes, just in case—and try to avoid swimming in Lake Superior, which is bone-numbing all year.
For more information about the communities and attractions within the eastern U.P., consult the Upper Peninsula Travel & Recreation Association (P.O. Box 400, Iron Mountain, MI 49801, 906/774-5480, www.uptravel.com).
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel