Top 9 Historic Sites in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

The region’s prolific history is quite noticeable throughout the Upper Peninsula, with virtually every community boasting a local history museum and a variety of state-recognized sites. The state’s Michigan History Center operates the Michigan Historical Marker Program, which has designated 128 noteworthy sites scattered among the U.P.’s 15 counties. This list highlights nine of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula historic sites to visit.

Mining History

view through a crumbling wall in Fayette State Park
Fayette State Park is the site of a former iron smelting operation. Photo © alexeys/iStock.
  • Fayette Historic State Park: Perhaps the best preserved “ghost town” in America, Fayette serves as a three-dimensional window to the nineteenth century, when belching blast furnaces turned raw iron ore into pig iron.
  • Keweenaw National Historic Park: This park is made up of sites throughout the Keweenaw seminal to the area’s copper mining heritage. Don’t miss the Quincy Mine!
  • Iron County Heritage Trail: This complex of attractions is a great destination for history buffs. The Iron County Historical Museum is its centerpiece.
  • Downtown Calumet: This town offers a dynamic reminder of the once prosperous copper industry.

Marine History

aerial view of a lighthouse on top of land jutting into lake superior
Marquette Lighthouse. Photo © ImagesbyK/iStock.
  • Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum: This haunting yet intriguing museum pays tribute to those lost while working in commercial shipping on the Great Lakes.
  • Marquette Maritime Museum and Lighthouse: This fascinating nautical museum emphasizes the role lighthouses have played in Great Lakes shipping.

Military History

horse-drawn carriages sit in front of fort mackinac
Costumed guides lead reenactments, including musket firing and cannon salutes, at Fort Mackinac. Photo © skling/iStock.
  • Colonial Michilimackinac State Park: The site of the original fort, built in 1715, is the location of a 50-year-long archaeological dig, summertime reenactments, and a big wooden replica fort.
  • Fort Wilkins Historic State Park: An example of excessive nineteenth century military spending, Fort Wilkins was built to combat trouble that never occurred. Today it’s a historically accurate display of military life during the era, complete with costumed interpreters.
  • Fort Mackinac: A massive fortress perched on a bluff overlooking the Straits of Mackinac and the village below, Ft. Mackinac best exemplifies the quintessential nineteenth century military fort. Interesting programing featuring interpreters in period dress make this a “must visit” destination.

Paul Vachon

About the Author

Lifelong Michigander Paul Vachon's introduction to the Upper Peninsula came as a childhood trip to the fascinating Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie. From that point forward, he developed a love for travel in general, and for Michigan in particular. Over the years, Paul has visited virtually every corner of the Great Lakes State. One of his favorite pastimes is heading "up north" on Interstate 75 to any of a myriad of Michigan destinations. Paul has also traveled extensively both within and outside of the U.S. His international destinations have included the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Guatemala, Denmark, Italy, Israel and Egypt.
Paul began his writing career in 2008 and covers topics as diverse as travel, Detroit history, business, education, and green living. He is the author of three books on Detroit area history, Forgotten Detroit, South Oakland County and Legendary Locals of Detroit.
Paul lives with his wife Sheryl and their son Evan in Oak Park, a suburb of Detroit. You can learn more about Paul by visiting his website,

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