9 min read

The Great Lakes, Part 2: Summertime in Northern Michigan

The Great Lakes, Part 2: Summertime in Northern Michigan

We say YA to da UP, eh! 🫎

(Joey will roll his eyes when he sees that...)

Seriously, we loved the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It's absolutely beautiful and we could picture living there – at least in the summer.

The great north woods with pine trees lining the roads for miles and miles. Cold and crystal clear Lake Superior merging with the sky at the horizon, the same blue. The rocks: small, smooth and colorful under the surface; ancient rough black rocks stretching out over the water; dark red cliffs with waves crashing against them.

The Presque Isle ore dock in the fog

The town of Marquette was one of the only places we'd actually planned ahead of time on our route – months ago, I booked our campsite there. We stopped there because our general plan was to head north then west, but also because my parents lived in Marquette in the early '90s before I was born. They loved it there and took us to visit when I was five or six, and I loved the pieces I could remember too.

Since we didn't have anything booked after Marquette, we ended up staying for two weeks, moving to another campground halfway through. It's definitely on our list of places to go back to someday (and you should go there too!)

Here's a look at our two weeks in the UP – beautiful photos courtesy of Joey.

Side note before I dive in: we have two new pages on the website! Check out the "Where's Waldo?" page to see where we've been with the Airstream so far and where we are currently. The "Our Faves" page is where we're adding our favorite restaurants, shops, attractions, trails & scenic areas, and other places from the trip.

Crossing the Mackinac Bridge

We divided up the 6-hour drive from Pentwater to Marquette, staying in Kalkaska, a small town outside Traverse City, for one night before driving the rest of the way. That night, we ate pizza at a rooftop restaurant in Traverse City, watched the sunset and sailboats at the marina, and got delicious milkshakes from Culver's on the way back.

We stopped in Petoskey, a scenic waterfront town, the next day to pick up and install new RV batteries, which was an adventure – shoutout to Joey for successfully figuring that out without electrocuting himself.

Finally, we made it to the Mackinac Bridge, which was so big and beautiful! There's a great roadside park on the other side of the bridge, where we stopped to take in the view. It was the prettiest day, sunny with a cool breeze blowing, and there were seagulls everywhere. We'd officially crossed over into the UP.


Tourist Park: a campground and public park on the north side of town, right next to Northern Michigan University and a short drive or bike ride from pretty much anywhere in town. We saw a wide variety of campers there, from big RVs to tent campers and vans. Lots of families and dogs – it stayed pretty busy all week – but a great location.

It was also a popular area for mountain bikers: they had a short beginner track through the woods right next to the campground, and you could get to a bigger trail network nearby.

Shoutout to my mom's old NICU coworkers, Kelly and Allison, who stopped by our campground one night for a surprise visit! It was so awesome meeting them and hearing about my parents' paryting days in Marquette. 😉

Rippling River Resort: this one was south of downtown, right next to Marquette Mountain, a ski hill. It was more expensive than we usually go to, but we loved this campground because of the lodge, which had an awesome outdoor patio and seating area by the river. They served pizza, beer, and other drinks and had live music on weekend nights. The bar and live music area was open to the public, but I think mostly campers went there – it was a lot of fun.

This was another super popular mountain biking campsite; Marquette Mountain had downhill trails, and nearby was the south side of the trail network I mentioned above at Tourist Park.

Places & Nature


Marquette reminds me of Boone – it's got a similar mix of outdoor adventure and artsy/hipster vibes. Everyone goes mountain biking and hiking and paddling, making the most of summer up here. (I think literally everyone we saw at the campgrounds had mountain bikes with them).

Our campsite at Tourist Park was a peaceful, scenic 15-minute bike ride away from Presque Isle Park: a gorgeous peninsula with quiet woods, tall cliffs, beaches, and the popular Black Rocks where people hang out and jump into Lake Superior. The first time I rode my bike there, what looked like a high school band concert was happening at the park's amphitheater. The sunsets were beautiful from Presque Isle.

One day, we parked at Picnic Rocks Park, walked down the road and found a secluded corner of the beach, where we just sat for a couple hours, relaxing in the sun and finding cool rocks in the sand and water.

We hiked Sugarloaf Mountain with Hollie one morning. It's a pretty easy hike but with a lot of stairs – but the 360-degree views of Lake Superior and the surrounding woods at the top are amazing.

After the hike, we grabbed lunch from the Burger Bus and went to the beach at Little Presque Isle. It was the prettiest beach surrounded by a pine forest, but the biting flies made it impossible to stay for long. Before we went, both of us did a "polar plunge" into Lake Superior – the icy water was literally breathtaking.

Downtown Marquette and the lower harbor area is really cute, and some of the streets are much hillier than I expected! The ore docks near downtown and Presque Isle are so cool and intimidating looking. Near downtown, Third Street had a lot of restaurants and bars and sort of a college-y vibe (close to NMU and with a view of the Superior Dome, an indoor football stadium that looks really cool from the outside).

Shoutout to two stores we visited in Marquette: Upper Peninsula Supply Co, which was run by a photographer (@BugsySailor on Instagram) who has taken a sunrise photo every day since the beginning of 2019, and Touch of Finland, a surprisingly awesome store with tons of Finnish and UP-related gifts and unique finds.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Munising is a small town 45 minutes east of Marquette, and is the destination for everyone visiting Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: a protected 42-mile section of Lake Superior's shore, featuring huge cliffs and rock formations with stunning colors and patterns. On one of our weekend days, we did a Pictured Rocks Cruise, a 2-hour boat tour along the shore. We sat on top of the high-speed catamaran (glad we brought jackets, because the wind was cold!) and took in the views.

It was incredible – we loved it so much that later in the week, we rented a pontoon one evening and boated out there ourselves! That was one of my favorite memories of the whole trip so far: parking the pontoon right by the cliffs, lit up beautifully in golden hour. If we lived there, we'd want to take a boat or kayaks out all the time to explore the many cliffs, caves and beaches.

Food & Drinks

Marquette's got some good breweries! We drank Blackrocks Brewery and Ore Dock Brewing IPAs the whole time.

We didn't end up getting a pasty, but here's some of the other food we got:

  • Vango's Pizza - this place was open when my parents lived in Marquette
  • Sol Azteca - a Mexican place downtown with a great view of the lower harbor
  • Stucko's Pub & Grill - fun sports bar on Third Street with good food
  • The Burger Bus - delicious burgers & fries to go!
  • Togo's - also open since my parents' day, great sandwiches
  • Babycakes - bakery & coffee shop, known for their muffins but they had delicious croissants too
  • Eh! Burger (Munising) - surprisingly good food right by Pictured Rocks Cruises

Like I mentioned above, we're starting to add our favorite restaurants, shops, attractions, trails & scenic areas, and other places to the Our Faves page on this website. If you're planning a trip to any of these states, check out our recs!

What's Next?

I was sad to leave the UP, but we'll definitely go back sometime. I want to see the fall colors – there were so many birch trees that would get bright yellow. Even experiencing the crazy snowy winter is tempting. We saw snowmobile crossing signs and trails everywhere!

Over the Fourth of July long weekend, we drove 18 hours west over three days – stopping in Minnesota and North Dakota before reaching our current destination. We're right outside Badlands National Park for the next week, and loving it. Definitely feeling like we're far away from the eastern US now.

Thanks for reading – starting to miss our family and friends back home a lot, but hope you're enjoying following along! ❤️