Home of the Big Blue in Ann Arbor and bordering four of the big blue Great Lakes, Michigan is an outdoors lover’s paradise. One of the largest and most densely populated states in the U.S., it’s often a bellwether for the rest of the upper Midwestern states. It is a vacation destination for the surrounding American and Canadian population with a broad and diverse tableau of history, culture, and ecological beauty.
A succession of Indigenous tribes stretching back millennia first occupied the land area that would one day become Michigan. Inhabited by Natives and then French explorers in the 1600s, it was claimed as a French colony. After France’s defeat in the French and Indian War in 1762, the area fell under British rule before being ceded to the newly free United States after Britain’s defeat in the Revolutionary War.
From the history of its early frontier days to the storied rock n’ roll halls and civilization-changing factory floors of Detroit, there is a little bit of something for everyone who visits The Great Lake State.
Below are some can’t miss stops in Michigan:
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore: One could forgive you for mistaking this national seashore for another planet. Its marvelously rich and spectacular views and sights are virtually matchless in the upper Midwest part of the country. The miles of sandy beachfront and dunes that soar to over 400 feet above Lake Michigan combine with the beautiful forests, magical inlet lakes, and unique plant and animal life to make Sleeping Bear Dunes one of the true gems of America’s National Parks System. Hiking, swimming, canoeing, bird watching, and learning more about the area’s rich Native and agricultural history are popular activities. You can also simply climb one of the vast, giant dunes for stunning views of the surrounding area and the big lake.
Isle Royale National Park: Look no further than this rugged national park near Houghton, MI, for those seeking adventure and challenge. Flanked by Lake Superior, this isolated paradise offers visitors solitude, seclusion, and communion with nature far from the city lights of civilization. The scenery is stunning, and the opportunities for outdoor activities are countless. Backpack, camp, hike, scuba, or unwind at this nature lover’s dream national park.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Never lacking in beautiful and unique topography, Michigan nearly outdoes itself at the site of this national park on the shores of Lake Superior. The sheer natural power of the lake shapes this shoreline, as evidenced by the sky-reaching sandstone cliffs, rolling dunes and beaches, tumbling waterfalls, inland lakes and ponds, and lush forests. One would be hard-pressed to find a landscape as singular as this one, as hikers, campers, and sportspeople of all seasons can attest. In a state chock full of environmental wonder, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore stands alone near the top of every adventurer’s to-see list!
River Raisin National Battlefield Park: This national battlefield commemorates one of the most consequential battles of the War of 1812 between the great Native American Chief Tecumseh and the U.S. military on the western frontier. In January 1813, these two forces met in several skirmishes near Monroe and Wayne Counties. This national park preserves the memory of the lives lost during the early days of the ongoing unrest between Indigenous peoples and the creeping manifest destiny of American expansion further west. Western history enthusiasts will enjoy walking the grounds and learning more about its history.