Pastimes Particular to the Upper Peninsula
Michigan's Upper Peninsula maintains a personality all its own. Year round, the UP promises much to see and do, and communities from Mackinaw City to Sault Ste. Marie to Escanaba make ideal launch pads for an exploration of Michigan's northernmost reaches. Here are a few of our favorite ways to do as the Yoopers do.
Watch the boats come in.
Located in Sault Sainte Marie on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Soo Locks are the Largest and busiest waterway traffic system on Earth, providing access to an average of 10,000 ships per year. Be there each spring when a celebration coincides with the first ships of the season, or visit any time in the summer and fall for a relaxing time watching the ships roll in.
Look up at the stars.
Thanks to its low population – and thus low light pollution – the Upper Peninsula is legendary for stargazing. To the north, Upper Peninsula residents and visitors can even experience the phenomena of aurora borealis from countless locations throughout the region. The Northern Lights tend to be most brilliant in October, November, and April.
Heading back down south? Stargazers would be remiss not to stop off at Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Located just south of St. Ignace in Mackinaw City, accessible via the Mackinac Bridge, Headlands offers programs like Harvest Moon Total Eclipse, and Catch a Falling Star with The Geminids – both from the Dark Sky Viewing Area.
Gaze at the stars in the Upper Peninsula.
See some wildlife.
Escanaba is an idea launch pad for an adventure through Hiawatha National Forest, home to all sorts of woodland animals, and Seney National Wildlife Refuge is just an hour further east. There you can score glimpses of a variety of birds and other wildlife in their natural habitats.
Of course, even closer is the DeYoung Family Zoo, where families can get up close and personal with big cats, bears, reptiles and more.
Get wild yourself.
There are plenty of great places to get active across the Upper Peninsula. Mackinac Island, off the coast of St. Ignace, is home to Mackinac Island State Park and a wealth of opportunities for outdoor adventure. Must-visit attractions within the park include Arch Rock, Fort Mackinac, and Skull Cave.
The Island’s scenically tiny city is also host to annual events like the Chicago to Mackinac Sailboat Race, the Port Huron to Mackinac Boat Race, and the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival.
Do go chasing waterfalls.
The land of the Yoopers is famous for its countless incredible waterfalls, and each are begging to be explored in the summertime. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is home to a few of the most beautiful falls, as are Tahquamenon Falls State Park and the area surrounding Miners Falls.
Learn a unique bit of northern Michigan history.
Bring your fishing poles with you to the Upper Peninsula.
A number of historic sites make it easy to find a sense of the Upper Peninsula as it once was, and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is an excellent place to start. Northeast along the coast from Sault St. Marie, the museum is open May through October, with permanent exhibits and special events to teach visitors about the perilous history of maritime transport on the Great Lakes.
Reel in a big catch.
When weather permits, anglers can cast out for the chance to reel in walleye, smallmouth bass, trout, and salmon at numerous fishing holes throughout the UP. Local-favorite spots include Bays De Noc, Lake Gogebic, Salmon And Steelhead Rivers, and several places throughout the Hiawatha National Forest.
Try a pasty.
Looking for a true taste of the Upper Peninsula? Try a Pasty. The folded, flaky, pie-like creation grew to become a UP staple thanks to the copper and iron miners who once migrated to the area from Cornwall, England.
There are many places to try one, but Hiawatha Pasties in Naubinway – around 40 minutes east of St. Ignace and Mackinaw City – is surely one of the best.