Even though over the course of my global wanderings I’ve managed to travel across 60 countries, I’ve also been fortunate enough to make my way through 49 of the 50 states. While this might seem like I’ve covered the USA, the reality is that there are so many places within my own country which are still out there to explore. For example, even though I’ve visited Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, I’ve only spent a total of two days enjoying the shores of Lake Michigan. That’s why, when approached with this guest article about traveling around the shores of Lake Michigan, it got me thinking about the dozens of adventures I still need to take here at home.
With that thought in mind, here are handful of scenic locations to enjoy while driving around Lake Michigan.
Of the five Great Lakes that surround the state of Michigan and border on the American states and Canadian provinces, Lake Michigan is the second largest. While everyone knows that the Great Lakes are large, few people actually realize just how immense these lakes really are. Did you know, for example, that the Great Lakes contain 85 percent of the fresh water in the US and 21 percent of the fresh surface water in the world?
In addition to its size, Lake Michigan is also the only Great Lake that is entirely within the borders of the United States. It’s bounded by Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, and there’s a huge variety of things to do and places to see along its shores. For the ultimate Lake Michigan holiday, it’s best to take at least two weeks and drive along its entire 1,660 mile perimeter, which is an adventure many opt to complete using car hire within the USA. If you’re visiting the US from the UK or EU your driving license will be valid. For a safe and pleasant trip with the best chance of fine weather, plan to travel between May and September. During these months it will be warm enough to hike and very unlikely to snow.
More than just nice weather, the Great Lakes Region is one of the most beautiful places in the world during the mid-summer. The following is a very brief rundown of what to expect in each section of the lake:
Lake Michigan in Illinois and Wisconsin
You’ll fly into Chicago, a mega-city with a regional population of almost ten million. If you have time, stay for a few days and enjoy Chicago’s epic city centre, live blues music, and fantastic shopping. Then, drive north into Wisconsin. The Lake Michigan shoreline in Wisconsin is punctuated with medium-sized towns, and cities such as Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Madison are all worth a visit. Camp at the Escanaba State Forest Area and follow highway W-35 along Lake Michigan’s shoreline into northern Wisconsin.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Catch highway M-2 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. You’ll soon find yourself emerged in Hiawatha National Forest’s 1,400 square miles of lakes, rivers and woods. The Sault Saint Marie State Forest Area is just down the road. Stay at small motels or bed and breakfasts, or bring a tent and camp in the forest parks. You’ll find wild and almost untouched woods, lakes and rivers throughout northern Michigan. It’s the kind of wilderness that calms the mind, feeds the spirit and puts everything into perspective.
Lake Michigan’s Shoreline in Lower Michigan
Michigan’s Lower Peninsula has the most developed recreational opportunities on Lake Michigan’s shore. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is unmissable, and Traverse City is an old fashioned resort town with good restaurants and plenty of opportunities to go boating or sailing. Visit Michigan’s wine region on the Leelanau and Mission peninsulas. Take a day trip or go backpacking on the Manitou Islands. Then, explore the scenic towns on Lake Michigan’s east shore on your way back to Chicago.
Local Food and Drink
While traveling through Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, don’t neglect to try the excellent locally-brewed beer. Wisconsin is America’s dairy state, and there will be plenty of opportunities to tour cheese factories while you’re there. Take some fresh cheese curd and venison jerky with you on the road. The Native Americans in this area ate wild rice as their staple starch, and it’s both delicious and healthy. Look for it in the local restaurants, and don’t forget to buy some and take it home with you. Take a drive around Lake Michigan and get a taste of the culture and scenery of America’s Great Lakes region. You may be the first of your friends to visit, and if you feel at home near lakes and forests, you may never want to leave.
[Photo Credit: tinney on Flickr]