• Sault Ste Marie to Munising, Michigan: Road Trip on the Shipwreck Coast

      187 miles - About 8-10 hours

      Get ready to be awestruck by the unspoiled beauty that awaits you on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. With enchanting scenery, iconic lighthouses, pristine beaches, magnificent waterfalls, woodland trails, and meandering bike paths, there is something for everyone here. This route stays on the paved roads, but there will be plenty of times when you'll swear you're in the uncharted wilds. There are still a lot of unpaved roads on the Peninsula that lead to true 'off the beaten path' attractions, if you're willing (and equipped) to take them. (Note: The season for easy road tripping in the UP is between May 15th and October 15. If you visit outside these dates, check in advance to find out whether roads and attractions are open.)

      Here are some attractions to get you started on your UP explorations.

      Sault Ste Marie, Michigan (Starting point)
      Sault Ste Marie is about as far east as you can get on the UP. For a fascinating look at how big ships get from Lake Superior to Lake Huron, visit the giant Soo Locks to watch the process. The locks are closed in winter, but they usually open in late March, making them a great place to visit over spring break.

      Point Iroquois Lighthouse (mile 27)
      First illuminated in 1857, the Point Iroquois Light used to be the guiding beacon for all ships traveling up and down the St Mary's River. Passing ships came close to Point Iroquois as they navigated a narrow passage between the sandy shores on the American side and the reefs on the Canadian side. The Point Iroquois Light no longer functions as a lighthouse, but it's open to the public during summer months. From the top, you'll have a commanding view of the sandy shoreline and a view of Canada across the water.

      Whitefish Point Light Station (mile 75)
      Whitefish Point is known as the 'Graveyard of Ships,' because more vessels have been lost here than in any other part of Lake Superior. The Whitefish Point Light Station, first illuminated in 1849, marks the end of an 80-mile stretch of shoreline known as Lake Superior's Shipwreck Coast. For well over a century, the Whitefish Light has guided mariners on the lake every night except for November 10th, 1975 - the night when the Edmund Fitzgerald, a 729-foot ore freighter, went down. Because it's still active, the lighthouse tower is not open to the public, but you can tour the other buildings and grounds. The Shipwreck Museum houses the bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald. In a ceremony open to the public, the bell is rung 29 times every November 10th to commemorate the lost crewmen. Whitefish Point has several other attractions, including a bird observatory and an underwater preserve popular with scuba divers.

      Tahquamenon Falls State Park (mile 97)
      Tahquamenon Falls is a beautiful state park with two breathtaking waterfalls. Hiking trails and a road connect them, and the park has campgrounds, a restaurant, and a store. The Upper Falls of the Tahquamenon River is one of the best-known scenic attractions in Michigan and not to be missed. At the Lower Falls, you can rent a boat and row out to the islands around them for a closer view. Tahquamenon Falls Brewery is located adjacent to the Upper Falls for those who've built up an appetite for a pint of Porcupine Pale Ale, a buffalo burger, and a side of wild forest mushrooms.

      Pictured Rocks National Seashore (mile 187+)
      Although Pictured Rocks National Seashore runs for over 42 miles along the coast of Lake Superior, most of it is not visible from the primitive road that traverses the park. The best - and some say only - way to see it is by boat. In Munising, at the western end of the seashore, boat tours are available in season. According to those who've taken a variety of cruises, a sunset sailing is the most spectacular, and a wonderful way to wind up a tour of the eastern half of the Upper Peninsula.

      Munising, (mile 187)
      Not very many people have visited Munising, but it's one of those wonderful small towns that is one of the delights of road tripping. It's also the gateway town for visiting Pictured Rocks National Seashore and much of the rest of the UP. Some say that it may be one of the most beautiful cities in the entire mid-west. There are plenty of lodges and motels, and this is a peak location for the fall foliage 'bloom.'

      The lone pine on Castle Rock is supported by those roots
      that stretch across the chasm to soil on the cliff top.