The Great Northern Route

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

If travel time is not an issue for you, there is at least one excellent reason to bypass US-2 across the Upper Peninsula and to follow Hwy-28 instead. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a lovely 42-mi-long (68 km) stretch of undisturbed sand dunes, beaches, and colorful bluffs, lines Lake Superior in the northeastern quadrant of the Upper Peninsula. For casual visitors, the lakeshore is best visited by boat, since roads here are few, far between, mostly unpaved, and all but invisible; in summer, three-hour cruises leave about every two hours from the pier in Munising, right on Hwy-28 at the west edge of the park. Even better, if you’re feeling fit, is a self-powered kayak trip; try Northern Waters (712 W. Munising Ave., 906/387-2323), which offers daylong, half-day, and evening guided tours.

Besides being the gateway to the Pictured Rocks, Munising is also the main departure point for glass-bottomed-boat tours of the many shipwrecks that lie along this treacherous stretch of coastline. Well preserved by the cold Lake Superior waters, the wrecks are also legally protected within the 113-sq-mi (293-sq-km) Alger Underwater Preserve.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

East of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, about 40 mi (64 km) west of Sault Ste. Marie, you come to a real gem: Hwy-123, a must-do loop road (particularly during autumnal color sweeps) that heads north from Hwy-28 past the outstanding—and popular—Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The 50-ft-high, 200-ft-wide (15-m-high, 61-m-wide) Upper Falls here were mentioned in Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. Hwy-123 also passes through the lakefront vacation village of Paradise, where Whitefish Point Road runs 11 mi (17.7 km) north up to some of the best and most isolated beaches in the UP as well as the oldest lighthouse (circa 1849) on the Great Lakes.

From Longfellow to Lightfoot: In Whitefish Point, north of Paradise, visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum (888/492-3747, daily May-Oct., $13) to learn about the wreck of the 725-foot lake freighter Edmund Fitzgerald, subject of Canadian balladeer Gordon Lightfoot’s 1970s pop song. The ship suddenly went down 20 mi (32 km) offshore—without a distress call, but with all 29 crew members on board—in November 1975.

Map of the Great Northern through Michigan.
Map of the Great Northern through Michigan.

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