During the first week of September 2020, we traveled up the Lake Michigan eastern coast. We had heard the coastline of Michigan was beautiful from friends and family but had never found our way there. As it turned out, this trip is one of our favorite adventures we have traveled in Alice. For good reason, we call it the stellar Lake Michigan coastal get away tour.
Originating in Kansas City, the blue line was our route starting in St. Joseph, Michigan and ending in Madison, Wisconsin.
Our spectacular scenic tour starting from St. Joseph, Michigan to Mackinac Island. But it didn’t end there. We continued on north into the Upper Peninsula which we love to visit, then south into Wisconsin. We had heard many stories about the Michigan Beaches and Sand Dunes and certainly loved our trip and experiences.
Beyond the water views and the natural beauty of the landscapes, we also loved visiting the many charming towns along the Michigan shoreline. The towns and places we picked were highly recommend to us by friends and they did not disappoint. Our trip took 12 days but we could have easily spent more time. Some day we need to go back again and visit the towns and places we missed!
Van Buren State Park
Our first major stop was at Van Buren State Park. As we pulled into the park we stopped at the check-in post and opted to purchase a season pass to all the Michigan state parks. The decision to buy the season pass versus a daily pass was the best thing we did even though our trip was only a 1.5 week trip. The pass gave us full and easy access to all the state parks wherever we were and each park had a water station and dump station available to pass holders.
The campsite we stayed at in Van Buren was treed with large campsites which gave us a reasonable amount of privacy. We enjoyed the walking and bike trails and spent time on shoreline while there. Although there were some restrictions in the park we had to adhere to, the beach was open and people were on the beach and in the water swimming. We even spied on a wedding celebration party that evening!
In the town of Muskegon, there is an outstanding Saturday Farmers Market, and a row of darling little shops nearby. To our delight, blue berries were still available in early September even though the season was drawing to a close. I’ve never seen so many blue berries in one place before! We purchased a 5 lbs box while we were there and ate them by the handfuls which felt quite decadent to us.
After visiting the market, we found a great place for an outdoor brunch and shopped the local stores for unique and local items.
Ludington State Park
Ludington State Park was one of our favorite places along the stellar Lake Michigan coastal get away tour.
On day one in Ludington State Park, we watched the colors of the late afternoon sun set over the lake.
The first evening at Ludington State Park we witnessed a gorgeous sunset over the lake. It was very windy and chilly with a chance of rain that night but the evening sky was perfect. The lighting that night was a photographer’s dream and I let the camera shutter fly!
They have 3 campgrounds, sandy beaches, scenic sand dunes, a legendary light house, marshlands and forests. We enjoyed every bit of it. On the way to the State Park, we passed through the town of Ludington. The charming town has flowered lined streets and a wonderful view of the Lake. We hiked and biked many of the trails through the dunes, forests and beach. The Light house was built in 1867 and has rich history along the coast.
This was the town we met several other families while enjoying an outside brunch. One family was from Kansas, our home state. It was fun to learn they also like to go to our favorite Missouri lake, Table Rock Lake. We met 4 sisters who are from the east side of Michigan but come yearly to visit the beautiful west shores. (they did not want people to know they vacation on the westside…they invited us to visit the east shoreline someday). We biked to the lake front, walked to a light house at the end of a windy fishing pier and caught lunch in a downtown restaurant.
Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Shore Line
This was another one of our favorite adventures. We had no idea what to expect and as we drove along a wooded highway, we knew we had arrived when a GIANT sand dune was in front of us.
We parked Alice, changed our clothes and got ready to hike that huge sand mountain. What we didn’t know when we starting climbing the first sand dune was how many more dunes there were behind it.
This is a very strenuous hike. It was hot, there were multiple steep ups and downs, we hiked in deep sand, and we had no idea how far this trail would go until we reached lake Michigan. It was well worth the trip; the scenery and shoreline were magnificent.
The round trip to the shore and back was an arduous 4-mile trip and we hiked the entire distance barefooted!
Glen Arbor and Pyramid Point
We drove through Glen Arbor and down a dusty little road and happened to find Pyramid Point. After a short hike, watched an amazing sunset on the cliff over the lake and then boondocked in the Pyramid Point parking lot. We were the only ones there in the middle of nowhere!
Leland is a charming fishing town where we met a fellow van enthusiast named Tori who had built and equipped her own Sprinter Van during COVID.
Other stops, walks and adventures on our stellar Lake Michigan coastal get away tour were:
- Suttons Bay
- Grand Traverse Bay and Traverse City
- Elk Rapids–Marina
- Charlevoix—Marina and Bay View House Neighborhood
- Harbor Springs–This town is a must stop on the trip. There are many quaint areas in town and the marina. The most amazing is the Wequestionsing Neighborhood located along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
- Drive the Tunnel of Trees along route 119
- Visit Pond Hill Farm
- Wilderness State Park
Mackinac Island was one of the highlights on our trip that included a short ferry ride from Mackinaw City.
There are no cars allowed on the island and it is a charming look at simpler times. The island sits partly in Lake Michigan and partly in beautiful and blue Lake Heron.
We took our bikes on the ferry and saw the sites biking the 8 miles around the Island. Some of these sites included Fort Mackinac, Grand Hotel, and many natural attractions.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
After crossing the bridge into the Upper Peninsula, we headed to Tahquamenon Falls. Be sure to hike and visit both the Lower Falls and Upper Falls. The falls are on the Tahquamenon River that flows into White Fish Bay near Canada in Lake Superior. The Upper Falls is one of the largest falls east of the Mississippi River.
Picture Rocks National Shoreline
This was our last major shoreline stop on our Lake Michigan coastal get away. It is on the North side of the UP and is well worth the drive. Each view was just as amazing and worth the hikes. Some of our stops along the way included:
- Sable Falls
- Log Slide
- Grand Marais—when in this town be sure and look for Stella Coffee. It is a block off the main drag and the shop was in a darling little VW Bug.
- Mosquito Beach
- Miners Castle Overlook
- Munising Campground right on Lake Superior