And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them —
The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.
– Elizabeth Barrett Browning
This year, I’m recommending that everyone head to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in late September or early October for a spectacular view of the Earth in autumn splendor. The peninsula is heavily forested so any road you take will be a treat, but I’m going to offer up some ideas of things to see while you bask in the glory of the leaves. Specific driving routes can also be found at www.michigan.org.
I suggest you begin your trip with a stay in St. Ignace, at the Best Western Harbor Pointe Lakefront, which is just 5 miles from the incredible suspension bridge that joins the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. The hotel is right on the shore of Lake Huron, and the rooms provide a view of famous Mackinac Island. Alternatively, you can stay at the north end of the peninsula, in Saulte Saint Marie, at another comfortable and accessible Best Western hotel.
My Favorite Upper Peninsula Stops:
Whitefish Point Light Station – The oldest active light on Lake Superior offers a guided tour. This lighthouse is at the end of a stretch of the lake known as the Shipwreck Coast. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is also on site.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park – For solitude and beauty, there is no better destination than the Tahquamenon Falls. The upper falls have a drop of about 50 feet and are 200 feet across. The lower falls are actually five smaller falls that cascade around an island. They are easily accessible from the road. Imagine that, framed by stunning fall foliage.
Oswald Bear Ranch – Hurry to get here because the ranch closes on October 1. Bear enthusiasts will enjoy seeing 24 American Black Bears in their natural habitat.
Canada Lake Pathway – a 14-mile trail near the Natalie State Forest Campground outside of Newberry.
Garlyn Zoological State Park – This family-run zoo is definitely unique! You can feed all kinds of animals not usually found in petting zoos, including reindeer and a bear. Animal lovers and those traveling with children should not leave the Upper Peninsula without visiting this zoo.
Fort Mackinac – History comes to life 150 feet above the Straits of Mackinac in this fort that was once taken by the British Redcoats. This is one of the most interesting and fun historic sites on the island.
Mackinac Island State Park – Leave your car behind and discover the place where Great Lakes Indian tribes believe life began. Decide for yourself if this could be an Eden.
Soo Locks – Check out one of the busiest waterways in the world! There is nothing quite like watching huge vessels move through these locks. If you’ve never seen this phenomenon of modern engineering before, you’ll be fascinated! Take a boat tour or check out the visitors’ center.
Do none, one, or all of the above. The only thing you MUST do is to ride or walk and “turn your eyes around” in Michigan’s Northern Peninsula. It’s breathtaking.