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Where to stop on brief Lake Michigan tour?

We are planning a 5-day trip. We will be leaving Wed morning, 8/25, from Milwaukee. Our plan is to spend about 2.5 days driving and sightseeing as we make our way north, through the UP and down into lower MI. Our destination is Grand Rapids, and we hope to arrive there sometime (mid-morning) Fri 8/27. We will visit family and take the Lake Express ferry on Sun, 8/29. We are looking at this as a sort of fact-finding tour for when we have more time. Please advise us to help us make the most of our time. Thank you. - David, Milwaukee

We've taken the half-Circle Tour see Navigating Lake Michigan and in June, we did the full Circle Tour, focusing on state-park cabins and beaches see Lake Michigan stories.

I think you have the right idea just drive and take notes for future trips. I'd skip the Wisconsin side, which you already know.

Two and a half days isn't much. You'll want to pick just a few places to spend extra time. On the U.P., perhaps a couple of hours at Fayette Historic State Park on the Garden Peninsula and an hour at Kitchi-iti-kipi Spring at Palms Book State Park near Manistique. 

Mackinac Island? We did see it on a day trip the first time and had a good time, but we had more fun in June staying two nights and seeing it by bike. If you leave Milwaukee early in the day, you could make it there for an overnight.

If you like the fur trade, cross the bridge and spend the night in Mackinaw City, spending the morning at Colonial Michilimackinac.

In lower Michigan, you could spend a couple of hours on the beach and in the downtown of Traverse City. If you like schooners, you could go for a sail on the Manitou and even stay overnight on it.

Otherwise, spend your extra time on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore; see Grand sand.

Spend your second overnight in the Glen Arbor/Empire area or in Ludington. If you stay in Ludington, you could fit in a quick visit to the Big Sable Lighthouse (fastest by bike; otherwise, you have to walk over sand) before heading to Grand Rapids.

Last updated on August 2, 2010