Big lakes

  • Destination: Mackinaw City

    On the south shore of the Straits of Mackinac, the year is 1775.

    At the top of the Michigan mitten, a little village has seen a lot of action over the centuries. Then the continent's longest suspension bridge went up, a link to the Upper Peninsula and an attraction in itself.

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  • Michigan's Pictured Rocks

    There's a lot of scenery crammed into one stretch of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

    Along Michigan's Pictured Rocks, there's no such thing as a bad view. White sandstone cliffs line nearly 40 miles of national lakeshore, the nation's first when it was created in 1966. Named for the colorful swishes and whorls painted by mineral-laden water oozing through cracks, Pictured Rocks draws tourists from around the world.

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  • Tales of Tahquamenon

    On Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a state park is a playground for waterfall-lovers.

    At most waterfalls, people mainly sit, look and take pictures. Not at Tahquamenon Falls.

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  • Marquette's double appeal

    With its shops, restaurants and prime spot on the lake, Marquette is both sophisticated and outdoorsy.

    The first time I visited Marquette, I saw mostly Yooper Land. I chuckled at a 10-foot mosquito, a giant chainsaw and packages of Roadkill Helper. I noted the best-sellers in the bookstore window: "A Look at Life From a Deer Stand'' and "Leap of Faith 2: God Loves Packer Fans.'' This is the Marquette that's sports-crazy, hunting-happy and tough as nails, with a population descended from Cornish, Finnish and Italian immigrants who could put up with the rigors of iron mines and, later, their closings.

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  • Kayak klatch

    Paddling festivals on Lake Superior and Lake Michigan are good places to mingle and learn.

    If you're interested in sea kayaking and ready to jump in, kayaking festivals are a good place to improve skills and meet other kayakers. Programs include classes, seminars, demos, on-water tours and sometimes races.

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  • Touring Mackinac Island

    From a scenic web of bicycle trails, visitors see another side of a celebrated vacation spot.

    In the straits between lakes Michigan and Huron, you can find more than one Mackinac Island. The best-known first was advertised as "the Fairy Isle of Mackinac," and it's not quite rooted in reality. It has a tuxedo shop but no hardware store, a Victorian house called Brigadoon and a fan club that gathers every October in vintage clothing to revere the year 1912. You get to that island in a horse-drawn surrey, driven by a liveryman in a top hat.

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  • Lake Michigan's greatest hits

    Here's a nine-day itinerary that includes the best sights and attractions around Lake Michigan.

    It's America's freshwater Riviera, and everyone competes for a little piece of that beautiful sand: beach bums, lighthouse buffs, campers on a budget.

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  • Giants of Lake Superior

    On the biggest lake, stop to see larger-than-life heroes and mascots.

    You can expect to see a lot of big things on the 1,300-mile drive around Lake Superior, the world's largest lake by surface area. There's a fish, a Fox, a bear, a goose and a moose — not to mention a 32-foot thermometer and a 35-foot aspiring saint. These giants all have stories, part of the folklore of this colorful lake, where life isn't for the faint of heart. On a Circle Tour, be sure to stop and say hello.

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  • Dunes of Grand Marais

    At the end of the road, this quirky beach town is the eastern gateway to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

    The village of Grand Marais, Mich., feels as if it's at the end of the world, sitting in a front-row seat. Beyond it lies Lake Superior, filling the horizon and plunging to its deepest point, 1,333 feet, not far away. Behind it is the vast wilderness of Lake Superior State Forest and the solitary road that cuts through it. And on its western flank loom the Grand Sable Dunes, which would look impressively bleak if not for their wavy toupees of marras grass, beach pea and hoary yellow puccoon.

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  • Graveyard of the Great Lakes

    For 200 years, a bottleneck on the east end of Lake Superior has claimed ships and lives.

    The Invincible wreck was the first of hundreds along what become known as the Shipwreck Coast. The last — we hope — was the Edmund Fitzgerald, which went down in 1975 with 29 lives lost.

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