We're goin' to da UP!
September 1, 2009 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Help us plan a memorable few days in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Looking for places to stay, great food/restaurants, things to do/see while we're there the first weekend in October.

We'll be driving in from the Wisconsin side to spend two or three nights there.

Things we like to do are: light hiking to scenic/isolated spots, perhaps a boat tour, leaf peeping either on foot or by car, exploring quaint/historic towns, visiting art & craft galleries, sampling local brews.

As to lodgings, is there a B&B, quaint inn, or perhaps a converted lighthouse you can recommend? We're more interested in quiet & charming than raucous & spa-like, although a bar on premises or nearby never hurts!
posted by DrGail to Travel & Transportation around Michigan (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
As far as scenic/boat tour-y things Pictured Rocks in Munising is always a favorite. You can find more information here.
posted by emmysue01 at 10:16 AM on September 1, 2009

Da Yoop is big -- it takes 3 hours to go across it N/S (Iron Mountain -> Houghton); and close to 7 to go across E/W. Where are you coming in from/how far do you want to drive? Do note that it may be difficult to find accomodation at this late date, as early October is well within the color tourist season. (although it may be easier with the drop in overall tourism.)

The Keweenaw Peninsula will have great colors and is rife with ghost towns and historical areas and hiking trails and local art-y galleries, and there may still be boat tours from Houghton or Copper Harbor that time of year. There's at least one brewery in the area, and maybe two, as well as a winery in South Range.

Porcupine Mountain State Park will have trails and fall colors and possible boat tours and probably galleries, etc in Ontonagon.

Marquette/Ishpeming/Negaunee might also work.

Or you could just go to the Mi/Wi border, and check out Iron Mountain and environs.

Or go to Munising and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
posted by jlkr at 10:33 AM on September 1, 2009

Response by poster: jlkr: We'll be finishing up business in the vicinity of Iola WI, about 60 miles west of Green Bay, before heading to the UP. That leaves us lots of options, I believe, for how/where we cross into the UP. And I'm sure I'm speaking for my husband as well when I say that the distance we drive is dictated by where we want to go, rather than the reverse. So, feel free to recommend distant spots.
posted by DrGail at 10:51 AM on September 1, 2009

Well, an update on the route(s) you plan to travel would help a bit... just following the north shore of Lake Michigan to the Mackinac Bridge is a very different thing than going straight north up US-41 to Marquette, Houghton, or even Copper Harbor. A more specific plan, and I bet you get better advice.

Some thoughts: Tahquamenon Falls is out of the way, but it's lovely for hiking (you will get fall colors everywhere, no need to make a special effort for that); you could also take the ferry from Copper Harbor to hike Isle Royale (if the ferry is still running that late in the year, you won't get much more isolated than that!); you could go see the Mackinac Bridge and stay a night in Mackinac City; the Soo Locks are way out of the way, but my mom loves them; the bay shores on the drive between Marquette and Munising are my favorite place in the universe, I'm forced to stop every time I drive them just to sit a while; there's boat tours of the Pictured Rocks that run out of Munising that are very worth-while.

Something to remember: as beautiful as the weather usually is in the U.P.'s September and October, the temperature drops far and rapidly once the sun goes down, particularly so the closer you get to Lake Superior. Plan your outdoor journeys accordingly, and watch out for the wildlife when you're driving: many family members of mine have hit deer, and I missed a Black Bear by inches once.
posted by Pufferish at 10:56 AM on September 1, 2009

Response by poster: After reviewing the comments so far, along with perusing a guidebook, I think we'll probably want to be on the northern part of the UP, along Lake Superior. So, Keweenaw Peninsula or Munising area? Your endorsement of the shore between Marquette and Munising, Pufferish, is most intriguing. Lodging recommendations? Best sunset boat tour to take?
posted by DrGail at 11:43 AM on September 1, 2009

I honestly don't know that you'll find many/any sunset cruises in October (cold!), but if you go to Munising there's a few charters to look into. Pictured Rock Cruises and Shelter Bay Charters are the two I/family have used (the latter is more for fishing trips, though). There's cottages to rent on Shelter Bay (my favorite spot), and more than just the one I linked, that I've promised myself I'll try someday... but I've always personally just settled for a visit to the drive-up parks since I was usually on the way to visit family in Houghton/Marquette. There are a couple normal motels in Munising, and pretty much anything you might want in Marquette (which is basically the capital of the U.P.). Also in the middle is an odd town called "Christmas" with themed buildings/stores, and one of the many Ojibwa-tribe casinos.

There's vast forests east of Munising, but you might prefer to spend part of your time further up US-41 instead. Houghton (reasonably-sized, and home to Michigan Tech University) makes a good base for exploration of things like old copper mines, aging towns, etc. I believe there's even still a ferry from there to Isle Royale, but I'd never choose it over the Copper Harbor one simply because it's a great excuse to go there. I've a list of area lighthouses somewhere at home, but there's definitely one in Copper Harbor.

Bear in mind that I have done the Mackinac City - Munising - Marquette - Houghton route something ~30 times, and I am a little biased!
posted by Pufferish at 12:33 PM on September 1, 2009

My very first "study abroad" trip in college was to the UP - we stayed in Wetmore, which is very very close to Munising. It was one of the most gorgeous, fantastic, crazy places I've ever been - and I don't even *like* the outdoors.

If you hit the Pictured Rocks be sure to check out the Log Slide, too. It's a 500 foot tall sand dune that you can hurtle yourself down with glee and abandon towards the water and not get hurt. Takes a while to get back up, though.

A quick Google search linked me to this gallery of Pictured Rocks. It is that beautiful. It really is.
posted by harperpitt at 12:53 PM on September 1, 2009

There is nothing quite like fall in the UP!

If you're planning on the Munising/Marquette area - I can't recommend the Pinewood Lodge B&B highly enough. The place is beautiful, the owners are pleasant, interesting and love to chat if given the opportunity and the breakfast is fabulous. The location is good if you want to hit both Pictured Rocks and some of the Marquette lakeshore.

If staying in this area, I also recommend dining at the Brownstone Inn

In the Marquette area, there are many many many little day-hikes that will show you beautiful fall colors that can make your head spin (Sugarloaf Mountain, Presque Isle Park)

Pictured Rocks is always worth the effort as well. Also in the area is Grand Island which could be worth some time as well.
posted by CorporateHippy at 1:10 PM on September 1, 2009

In the Marquette to Munising area we stayed in a cabin on Au Train Lake which was very pretty. AuTrain is a great birding spot, but at the beginning of October the loons may already have moved on. Farther east, Whitefish Point is a great birding spot

We saw a moose at Seney National Wildlife Refuge and a wolf ran across in front of our car on the "Seney Stretch".

If you get a good warm day, consider renting a canoe. There's rivers galore and bound to be a canoe rental place close to where ever you stay.
posted by readery at 4:56 PM on September 1, 2009

harperpitt: I have been to those exact same spots. Yes, it does look like that! Those are gorgeous pictures.
posted by water bear at 5:13 PM on September 1, 2009

Spend a night at Big Bay Lighthouse, in Big Bay..... You'll never forget the experience...
posted by HuronBob at 5:20 PM on September 1, 2009

Oh man, the UP. The company I work for has a client in the UP with locations in L'Anse and White Pine.

There's nothing in White Pine except for the The Konteka, which I can confirm truly is the town's one and only "Motel & Spa, Restaurant & Lounge, Bowling Lanes, Gift Shop, Convenience Store, Gas Pumps" (per their website). Friendly folks running the place, but it's probably best described as "functional" when it comes to accommodation.

As for L'Anse, I've only spent a few hours there, but The Hilltop appears to be the place to eat (folks in Marquette knew where we went when we only said "we ate at a restaurant in L'Anse").
posted by lowlife at 6:47 PM on September 1, 2009

Wherever you go in da UP, accommodations will be sparse, restaurants few, and good restaurants scarce. That far north and that late in the season, expect cold weather. That close to Lake Superior, expect rapid changes in weather. Bring warm clothes and raingear.

Up in Copper Harbor, I heartily recommend the Harbor Haus restaurant, bed & breakfast. Cozy place, arguably the best food for a hundred miles, and has the distinction of being the northern-most restaurant in Michigan. There's a nice little boat trip over to the Copper Harbor lighthouse with a narrated walking tour of the site. (It was here that copper was discovered, as the earliest explorers noted the strange green rock.) As for a mine to visit, I enjoyed the Quincy copper mine just north of Hancock, including the underground tour. (It was an influx of miners that originally populated the peninsula, just like the gold rush in California.)
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:36 PM on September 1, 2009

The Calumet area may be a good base camp. Stay at the Laurium Manor Inn. Ask the proprietors where to eat. There is also The Keweenaw Mountain Lodge outside of Copper Harbor.

There are lots of galleries and little shoppes in Calumet proper, and the drive to Copper Harbor along US-41 can be really gorgeous that time of year -- it can also be boring as heck if the leaves are off the trees. M-26 goes along the northwest edge of the peninsula, and if it's clear you can see Isle Royale. There's a lot of hiking trails, and a few waterfalls -- again, ask the proprieters as they'll know where the trail heads are.

The Quincy Mine tour is pretty cool, but there is also the self-guided Delaware Mine. Take a trip up Brockway Mountain if the weather is anything resembling clear -- good views of the lake and the forested hills. There are sunset cruises out of Houghton during the summer, but they may have ended by October. Fort WilkinsState Park is a Civil War era fort just north of Copper Harbor on Lake Fanny Hooe-- I think the re-enactors have gone back to school by October, but (afaik) the restored fort is open for exploring until mid-October.
posted by jlkr at 9:42 PM on September 1, 2009

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