Michigan offers too many vacation options!
June 5, 2010 12:23 PM   Subscribe

We are a planning a vacation to Michigan in early August, starting with a wedding in Cadillac. I am overwhelmed by the number of lakes and vacation spots - please help me narrow down the list.

About us: Two parents, two adult children. We prefer to rent a cottage or a house, not hotel rooms. We like being in nature but are completely non-athletic so short, easy hikes, nice beaches, canoeing are all on our list. Long hikes, fishing or swimming in freezing cold water or anything that requires skill is not. Having some nearby destinations to choose from is good too.

Specific recommendations are good but mostly I would like recommendation of a town or small region that would be nice.
posted by metahawk to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What larger region are you looking at? Do you want to keep everything in the general Cadillac region? Are you driving from somewhere, or flying in and renting a car? Do you want to be on a Great Lake, a large boating lake, or something small? Are you interested in boating or biking? Do you want to be near a large town with entertainment options, or do you prefer to stay at the cottage? How long will you be staying? What's your rental budget?

As you've found, there are quite a few places you can visit in Michigan. You can have a great time at most of them. If you can answer a few of the above questions, we can help you narrow things down a lot. There are beaches, hiking, and cottages all over the state, anywhere from the UP to the southernmost part of the state, between Lake Huron in the east and the west coast of Lake Michigan.
posted by kyleg at 12:49 PM on June 5, 2010

Saugatuck. Great little town for wandering and shopping and eating. Excellent beach.

Beluah/Frankfort. Not as centralized or stylish as Saugatuck, but excellent canoeing and beach. In shooting distance of Sleeping Bear Dunes and any number of activities on the Leelanau Penninsula.

You could try to make Mackinac Island -- it's touristy and precious, but terriffic for kids. An easy bike ride (rentals are everywhere) all the way around and some nice short hiking trails. Good food and a resorty atmosphere. Not cheap, but a good experience (provided you don't mind the sweet scent of horse manure).

Not sure how long you have, but the U.P. is a beautiful as it gets and has tons of options. Can you specify how much of your time you are willing to give to being on the road?
posted by dzot at 1:02 PM on June 5, 2010

Seconding Benzie County (Frankfort/Beulah). Nearby Crystal Lake has beautiful clear water, usually a good deal warmer than Lake Michigan, and a surprising number of sandy beaches (due to an accidental partial draining of the lake in 1873.) Excellent canoeing, as mentioned above. Plus, you know, the Cherry Hut. I'm sure that the Benzie County Visitors Bureau can point you towards more information.

My extended family has vacationed up there for years, so let's keep this between you & me so it stays nice & quiet up there, mmkay?
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:35 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Leelanau Peninsula or Traverse City or Petoskey. Many many options to choose plus all sorts of other amenities (first class restaurants, casinos, bars, etc.). As a former resident of Cadillac, I would recommend against trying to stay in the State parks there--they are primarily designed to accomodate tent or RV camping and cater mostly to families with young children. Plus, Cadillac has become something of a tourist trap and (except for winter when there is good Skiiing at Caberfae) not very interesting.

While the UP is also a good option, unless you are planning on at least 2-3 hours travel time to get to the bridge and then further travel to other spots (Sault ste. Marie, the next nearest decent sized town, is 50 miles North of the Bridge), you may want reconsider.
posted by Chrischris at 2:45 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

What Kyleg said. About the only place you've ruled out so far is the UP and the southeast lower peninsula (not that there's no hiking/canoeing/beaches there, it's just sometimes harder to find).

Having said that, a few suggestions:
Traverse City.
Boyne (yes, really. It's more than skiing and golf.)
Sleeping Bear Dunes, etc.
Saugatuck can be overwhelmingly touristy on the weekends.
Mackinaw City -- while the city itself is quite touristy, there's lots of nature-y stuff to do not far out of town, and the three-park tour is fun (Fort Michilimackinaw, the fort on Mackinac Island, Mill Creek).
posted by jlkr at 2:49 PM on June 5, 2010

Glen Arbor is just a few minutes south of Leelanau and offers many daytime recreational activities via The Homestead
posted by Pamelayne at 3:51 PM on June 5, 2010

Well I only have time to give a quick rundown of a few of the previously mentioned places, but would definitely second Leelanau peninsula as a nice quiet place to relax. Traverse City isn't a bad base of operations, but gets very crowded in season and the roads just can't handle it. I'd recommend finding a place on the peninsula itself, for sure. Lots of good wineries to tour, if you're into that.

Saugatuck is nice enough to visit while you're staying somewhere else, but it's another place that gets very crowded. I'm not that big of a fan of the beach there either, there are more scenic ones elsewhere along the coast.

Petoskey is far enough north that it doesn't get the Chicago crowds, and is a nice region. I've stayed on Burt Lake, which is fun for speedboats and other watersports, and most of the inland lakes in that region are linked all the way to the bay, so you can cover a lot of distance in a day if you're so inclined.

Have heard good things about Benzie County, but haven't stayed there myself.

Early August should still be blueberry season, so be sure to check that out.
posted by kyleg at 11:17 AM on June 6, 2010

Torch Lake is beautiful! I think you can rent cabins up there. Also Nthing Traverse City, depending on what days you will be up there. Petoskey (again an nth) is very beautiful and a little less crowded, like kyleg said.
posted by getawaysticks at 8:43 AM on June 8, 2010

I'm only going to be useful for seconding above cities.

Macinaw / macinaque is worth visiting, if only for the lack of cars. Riding bicycles around the island is plenty fun too.

Traverse City has a lovely beach on Lake Michigan.

Sleeping Bear dunes also has a lovely beach, and a good river to tube / canoe down.
posted by garlic at 10:23 AM on June 8, 2010

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