Are you ready to embark on the most wonderful Great Lakes State road trip imaginable? While you’ve undoubtedly taken short jaunts throughout the region, we think there’s something exciting about an adventure that covers multiple sections of the state. If you’re making plans for upcoming vacations with the family, check out our extensive road trip through Michigan. We recommend setting aside plenty of time to embark on this amazing journey. What better way to spend your next holiday?
Of course, our stops are simply suggestions. If you’d like to add or remove any of these destinations from your own route, check out an adjustable map of this Great Lakes State journey. Remember, every Michigan adventure is one-of-a-kind, and that’s what makes our state so special.
1. William C. Sterling State Park
Our journey begins at Sterling State Park, an underrated gem that sits along the shores of Lake Erie. Most Michiganders prioritize the shores of Lake Michigan, Huron, and Superior when it comes to waterfront exploration throughout the state, but Lake Erie is just as magical – and Sterling State Park features a sandy beach area, seven miles of trails, and a whopping 1,300 acres of beautiful land. You might just want to spend all day here.
2. Detroit Institute of Arts
After a day at the beach, make the short northward jaunt to Michigan’s largest city, Detroit, for an artistic adventure at the iconic Detroit Institute of Arts. Known locally as the DIA, this incredible museum is home to upwards of 100 galleries that span the ages. From towering murals to historic sculptures to more modern exhibitions, there’s truly something here for everyone to appreciate.
3. Nichols Arboretum
Leave Detroit and make your way to the college town of Ann Arbor, which is home to the University of Michigan. While you’ll find loads of dining and shopping options throughout the city, we recommend visiting Nichols Arboretum for an awesome family experience among the great outdoors. This 123-acre space boasts gorgeous gardens, access to the Huron River, meandering forest trails, and all-season beauty that will make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a new world.
When you’re through experiencing the many wonders of Ann Arbor, hop back in the car and drive to Michigan’s western shoreline for a bit of fun in the tiny community of Saugatuck. Situated just a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan, this small town is chock full of art, creativity, great shopping, awesome eateries, and plenty of special events throughout the year. Take a dune ride along the lake, grab a hearty meal at The Southerner, or simply stroll through downtown. You might never want to leave.
5. Ludington State Park
The next portion of our road trip points north, leading adventurers along the shoreline to Ludington State Park. Those who adore both history and nature will be enamored with Ludington State Park, which is home to an 1860s lighthouse known as Big Sable Point Light. If that weren’t enough, the park features soft sand, incredible views of the Lake Michigan waterfront, campsites galore, and easy access to Ludington’s charming downtown area. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, stop and camp for a night or two.
6. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
The Lake Michigan wonder continues at Sleeping Bear Dunes, which is next on our expansive Michigan road trip. This brilliant National Lakeshore will make you feel like you’ve landed on another planet – in the best way possible. Experience beauty from the car along Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, take in stunning vistas along Empire Bluff Trail, or snap a few photos of the seemingly endless lakefront horizon. You’ll be utterly breathless as you stand atop the sand dunes.
7. Mackinaw City
Before heading into the Upper Peninsula, it’s imperative to make a stop in Mackinaw City. After all, this town serves as the gateway to the U.P. as the home of the Mackinac Bridge, but it’s also a worthwhile attraction in itself. Visitors can walk along the Straits of Mackinac, indulge in fudge from shops downtown, learn about local history at Colonial Michilimackinac, or even catch a ferry across to Mackinac Island. Whether you’re just passing through or spending a full day here, you’ll find lots to love.
8. Tahquamenon Falls
After crossing the Mackinac Bridge and entering the U.P., you’ll find yourself in a wonderful new world of rugged beauty and charm. You’re sure to find plenty of roadside gems and pretty pit stops along the drive, but we maintain that Tahquamenon Falls is the perfect end point for your road trip through the state. Situated within Tahquamenon Falls State Park, the falls themselves are utterly spectacular in every season. After a long stretch of driving, there’s nothing better than strolling through a wooded wonderland and taking in the sights and sounds of a powerful waterfall – and Tahquamenon undoubtedly delivers. Spend a night camping or lodging nearby before hopping in the car to head home, happily exhausted.
The next time you’re searching for a varied and exciting adventure, keep our road trip through Michigan in mind. Whether you’re a fan of art, history, natural attractions, family-friendly fun, food, or some combination of these, you’ll surely find a new favorite spot during this journey. If you’ve got another road trip route in Michigan that we should consider covering, fill out our official nomination form.