UP UP AND AWAY! DISCOVERING MICHIGAN’S U.P. PART 1
After a wonderful few weeks exploring Michigan’s Lower Peninsula it was time to head north to the Upper Peninsula, commonly referred to as the U.P.
There is so much to see in the Upper Peninsula that is was hard to choose where to go! You told us we couldn’t miss St. Ignace or Mackinac Island so we started there.
We set up camp in a lovely treed campground in St. Ignace. It was conveniently located within walking distance to downtown.
Much to our surprise, a car show was wrapping up the day we arrived. The boys headed downtown to check it out while I got some time to relax alone in the RV!
There were all sorts of cars on display in downtown St Ignace. Although, I think they were most excited about the pastries that they ate from a local vendor! Maybe I should have gone after all!
The main attraction on our agenda was to spend a day on Mackinac Island, which is accessible by boat. Brent spent an afternoon tuning up the boys’ bikes to take with us on the ferry.
We waited until perfect weather was forecasted to buy our ferry tickets.
There are many ferry services to choose from so be sure to check for internet specials. We purchased our tickets online which saved us some money and time by avoiding the wait in the ticket line.
The forecast was true to its word and the weather was perfect.
Mackinac Island was first visited by aboriginal natives, who explored the island and buried their dead in the island’s caves. After being discovered many years later by the French-Canadian Jean Nicolet, the island became an important French western fur trade site.
The British acquired Mackinac after the French and Indian war. Later, Fort Mackinac was built during the American Revolutionary War as a strategic attempt to control the Straits. In 1796, the British relinquished the fort to the Americans by way of a treaty. However the British regained control of the fort during the War of 1812 and once again a treaty restored the fort to the Americans for the final time in 1815.
It was the Victorians who began visiting Mackinac Island as a vacation spot. Seeking an escape from the hot humid Midwestern mainland summers, Victorian travelers made Mackinac Island a favorite summer destination. Hotels, including the Grand Hotel, and cottages were built for the tourists.
In 1885 the federal lands were given government protection and other than a small number of land leases for residences, all development stopped. Twenty years later when Fort Mackinac ceased operations, the land became Michigan’s first state park. The state park officials continued to limit private development and required all land leaseholders to maintain the distinct Victorian style architecture preserving the picturesque streets visitors can enjoy today.
The first thing you will likely notice when arriving at Mackinac Island is the lack of cars. All cars with the exception of snowmobiles in the winter, service, and emergency vehicles, were banned in 1898. Visitors and residents all travel by bicycle, foot, or carriages. Even packages and cargo are delivered around town by horse and cart!
After spending most of the morning and early afternoon walking around Mackinac’s main street, Brent and the boys decided to further explore the island by bike while Thing 3 and I headed back to the RV.
They rode along the shore on highway M-185. The highway is an eight-mile road that follows the perimeter of the island and the only highway in the United States without motorized vehicles!
The road offers incredible views of the lake and of the lovely Arched Rock, a natural limestone formation.
A stop at the Grand Hotel was a must for our architecture loving Thing 1!
Here is a view of the Grand Hotel from the ferry. All in all, we couldn’t have asked for a better day!
If you would like to visit Mackinac Island, there are plenty of campgrounds nearby in St. Ignace and Mackinaw City that would make perfect spots to find your AWAY!
Our next stop was another Go RVing audience suggestion, Sault Ste Marie. We put our jacks down along the St. Mary’s River.
Sault Ste Marie is best known as the home of the Soo Locks. The Soo Locks are a set of parallel locks that allow freighters, barges, tugboats, and more to traverse the 21-foot drop between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
In the maritime world, the locks are legendary allowing safe passage and a shipping connection for over 160 years. The first lock was built in 1855. Today you can visit the Soo Locks Visitor Center to learn about the locks and watch the passage of vessels from the observation deck. At the visitor center you can view a schedule of the large freighters planning to pass through each day or you can call the boat schedule hotline. (Number can be found here.)
Across the street from the locks is one of the main streets of downtown Sault Ste Marie where you can browse through one of the many gift shops or grab a bite at one of the restaurants.
Not far from downtown there was a local burger joint we wanted to try out. It was a great place to have a little picnic on the grass.
While we love to get out and explore after work, it’s important to remember to take some downtime to just relax. It’s temping to “want to see everything” but sometimes in trying to do that it’s easy to miss some of the important things. Our camp site along the river was the perfect place to chill, connect with each other, and watch the freighters pass.
And to watch the sunsets!
Yes, taking time to watch sunsets is one of best parts of RVing!
After Sault Ste Marie we headed to Woodland Park Campground in Grand Marais.
The campground sits on the bluffs above Lake Superior.
Unfortunately, it rained the majority of our time there so we pulled out some of our old rainy day tricks like reading books and playing games.
We also pulled out a new trick. I gave Thing 1 an old hairdryer and told him he could take it apart to figure out how it worked. He scoffed at first but an hour and a half later he was all smiles showing me how the different parts worked together. Thing 3 even got in on the action. (Don’t worry, there was no electricity involved and he was being closely supervised!) For more rainy day ideas, read my tips for Rainy Day Ideas When RVing with Kids.
It did clear up enough one morning for a walk along the coast of Lake Superior.
Lake Superior amazes me. Every time I gaze over its waters, I have to remind myself that it’s not the ocean but a vast freezing freshwater lake! I feel so fortunate to be RVing along its coast!
Have you ever been to Mackinac Island? Are you ever tempted to “want to see everything” but know sometimes it’s better to just sit back and relax at the campsite?