Thinking of taking a trip to the U.P but not sure where to go? Check out these 25 amazingly fun things to do in the upper peninsula of Michigan. This area is a great place to visit with natural beauty, culture, and outdoor activities and it’s easy to see why many people return year after year.
Now, you might have heard about popular spots like Copper Harbor or Lake Superior, but there are many more things that you should do and see when visiting this magical region.
So, let’s get to those destinations and activities!
25 Things To Do In The Upper Peninsula You Don’t Want To Miss!
If you search for things to do in the U.P. you will no doubt find popular destinations like Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw, for those of you non-native Michiganders 😉 ), Pictured Rocks, and the Soo Locks, and with good reason!
These destinations are beautiful, fun, and unlike anywhere else.
But, what about the diamonds in the rough, those off the beaten path, or the lesser-known attractions? No worries, along with some of the top vacation destinations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we have a few on our list that are just as fun but not as well known.
Mackinac Island must-see spot in the Upper Peninsula. The island is located in Lake Huron and is known for its Victorian charm, as well as its numerous historical landmarks.
There are no cars or camping allowed on the island and you have to take a ferry to get there, but all of that adds to the fun experience.
While you’re on the island you can experience everything from horseback riding to touring the fort as well as dining, shopping, and even golf.
And don’t forget to try the fudge!
If you enjoy being out on the lake, spending time with friends or family along with fishing, then give charter fishing on the great lakes a try. You can leave from St. Ignace and fish the Straights of Mackinac.
It’s a thrilling experience to be out on the great lakes and reel in the big one!
Turtle Ridge Off Road Park
Take your off-road vehicle or ATV to Turtle Ridge Off-Road Park on Drummond Island for an experience you won’t soon forget! This 400-acre off-road park and wildlife preserve has all levels of trails ranging from easy to challenging. As you drive you can also enjoy the nature that surrounds, and you may even see a few animals!
While you’re on the island be sure to take time to check out some of the other attractions, shops, and restaurants. There really is something for everyone here.
Located in Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced Soo Saint Marie), the Soo Locks are a MUST SEE when visiting the Upper Peninsula. These locks are operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and allow boats to travel through the St. Mary’s River between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Not only will you see huge freighters, but you might also catch a glimpse of tall ships, military ships, cruise boats, and other unique watercraft.
If you’ve never seen huge ships up close, this is a stop you’ll definitely want to put on your bucket list!
With over 50,000 gallons of water rushing over every second, the Upper Tahquamenon Falls is the second-largest waterfall east of the Mississippi. This is only one reason to visit this amazing natural wonder. Not only can you marvel at the beauty of the falls, but you can also enjoy a small hike in the woods, rent a boat and row out to islands in the river for a better view of the lower falls.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a truly beautiful spot to unplug, enjoy nature, and see breathtaking views.
Did I mention you can visit Tahquamenon Falls any time? Unlike many parks or attractions that close in the winter, this park is open all year!
Oswald’s Bear Ranch
If you’re near Newberry, Michigan, and want a unique experience, visit Oswald’s Bear Ranch. You can see bears, wolves, and other animals up close in a natural habitat.
This is a very family-friendly destination that seems well maintained, has friendly and helpful staff, and won’t break the bank.
If you decide to go be sure to get a quick picture with a bear cub and check out the gift shop, it’s an easy way to help the ranch rescue bears in need and care for those they have.
Dog Sled Adventure
Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog Adventure is located in McMillan, Michigan, and offers dog sledding adventures. There are day or overnight trips and you can even choose to ride with a guide or drive your own team! This is truly a one-of-a-kind opportunity.
Thinking of vising but not interested in going to the U.P in the winter? No problem!
In May 2022, the MI Dog summer sled dog center is opening and you can see how sled dogs spend their summers. (It looks like you can even play with some of the puppies!)
Agate & History Museum
The Gitche Gumee is a very interesting shop and museum in Grand Marais is a great place to see many kinds of rocks ranging from those found locally to some from around the world. The owner is very knowledgeable about rocks, agates, and other minerals and has even authored books. The books can be found here for sale as well.
If you’re a rock hound or just like visiting unique little shops, then this museum is well worth the small admission cost.
Just be sure to check the hours before you go, it seems that there may be limited hours at times.
The Garlyn Zoo is just a few miles outside of Naubinway on US-2. From May to October, you can view a number of exotic and native animals such as bears, tigers, lions, alligators, and more! A few of the things we loved about this zoo when we visited were the natural setting, the up-close encounters, and the knowledgeable and friendly staff. And of course, my kids loved the gift shop and souvenirs!
If you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth the drive to check out this great attraction.
Kayaking Around The Pictured Rocks
Take a kayak trip on Lake Superior and enjoy the beautiful water, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and amazing rock formations while you paddle around on the largest of the great lakes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
This activity isn’t recommended for small children, but older children could be capable, and what a great way to get the whole family out, enjoy some summer sun, and get a little exercise.
But, be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks- you can work up quite a thirst and an appetite after kayaking! And don’t worry about bathroom breaks, the boat you take to the launch spot follows the group for safety and has a bathroom 😉
Glass Bottom Boat Shipwreck Tour
If you’re looking for a unique experience, be sure to check out the glass bottom boat tours in Munising. You’ll have the opportunity to explore some of the area’s most famous shipwrecks while learning about their history.
The captain and crew are so knowledgeable and give really interesting facts and stories.
It’s a great way to enjoy the view both above and beneath the water!
Not too far from Manistique (about 20 minutes) is a beautiful natural landmark named Lake Kitch-iti-kipi, also known as The Big Spring, located in Palms Book State Park
The Big Spring has been called “The Mirror Of Heaven” by ancient Chippewas, and it reflects its surroundings year-round on crystal clear waters that can be described as breathtaking!
Looking down into the aqua-colored water you’ll not only see your reflection, but you’ll also see fish, trees, and clouds of sand where thousands of gallons of water spill from cracks in the limestone every minute.
The constant 45-degree temperature means that this water never freezes, even in the harshest months of winter.
The really fun part of this destination is that you can take a raft, similar to a floating deck, across the lake so you can get a close-up view of this natural beauty hiding in the woods.
Highway 2 Drive-In Movie Theater
There is only one drive-in movie theater in the upper peninsula and that’s the Highway 2 Community Drive-In Theater.
This theater operates completely from donations and the concession stand is run by volunteers associated with a different non-profit organization for each event.
The theater offers 3-4 movies per season (this does not include other special events that take place such as concerts) and best of all- because of generous donations from the business community, movies are free for the public!
If you happen to be in Manistique and decide to spend a night under the stars enjoying a movie at the drive-in, be sure to bring money for the concession stand and support the non-profit group working that night 😉
Fayette Historic State Park
The Fayette Historic State Park is a great place to visit. It was established in the mid-late 1800s and has been used as an iron ore mining site until the late 19th century.
There are many buildings still standing including homes of local people who lived there at one time or another. The town itself was completely abandoned but you can still see the old mines, wells, and other buildings.
Some homes and buildings have been restored and you can tour them to get a glimpse of what life was like living on the Garden Peninsula at that time.
It’s a great place to explore and take photos! And, there is even a campground so you can stay, take your time, and enjoy Lake Michigan all the area has to offer.
And don’t forget to stop by the visitor center, there is great info about the town and a gift shop where you can grab a souvenir!
Iron Mountain Mine Tour
Just a few miles outside of Iron Mountain, Michigan you can visit a real iron mine. The Iron Mountain Iron Mine was in operation for 68 years but is now a state historical site where you can ride a train through tunnels that go hundreds of feet below the Earth’s surface!
On this interesting and informative tour, you can get a glimpse into what it was like to work in the mine.
Something to keep in mind before you go- it is always chilly so be sure to dress appropriately.
Also, after the tour, don’t forget to check out the gift shop, there are great rocks, crystals, and other treasures you won’t want to miss!
K.I. Sawyer Air Museum
About 30 minutes from Marquette in Gwinn, MI you will find the K.I. Sawyer Heritage Air Museum. This is a must-see if you love military history, planes, or even U.P. history.
When it became clear that the K.I Sawyer AFB was going to be shut down, a group of former personnel decided that it was necessary to preserve history and keep the memory alive.
In an effort to do that, they created a museum that gives visitors a peek at what life was like from the mid-1950s to the 1990s when the base was operational. It is meant to be a memorial to all of those who served while stationed there.
When you visit the museum you will see memorabilia such as old photos, newspaper articles, and other interesting pieces, and if you go outside you can see planes that were once at this airbase.
There is also a gift shop, so as always- be sure to give it a look before you leave.
*One interesting tidbit- We have not stayed here, but I have heard from others that camping in your RV may be possible through Harvest Hosts. I am not positive on specifics, so be sure to do your own research if this is something you’re interested in doing.
If you want to experience a rush of excitement, then cliff jumping at Blackrocks in Presque Isle Park in Marquette is something to add to your bucket list!
This thrilling jump is quite a drop into the icy waters of Lake Superior, so be sure that you’re a strong swimmer and can hold your breath because it’s a long swim back to the surface!
Even if you get up there and decide not to jump (there’s no shame in not doing it!), you can still enjoy walking out on the rocks, getting beautiful photos, and watching the brave souls that do jump.
And after that, be sure to explore the park and the rest of Marquette. That town has a lot to offer so be sure to plan more than a day to visit, if possible.
Guided Rock Climbing
Want to try rock climbing but need a little instruction and assistance getting started? Sign up for a guided rock climbing trip!
There are different options, depending on what you’re looking for, but if you’ve never tried this kind of adventure an instructor can be helpful to teach you the skills and safety info needed to really enjoy yourself and create memories you won’t soon forget.
On your way up the Keweenaw peninsula in August? Be sure to stop and pick blueberries!
Gierke Blueberry Farm is a pick your own blueberry farm that offers naturally grown berries and uses no pesticides.
So bring your containers or buckets, spend a few hours picking, and then you can enjoy fresh, local berries on your road trip or U.P. vacation.
This is a fun activity for all ages and everyone will love eating them later.
If you’re interested in blueberry picking, check Gierke’s Facebook page before you go for up-to-date conditions.
There are a number of lighthouses you can tour in the U.P, but if you’re in the Keweenaw peninsula, be sure to stop and see the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse.
At this light station, there are actually four museums you can visit, they include a Maritime Museum, Keweenaw History Museum, a Commercial Fishing Museum, and of course-the lighthouse.
Spend a few hours touring these fascinating museums and enjoy all the rich history and all that the site has to offer.
The Jampot is a must-stop for any traveler in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Located on US-41, just south of Eagle River, this little shop offers jams, jellies, honey, and more made from local berries and produce.
The jams and jellies are incredible and so are the baked goods. And did I mention that the bakery is run by very nice, friendly monks? It is! And all of the proceeds support the works of the Holy Protection Monastery.
Be sure to check the hours and the best time to go is early or expect to wait because this heavenly smelling shop can get very busy.
But it is definitely worth the trip!
Keweenaw Peninsula Ghost Towns & Sites
Interested in abandoned towns and paranormal activity?
Then you’re definitely going to want to make a trip to the Keweenaw Peninsula! There are many ghost towns and sites to learn about and explore.
Just be sure to get directions before you go out, obey no trespassing signs, be very careful, and check out local museums for more in-depth information.
Feel like staying a few days and poking around? You can do that too! There are a number of great places to stay in the area.
If you need more information about ghost towns and sites in the area, be sure to check out the Keweenaw Peninsula website, it has a lot of good info!
The Northern Lights
The Northern Lights are a beautiful sight and while they can happen anytime between August and April, according to Michigan Tech’s website, months for optimal viewing are October, November, and April.
There are plenty of places in the Upper Peninsula to view the amazing Aurora Borealis, but finding the darkest place with the least amount of man-made light is ideal.
If you’d like more information on finding the best viewing spots, optimal times of the year, and how to best photograph the beautiful sky, here is a helpful resource that can get you started.
Lake Of The Clouds
Lake of the Clouds is located near Ontonagon, MI, and settled within the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park.
If you like to hike, enjoy breathtaking views, and be out in the Michigan wilderness, you don’t want to miss this!
Along with hiking, there are also swimming and camping spots, and an observation deck that is easy to get to where you can take gorgeous pictures, so if hiking isn’t on your to-do list, there are plenty of other fun activities you can enjoy.
Helpful tip- it’s a good idea to bring bug spray if you’re going to be in the woods in the summer because sometimes they can get pretty bad!
The Paulding Light
The Paulding Light is a small, strange light that people have been talking about since the 1960s. Some believe that it has paranormal origins, even though researchers from Michigan Tech University believe it is essentially just lighting from passing cars.
Still, there are many who visit this tiny U.P. town and are convinced by the legend that says the light is from a lantern held by the ghost of a fallen railroad worker and this is the reason for the occurrence.
No matter what you believe, it’s fun to go out on a clear night, see the light, enjoy the fun of it, and decide for yourself!
Interested in watching a few videos before you go? The Paulding Ghost Light has been discussed on Unsolved Mysteries, American Paranormal, and other shows and articles.
Last Thoughts About Fun Things To Do In The Upper Peninsula
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to beautiful and unique places to visit, friendly down-to-earth people, and fun for the whole family.
Once you cross over the Mackinac Bridge into the U.P. you are in for a road trip like none other with natural beauty all around, miles of trails, scenic sites, and some of the best views anywhere.
If you’re looking to make memories that will last a lifetime and experience a great outdoor adventure, you should definitely consider a visit to the Upper Peninsula!
- 15 Upper Peninsula Campgrounds For Fun And Adventure
- 15 Essential Tips For Camping In The Upper Peninsula Of Michigan
Looking for more suggestions on where to take your next camping vacation? Check out the fun destinations section!