Road trips are a blast, no matter where you’re headed, but there’s something unforgettable about exploring the Great Lakes State. Rent a vacation rental in Michigan somewhere along the way to make the most out of your vacation!
1. Michigan’s Abandoned Places
Looking up at a majestic abandoned site can be hauntingly beautiful, and Michigan is home to some incredible abandoned places. Explore some once-grand buildings that are now overtaken by creeping vines and graffiti. Start at the Michigan Central Station which opened in 1913. It was once the tallest rail station in the world, but the building was abandoned in 2004. Next, Check out Eloise in Wayne County. What originally opened in 1839 as a farm and poor house eventually turned into a sanitarium and psychiatric hospital. Only four of the original 78 buildings remain. Continue on the spooky tour to one of Michigan’s most haunted locations, the Northville Psychiatric Hospital. Next up is the one of a kind, Prehistoric Forest. It opened in the mid-1960’s with 70 fiberglass dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. It closed in 1999, leaving all the structures behind.
2. Lighthouse Road Trip
Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state, and this driving tour includes some of the state’s most gorgeous lighthouses full of history and charm. This drive takes about 18 hours, so it’s best spread out over a long weekend. There are plenty of great towns along the way to look for a vacation rental. Start this trip at Michigan’s first lighthouse, Fort Gatriot Light Station. Then, continue north up the coast to Sturgeon Point Light Station in Harrisville. Next up is 40 Mile Point Lighthouse, a picturesque brick lighthouse set among greenery and trees. Keep following the coast to Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse which offers panoramic views of the water inside. Other great lighthouses along this route include Old Mission Point Lighthouse, Grand Traverse Lighthouse, Point Betsie Lighthouse, Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Grand Haven Lighthouse, and Big Red Lighthouse.
3. Waterfalls Road Trip
Michigan is home to some amazing waterfalls and this route includes the best of the best. Start your journey in Ironwood Township, near the Wisconsin border to check out Potawatomi Falls. Head east to see the three separate falls of Gabbro Falls. Next is Manabezho Falls in Porcupine Mountains State Park, and then Manido falls with its impressive 15-foot drop. Keep heading east to see other great waterfalls like Bond Falls, Munising Falls, Miners Falls, and Sable Falls, before finishing your trip at the stunning Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
4. Haunted Michigan
If you thought the abandoned places road trip was spooky, buckle your seat belt for this one. Brush up on your ghost stories and urban legends because Michigan has some places that will give you goosebumps. Start at Felt Mansion in Holland and look out for “melon heads,” creatures with large heads that supposedly live in the woods nearby. If you’re up for it, stay the night at the next stop, Henderson Castle. Guests have reported sensing unexplained presences and even feeling taps on their bodies while sleeping at this 19th-century bed and breakfast. Continue east to Michigan’s first state prison, Jackson State Prison, and then channel the spirits of fallen soldiers at Fort Wayne in Detroit.
5. Michigan’s Natural Wonders
Michigan has a lot to offer when it comes to natural beauty. You could spend forever trying to see everything, but this trip hits some of the highlights. Starting in Ann Arbor, you’ll be in awe of the Nichols Arboretum. Then, head north to Port Austin to see the amazing Turnip Rock. Take a kayak to get an up close look at this unique rock in the middle of the water. Continue on to Tahquamenon Falls State Park and finally, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Stretch your legs and take a boat tour along the water-front cliffs or a scenic hike.
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6. Covered Bridge Road Trip
Covered bridges are quaint and charming and perfect to explore on a road trip. Start near Lowell at the Fallasburg Covered Bridge. It’s one of three Michigan covered bridges that still allows vehicle traffic and spans 100 feet. Continue to the Ada Covered Bridge which you can walk by foot to the Thornapple River. Then, head to Langley Covered Bridge, Holz-Brucke Bridge, and Pierce Stocking Covered Bridge. Finally, stop by stop by Joshuas Crossing in Benzie County. This 90-foot bridge crosses over a ravine that’s 20 feet deep and makes for a beautiful evening stroll.
7. Huron Shores Heritage Route
This amazing trip covers 200 miles of Michigan’s Sunrise Coast along US-23. Starting in Standish, you can visit Charity Island in Saginaw Bay. There are many historic sites in the area including a series of interesting cemeteries and the Michigan Central Railroad Station. Just north of Standish is Au Gres where you can spend the night in a charming vacation rental or take a scenic walk through Au Gres City Park. Continue to the Oscoda/Au Sable area where you’ll find white sand beaches, majestic lighthouses, and a variety of hiking trails. Harrisville, Alpena, and Rogers City make other great stops along this route. Finish your trip in Cheboygan and then Mackinaw City where you’ll find outstanding views of the Mackinac Bridge, and plenty of places to pick up a souvenir or gift in the downtown area.
8. Picturesque Small Towns
You’ll delight in exploring some of Michigan’s most charming small towns. This road trip will almost be like stepping back to a simpler time. Chelsea in Washtenaw county has plenty to offer. See a play at the local theater, walk through downtown, and check for one of the many family events offered during the summer. Next is Frankenmuth, one of Michigan’s most unique small towns. With Bavarian architecture, charming downtown, and the historic Frankenmuth Brewery, it’s the perfect place to spend the afternoon. Continue North to East Tawas, then, St. Ignace, Charlevoix, Frankfort and Grand Haven. No tour would be complete without a stop in Saugatuck, a tiny waterfront community near Holland. Finally, end your trip at South Haven.
9. Michigan’s Ghost Towns
Part abandoned places, part haunted Michigan, this road trip is perfect for history buffs as it takes you through some of the abandoned towns that once played key roles in the copper industry during the 19th century. Mandan was formed in 1864 with the founding of the Mandan Company, but operation ceased after the turn of the 20th century. Next is the Central Mining Company which is also a national historic district. The mines at Quincy Mine Smelter are also gone leaving only hollowed structures behind. Laurium is not technically a ghost town with a population of just under 2,000 people, but it’s still a wonderful place to explore. Other ghost towns to see along this route are Dollar Bay, Lake Linden, Hubbell, and Gay.
10. Michigan Food Tour
Food stops can make or break a road trip, and this mouth watering adventure will take you to some of Michigan’s most amazing eateries. Some of these spots are critically acclaimed, and others are local favorites, but all of them are delicious. Start with some breakfast at Rose’s Fine Food on the east side of Detroit. Then, try some authentic Middle Eastern cuisine at James Beard Award winning Al Ameer in Dearborn. Next, travel to Cuba with some burgers at Frita Batidos in Ann Arbor. Other can’t miss Michigan eateries include Roxy Cafe in Jackson, Food Dance in Kalamazoo, HopCat in Grand Rapids, and Bungalow Inn in Manistee. You’ll probably be full by now, so take a break from the eating with a wine tasting at Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay. Make sure you get a reservation for the final destination on this list, The Cook’s House in Traverse City.
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