Michigan is consistently and vastly underrated, but we like it that way. There are rarely crowds which ruin beauty, and there are still dozens of unexplored and relatively unknown places hidden throughout the Upper and Lower Peninsula. Out of all the things to do in Michigan, sometimes the best things are the unexpected.
On your next trip around The Mitten, take a detour. Discover the path less known. Find your adventure.
It’s a magical little building hidden off a channel on the western edge of the Blue Lake in Mecosta County. Follow the small waterway to the end and you’ll unveil one of the most picturesque spots in the Mitten.
I’ve been visiting the waterwheel since I was a little girl. It was one of the first places I photographed and thought “hey, I might want to do this photo-taking thing a little more seriously.” If you catch it on a calm day, you’re promised an extra surprise. TWO water wheels, thanks to a perfect reflection on the glass-like lake.
Mosquito Beach Sea Caves
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Don’t expect secrets to be easy. Unless renting a boat, the Pictured Rocks sea caves are only accessible by an 11-mile hike and an awkward cliff scramble around a point (clumsy adventurers beware, you might get wet).
First, you must find yourself on Mosquito Beach. Head east to the point. The rocky shoreline will steepen, and pretty soon you’ll be sketchily maneuvering your way around the point. Don’t worry, if you fall you’re only about two feet above the water, but it’s deep and cold. Heck, if it’s hot you might as well swim. That actually sounds easier.
There’s a slim chance you’ve heard of Hungarian Falls unless you reside in Houghton/Hancock. Tucked deep into the woods about twenty minutes northeast of the town, these falls aren’t easy to find. In fact, you’ll most likely be traveling down unmarked dirt roads with no cell service and your map marked with preloaded coordinates from The Outbound. There’s no parking lot to indicate your arrival, you’ll either have to bank on the coords or hope another car has stopped.
I did some deep digging to discover these falls and drove by the pull off twice before finally realizing where I was supposed to go. But alas, the journey into the unknown was well worth the effort. I spent an hour, completely alone, wading through the falls and taking in one of the Upper Peninsula’s best-kept secrets.
Far out in the middle of Lake Michigan sits Garden Island, the second biggest island of the Beaver Island Archipelago. In the past, the rocky shorelines served as home to Native Americans, who were experts of herbs and herbal medicine. Today, the quiet shores hear nothing but distant freighter engines and an occasional visitor coming to explore the uninhabited 8 square mile island.
Garden Island is only accessible by private boat, and there’s not much there besides an old cemetery, a few abandoned buildings, and a plethora of snakes, but that’s what makes it so enchanting.
Just outside of Copper Harbor is Brockway Mountain. It’s one of the prime sunset (and sunrise) spots in the state. The high point offers 360-degree views of the Keweenaw Peninsula and Lake Superior.
When I visited last fall during my leg of the Pure Michigan Fall and Seek campaign, I fully admit I hesitantly drove up to the peak. Moments before I received a call that one of the closest and most influential people in my life had passed away. I sat alone on the edge of a stone crop, surrounded by only a handful of people laying around in a tall grassy field. Who knew such dark moments could be accompanied by such influential beauty. If you’re ever in need of a place to sit and clear your mind, here it is.
Scott’s Quik Shop
Introduced to me on one of our first dates by Josh, I have to say I didn’t quite know what to expect when we “had” to stop at a corner gas station on our way to Port Austin. Well, truth be told he knew the way to my heart from the very beginning. Ice cream cones as big as my head.
On our travels, we always attempt to find mom-and-pop ice cream stores that give the most bang for the buck. But alas, nothing compares to the tiny corner gas station in the middle of Michigan’s Thumb. Especially Italy (see pic), who serves up absolutely delicious gelato but for the size of a small child.
Do you have any Michigan Secrets? Share in the comments!
Shalee Wanders is a female travel blog that focuses on encouraging young adults to explore the world and challenge themselves outside comfort zones. Born and raised in Michigan, she shares her tips of the Midwest, the United States, and beyond. You can follow her travels on Instagram at @shaleewanders.