The Wolverine State is home to a multitude of charming towns that showcase the best and most diverse aspects of its scenic beauty. From rugged enclaves to affluent seaside hubs, port towns, and fishing villages, each of these towns leaves a lasting impression and a nostalgic yearning to return in the near future. The coastal towns offer stunning views of dramatic cliffs, surrounded by ancient forests and offshore islands that are perfect for endless exploration.
Indulge in a wide selection of seafood restaurants and immerse yourself in the seafaring traditions by visiting lighthouses and numerous historic museums. Enjoy a fulfilling fishing experience and cook your own catch over a cozy campfire in the woods or along the rugged shores. These captivating towns in Michigan boast vibrant festivals, pristine beaches, and a rich maritime culture that is deeply embedded in their small-town atmospheres.
The town of Charlevoix, with its enchanting French name and the epithet “the Beautiful,” perfectly captures the essence of this place. Situated between two waterfronts of the magnificent Lake Michigan and the charming namesake lake, Charlevoix is blessed with an abundance of natural wonders. The downtown area is vibrant, filled with shopping malls and art galleries, while the surrounding trails provide scenic routes for hiking and biking along the lakefront.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the South Pier Light Station before embarking on a delightful boat ride to Beaver Island, where more untouched natural landscapes await. Apart from engaging in activities such as fishing, zip lining, hiking, boating, horseback riding, and golfing, the town has a few surprises in store, including the Hobbit Houses. These 27 limestone “mushroom houses,” masterfully crafted by Earl Young, seamlessly blend into the picturesque Charlevoix forest and exude a captivating ambiance reminiscent of the world depicted in “Lord of the Rings.”
The main town within the state is an authentic repository of novel discoveries and renowned landmarks, including the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Indulge in captivating panoramas of the sweeping coastline, complete with trails and the highest bluffs encircling Lake Michigan, soaring up to 450 feet above the glistening sea. Opt for a camping spot amidst pristine shores or wilderness and savor a few days harmonizing with nature, beneath some of the darkest night skies ideal for stargazing.
Experience tranquility as you traverse the concise Empire Bluff Trail, immersing yourself in the refreshing ambiance of the beech maple forest while being treated to awe-inspiring panoramas. To discover an entirely new facet of this picturesque setting, take to the glistening waters on a paddleboard or kayak.
Nestled along the Southwest Michigan lakeshore, New Buffalo visitors can experience a delightful combination of laid-back vibes and refined sophistication. When visiting New Buffalo, don’t pass up immersing yourself in an extraordinary Great Lakes experience at Galien River County Park. This park stands out due to its remarkable marshland, a rarity within the Great Lakes region.
And after a peaceful day of exploring grape and grain tours, kick back and relax at Four Wins Casino Resort. Play a Blackjack hand or two, or experience some of the best dining that Michigan has to offer. Or, while you’re hopping in between towns, you can play your slot or table game right on your phone, now that online gambling is legal in Michigan.
Despite its small population of under 500, Leland is a hidden gem that boasts a thriving tourism industry. Located on the pinky of Michigan and surrounded by the stunning Lake Leelanau and Lake Michigan, this coastal town offers a year-round allure. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore Fishtown, where historic fishing shanties have been transformed into trendy small businesses. Make sure to savor the life-changing sandwiches at Village Cheese Shanty and embark on a scenic ferry trip to the Manitou Islands for an unforgettable experience.
Earning the title of the finest island in the U.S. in Travel + Leisure’s 2022 World’s Best Awards, Mackinac Island is nestled in Lake Huron, positioned between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas. This captivating destination, often referred to as the “Jewel of the Great Lakes,” has been a beloved tourist spot for decades. During your stay, immerse yourself in the timeless splendor of the Grand Hotel, one of the few remaining grand dame properties in America.
Grand Marais, although not as renowned as its Minnesotan namesake, is a historic village encompassing more than 50 miles of picturesque Great Lakes shoreline. From cascading waterfalls to majestic lighthouses to well-maintained trails ideal for hiking and biking, immerse yourself in the fascinating history of lighthouses by visiting the Light Keeper’s House Museum.
Hillsdale, a charming and spacious town, boasts numerous breathtaking attractions such as the renowned Historic Dawn Theater and the esteemed Hillsdale College, established in 1844. The well-liked Stocks Park stretches alongside the St. Joseph River, offering picturesque trails, idyllic picnic spots, and captivating historical landmarks. For an unforgettable experience, plan a visit during the autumn season to partake in the lively Hillsdale Country Fair, a beloved event that caters to all interests, ages, and preferences.
Houghton, a picturesque town nestled on the Keweenaw Peninsula, often goes unnoticed due to its larger neighboring cities in the Upper Peninsula. Take a leisurely stroll through the expansive campus of Michigan Technological University and immerse yourself in the lively downtown area, where a range of attractions cater to the busy student population, offering affordable prices to keep them satisfied.
Saugatuck, located in western Michigan, has six beautiful beaches, vibrant art scene, and numerous local eateries and breweries. As part of Michigan’s renowned “art coast,” Saugatuck is home to notable attractions such as the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, and Waterfront Invitational Art Fair, which are highly regarded in the region. For dining options, indulge in the thoughtfully prepared farm-to-table dishes at Pennyroyal Cafe & Provisions or experience the warm hospitality and cuisine of the James Beard-nominated Southerner.
Munising acts as the gateway to the Upper Peninsula’s most-visited destinations: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and the Hiawatha National Forest. For those with a thirst for adventure, there are countless opportunities for kayaking, hiking, camping, ice climbing, waterfall exploration, and more. Despite its modest population of less than 2,000, this town is particularly renowned for its scrumptious pasties, a cherished delicacy in Michigan. Additionally, The Duck Pond Eatery & Beer Garden offers delectable Lake Superior whitefish tacos, while ByGeorge Brewing Co. serves up delightful local brews.