Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is an enchanting land of sandy dunes, vast lakeshore views, quiet forests, and quaint towns. Thanks to all of this (and those totally mesmerizing Pure Michigan ads), the state is a pretty popular vacation destination... but you can avoid some of the crowds by checking out hidden gems in the LP, such as Petoskey State Park and the completely adorable island of Mackinac. Here's how to explore Michigan!
Camping on the beach isn’t just reserved for coastal parks: Petoskey State Park, located on Lake Michigan’s Traverse Bay, features an impeccable mile-long sandy beach, dunes to climb, and plenty of clean, modern campsites. Pro tip: this is the best place to find Petoskey stones, the state stone of Michigan. They’re actually polished chunks of fossilized coral that have a funky, six-sided pattern.
The M-119 (aka the “Tunnel of Trees”) is a scenic drive that highlights all of the best parts of the Lower Peninsula: the road hugs the shore of Lake Michigan and winds through dense forests between charming small towns. Roll down the windows and cruise along in the summer, or check it out in the fall, when the leaves are at their most colorful!
The Good Hart General Store is a quaint little must-visit in the LP. If you’re looking for a snack (their famous pot pies and delicious home-baked treats are incredibly tasty) or itching to stretch your legs with a stroll to the beach, definitely make the trek out here and spend some time perusing the old-school store.
Another advantage of the Lower Peninsula is that, thanks to the lack of major cities, the night skies are clear and dark. That makes for outstanding stargazing! Headlands International Dark Sky Park is one of a few areas in the whole world recognized for exceptional views of the night sky, and it’s dedicated to preserving the starry scenery. Spend a night practicing astrophotography, peeping through binoculars and telescopes, or just marveling at how much more you can see with your naked eye here than anywhere else!
Pond Hill Farm and Garden Café is another cute little local stop. The quaint historic wooden barn houses a winery, a microbrewery, and a café, which serves up a small menu of fresh, delicious meals. You can explore the beautiful farm itself and even feed the animals!
Stepping onto Mackinac Island is like stepping back in time: cars aren't allowed here (you'll have to park your RV and hop on a ferry for the trip over), so the place is mostly filled with bikes. The buildings here evoke another era: Their dump trucks are horse-drawn carriages, and the island’s main export to the mainland is fudge, making Mackinac a little piece of heaven on Earth.
After reading all of that, who else wants to hop into the RV and hit the road for Michigan’s Lower Peninsula? Exploring the beaches and small towns sounds like the perfect break from the fast pace of everyday life!