Lake Michigan touches four US states- Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Around 12 million people reside on this magnificent great lake. It’s crystal clear turquoise waters are lined with 275,000 acres of sand dunes, making it the largest freshwater dune system in the world! Lake Michigan has so many beaches it’s often referred to as “The Third Coast” of the United States. In my completely unbiased opinion, it’s the best of the coasts. The fresh water lake comes shark and salt free!
The Perfect Weekend Along Michigan’s West Coast
This past weekend Logan and I explored a new part of Michigan with his family, complete with fur babies and adorable nephews. We headed to the west coast over to Warren Dunes State Park where we camped for the weekend. The west side of the state is so beautiful, and just a short drive from Detroit or Chicago.
Where to Camp
As if setting up in the dark isn’t bad enough, it started to monsoon type rain as soon as we pulled into our campsite (and every weekend we camp, ever). Once again Logan and I questioned if tent camping was still our best option. We’ve been debating all summer if we should bite the bullet and buy a used camper to keep us dry on the rainy weekends (all in favor, say “i”). There are state campgrounds all up the coastline, here’s some of my favorites I’ve camped at along Lake Michigan.
Warren Dunes State Park: Three miles of rare PET FRIENDLY shoreline along gorgeous Lake Michigan. The park also includes around six miles of hiking trails through forest and sand dunes. Modern & rustic sites available.
Ludington State Park: My favorite Michigan state park has everything- a lighthouse, hiking trails, lakes, sand dunes, dense forest, adventure activities and so much more. This is a must visit park! Check out my post on 5 Reason’s to Love Ludington. Modern & rustic sites.
Leelanau State Park: Another park home to a magnificent lighthouse. The drive up the peninsula to Leelanau State Park takes you through Michigan’s wine country with water views on both sides. Rustic campground.
Wilderness State Park: This park is a night photographers dream spot, as it’s just a few minutes’ drive from Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Modern & rustic sites.
Take a drive along the coast and explore the waterfront towns while looking for lighthouses. The western coast of Michigan is dotted with around 35 lighthouses. Two of those reside side by side in the town of St. Joseph. It was about a 30 minute drive from our campground, 80 f degrees and the sun was shining. Perfect lighthouse hunting weather!
St. Joseph North Pier
Each lighthouse is unique and has its own fascinating history, road tripping around the shorelines of Michigan you’re bound to run into a lighthouse or two.
South Haven South Pier
Go for a Swim
Like I mentioned earlier, Lake Michigan is a freshwater lake that comes salt and shark free. Immerse yourself in the crystal clear blue waters to cool down from the summer sun and Michigan humidity.
Search for Petoskey Stones
Searching for stones as you walk along the beach shore was a tradition growing up. If you were lucky, you would find a Petoskey stone- the Michigan state stone. The stones are unique to the Great Lakes, and can only be found along the shores of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
The lake temperatures range from 60s in early summer to high 70s in late summer. The beach entrance at Warren Dunes State park has a sign showing the water temp each day so you can plan accordingly.
Relax on the Beach
Pack a beach bag, your furry friend or adorable nephew, and a picnic lunch- then head to the beach. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can hike to the beach on one of the many trails that runs through Warren Dunes State Park.
Hike a Sand Dune
Enjoy the world’s largest dune system, and go for a hike! At 400 ft the highest dune resides in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The dune formation pictured above was the largest at Warren Dunes State park. The dune rises 260 feet above the water with Lake Michigan views from the top.
We stopped at the local Three Blonde’s Brewing for lunch and a drink to cool down. Michigan’s west coast is crawling with local watering holes. Beer, Wine, Cider. We do them all impeccably well. The craft beer craze has swept through the state like wildfire, with hundreds of local breweries statewide. Just as Michigan has its own west coast, we have our own wine country, much of which resides on the beautiful Lake Michigan. You haven’t tasted anything like the sweet nectar Michigan’s cideries create. Cider is easily my beverage of choice, and I would highly recommend any produced locally, a few of my favorites include Blakes, JK Scrumpys, and Vandermill.
After our boozy lunch we decided dessert was a must. Good thing icecream is yet another thing Michigan is awesome at. There was a local dairy farm mere seconds away from the brewery we ate lunch at. Sherman’s Dairy Bar didn’t disappoint. I had a hard time deciding between the yellow cake batter flavor and the birthday cake. With over 70 different flavors of homemade recipes featuring all the Michigan classics, can you blame me? (I went with yellow cake batter 😊)
Ready for your Michigan West Coast road trip? PIN IT!
The U.S. state of Michigan is made up of two major peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula (UP), is the northern of the two.
Locals of the Lower Peninsula will often say I’m going “up north” for the weekend. Which could be anywhere north of their local county. Memorial Day weekend, my boyfriend and I took our fur babies camping up north to Michigan’s UP to welcome the beginning of the summer season. “Up North” for the weekend took us 6 hours north of Detroit straight up I-75 to the central region of The UP.
The summer months (Late May- August) are best for tent camping in The UP. Temperatures range from mid 70’s to low 90’s, depending on how close to the waters you go. Lake Superior touches the northern part of the region, while Lake Michigan/Huron (depending on what side of the Mackinac Bridge you’re on) border the southern region.
Where To Camp
Indian Lake State Campground
We left right after work Friday to make the most of our three-day holiday weekend. Arriving to our campsite at night per usual (we’re getting SO GOOD at setting up camp in the dark). We camped at Indian Lake State campground for the weekend, it was centrally located for all the activities we had planned. Michigan has some INCREDIBLE state campgrounds, I would recommend booking early, as most fill up quickly during the summer. Our camp site for the weekend was right on the lake! Check out my packing guide for what gear I use. *Note* If the state parks are all full, there are private owned campgrounds in the area as well as cabin rentals.
Kitch-iti-kipi known as “The Big Spring” is another gem in The UP’s crown. The 40 ft. deep spring pumps over 10,000 gallons of water a minute! Be sure to ride the self-operated observation raft across the spring, it offers a unique perspective, providing striking views to the bottom.
Big Spring is located inside Palms Book State Park, beautiful all year round… Big Spring doesn’t freeze! Visiting in the winter to see the crystal clear blue waters surrounded by a winter wonderland would be an epic adventure. (Mental note made)
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is 40 miles of breath taking lakeshore along Lake Superior. There are nearly 100 miles of hiking trails winding through dense forest that will take you to waterfalls, pristine beaches and other secluded beauty.
Take A Hike
Deciding which hike to do will be tough, there are so many things to explore! I would recommend doing a couple hikes inside this bubble of national protected land to best see the beauty the UP has to offer. Michigan is so incredible! As we hiked along lakeshore north country trail the trail suddenly went from dirt to boardwalk as we crossed over some swamp lands. As we continued further, I looked around… we were completely surrounded 360 degrees by bright yellow flowers.
Relax at Chapel Beach
Explore the beach area and hike to the waterfall nearby!
Take A Dip
At the end of the hike there was the opportunity to cool off in a bath of crystal clear ABSOLUTELY FREEZING Lake Superior water. I wouldn’t recommend swimming for too long, while the surface temperature of Lake Superior varies seasonally, the temperature below (660 ft; 200 m) is 39 °F (4 °C) I dipped my toes in and decided that was enough for me! 😊
For more on what to do in Michigan’s U.P check out my post on the Eastern Region!
The month of May has been absolutely insane for me. For starters, it’s my 30th birthday month (HUGE, I know). For whatever reason, turning 30 always scared the hell out of me. I even came up with a 30 Before 30 List of things I wanted to accomplish before the big day (I did pretty awesome).
I spent a good portion of the last 6 weeks (End of April- May) living out of either a suitcase or a backpack. Sleeping in tents, hotels, airports, and cabins. Traveling back and forth across the country….twice. First time by plane, second time was by plane AND moving truck. I explored my first European country. Then before I beat the jet lag, I took another road trip over Memorial Day weekend. This time across my home state of Michigan. So this all translates to: I’ve had absolutely no time to write about each of the adventures individually (which I intend on doing).
Meanwhile- I came to the realization that the last 6 weeks was one giant adventure, made up of back to back mini adventures! Here’s a recap, with a super awesome picture from 10 places I visited this spring.
Los Angeles, CA
I started out in LA for work the last week of April- and it’s been a giant blur since.
I was home for 48 hours after I got home from LA, in which time I attended a baby shower, and a birthday party. Then it was off to Chicago, where I stayed for less than 24 hours to start the next mini adventure.
Badlands National Park, SD
We left Chicago EARLY, and started the long drive across the country to Seattle. We drove through four states before we made it to our first stop.
We were in South Dakota after 12 hours (not including stops). Arriving at night- we set up camp and spent the night at a campground inside the park. Check out my full post on Badlands National Park for more details!
Mount Rushmore National Monument, SD
The drive from Badlands to Mount Rushmore was only about an hour or so. The stop helped break up the long drive we still had ahead of us- and it was pretty cool to see the National Monument I never in a million years anticipated I’d see.
Grand Teton National Park, WY
We drove another 8 hours into the state of Wyoming. I really struggled choosing just one picture for these next two stops. Grand Teton National Park was incredible. We spent a day exploring the park and fell in love with the snow-covered peaks. We crashed at a hostel inside the park (no campgrounds were open this early in the season).
Yellowstone National Park, WY
We camped for the next two nights in the colorful world of Yellowstone. Only the west half of the park was open during our time there. Thankfully the Grand Prismatic spring was accessible (I had pre-warned Grace I might lose my shit if I missed it).
The last 12 hours of our trip from Yellowstone to Seattle took us through 3 more states (Montana, Idaho, Washington). When we finally arrived in Seattle, I had 24 hours there before my flight home. Check out my post on The Perfect Weekend in Seattle for more details on this amazing city.
After being on the road for a week, I was looking forward to coming home for a few days. I was going to be home for FIVE WHOLE DAYS before we left on the next trip. Check out my post on The Perfect Weekend in Detroit for a local’s guide on my favorite city.
The entire week, Logan and I planned on leaving for Iceland Saturday night (the day before Mother’s Day). We made plans with our families, put off laundry and packing (we had all day Saturday after all) and figured we’d get through the work week and worry about everything Iceland on Saturday.
Friday night I double checked our tickets and realized, our flight actually departs at 12:30 THAT NIGHT! We now had 4 hours to drop off the dogs/do laundry/clean the apartment/pack our bags/get to the airport…
I planned my Iceland trip almost 5 years ago. It was always the #1 spot on my list of places I wanted to go- I just never seemed to make it there. Well after 5 years of waiting… I finally made it! My favorite travel crew and I set off on a week long road trip around the country that ended with my 30th birthday hike to the bluest waterfall I’d ever seen.
“Up North”, MI
We got home from Iceland exhausted and jet lagged. At this point the constant traveling was beginning to catch up with me. I’d been in so many different time zones the last couple weeks, I had no idea what day it was, what time zone I was in, or if I should be awake or sleeping (Iceland never got fully dark at night, so our sleeping schedules were all sorts of messed up.)
After spending a few days at home recovering and starting to sort our life back out, next thing we knew- the week was over, and it was Memorial Day weekend.
I spent my Memorial Day weekend with Logan and the fur babies “up north” in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula, MI) We spent time relaxing at our camp site, grilling, and playing tourist in our own state. We stayed at Indian Lake State Campground which was only 15 minutes from Kitch-iti-Kipi, and an hour from Pictured Rocks National Lake shore.
The holiday season is my favorite time of year. My friends come home to Michigan from all over the country, work shuts down for a weeklong vacation, and I get to spend my afternoons brunching with my girlfriends instead of sitting in meetings. When my friends come home I always ask them– where do you want to go? what are you craving? Almost immediately the response includes something or somewhere only Michigan can provide.
Here’s the “Michigan Foods” you must try if you’re visiting the Great Lakes State!
Cider & Donuts
Growing up in Michigan meant going to cider mills in the fall. Cider mills meant melt in your mouth delicious cinnamon sugar covered donuts and crisp apple cider to wash it down. The cider mills used to only be open during the fall- but as popularity of the cider donut combo grew- the hours of some of the larger mills extended into the other seasons. There are so many cider mills within driving distance of Detroit- if you’re in Michigan, this is one treat you don’t want to miss. (Click Here to find a cider mill near Detroit!)
Lafayette Coney Island VS American Coney Island. The ongoing battle for best Coney in Detroit is a long one. The two restaurants are next door to each other on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Lafayette Boulevard- try them both, and you be the judge on who does em best.
Chicken Finger Hani
Crispy chicken tenders, lettuce, american cheese and tomato wrapped in a pita smothered in delicious homemade ranch. You can find this signature sandwich at most Coney’s in Michigan– making it my go to sandwich for lunch more often then I care to admit. In fact, I’m pretty sure the Kerby’s by my office knows me by name …
A pasty, or meat pie- is a hearty, savory, pastry filled with meat, potatoes and veggies. The pasties have an unusual history, and were originally made for the copper mine workers. There aren’t many places in the U.S you can get your hands on these, so if you’re from outta town- don’t leave without trying one!
Detroit Style Pizza
My favorite Detroit style pizza is made by Buddy’s. My recommendation would be to get their award winning Detroiter pizza with a huge side of homemade ranch to dip it in- oh and don’t forget the Buddy bread while you’re waiting.
Getting ice cream after dinner happens all year round in Michigan. In the summer- going out for ice cream is pretty standard a couple nights a week (at least in my home). Even in January when temperatures are in the negatives- we’re in the freezer aisle picking up ice cream. Yes I know froyo is the cool thing, but we take our ice cream in Michigan serious- which means dairy & sugar- so skip the froyo and try something local your taste buds will thank you for like Cook’s Dairy, Hudsonville, or Sanders.
Spending time in Detroit? Check out my guide for what to do here!
Detroit is the largest city in Michigan- with several nicknames. We lovingly refer to our beloved city as “The D”, “Motown”, “The Motor City”, or most recent- “America’s Comeback City.” Having grown up just 30 miles north of the city, and done my fair share of traveling around the world- I feel Detroit is seriously underrated as a travel destination. But fear not! Detroit city is making a comeback. Lonely Planet recently ranked the D- No.2 in the top 10 cities to travel in 2018, making it the ONLY continental U.S. city on the list.
Ready to see what all the hype is about?.
Here’s your guide to Detroit in a weekend!
Brunch Instead of Lunch
Brunch: My favorite meal of the day. Detroit has so many options for a delicious mid-day meal, and many are centrally located right downtown. Here are some of my personal favorites!
Dime Store: This dime is a little hidden- it’s located inside the Chrysler House at 719 Griswold Street. Order a peach mimosa, with your eggs benny and find out why they call it Detroit’s #1 breakfast spot. Pro Tip: While you’re waiting for a table, go around the corner of the Chrysler Building to Bon Bon Bon and snack on the most adorable, tasty, handmade chocolate boxes you’ll ever taste.
The Hudson Café: Located in the heart of downtown Detroit, the namesake comes from the old Hudson’s department store that was across the street from the café. I would recommend trying their delicious Baklava French Toast- covered in walnuts, pistachios, and drizzled in honey.
Parks & Rec Diner: To get here- enter at the corner of Grand River and Cass Avenues. Breakfast & lunch are served all day, every day. The artisanal menu boasts a number of traditional fan favorites- I had the mouthwatering C-Day Benny: Thanksgiving spiced, smoked & pulled local chicken, poached eggs, sweet potato biscuit smothered in sausage gravy. But the real winner was the melt in your mouth delicious Crème Brûlée French Toast.. it was so different than I expected- soaked in orange anglaise coated in a crackly sugar crust and fresh fruit, served with two eggs any style-we went with scrambled.
Gold Cash Gold: Located in Corktown, this old pawn shop turned hipster eatery has a fantastic farm to table rotating seasonal menu.Try their take on the classic chicken & waffle- made with a cornbread waffle, hot & spicy fried chicken, and an orange sorghum butter, it’ll satisfy your sweet AND savory cravings.
Shop Eastern Market
You can’t visit Detroit without experiencing the oldest and largest year-round market in the US. During the busy season, Eastern Market has over 225 market vendors with up to 40,000 visitors in one day. Depending on the season, you can expect fresh Michigan grown produce, fresh proteins, TREATS, flowers, hand crafted goods, and all kinds of fun stuff. I would recommend getting here early on the weekends (like 7-8 a.m. early). Parking is free but fills up fast, the earlier you get there the better chance you have of getting a good spot. After you’re done shopping- head a couple blocks over to the Detroit Distillery and wet your whistle with their hand crafted cocktails.
Get Inspired By The Heidelberg Project
The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art environment on Detroit’s East Side- about 5 minutes from Eastern Market. The project is on Heidelberg Street- the street that the local artist grew up on. In 1986 the artist started transforming his childhood neighborhood that had turned to poverty and shambles into a massive piece of art. The old abandoned houses and lots were cleaned, and the refuse collected was recycled back to create the artwork. The street, sidewalks, trees, and anything else on this street has become a part of this neighborhood gem.
Campus Martius Park
Visit Detroit’s gathering place, Campus Martius Park. Located downtown, the park has spectacular skyline views and is home to the always flowing Woodward Fountain, gardens, historical monuments and the popular Parc Restaurant. The park is open year round with activities for everyone- in the summer it’s turned into a small beach where you can relax and sip on cocktails in the middle of the city- while in the winter the park transforms into a winter wonderland, with the most popular ice skating rink in the area. Make sure to check their calendar of events before you go, there’s often special events on weekends- you don’t want to miss out!
The District Detroit is one of the largest sports and entertainment developments IN THE COUNTRY. Located in the heart of Detroit, the 50 blocks include just about everything, including businesses, parks, restaurants, and bars. This newly formed district brings together eight world-class theaters, five neighborhoods and three professional sports venues. In addition to the residents, the district is also home to the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Pistons and Detroit Lions- making it the district with the most professional sports teams in one downtown…again… IN THE COUNTRY. This is where the action is- grab some tickets if you’re in Detroit on game day, and experience what Detroit is really like with the fans in the city we love over the teams we love.
Visit Belle Isle
Belle Isle Park is a 982-acre island on the Michigan side of the Detroit River. The park is home to Belle Isle Aquarium, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Belle Isle Nature Center, and the James Scott Memorial Fountain. No matter what season it is- there’s always something to do on Belle Isle. Take a walk around the island and explore, you’ll find an old lighthouse, several historical sites, and incredible views of both Detroit and Windsor across the river.
Detroiters love their coffee; it’s also a requirement for me to start my day with something that contains caffeine. The Roasting Plant is the perfect place to grab a fresh cup of joe (and just so happens to be my favorite coffee shop in Detroit). The coffee beans are stored in a Javabot (super cool tub machine that shoots the beans out through tunnels you can see) at the center of the shop- measured out per order. You can blend up to four different varieties per cup, they’re brewed within seconds – fresh just for you. I would recommend the Jamaica Blue Mountain blend- a bright acidity with a butter-soft body. Aromas of almond and praline come first, followed by dark chocolate, and energetic lemon zest.
Great Lakes Coffee has a few locations in Southeast Michigan including one in Midtown. If you’re looking for somewhere cozy with tea options and yummy baked goods and sandwiches, head to Corktown over to Astro Coffee.
Astoria Pastry Shop
Located in the Greektown District of Detroit, Astoria Pastry Shop is open till 1:00 a.m. on weekends for all your late night sweet tooth cravings. They have TONS of yummy treats- you’ll find something for everyone, from muffins, to cannoli’s, to fancy cheesecakes. Astoria has been filling Detroiters with goodies since the 1970’s- making it a local staple and a must try on your visit to Detroit.
Eat in Detroit
Detroit is rapidly transforming itself into a food mecca with foodie approved eateries throughout the entire city- the majority of which are locally owned and operated. Head to Hamtramck over to Polish Village for some pierogis that will give your taste buds an explosion of flavor. Feeling spicy? You’ll want to go to Mexican Town for some tasty tacos. Some of the best sushi I’ve had has been at Maru. It’s the perfect spot for a nice night out and a warm cup of Japanese tea. Wright & Co is great for sharing- with their menu consisting of creative seasonal small plates, my friends and I always order a couple plates a person, and then share family style.