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 😊)
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Jasper National Park is home to some of the best hiking, skiing, and climbing in the world, making it an adventurer’s paradise. The park is one of the largest National Parks in the Canadian Rockies, offering over 4,000 mi² of vast wilderness to explore. From peaks extending over 11,000 square kilometers, to glacier rivers snaking along the base there are endless adventurous activities in Jasper.
Here’s my adventurers guide to Jasper National Park!
The National Park campgrounds in Canada fill up FAST. With no reservations prior to arriving, we took our chances and ended up in the overflow lot of Snaring Campground. There were not any facilities- because there weren’t any designated campsites- you just pitched your tent where you could find a spot! Rustic style. Don’t know what to pack when camping in national parks? Check out my Packing Guide: Camping National Parks .
Go White Water Rafting
White water rafting was the perfect mid afternoon adventure. Cool off in the refreshing glacier waters as you navigate your way along the Lower Athabasca River. I sat front and center, unbeknownst to me- that was the danger zone. I found out when we hit the first rapid and a wall of ice cold water came up over my head. We went through Jasper Rafting Adventures for our tour, and had a great first time rafting experience. The two hour trip seemed a bit short for us- I would recommend doing the longer river run if you have the time.
Hike the Sulphur Skyline
If you only do one hike while you’re in Jasper- this should be it. The Sulphur Skyline hiking trail has some of the most spectacular panoramas that Jasper has to offer. The hike is moderate with a consistent incline, dress appropriately (hiking shoes recommended), take lots of water, and break along the trail. The 8.0 km to the summit will take around 1.5-3 hours to reach (one way). It was hot and rainy at the trail head, and cold and windy by the time we reached the summit- pack a jacket and a lunch! Have a picnic at the summit and enjoy those pano views!
Go Rock Climbing
I’m not going to lie- this one pushed me out of my comfort zone. See the little pink blob at the bottom? That’s me, and this rock was nothing like the rock wall I practiced on at home. The rock climbing scene at Jasper is legendary. People flock from all over the world to climb the incredible Canadian rockies. We went through Rockaboo Mountain Adventure for our tour, and had an incredible experience! We did the 4 hour tour which began at the office in Jasper. Our certified ACMG guide was so knowledgeable and friendly- which helped with the nerves. All the climbing gear you need for the adventure is provided- including shoes.
Spot a Bear
The wildlife in Jasper National Park is abundant. We saw mountain goats, several black bears, and elk. Much to Grace’s dismay, we saw no moose. The park is home to both black and grizzly bears- carry bear spray if you plan on hiking. You never want to surprise a bear, make noise to alert them while you’re on the trail. We didn’t see any bears while hiking, but as we drove around the park we were able to view a few from inside our car at a safe distance. DO NOT approach the bears, and please be mindful of your speed while driving through the park, as many animals are killed each year due to vehicles.
Hang Out In a Tree
Find the perfect spot to relax for the day, or stack your hammocks with your travel crew to see how high you can build! Looking for a great summer hammock? Check out Madera, for every hammock you purchase, two trees will be planted!
Know Before You Go
Help preserve the beauty of this park and practice the leave no trace principles.
Showers are only available at the Whistlers Campground, but if you camp at Wapiti Campground they allow you to use the showers at Whistlers.
It is a 3-3.5 hour drive from Edmonton or Calgary. I would recommend flying into one city and out of the other to save on drive time.
There is a cute downtown area inside the park with shops, restaurants, and a grocery store.
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!
Iceland is full of sharp contrasts. This is a country with fire and ice co-existing. Where the winters are long and dark, but the summer’s midnight sun makes up for it, making the day’s feel much longer in summer.
Iceland has been a dream of mine for about 5 years now. The first time I saw pictures my jaw dropped. Who knew the country with “ice” in the name was so stunning with such a diverse landscape? Not me. Iceland immediately jumped to the top of my list. I started researching how much a trip to Iceland would cost me… and my jaw dropped again. There was nooo way I could afford that! Or was there? *Puts on thinking cap*
Here’s my 8 Day Itinerary for Iceland’s Ring Road!
How to Get to Iceland
Fly into Reykjavik International Airport (KEF). Flights are typically one of the largest expenses when traveling. I fly on budget airlines frequently, especially if it’s going to end up saving me a couple hundred dollars a flight. We flew direct into Iceland on the budget airline WOW. *WOW IS NO LONGER IN BUSINESS*
How to Get Around Iceland
Once we arrived in Reykjavik, we took the Airport Direct bus into the city (we found that to be the cheapest way into the city without a rental car). The bus had WIFI, and put public transportation buses in the US to shame. We were dropped off within walking distance to our AirBnB and the city’s attractions. Reykjavik is extremely walkable, so I’d recommend exploring on foot!
A rental car is necessary if you plan to explore Iceland’s ring road or outside the city of Reykjavik. You can pick up your rental right at the airport or take the bus into the city and get your car when you’re ready to leave the city.
Perhaps the most iconic building in Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja is a beautiful Lutheran church standing at 244 ft high. The height of the church makes it the largest church in Iceland, and one of the tallest structures in the country!
Reykjavik Sun Voyager Sculpture
The Sun Voyager is a sculpture created by Jón Gunnar. The Sun Voyager sits along the coastline of the city and has a cool history. In 1986 Gunnar’s design for Sun Voyager won best outdoor sculpture in a competition funded by the city. The competition purpose was to create a sculpture that would commemorate the 200th anniversary of the city.
Where to Get Food in Iceland
Snacking on the traditional Icelandic food was… interesting. Logan tried things where I drew the line, such as fermented shark and dried pounded fish. The rye bread ice-cream however, I could eat in gallons.
Icelandic hot dogs are not like ordinary hot dogs, because they’re made mostly from Icelandic lamb, along with a bit of pork and beef. We ordered ours the traditional Icelandic way. A hot dog on a warm, steamed bun topped with TWO kinds of onions- raw white, and crispy fried onions, finished off with ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, and remoulade, a sauce made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs. It was delicious, and much preferred by locals over the fermented shark.
SO MUCH COFFEE. Iceland knows coffee, every cup I had was exceptionally delicious. Which is GREAT, because it’s cold and rainy almost all the time, and coffee is a requirement for me to become a functioning human in the mornings.
Everything about Iceland is expensive. Including the food. We easily spent around $25-50 per person a meal while in the city. Before we drove to our first cabin we went grocery shopping at the local Bonus.
Spend 3 Days in Golden Circle
We headed east towards Thingvellir National Park where our next AirBnB was. The road trip had officially begun! Make sure to check the road conditions (here) during your trip, the weather in Iceland is unpredictable, in one hour we saw sunny clear warm weather turn to hail and wind blown frost.
GUYS. If you haven’t yet used AirBnB to travel, you’re missing out on some amazing deals. AirBnB and Skyscanner are my two KEY TOOLS I use when planning and budgeting for my trips. What are the two largest expenses for travel? Accommodation, and flights. So where do you want to maximize your savings and cut costs? Accommodation, and flights. But seriously… check these out.
We spent two nights in this stunning cabin. Like most cabin’s in Iceland, this one came with a hot tub and was in great proximity to all the major attractions we wanted to see in The Golden Circle!
Golden Circle Activities
Chase breathtaking Icelandic waterfalls like the ones below
Enjoy breathtaking views as you drive the Golden Circle
Explore Thingvellir National Park, where tectonic plates meets
Witness the wonders of the Strokkur geyser, it erupts every 5 minutes!
Spend 2 Days in Southern Iceland
Head south from the Golden Circle to continue your journey along Iceland’s Ring Road. The two hour drive will take you to Vik, where we took a tour with Arctic Adventures.
Katla Ice Cave Tour
Our tour guide was awesome, enthusiastic and a slightly crazy driver. Our group drove through scenic landscapes to the volcano Katla in a tour van. Once there we were provided safety gear such as helmets, and crampons. These are required to be worn during the ice cave tour, trust me – you’ll want them. After the tour we still had plenty of time to explore until it got dark out.
There were a couple attempts to go behind the waterfall…
After the successful attempt at getting soaked- we went inside a local restaurant next to the waterfall parking lot to warm up with some delicious lamb stew.
Thanks to that summer midnight sun! The picture above was taken around 11:00 p.m. Remember that in May, the day’s in Iceland are long, and the sun never fully sets at night, at midnight you’ll still see the sun on the horizon.
This meant a couple things, 1. We weren’t going to be seeing the northern lights (huge bummer, huge) 2. Sleeping at “night” became a challenge. Without black out shades/curtains and no sleeping mask, it was difficult to fall asleep and confusing when you woke up (I never knew what time it was). We talked to a couple locals about it and they laughed, and said we’re used to it, it’s all they knew! I would recommend bringing a sleeping mask if you’re visiting in the spring/summer months.
The south coast of the island is unbelievably beautiful. On our way to the glacier lagoon we came across what used to be a giant farm. Back in 894, the first recorded volcano eruption of Katla (yes, the same one we went under to get to the ice caves) destroyed the entire farm.
Laufskálavarða, is a lava mound that was named after the farm. In memory of those that were lost, it is surrounded by stone cairns. Travelers crossing the desert of Mýrdalssandur for the first time would pile stones up to make a cairn, which was supposed to bring them good luck on their journey. The tradition continues to this day, leave a stone when you drive by!
Secret Glacier Lagoon
As we continued our drive along the coastline we came to our next stop, the “secret” glacier lagoon. We found it thinking it was the main glacier lagoon we were trying to get to… it wasn’t. Looking around, we had the place to ourselves. We realized we had found “the secret lagoon” the local’s told us about.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
We were greeted immediately by the reindeer grazing in a clearing when we pulled in to park. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a must visit destination on your trip to Iceland. Boat tours are available on the lagoon to take you further into the glacier water. We were shocked that despite the freezing water of the lagoon, it was full of wild life.
We watched the sea lions play in the lagoon while we sat and listened to the sounds of the ice moving in the water. After we’d had our fill of adorable animal friends we headed out of the lagoon and across the street.
The ice from the glacier lagoon washes ashore the black sand beach. Scattered across the beach were giant chunks of ice, giving the beach the famous name “Diamond Beach”.
When we could no longer handle the cold beach in our wet clothes, we headed back to our cabin for the night, where more amazing scenery awaited.
Our next cabin had a sheep farm in the back yard, and it was spring. That means BABIES. And in my opinion, there are few things cuter in this world then baby animals. I sat on my bed while I watched them play outside my window. With the window open, I could hear them BAAAing at each other and feel the crisp salty air blowing in off of the sea. (BLISS)
Spend Two Days in North Iceland
We got up early and took advantage of the complimentary breakfast the cottage offered. It was a 5.5-hour drive north to get to the city of Akureyri, Iceland’s second most populous city. We spent 2 nights in the northern part of Iceland, chasing waterfalls and exploring the Lake Myvatn areas.
Krafla Vita Crater
Last Day: Blue Lagoon
It was another long drive from Akureyri to Reykjavik. We had an appointment at the Blue Lagoon in the afternoon we were trying to make. The national speed limit of Iceland is 90 km/h on paved rural roads… which is REALLY slow when you’re driving around the entire country. Which is probably why we got pulled over in the middle of nowhere and received a speeding ticket. Trust me guys, you DO NOT want to get pulled over for speeding in Iceland- like everything else, the tickets are outrageously expensive.
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There are over 10,000 waterfalls beautifully cascading around Iceland. Here are 9 Wonderful Waterfalls of Iceland around the ring road that you won’t want to miss!Read more Iceland Waterfall Bucket list
Visiting every National Park in the United States has been a huge bucket list item of mine for years. The National Park Service (NPS) works to protect and preserve these important eco systems around the country everyday, as a visitor we must do the same. To help preserve our extraordinary National Parks, it is VERY … Read more 20 Extraordinary National Parks to Visit in 2020
Olympic National Park is located in the state of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in the United States. The national park is home to several different ecosystems, from mountain peaks to old-growth forests. This 3 day itinerary for Olympic National Park will tell all!
Let’s talk about this trips “sign picture”. For those that don’t know, it’s a tradition of mine to get a picture with my fellow campers by the national park sign when we visit. My travel crew knows the routine… they go stand in front of the sign while I set up the tripod.
From left to right we’ve got Kaytee, Logan, Grace, and half of me. Let me explain…Well this trip, I was setting up my tripod/timer all that jazz- guy drives by and yells out his window “you can’t park there! MOVE!” …whoops. I had no idea we couldn’t park there… better make this quick. So I hit the shutter button and ran backwards…hoping that maybe I’d make it in time to get this in one shot. Above is the result of that one shot.
Fly into Seattle
Now that my best friend Grace lives in Seattle, I love the state of Washington even more. With the heavy traveling we did in the spring, we wanted to keep our July 4th trip as cheap as we could. Camping’s cheap! So, this year we celebrated Independence Day while camping in Olympic National Park! With not nearly enough time in Seattle, we left for the park the day after we arrived. If you have time, explore the city! For what to do, check out my post onThe Perfect Weekend in Seattle
3 Day Itinerary for Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park protects nearly one million acres of vast wilderness diversity. From glacier-capped mountains to old growth rain forests, and over 70 miles of ocean coastline, this park has so much to explore. It’s hard to capture all the beauty in just 3 days, we absolutely will be coming back to explore more one day!
DAY 1: Lake Crescent
We drove 3.5 hours from Seattle to Fairholme campground. Slightly worried we might not get a site this close to the holiday (most campgrounds inside the park are walk-in, and do not take reservations). The campground had flush toilets, but no shower facilities or electric. We were pleasantly surprised to arrive at an almost empty campground. We picked a stunning site with massive mossy trees towering around us, overlooking the incredible Lake Crescent. We set up camp and set out to explore the Lake Crescent area. For what to pack, check out my Packing Guide: Camping National Parks
Lake Crescent lies 18 miles west of Port Angeles in the northern hills of Olympic National Park. We could see right down to the bottom through the crystal clear waters. I would recommend kayaking on this beautiful lake if you have the time!
Stay at Fairholme Campground
Next we hiked the moderate 1.7 mile trail to Marymere Falls. There are two viewpoints to see the falls. At the end of the hike you’ll reach the falls lower viewpoint at the bottom of the stairs. Continue up the stairs to reach the top viewpoint.
Barnes Creek Trail
A peaceful creekside hike with an option to check out Marymere Falls (enter at falls trailhead, continue forward at the junction or go right and check out the falls). This hike takes you through a Jurassic Park looking forest of old growth and lush vegetation. We hiked the barnes creek trail after Marymere Falls, and the solitude from the crowds gave the forest a much different feeling. The trail rolls mostly up and rarely down for 5.5 miles.
DAY 2: Sul Duc
We woke up early to pack up our campsite and have breakfast before we hit the trails for the day. Our plan was to explore the Sol Duc area, and then head towards the coastline to set up camp in Mora, a campground just outside of La Push. You can visit the lush forest near Sol Duc for a day hike or an overnight.
Sul Duc Falls
Sol Duc Falls Nature Trail is a flat short 1.6 mile trail through old growth forest that leads to a beautiful three prong waterfall. The three falls rage under a wooden bridge with crystal blue waters on the other end. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the waterfall capture rainbows in the spray! We continued past the falls and headed towards deer lake.
The trail to Deer Lake from Sul Duc Falls is a 6.3 mile hike with 3 backpacking campsites along the trail. This mostly up and rarely down hike is rated as moderate. The hike features a stunning lake at the end (pack food and picnic at the lake!) To get there, begin heading down the trail to Sol Duc Falls. Once you’re there, pass the entrance to the Lover’s Lane Trail, the route begins climbing up to Deer Lake.
DAY 3: La Push
Our last day in the park was spent relaxing on the coast, recovering from our hikes. The Mora Campground we camped at was on the north side of the river, on the south side is First Beach. First Beach is located within the Quileute Indian Reservation, and surrounded by Olympic National Park. The beach is sandy with a crescent shaped shoreline that’s popular with surfers. We stopped here first, and explored the rocks looking for sea creatures during the low tide.
Starfish are naturally born as extremely fragile. A simple gentle poke might hurt them, not to mention a strong grab to get them out of water. NEVER FORCEFULLY REMOVE A STARFISH FROM THE WATER. These creatures have tiny structures that make up their bodies.
** I only touched the starfish to transport him safely back to the sea **
With a shorter hike than Third Beach, we decided to do the 4 mile round trip hike to Second Beach after First Beach. The trail was interesting, after 0.3 miles, the descent becomes more defined, and the trail becomes a switchback crib staircase which leads down to the beach. We lounged lazily in the sun for hours on this beach. Exploring and climbing the rocks that jutted out from the ocean until it was time for the drive home.