The five Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Ontario, Erie, and Huron) comprise of the largest body of freshwater on Earth, as it accounts for one-fifth of the freshwater surface in the world at about six quadrillion gallons. That’s a lot of water. These lakes, which cover an area of 750 miles in North America, crossing borders across states, are some of the world’s prettiest, natural wonders. With crystalline waters, over 35,000 islands, beautiful wildlife, and the perfect travel spots to view the Northern Lights, the Great Lakes region has the best of everything for travel lovers- villages, watersports, national parks, shipwrecks, and more!
It’s no wonder why these lakes are so great. Whether you’re looking to keep the summer activities going by relaxing on shorelines or you’re tired of the heat and humidity and want to welcome the autumn season, the Great Lakes region is a travel dream. You’ll be in a nature travel paradise, places where practicing escapists go to leave the noise of cities. The Great Lakes are so unbelievably pure, rich, and naturally flawless that you’ll never want to leave. Travel to the best of the best in any state of the Great Lakes landscape!
Best Beaches: Holland State Park and Sleeping Bear Dunes
Our first travel stop brings us to the best beaches in the Great Lakes region: Holland State Park and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, both in the beautiful state of Michigan. Holland State Park offers lengthy, sandy shores, two vast campgrounds, and picturesque views of sailboats, sunsets and sunrises. With arguably some of the most gorgeous sunsets in the world, Holland State Park is the entire travel package. Its main attraction is the Big Red lighthouse, a bright red monument that sticks out among the clear blue of ocean waters and the green of beach grasses. Its sunsets are reason enough to travel here!
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is also a must-see among the best beaches in the region. Through miles of sandy shores, towering bluffs, vibrant forests, crystal lakes, and unique plant and animal species, Sleeping Bear Dunes give you spectacular views across the lake. This beach also has an island lighthouse, another popular travel attraction that reflects the rich culture and history of coastal villages nearby. The views will blow you out of the water. Travel to the best beaches of the Great Lakes region soon!
Best National Parks: Isle Royale and Voyageurs
The title for best national parks in the Great Lakes area of North America goes to Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota and the Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. The Voyageurs National Park is within the heart of the continent, a place of natural refuge where you can climb rocks half as old as the world. You have the chance to experience the life of a voyageur, seeing the beautiful sights of boreal forests, dark skies and stars, and vast woods of discovery. Here, you can unleash your inner explorer and travel across stunning stretches of landscape. Voyageurs National Park is a gift that keeps on giving!
The Isle Royale National Park is just as beautiful, a park that wraps itself around Lake Superior, the largest of the five Great Lakes. Far from the hustle and bustle, this national park lends you rugged, isolated islands, ideal for hikers, boaters, kayakers, scuba divers, canoeists, and nature lovers of every kind. Here you’ll make travel memories that have no expiration date, as you trek through the scenic beauty of the Isle Royale National Park. Travel to the best national parks in the region for unparalleled solitude in nature!
Best Watersports: Water Skiing and Kayaking
Now, we’re going to show you the best watersports for your travel adventure to the Great Lakes. The best ways to experience life on the waters are water skiing and kayaking, two exciting sports that keep your passion for the outdoors growing. Water skiing, for those who have never tried it, is simple to explain. It’s a watersport that pulls you behind a boat, skimming the water surface on two skis or one, and it looks like a blast! Water skiing seems to be a part of the watersport and travel culture here, with entire families hitting the water come sun, rain, or clouds. Give it a try! You just might be a pro at it.
Kayaking is another incredible way to explore the Great Lakes. There was actually a kayaker, Traci Lynn Martin, that embarked on a 8,600 mile Great Lakes odyssey back in February this year. But, for now, we’ll show you the basics; you’ll experience just as much natural beauty as you would on a long kayak journey. It’s important to cover your bases; kayaking on the Great Lakes is different than paddling on other waters. Make sure to check the weather, buddy up, bring and wear safety gear, and know your limits. I guarantee you’ll have an incredible time kayaking on the waters of the Great Lakes. Travel here to find out!
Best for Northern Lights: International Dark Sky Park
Our next travel destination is the best spot to see the Northern Lights. And, that’s the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Michigan. The name itself is a total giveaway! Here, at this amazing travel site, you’ll come across the darkest of skies, undiluted by light pollution and extraordinary in views. Stars encompass you in a circle of dazzling, Northern Lights. This 600-acre piece of forest sits on nearly 2 miles of shoreline. You’ll want to set up camp for days as soon as you travel to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park!
Best for Fall Leaf-Peeping: Keweenaw Peninsula
Leaf-peeping! What’s leaf-peeping? Well, I’m glad you asked – it’s a casual term to describe a travel activity that centers itself around the viewing and the photography of fall foliage – basically a word that shows that a travel site is perfect for seeing the beautiful colors of autumn. So, with that said, the best place for fall leaf-peeping is Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan. This peninsula is magic to those who live there.
Along the pristine shores of Lake Superior, its rugged splendor and breathtaking vistas create a unique biosphere, one that’s a popular travel destination for autumn activities. The area has about seven million acres of tree coverage, making this peninsula a fall getaway few other United States travel spot can match. Almost overnight in mid-September, the forests explode in a myriad of color, as the autumn colors peak almost a month later. This extraordinary canvas keeps its vibrancy for a couple more weeks, the Keweenaw Peninsula a star amid the action!
Best Islands: Manitoulin Island and Mackinac Island
The best islands of the Great Lakes region are the Manitoulin Island and the Mackinac Island. Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world, near Lake Huron in Ontario. It’s the heart and spirit of the Great Lakes in Canada. For many, Manitoulin is like the neighborhood back home – small town, boardwalk ice cream, canoe rides at sunset, and stories around the bonfire with friends. For others, it’s an explosion of rural Canada, a rich combination of farms, sailboats, docks, forests, beaches, and more. Manitoulin Island will charm you right from the start!
Mackinac Island is like a natural, outdoor amusement park, a beautiful place with so many activities to enjoy the pleasures of nature. With stunning vistas, corner boutiques, and promenades through the streets, you’ll be able to experience the splendor of day and then watch the city transform at night. You can explore the historic Fort Mackinac or travel downtown to try the island’s delicious varieties of homemade fudge or even just relax on the beach. Once you travel to Mackinac Island, you’ll easily feel at home. Start your travel experience now!
Best Shipwrecks: Thunder Bay and Grand Traverse Bay
Following our nautical theme, the best shipwrecks in the Great Lakes region are the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve. The Thunder Bay Sanctuary shows the history of the Great Lakes over the past 200 years. Between side-wheel steamers and wooden schooners to modern freighters, in some spots, little is left and only small planks cover the surface. But, in other areas, vessels are completely intact. Lake Huron and its cold waters provides a perfect preservation temperature for some of the best shipwrecks in the Great Lakes region.
The Grand Traverse Bay is just as fascinating! Among the best shipwreck dives in the underwater preserve are Metropolis (a schooner that was lost in a snow storm in 1886), A.J. Rogers (a cargo of pig iron that sank in 1898), Yuba Wreck (15 feet below water from 1894), Elmwood Wreck (that became tangled that in net from a fisheries vessel), and the Nyord and The Tramp, both of which sunk in the 1970s. You’ll get to see history up close and personal at the Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve on your scuba-diving travels! Ahoy mates!
Most Charming Lake Town: Charlevoix
The best lake town in the Great Lakes region is, without a doubt, Charlevoix, Michigan. It’s a favorite travel destination for northern vacations, a place where you can relax on some of the most pure beaches in the world. You can enjoy the fresh waters by sailboat, kayak, or paddleboard, and stop along the way at more than 20 trails and nature preserves for Instagram-worthy, panoramic views.
Be sure to check out the Earl Young Mushroom Houses and the beautiful Castle Farms on your travel trip to Charlevoix. You can also see downtown Charlevoix, a quaint village of boutiques, restaurants, and events along the Round Lake. There’s plenty to do in this town; you’ll never be bored. So, go back in time at this historic, charming lake town in the Great Lakes!
Best for Dark Skies Viewing: International Dark Sky Park
Just like the best place to see the Northern Lights, the Headlands International Dark Sky Park is also perfect for dark skies viewing, or stargazing. In the spring season, Orion, the hunter, is visible during March and April and starts its slow descent toward the west by the time the May season rolls around the corner. It’s a beautiful sight to witness as you’re lying on the grass below a canopy of starlight shaded by slivers of clouds.
Also, the Ursid Meteor Shower is most active in late March and September, but these strains of color can appear in the skies at any time, so be on the lookout! Either way, the Headlands International Dark Sky Park is the ideal place to watch the stars during any season of the year. Travel here to study the constellations!
Best Hiking Spots: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan – the first national lakeshore to grace the United States – has some of the best hiking spots in the Great Lakes region. With over 90 miles of picture-perfect trails within its 73,000 acres of landscape, this national lakeshore has so many opportunities for day hikes in the bounds of nature.
Some of the most popular travel hikes are the Sand Point Marsh Trail (4 miles), the White Birch Trail (2 miles), and the White Pine Trail (0.7 miles). Remember to pack water, hiking shoes, sunscreen, and whatever else you need to enjoy the hiking trails with ease. Travel here to start your wilderness adventure!
Best for Wildlife Viewing: Northern Shores of Lake Ontario
The great lakes account for 20 percent of all the world’s fresh water, and more than 80 percent of the fresh water of North America, and it supports more than 3,500 species of plants and animals. Many mammals, large and small, live in the Great Lakes, like the gray wolf, Canada lynx, little brown bat, beavers, moose, river otters, and even coyotes. The Northern shores of Lake Ontario have some of the best wildlife of the Great lakes.
The Canada lynx can be found around Lake Superior and on the northern shores of Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay, a large bay of Lake Huron. And, moose inhabit the forests that border the northern shores of the Great Lakes. Spring and autumn are the ideal months to visit for wildlife spotting, with impressive displays of foliage in the forested areas, and cool enough temperatures for wild animals to roam freely in nature.
Happy exploring the best of the Great Lakes!