Nick takes his first trip to South Haven on his paddle board.
Like so many people around Michigan, Travis Parrott spent quality time with his family in the Silver Lake Sand Dunes Area when he was a kid. Some of his favorite memories are from driving around the state park’s ORV area, the gigantic 450-acre sandbox between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan.
Everybody should be able to experience the largest sand dunes east of the Mississippi River, but not everybody has a dune buggy or a jeep that can power up the hills and tool around. So, Parrott started a business that offers vehicles for visitors to rent and have a great, safe time on the dunes the way he always did with his family.
Parrot’s Landing has been helping families have fun on the dunes for 18 years now.
“You reach the top of the hill and see the dunes, and you’re going to say ‘Where did all this come from?’ It’s like the Sahara Desert out there,” said Rob Obbink, Parrot’s Landing manager. “It’s fun. It’s exhilarating. It’s breathtaking. The views out there are beautiful.”
More than 850,000 people visit Silver Lake State Park each year, and many of them find their way onto the dunes thanks to Parrot’s Landing. The business located right in the heart of town offers user-friendly Jeep Wranglers that are perfect for families, with two seats in front and room for up to three people in the back seat.
You can also try the Polaris RZR 1000 4-seat utility vehicle or a Yamaha Kodiak 450 quad that’s perfect for one person.
Of course, not everybody is comfortable grabbing the keys to a Jeep and driving up a sand dune. That’s why Parrot’s Landing runs guided tours so visitors can get a feel for what it’s like before they go off on their own.
One of the most popular ways to experience the dunes is to pay for an hourlong tour, then get a discounted hour on your own.
“The tour guide gives you a description of the history of the dunes, how they were created, and then gives you a lot of insight into how to drive safely out there,” Obbink said. “Safety is our first concern.
“You’re going to have a really fun time because you’re in control. You’re not being driven by anybody else. You have your own vehicle. It’s a safe vehicle, and it also has plenty of power to get over any of the hills out there.”
The ORV area is a 450-acre section of Silver Lake State Park, which includes about 2,000 acres of sand dunes between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan. One section of the sand dunes is limited to pedestrian use, while the ORV area is for off-road vehicles only.
To access the ORV area with your own vehicle, the state park requires you to have a Michigan ORV registration, state trail permit, parking lot voucher and vehicle-mounted safety flag. But when you rent from Parrot’s Landing, all of that is taken care of for you. And if you run into any trouble up there, the Parrot’s Landing dune patrol is right there to help.
After you’ve experienced the dunes, you can cool off on the all-sports Silver Lake right at the foot of the dunes. Parrot’s Landing rents 3-seat wave runners and 19-foot, open-bow Yamaha Jet Boats by the half-day or full day. You can even add tubes or skis for some seriously fun water sports action.
The dunes, the water, the thrill of adventure…it all makes the Silver Lake Sand Dunes Area a destination spot for Michigan. To have a Michigan’s Best Day in Silver Lake, make Parrot’s Landing your first stop.
Eric Hultgren talks to Bob Wilson and Andrea LaFontaine from Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance, about the Great Lake-to-Lake Trail’s inaugural ride, September 13-18. From fresh coast to fresh coast, South Haven to Port Huron, over 17 trails and 275 miles – watch the video below to learn more about the Great Lake-to-Lake Trail.
Military veterans get $100 off the registration for this inaugural ride.
The Great Lake-to-Lake inaugural ride takes place September 13-18, sign up at Michigander.bike
Nick visits a few iconic U.P. lighthouses across the southern shore of the Upper Peninsula. “Born out of necessity, maintained with passion,” click the video below for some of the best views in the U.P., a spooky ghost story, and the correct pronunciation of Seul Choix.
Sure, you could let some air out of the tires, install a safety flag and drive your own vehicle around the largest sand dunes east of the Mississippi River. Or, you could skip the hassle and rent a four-door Jeep Wrangler for an hourlong guided tour of the 500-acre ORV Area at Silver Lake Sand Dunes – one of Michigan’s most incredible natural attractions.
Not everybody knows how to go off-roading, especially in the sand. But thanks to an 18-year tradition of jeep rentals and tours at Parrot’s Landing, everybody can safely enjoy the exhilarating experience of driving through Michigan’s biggest sand box.
After a guided tour, you’ll know how to drive on the dunes safely – and you’ll be eager to get back up there on your own, riding high above the breathtaking shore of Lake Michigan all the way down to the water’s edge and back.
Come get the keys to your new summer playground…
The picture perfect U.P. vacation allows visitors to experience the world exactly at the pace they desire.
And we think you’ll discover everything you’re looking for and more in Munising, a four-season wonderland that will feed your sense of wonder, soothe your soul and fulfill a chase for outdoor adventure.
We welcome you to marvel at the dramatic views of the multi-colored sandstone cliffs – dazzling displays of red, orange, green and blue – at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore or to find inspiration while gazing out at the expanse of a churning Lake Superior.
Hit the water for a tour under the summer sun, venture down hiking trails during a fall color explosion, hop on a snowmobile to search dense forests and spot majestic wildlife, or find out how the spring snowmelt provides wow-worthy moments.
It’s all in front of you in Munising.
Here is a season-by-season guide on how to road trip the right way in your first – or your next – visit to Munising.
There’s nothing like being on the water in the summer, and Munising delivers with lake activities that range from the serene and passive to the adrenaline-pumping. See Lake Michigan shipwrecks in the Alger Underwater Preserve from a glass-bottomed boat. Take a cruise that shows off the brilliance of the cliffs, sea caves and beaches that line the lakefront. Chill in a kayak as you paddle the park. Or get your thrills in a decommissioned Navy Seal jetboat that rips through the water at high-speeds, blasts into sharp turns and even pulls 360-degree spins to the delight of howling riders.
Temperatures that cool during the color-tour season create the perfect setting for trail hikes, mountain biking excursions and ATV rides that put the natural beauty at the heart of your trip. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore offers 100 miles of trails and 42 miles of Lake Superior’s shore. It’s one amazing step after another.
Our visitors can’t get enough of hitting the saddle of a mountain bike and heading out another natural encounter. Trails of varying length terrain and skill levels have made Munising a destination for dedicated riders who want to roll over fast-paced flow tracks and take on man-made and natural obstacles. Grand Island two-tracks are passable by hybrid, mountain, gravel and fat bikes on daily rides that most can conquer in 2 to 4 hours.
The Hiawatha National Forest, nearly 900,000 acres of wilderness, provides a playground for ATV operators who trek over old train paths used during the Upper Peninsula’s iron ore and lumbering booms. The trail network can lead to days of riding and exploring.
There’s a reason Munising is called the Snowmobile Capital of the Midwest. There is no other spot that can send you out on 330 miles of groomed trails that have been in-filled and widened for safety and smooth-riding. The trails are in-filled and widened before the season for added safety and benefits of smooth-riding in a season that can begin in November and last into May. Annual snowfall averages 230 inches per season, making Munising a rider’s dream.
But we’re not a one-trick pony. If you seek a slower speed through nature, more than 20 miles of cross-country ski trails wind through Pictured Rocks’ majestic landscape, are waiting for you to glide through the scenery.
And Munising is an ideal launching spot to see the mesmerizing Eben Ice Caves that form through the walls of the Rock River Gorge as water seeps through cracks in the rock. The vertical walls are different every year, making each visit a new one. Walk or snowshoe through the caves and then stare in amazement as ice climbers, an emerging adventure sport, scale the heights.
The geological evolution that created Pictured Rocks also formed a lesser known, if not equally as stunning, physical phenomenon many don’t realize exist in Michigan: Waterfalls.
At the epicenter of 300 waterfalls in Michigan is Munising, where 17 falls are located. Sites range from roadside stops to challenging hikes and from small, stream-like drops to cascading falls.
In the spring, water volumes are at a peak with the snow melt, and observers will feel like they’ve stumbled upon one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Come summer, lush green growth of trees and other plants present a colorful and vibrant scene. Fall is mesmerizing from the contrasting colors of the changing leaves. Winter offers a chance to see water seemingly frozen in midair.
Learn more at Munising.org and then come see us for a great Michigan vacation.
Nick is in Leelanau State Park celebrating the Centennial Anniversary of the Michigan State Parks by doing what he does best, exploring the outdoors.
Excuse Michelle Norton for gushing about downhill skiing in the middle of golf season, but that’s what happens when she reads Google reviews for the Otsego Resort like these:
- “Best downhill skiing and snowboarding in the Gaylord area! The once private ski club is now open to the public. Great dining, bars and lodging available. Public Skiing…Private Feeling!”
- “Hidden Gem! The ski club was apparently private up until very recently. There was a fantastic base of manufactured snow under another generous helping of natural snow. The entire ski area was beautifully groomed every morning we went out.”
The public praise for the resort’s 29 runs and three terrain parks, which are served by 5 lifts and a tow rope, are relatively new.
The ski resort was a private club for the first 78 years of its life. New owners have breathed new life into the resort, which is located about 1 mile off I-75 and downtown Gaylord.
“We have 80 years of rich history behind us, and now, with skiing being open to the public, we have a bright future ahead of us as we introduce our property to a whole new generation of skiers,” said Norton, the Gaylord resort’s Director of Sales and Marketing.
Gary and Kathie Vollmar took ownership of the sprawling property, which includes the renowned public golf courses The Tribute and The Classic, in the fall of 2018. After guiding it through their first winter, the resort leadership is ready to show it off for more families’ winter ski vacations. Last winter, the resort also offered Disco Tubing.
“There’s nothing like this ski resort in Michigan, and for years, it’s been this secret because it was private,” Norton said. “People had no knowledge of how pristine the skiing is here. When you drive into the property it has a typical resort layout. However, when you enter the lodge and walk to the full wall of floor to ceiling windows you are amazed to be looking out on a 27-mile vista view of the Sturgeon River Valley.
“The view of the valley is absolutely jaw-dropping and a breath-taking scene. It never gets old to watch the guests facial expressions as they are mesmerized by the pure beauty that is before them. This is the reason we call ourselves Michigan’s “Hidden Gem of the North.”
Norton explains that the Otsego Resort’s ski hills are formed by a natural bowl shape of the land. The lodge sits above the runs instead of the usual layout where guests stare up at a mountain from the bottom of the slopes.
The topography creates an ability to keep natural snow longer into the season while also giving the staff exceptional snowmaking abilities to ramp up Northern Michigan snow in the pre-season of November.
But it’s not just the skiing that draws people to the four-season resort. The golfing opportunities carry equally stunning Sturgeon Valley views as the Classic course has been winding through the woods, water and wildlife since the 1950s. The Tribute, meanwhile, opened in 2001 and immediately earned a reputation as one of Michigan’s top-10 public courses.
The player-friendly designs are challenging, but wide fairways are as forgiving as the tree-lined courses are beautiful. William H. Diddel designed the Classic, which became the founding course of the Gaylord Golf Mecca, while Rick Robbins lent his skills to the Tribute’s design.
“The courses really showcase the valley and all of its beauty,” Norton said.
The Vollmars’ investment in the Northern Michigan golfing mainstay include adding a new fleet of Yamaha gas-powered golf carts that pair with a smartphone app to tell players more about the holes they’re playing and giving them the power to order food at the turn. They are also adding a full service half way house on the Tribute this season.
“It’s just one of the many signs of the commitment that the owners have for this property,” Norton said. “They’re extremely passionate about building the resort up and taking it to the next level. There is a lot of history at our property; we just want to showcase the beauty of this charming Bavarian resort.”
The staff shares the dedication to making the Otsego Resort a four-season resort for travelers and the local community. The grounds are available for corporate outings, weddings and other celebratory events as well as meeting space that can accommodate intimate crowds of eight to large-scale gatherings of up to 320. The resort has 80 rooms in its lodges and its Hilltop Lodge has eight richly appointed executive-style rooms with the building having a great room featuring a floor-to-ceiling see-through fireplace. There is also an open floor plan with a living room and large custom dining table.
There is also exceptional dining at the Duck Blind Grille and Bar while The Logmark provides a great place for friends to meet on the weekends for a cocktail or local craft beer. Groups can be surrounded by nature at the River Cabin that is available for summer organized functions. There are many nightly promotions that are available to guests year-round. Norton suggests that you follow them on Facebook to see the plethora of events to enjoy at the resort.
“Our goal is to make your visit, your vacation or your meeting an exceptional experience and one you’ll always remember,” Norton said, “and with our Northern Michigan hospitality and our commitment to providing exemplary customer service we believe we will do just that once you experience the new Otsego Resort.”