Take the edge off COVID-19 stress by visiting these 5 U.P. natural treasures
The incredible natural wonders and extensive outdoor adventure opportunities of Munising and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are legendary, with the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore often serving as the focal point of travelers’ visits.
But there’s so much more to see and do while staying in and around Munising while enjoying panoramic views of Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes.
From majestic waterfalls to crystal clear waters that reveal a scuba diver’s shipwreck paradise, Cori-Ann Cearley, president of Munising’s Visitors Bureau, says the region is more than a one trick pony destination.
“We call Pictured Rocks our ‘big gun’ attraction, and rightfully so,” Cearley said, “but one of the moments we love to see is when our guests come and discover all of the other beautiful and amazing parts of our area that they weren’t aware of.
“They find there’s beautiful scenery to explore while hiking, biking, kayaking or on a boat cruise.”
As Labor Day approaches and the fall colors set to explode – and crowds tend to dwindle with school back in session – now is an ideal time to head north to Munising to enjoy social distancing outdoors. Local businesses and organizations support wearing masks when in public to keep others safe, Cearley said.
“We’re all still in this together, and we need to stay vigilant for the health and safety of each other,” Cearley said. “As a region with so much to offer, Munising is a place where people can kind of hit pause and relax. It’s a great time to get away from it all and find comfort in your surroundings.
“The outdoors – going on a hike or seeing things that bring you joy – are great stress-relievers. I think we’re all ready for something to take off that edge of what’s been going on in the world.”
Check out these four Munising vacation ideas:
Shipwrecks at the Alger Underwater Preserve
Hugging the lakeshore between Munising and Grand Island, the eight shipwrecks of the Alger Underwater Preserve are a throwback to another era of transportation and shipping. Whether diving or viewing from a glass-bottomed boat tour, the wrecks, some of which have been preserved for more than a century, are visible through clear blue and green waters that are breathtaking in their own right. The area was a shipping sanctuary with the natural protection of Grand Island, but big seas sometimes proved too strong. Wooden schooners, steam barges and steel freight ships dot the coast.
At its core, a waterfall is a simple concept – gravity pulls liquid from a higher point until it finds an outlet, but the release and flow of water is something that captures the attention of nature lovers and photographers. The tranquil sights abound in the Munising area, where 17 waterfalls are found throughout Alger County. The waterfalls are accessible to all and active year-round, an ice-flow waterfall in the winter is a sight to behold on its own. The waterfalls can be found on Grand Island, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and elsewhere. The Munising Visitors Bureau can help you find all the waterfalls in the area.
Navigational advances may have diminished the need for the prime function of lighthouses, but the uniquely built structures remain a beacon for people interested in history and beauty on the shores of the Great Lakes. Munising is the home of eight lighthouses, including the Au Sable Point light that can be toured and climbed from mid-June through Labor Day. Other lights have been renovated and can be seen up close while serving as the center for memorable vacation photos. Some lighthouses have been converted to dream-like private residences.
Hop aboard a narrated bus tour and learn about the 3,000-year history of Grand Island, a 13,000-acre bit of paradise in the Hiawatha National Forest that sits only a half-mile from Munising. The southernmost island in Lake Superior, this natural phenomenon is ideal for hiking and biking to white-sand beaches, stunning elevated vistas and an “I’m all alone in the woods” secluded sites that offer silence from the rush of daily life. Visitors can get to the island via personal boat or ferry. The wilderness area offers unmatched scenery where travelers can see black bear and white-tail deer. Be sure to check out Echo Lake and bring your fishing pole.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Practice your “oohs” and “wow!” before visiting this national treasure that features 40 miles of sandstone cliffs, rock formations, sea caves and sea arches that are equally stunning from the ground and the water. The dramatic colors are breathtaking and the sheer size of the protected lakeshore allows you a freedom that doesn’t generally exist where up to 700,000 people visit annually. Hike 100 miles of trails or jump on a guided boat tour to take in beaches, sand dunes, waterfalls and hardwood forests that will leave an impression for a lifetime – or at least until you come back to experience it again.