8 Things To Do In Western Upper Peninsula

8 things to do in Western Upper Peninsula

The Western Upper Peninsula, often known as Upper Michigan, is the northernmost of the 2 significant peninsulas that comprise the United States state of Michigan.

Lake Superior borders the region on the north, offering countless watersport activities and beach experiences. You’ll also find snowy peaks and dense forests, depending on which area you decide to visit.

But one thing’s for certain- you’ll never get bored when visiting the western upper peninsula!

To make things a little easier when planning your trip, we’ve hand-picked the very best tourist attractions and things to do in the western upper peninsula.

From skiing resorts and mountain peaks to white sands and island hopping- this region has it all! Let’s jump in.

Porcupine Mountains

Climb The Peaks

If you want to capture some awe-inspiring photos while visiting the western upper peninsula, state parks are a great place to start.

The largest state park in Michigan is Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, and it’s one of the only widespread natural beauties left in the midwest.

In total, the park sits on approximately 60 thousand acres and has lots to see; including hundreds of miles of meandering streams, tumultuous waterfalls, several gorgeous hiking trails, idyllic camping spots, mysterious forests, and sunny lake beaches – so there’s sure to be something for everyone at the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. 

Here, you’ll also find the Lake of the Clouds, the most popular attraction in the whole park. It truly is a hidden gem that can be found nestled among dense forests.

The site is pretty easy to access thanks to the overlook viewing tower, so you’re sure to get a great photo every time.

If fishing is your thing, catch-and-release angling is allowed in the lake. However, you’ll need to bring your own watercraft as there is no option to rent a boat while at the state park.

8 things to do in Western Upper Peninsula

Go Bird Watching

As the western upper peninsula sits right on a migratory bird route, it’s a great place to spot over 400 different varieties of birds, including some rare species such as jaegers and boreal owls.

If you’re heading to Michigan for the bird watching opportunities, it’s best to visit in either spring or fall, as this is when hundreds of thousands of birds will be flying overhead to make their way to their new seasonal location.

The most popular bird-watching spot in the area is Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, which is conveniently located just 10 miles away from Paradise.

This location is a natural migration passage that sees hundreds of thousands of birds every year. 

If you’re visiting the western upper peninsula during summer or winter when there are no migrations in session, head to Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary to catch a glimpse of some beautiful species of birds in their natural habitat.

The area spans over 2,400 acres and used to be occupied by Universal Oil, which almost brought the sanctuary to its knees with its unsustainable logging practices.

After multiple fundraising campaigns and protests, the area is now protected and a perfect place to go birdwatching.

Eagle River Public Beach
Source: Mindat

Relax On The Beach

One of the best aspects of visiting the western upper peninsula is that it is the only landmass in the entire world that has shores that sit along three different freshwater bodies of water, including Lake Superior.

In total, there are over 1,700 miles of shoreline to explore, from white and sandy dunes to rocky and windy shores. If you want a beach day out for the whole family, we recommend checking out Ray Kestner Waterfront Park.

It is built on many different levels and features multiple playgrounds, and some even have slides that will lead you directly to the sandy beach.

There’s plenty here to keep children entertained, including volleyball courts, a swimming pool, paddleboard rental huts, and actual working toilets, which can be hard to come by in many wildlife locations. 

If you want a beach that’s a little calmer and less crowded with children, then we recommend taking a look at Eagle River Public Beach. Eagle Lake Park is part of the Eagle River series of lakes, the world’s biggest inland lake network.

Eagle Lake Park, situated on Eagle Lake, one of the 27 connected lakes, offers a swimming beach on 440 feet of shoreline.

The swimming area is calm and quiet but also has a playground nearby to keep the kids happy and entertained.

Mackinac Island

Try Out Island-Hopping

Don’t limit yourself to just the peaks and shorelines of the western upper peninsula, why not make the most of your experience by hopping from island to island? The most popular tourist island in this area is Mackinac Island.  It’s been a bustling vacation spot for hundreds of years, and it’s easy to see why.

No cars are allowed on the island, and you won’t find any typical chain hotels.

However, it does feature many diverse dining hotspots, shopping districts, and gorgeous beach views to watch the sunrise and sunset.

While there, you can find plenty of winding hiking trails and places to rent watercrafts such as paddleboards and kayaks. The Island is also famed for its yummy fudge, which is handmade in the area. 

If you want to escape from the hustle and bustle of tourist locations, we suggest checking out the lesser-known Grand Island.

Here you can take a stroll along the pristine beaches and enjoy the cool, pure water of Lake Superior. Hike, mountain bike, or take a bus excursion to discover the island.

Explore the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore’s sandstone peaks and stunning panoramas. Nature lovers like camping underneath the star-studded northern sky or resting in one of the island’s wooden cabins.

Quincy Mine

Visit The Mines

When news spread of the UP’s copper riches in the Keweenaw Peninsula, a strip of rock and woodland extending into Lake Superior, the commercial copper rush started in the early 1840s.

As people started to stream into a territory traditionally valued primarily by fur traders and lumberjacks, more than 400 corporations staked rights in the region.

While the mines are no longer in practical use, they are still open to the public for underground tours. Quincy Mine is a great place to start.

The abandoned underground shafts have been preserved and visitors to the site can observe the steam-powered hoist that was used to lower miners into the mines. 

While Quincy Mine offers only guided tours with an expert, there are other mines in the region that allow you to explore the shafts freely by yourself.

A favorite of ours is Delaware Mine that offers such self-guided tours during the month of October. It isn’t as big as Quincy Mine and will take just under one hour to see the whole thing, making it ideal for families with small children.

It’s important to note that it does get pretty wet and cold underground, so be sure to bring a warm coat.

8 things to do in Western Upper Peninsula

Pick Up A Pasty

The first thing you should know about the Upper Peninsula’s most famous dish is that it rhymes with past rather than paste.

The second point to mention is that these tasty crescent-shaped pies stuffed with meat and vegetables have a long history.

Cornish miners considered them useful for lunches in the pit since they could be kept warm in tinfoil and then discarded the curled edges used for gripping.

The true Cornish ones, which may be purchased at eateries, church events, and the yearly Pasty Fest, include rutabagas. 

There are dozens of locations in the western upper peninsula that specialize in pasty eateries, many of which have won awards for their delicious creations.

Some focus on traditional English-style pasties whereas others add their own American twist, stuffing them with breakfast foods and toppings such as succulent pepperoni.

There’s sure to be something for everyone! And what’s more? Pasties are very cheap to make and are usually sold pretty cheap too.

8 things to do in Western Upper Peninsula

Explore The History

There are traces of the past all around the region. A museum, a structure on the National Register of Historic Places, or a Heritage Travel Corridor are all examples of places where history can be found.

Visit one of the numerous museums in the area. Experience the glory days of Ironwood, Bessemer, and Wakefield. Hurley and Ontonagon.

Iron County, Wisconsin, is home to the Heritage Travel Corridors. Every travel route conveys a story about the ethnic villages and Lumberjack days.

Native American commerce and iron mining villages The paths are multi-use, providing for a wide range of recreational activities such as bike riding, paddling, kayaking, all-terrain truck riding, and sightseeing.

enjoy the Iron County Heritage Festival, which takes place within the first 2 weeks of August and features a variety of events per day.

Give Downhill Skiing A Go

Often dubbed ‘Big Snow Country’, the western upper peninsula is packed full of skiing resorts and facilities to keep even the most experienced skier occupied.

This area is mainly known for its downhill skiing options, but you can find some cross-country experiences too.

Big Snow Country is also one of the most affordable locations to go skiing on the entire continent, so it’s perfect for just about every budget.

A popular spot is the Indianhead and Blackjack Mountains Resort. With the price of just one ticket, you’ll get to see both of these mountain ranges. It features over 50 downhill slopes and peaks at over 600 ft. 

When you visit a skiing resort such as Indianhead and Blackjack Mountains, it isn’t only vast slopes of fluffy white snow.

The area boasts award-winning eateries and dining experiences, as well as famous live entertainment, cozy cabins to spend the night, and free shuttle trips between the 2 mountains.

If you’re looking for a skiing location that is a little more family-friendly, then we’d recommend checking out Big Powderhorn Mountain.

It is bordered by dense and beautiful forests and has wonderful staff who treat you like part of the family and are more than happy to tell you more about the area and answer any questions you may have.

Emily Winters