On holiday in the Midwest – 6 things to do in Northern Michigan 

Although, to be honest, it wasn’t really Northern Michigan. Michigan is a HUGE state. It’s almost 97,000 square miles which means that one state is bigger than the entire United Kingdom. We crossed into Michigan just 20 minutes or so from South Bend, drove for 5 hours northwards and still weren’t anyway near the northern-most part of the state.

It winds around the great lakes, with Lake Michigan in the middle, Lake Huron to the right and Lake Superior to the north. We had picked an air bnb as far north as I was willing to drive in one stretch – about 5 hours away by the Mackinaw Straits which join Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. 

We arrived very late one night, and having driven up from spring in South Bend James got out of the car and said “It’s quite a lot colder here…” Yes – I was wearing shorts and sandals and after a 5 hour drive north it was now close to freezing! All my cold weather gear therefore got an outing the next day, especially as we woke up to pouring rain. 

So we were staying in the very middle of nowhere… What on earth was there to do? Quite a lot as it turns out!

1. Lunch at Petowsky Brewery

This brewery is just outside Petowsky, a 15 minute drive south from where we were staying. We drove through Petowsky first, which seemed like a really nice little town even in the drizzle, overlooking Little Traverse Bay. 

The brewery was a great stop for lunch, just off the main road with delicious burgers and hot dogs and lots of different beers – although I had forgotten my ID so couldn’t even have a small one!

2. Visit the beach 

After lunch we went to Petowsky State Park, which runs along the shores of Little Traverse Bay with a huge beach. Unsurprisingly, given it was very cold and drizzling, the state park was completely empty, a ghost campsite and empty campervan. Lake Michigan stretched out before us, an eerie blue-green in the rain. 

We wrapped up warm and set out for a walk along the beach, going as far as we could before turning back, an hour and a half of walking. The beach was huge and I can imagine it would be a fantastic place to go in the summer (and quite fun when it was empty and cold in the spring anyway!)

3. Curl up in an isolated air bnb with a wood fire

We were staying in a cabin in the wonderfully named Bliss. Reminds me of a town where my grandma lived called Dull. Both nights we lit the log fire, cracked open a bottle of wine, cooked a huge meal and then lay on the sofa and read our books. Complete rest and relaxation. It was so dark outside it was almost scary for us city folk. 

4. Drive north into Upper Peninsula 

Which is what we did our second day in Northern Michigan, driving towards a patch of blue sky to escape the reason. We were successful in that and had a gorgeous day, perfect spring weather, exploring the Tahquamenon Falls, which I wrote about last week, here.

5. Explore the trails at Wilderness state park

Another state park! This covers a corner of Michigan where Lake Michigan narrows into Lake Huron through the Mackinaw Straits. There is a beach and then miles and miles of trails on the North County Trail through the state park. I explored a good portion of these on our last morning on a long distance run, training for my ultra marathon. I wrote about the run (and the trails!) in detail here.

6. Drive south to the Jordan River for some more hiking 

To break up the journey back to South Bend, we stopped off at East Jordan, an hour or so south of the Wilderness State Park. 

We parked up the car and went for a hike in the Jordan River Valley. I had just run 22 miles so wasn’t in the mood for anything too long. So we did a 45 minute out and back, walking down through the woods towards the river. We never actually reached the river but it was still a beautiful walk, despite a lack of stunning views until right at the end. I would have loved to have gone a bit further, to the river itself which is a “National Scenic River” – the Jordan River Pathway trail is a full weekend circular hike that sounds pretty awesome.

And that was it – a stay that persuaded me Michigan was a great place for a holiday and got me super-keen to go back and do some hiking along the North County Trail.


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