Presque Isle Park, Marquette
Presque Isle Park is a beautiful park on the Lake Superior shoreline with forested trails for hiking, pebble beaches, and rocky cliffs. You can drive a road through the perimeter of the park, but it’s closed at certain times (for pedestrians), so check ahead before visiting. There’s a breakwall that the brave can walk out to a lighthouse (waves can knock you into Lake Superior!) and some very scenic rocky points. Worth a visit if you’re in the area.
We stumbled onto this chocolate store in downtown Marquette when we spent a rainy day shopping in Marquette, since we couldn’t hike that day. As a chocoholic, I always buy a sample from any chocolate store when we visit a new city. OMG, the chocolate here is amazing, and I’m so sorry I didn’t buy more before we left Michigan! Luckily for me, Donckers takes orders online, so I hope Santa sends a box my way. What I fell in love with were their chocolate bark squares. I bought several with nuts, dried cherries or cranberries, and sometimes spices, like habanero! The dark chocolate is not too sweet, smooth, and was a perfect backdrop for all the other ingredients in the bark. Next time we return, we will definitely make another stop at Donckers!
This Mexican restaurant overlooks the downtown Marquette waterfront and serves good Mexican food at reasonable prices. They are crowded during peak hours, but we visited at 4 p.m., and had perfect window seats with a view. I had the chicken adobe and it was delicious.
If you plan to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising is the closest city with a choice of lodging. There are many waterfalls and hikes in the area, appealing to all levels of fitness. Some are roadside waterfalls, while others require over an hour to hike in. The area has international appeal, because we heard several different languages spoken wherever we went: Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, an Indian language, etc. It may also have been “parents’ weekend” at some of the Michigan universities, so maybe some of the visiting parents chose to visit a National Park with their children.
Miners Beach lies on the Lake Superior shoreline, with ample parking. The day we visited, there were high winds, and I didn’t realize lakes could also have high surf. So this was why they canceled our cruise! It was cold, the wind was blowing, and the surf was pounding when we visited, so we just took some photos and left. I can imagine that it’s a beautiful beach on a calm, summer day.
This refers to a rock landmark on the shore that resembles a castle, or did, until one of its turrets fell off a few years ago. There’s a small visitor center here, and the site has paved walkways to several lookouts. The pounding surf that day sounded like thunder whenever it hit the rocks below.
Waterfalls near Pictured Rocks, Michigan
To get to Chapel Falls, you have to drive down Chapel Road (a dirt road) for about 5 miles until you reach the visitor parking lot. One trail leads to Chapel Falls and the other to Mosquito Falls. It took us almost an hour to hike the 1.2 miles to Chapel Falls. You could continue further on towards Lake Superior to see Chapel Rock (another 1.9 miles), or turn around. We turned around and saw Chapel Rock from the Pictured Rocks cruise instead. This was a pretty hike without too much elevation, though there were a few tricky points. It had rained the day before so it was a little muddy. I was definitely glad I had hiking boots.
Pictured Rocks boat cruise
A great way to see the Pictured Rocks. The cruise company recommends advance reservations, especially if you have a tight schedule. We booked the sunset cruise in advance, but weather forecasters predicted a north wind on our scheduled day. Sure enough, they canceled all cruises that day, but they had no problem rescheduling us for the next day. We stayed in Munising for four days: W, Th, F, and Sat. Wednesday’s canceled cruise went on Thursday in dreary weather. Our canceled Friday cruise went on Saturday in nice weather. My point is that you could miss the cruise due to bad weather, so it’s best to have some flexibility in your schedule. I had no access to a printer when I made the online reservations while in Houghton, so we just dropped into the office/gift shop after dinner on Thursday night to get our tickets. They already knew then that they’d be canceling all Friday cruises, and rebooked me for Saturday. I am so glad we just happened to check in then, because otherwise we would’ve cut short one of our Friday hikes, only to find there was no sunset cruise!
We arrived about an hour before our departure time, and there was already a line! But coming early has its benefits, because I got the best seat in the house. When the boat leaves Munising Bay, it turns right towards the Pictured Rocks, therefore, you’ll get the best view if you sit on the right hand side of the boat. If it’s cold and windy, you’ll feel it on the upper deck, so we chose the lower deck, since it was already about 40-50 degrees, and the sun would be setting. Because I knew from previous boat rides that the rear of the boat is the most stable, I chose the window seat in the last row on the right side of the boat. The windows were wide and spanned two rows, so they could only be opened from every other row. I had full control of the window, and could open and close it whenever I wanted, as photo opportunities appeared. When I’d open the window, I’d push it backwards. That meant the person sitting directly in front of me was sometimes looking through two panes of glass, when the person in front of them opened their window! Not the best position to be in if they wanted to take photos. So if you can’t pick the last seat on the right, at least make sure you’re in a seat where you control the window.
It turns out these boats are incredibly stable, so seasickness was not an issue on our cruise. Or maybe we just happened to go on a calm day. It did get freezing cold after the sun went down though. Bring gloves, hats, and layers of warm clothes if you take this trip in the fall. We enjoyed the narration and views from the boat, because it’s the only way to see the Pictured Rocks. The colors on the rocks are amazing, coming from all the different minerals in the area: copper, iron, manganese, etc. Eventually we reached the end of the tour and the boat turned around. The best view of the sunset is also on the right side of the boat, so we had a nice view of the setting sun all the way back. It was a nice way to spend the last day of our vacation.
Laughing Whitefish Falls
This state park was just a short detour off the main road on our drive back to Marquette airport, so we stopped and did one last hike. It was another easy hike to another Michigan waterfall. The trees on the trail were just starting to have fall color, so it was quite beautiful. Worth a stop if you have the time.
A pleasant, modern airport, we had a decent lunch at Mezza Mediterranean Grille on the way up, and a nice dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse on the way back. We had to walk through an underground tunnel to get to a smaller terminal to catch our flight to and from Marquette. The tunnel was dark, yet looked like a dance nightclub with strobe lights that changed colors as they moved across the walls. Pretty neat.