For Those with the Drive, State’s Wonders Await

Those who enjoy viewing from behind the wheel have 20 dedicated Pure Michigan Byway driving routes to choose from, but don’t let convention keep you from exploring further and on your own.
Fishtown, in Leland, is a remnant of the commercial fishing industry that once thrived in Northern Michigan. The oldest of its weathered shanties was built in 1906. Fishtown became a Michigan State Historic Site in 1973 and joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Photography by Steven Huyser-Honig

Michigan back roads offer a wealth of scenery, from sandy beaches and rocky cliffs to lush green forests and pastoral farm settings. Lakeshore drives are great for savoring quaint port towns, lighthouses and legacy farms. Those ribbon highways along the state’s 2,232-mile mainland coastlines often lead to secluded areas where quiet repose is found.

The state’s unique geology also affords drama — along the world-caliber sand dunes on Lake Michigan and eons-old cliffs along Lake Superior.

The 47-mile Copper Country Trail National Byway between Houghton and Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula offers a variety of vistas. It winds through historic mining communities and thick-canopied forests, by old-growth preserves and a historic fort.

Brockway Mountain
Brockway Mountain, in Copper Harbor, offers one of the best views of Lake Superior. Its sunsets are magnificent. Local pioneer settler Daniel D. Brockway, the mountain’s namesake, moved there in 1846, at the start of the region’s copper mining era. Photography by Greg Kretovic

To the west, Brockway Mountain Drive provides panoramic views of the rugged landscape and Lake Superior. Motorists who succumb to the lure drive to 720 feet over the lake — and unparalleled scenery. To the east, Tahquamenon State Scenic Byway, a 62-mile route that skirts Tahquamenon Falls, meanders by historic and scenic destinations like Whitefish Point Light, the oldest operating lighthouse on Lake Superior.

Michigan’s Lower Peninsula offers as much if not more, from the famous M-19 Tunnel of Trees north of Harbor Springs; to Fishtown, the historic fishing port at Leland; to picturesque Lake Huron ports like Presque Isle and Tawas City.

Wind Charm
This Wind Charm, an old, rusted windmill that continues to function, stands on its original farm setting near Stony Lake. Photography by Todd Reed

The 22-mile River Road Scenic Byway, which parallels the Au Sable River from Oscoda westward, is a journey full of nature and a trip through Michigan’s vital logging history.

Those who enjoy viewing from behind the wheel have 20 dedicated Pure Michigan Byway driving routes to choose from, but don’t let convention keep you from exploring further and on your own. More about each can be found online at

In this issue of BLUE, we bring you a look at some of those backroad favorites.

Enjoy the ride.

Iris Farm
The colorful Iris Farm lies alongside M-72 five miles west of Traverse City. Photography by Todd Reed
Iron Ore Dock
Built in 1911, the Iron Ore Dock in Marquette’s Upper Harbor remains commercially active. It was the first dock of its type built on the Great Lakes. The 690-foot freighter Herbert C. Jackson unloads coal there on a clear night. Photography by Greg Kretovic
Kitch-iti-kipi, in Palms Book State Park off U.S. Highway 2 just west of Manistique, is Michigan’s largest natural spring. It is 200 feet across and 40 feet deep. Legend has it that the spring was named in memory of a young chieftain who lost his life there while wooing a maiden. Visitors can explore its waters on a self-powered floating platform. Photography by Steven Huyser-Honig
St. Joseph north pier lighthouse
The 1846 St. Joseph north pier lighthouse has weathered many Lake Michigan storms, serving as an aid to mariners seeking safe harbor or commerce in the Twin Cities of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, at the mouth of the St. Joseph River. Photography by Steven Huyser-Honig

Award-winning writer and BLUE Managing Editor Howard Meyerson lives in Grand Rapids.

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