Michigan Peninsulas

The best points of land to visit while vacationing.
Eagle Harbor Lighthouse
Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, Keweenaw Peninsula // Photography courtesy of Thinkstock

Some poor, misguided souls in Florida refer to their home as “the peninsula state.” Huh? Everyone knows that title belongs to Michigan because it not only shows up in the state’s official motto and appears on the state seal and flag — Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice* — but because we’ve got two of them, not one. Florida? Posers.

Michigan’s two peninsulas are home to many more spits of land that jut into the Great Lakes and offer opportunity for sport, exploration, inspiration or relaxation. They range from quaint to rugged. Here are five that are worthy of attention.

Old Mission Peninsula: A relatively narrow spit separating East and West Grand Traverse Bay, this finger of land stretches for 22 miles. Named for a Presbyterian Mission established in 1838, you can explore it via M-37 to the very tip, traversing a countryside rich with orchards, farms, vineyards and woods. The route terminates at Old Mission Lighthouse. Stop at a winery for a taste or two. Break for a lunch at the Bad Dog Deli. Perch at the summit of a hill for a sunrise or sunset. It’s beautiful.

Keweenaw Peninsula:  Extending into Lake Superior and encompassing most of Houghton County, this peninsula offers everything from a university campus (Michigan Tech) to miles of wooded wilderness. A hub of activity during the mining era that was among the more populous portions of the state — Calumet was once the seventh largest city in Michigan — the peninsula now is better known for ghost towns, vacation homes and the best thimbleberry jam in the world.

*If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.

Garden Peninsula: This 22-mile long spit extends southwest from U.S. 2 into northern Lake Michigan. It offers a view of spectacular limestone cliffs towering as much as 165 feet above Big Bay de Noc. Perhaps best known as the home of Fayette State Park, which preserves a long-abandoned mining community, the Garden is known for its fishing (mostly smallmouth bass and yellow perch) just offshore. The bulk of the land is now second-growth woodlands within the Lake Superior State Forest.

Abbaye Peninsula: This 12.3-mile peninsula separates Keweenaw and Huron Bays as it juts out into Lake Superior. The bulk of the land is part of the Copper Country State Forest, but some 1,374 acres were dedicated in 2016 as a permanent preserve to protect important habitat for migratory birds (especially raptors). That includes nearly a mile of shoreline, owned and managed by the Keweenaw Land Trust. Known for its hiking trails as well as its fishing opportunities (lake trout and coaster brook trout), the Peninsula is accessible by road all the way out to Abbaye Point.

Woodtick Peninsula: Although the bulk of state’s peninsulas are up north, you can hardly go any farther south in Michigan than the end of this spit on Lake Erie. Part of the Erie State Game Area, it is well-known by waterfowl hunters, though it offers a challenging hike for those who are willing to exert themselves. Wear boots as it can be wet during high water periods and enjoy visiting the peninsula with the coolest name in Michigan.

Bob Gwizdz is a career outdoor writer who works for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

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