Scenic Turnoff? Yes, Please!

These high points offer travelers some of the best views in the state.
Arcadia Overlook
Arcadia Overlook, Photography courtesy Michigan Department of Transportation

A sign reading “Scenic Turnoff” has a magnetic pull, one I suspect is universal. But is it that nagging sense that if you pass it by you might miss something magical? Or, is it more the promise of a pretty panorama gives us reason to pause amid a too-busy life or even a hasty trip up a multilane highway? Whatever the lure, scenic turnoffs are a welcome distraction and some, like those on this list, become the very point of the trip.

Old Mission turnoff

It’s not especially convenient, the scenic turnout on the west side of the road as you head out on state scenic heritage route M-37 toward the end of the Old Mission Peninsula and crest the hill just before the Chateau Grand Traverse winery and vineyard. But you’ll find the awkward stop worth the unexpected vista of bays, vineyards and orchards, and you can linger safely over tapas at nearby Bonobo Winery; the wide deck faces a similar view, and it’s particularly special when the sun sinks behind Power Island.

Whatever the lure, scenic turnoffs are a welcome distraction and some, like those on this list, become the very point of the trip.

Brockway Mountain Climb

1,320 feet along 8.8-mile Brockway Mountain Drive, and you’ll reach an overlook plateau that invites you to linger with a picnic, a book or even better, a pair of good binoculars. Lake Superior stretches out 720 feet below your perch at the peak of the highest paved road between the Rockies and Alleghenies. Below in Copper Harbor, linger at Jamsen’s Fish Market and Bakery over a puff pastry stuffed with wild Keweenaw berries or smoked Lake Superior trout.

Au Train scenic turnouts

Head about 10 miles west of Munising on M-28, and the fact there are four official state turnouts within 5 miles tells you, basically, that you MUST stop along here. You can gaze at Lake Superior beach and water views from the car, but the wide stretch of sandy beach is so perfect that meandering along the shore on foot is basically mandatory. Linger longest at the H.J. Rathfoot Roadside Park. The interpretive sign steers you to a still-visible 19th-century carving in the sandstone of a famed young Chippewa Indian who survived a battle on Grand Island.

North Bar Overlook, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, may seem a too-obvious mention, but it’s worth a revisit no matter how many times you’ve taken this mapped stretch of scenic stops. Linger at often-overlooked Stop 11 — the North Bar Overlook. Rangers call it the best of all spots for both sunsets and stargazing.

Arcadia Overlook

You can’t miss what’s locally called Inspiration Point, the platform with steps off M-22 just south of Arcadia that lets you climb to the highest point along this stretch of Lake Michigan that looks down into its deepest point. Bring a camera to catch the way the waves change continually — the pattern on the surface of indigo blue.

Kim Schneider is an award-winning travel writer based in Leelanau County. She shares her travel-savvy in every issue of BLUE.

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