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It’s Pure Michigan: 5 Ways to Explore the Great Outdoors

Located west of Traverse City, Sleeping Bear Dunes is a National Park sporting an enormous set of dunes. Photo by WanderingEducators.com #michigan #puremichigan
The slogan “Pure Michigan” has enticed me for some time, but a trip to Michigan has yet to make onto my travel schedule. Now I’m even more intrigued thanks to this fantastic guest post about exploring Michigan’s Great Outdoors by Dr. Jessie Voigts of WanderingEducators.com, a travel library for people curious about the world. Founder of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program, Jessie is a mom who is devoted to sharing the world with her daughter but who also appreciates the beauty in her own backyard.

Michigan is an extraordinarily beautiful place – surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes – and filled with over 11,000 lakes! No wonder Michigan is called the Great Lake State. While there are many, many places to visit outdoors in Michigan, here are five of my favorites in the Lower Peninsula.

Jessie Voigt’s Top 5 Picks for Exploring Michigan’s Great Outdoors

1. Playing at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. While this is the only museum on the list, it’s a world-class treasure and a must-visit. Called one of the world’s 30 Must See Museums by Patricia Schultz, it’s located in Grand Rapids. You can explore 132 acres of wetlands, woodlands, and a variety of gardens. While there are hundreds of sculptures (both indoors and out), families will love one of the US’s biggest children’s gardens! It will be difficult to tear your kids away from playing with the musical instruments, splashing and running boats on the topographically accurate Great Lakes water garden, and discovering spiders, birds, and dragons.

Playing at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, MI. Photo by Jessie Voigts.

Playing at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, MI. Photo by Jessie Voigts.

2. Exploring the beautiful beaches of Michigan’s Sunset Coast. Start at Saugatuck’s Oval Beach (named one of the top 25 beaches in the world) and dig in the sand, play in the waves, and fly kites all the way up the coast. There are many beaches worth visiting, and small towns (and ice cream stands!) provide shopping, great food, and plenty of fun.

Sleeping Bear Dunes in the fall, looking toward Lake Michigan. Photo by Jessie Voigts.

Sleeping Bear Dunes in the fall, looking toward Lake Michigan. Photo by Jessie Voigts.

3. Climbing Sleeping Bear Dunes. Named the most beautiful place in America, Sleeping Bear Dunes (pictured above and at top) is a National Park sporting an enormous set of dunes! Once you hike to the top, you’ll have quite a walk to the edge closer to the water. Some people climb down and play in the big lake, but it’s a big hike back up. The story of Sleeping Bear Dunes is a beautiful one, with a big mama bear and two babies, a fire, a swim for their lives, and the dunes and two islands as a result. Located west of Traverse City, near the small town of Empire (which also has a great and — free! — beach).

4. Visiting Hartwick Pines. Located in Grayling, this is the largest State Park in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, and the largest virgin white pine forest in the lower peninsula. At the Michigan Forest Visitor Center, you can learn about logging (including enormous Overpack wheels), forestry, and trees, naturally. You can head inside the museum and see how loggers lived (bunk beds, hanging red flannel longjohns, etc.), or walk amongst the tall white pines, treading the same ground that people have done for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Virgin white pines timber at Hartwick Pines, the largest State Park in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Photo by Jessie Voigts.

Virgin white pines timber at Hartwick Pines, the largest State Park in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Photo by Jessie Voigts.

5. Biking around Mackinac Island. The first cool thing about Mackinac Island is that you have to take a ferry to get there. The second cool thing? Autos aren’t allowed, but bikes are! Bring your own, or rent bikes and ride the ring road all around the island (8 mile circumference). If you get hot, you can jump into Lake Huron, which is cold and refreshing. The whole island is a National Historic Landmark, and you can shop, eat, play and discover nature here, including the famous Arch Rock. You can also get a pound or two of the famous Mackinac Island fudge to fuel your exertions.

Want to learn more about Michigan? Families will love the Twelve Months of Michigan, by AnnieMarie Chiaverilla – it’s inspiring!

11 Responses to It’s Pure Michigan: 5 Ways to Explore the Great Outdoors

  1. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas
    Twitter: sunshinesiestas
    April 7, 2014 at 6:54 am #

    I was born in Michigan and lived there when I was young, but have yet to really explore it! The Dunes are a quick drive from Chicago, and we’d go there often as teens. Looks like a great place to explore!
    Cat of Sunshine and Siestas recently posted..I Bought a Flamenco Dress, Now What?!: a Guide to Buying Complementos

  2. jessie voigts
    Twitter: WanderingEds
    April 7, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    Thanks for sharing! Michigan is truly an incredibly beautiful place. We hit the dunes a few times a year, as it’s not far from our cottage. But NOT on a hot day! LOL!
    jessie voigts recently posted..5 Reasons to Take a Road Trip on Taiwan’s Northeast Coast

  3. Elena April 7, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    This makes me miss Michigan so much. Growing up there, I loved the dunes and lake area near Harbor Springs and Charlevoix. Must find time to go back.
    Elena recently posted..Everyday Wellness Kitchen: Meal Planning and Thai Curry Sweet Potato Noodles

  4. Paige Conner Totaro April 7, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

    This looks beautiful. Never been to Michigan but these places look dreamy!

  5. Lillie - @WorldLillie
    Twitter: WorldLillie
    April 8, 2014 at 2:49 am #

    Ooo, I’m intrigued! This is a state I have not yet explored…
    Lillie – @WorldLillie recently posted..The Hidden Danger of a Famous Tourist Attraction

  6. Micki
    Twitter: barefootnomads
    April 8, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    I would never thought that dunes would be an attraction in Michagan. How interesting! Time to add Sleeping Bear Dunes to my list of destinations, I think.
    Micki recently posted..Drowning in History in Belem, Portugal

  7. Micki
    Twitter: barefootnomads
    April 8, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    I would never thought that dunes would be an attraction in Michigan. How interesting! Time to add Sleeping Bear Dunes to my list of destinations, I think.
    Micki recently posted..Drowning in History in Belem, Portugal

  8. Elle April 9, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Just goes to show – you think you know a place, but no!
    Great article – thanks!
    Elle x
    Elle recently posted..Easy Spanish recipe: Huevos rotos con jamon

  9. Penny Sadler April 9, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    I want to go to Meijir Gardens. And 11,000 lakes?! Michigan is full of surprises.

  10. Shelly Rivoli April 11, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

    I have to admit I never imagined Michigan as a place with sand dunes! Looks like a lot of great ideas here!
    Shelly Rivoli recently posted..Ten Reasons Traveling with an Infant May Be Easier than You Think… (an excerpt)

  11. Terry at Overnight New York April 16, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    What an inviting list! I’d start with Mackinac Island, which I’ve been wanting to visit, but it would be great to start up at one of those tall trees in Harwick Park.
    Terry at Overnight New York recently posted..Starwood Hotels: Suite Deals

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