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Summer UP North - St. Ignace, MI

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

Situated just North of the Mackinaw Bridge on the Southernmost tip of Michigan's upper peninsula is St. Ignace.

The perfect secluded family vacation destination, Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP)! A beautiful 5- hour drive through the state of Michigan, we stayed just North of the Mackinaw Bridge in St. Ignace. The rental house has a patio with a full balcony on top with a direct view of the bridge. It's June 2020, during the middle of a world-wide pandemic. Our family of eight was looking for a quiet vacation away from crowds. We opted to explore the natural wonders and state parks in the UP. #familyvacay2020

Whenever possible, I support small businesses. Karris Cookies, a local cookie artist in our town, makes delicious edible art. I worked with Karri to create a cookie platter themed for our family vacation. Each cookie represents a different activity that we had planned for the trip: riving tubing, pontoon tours of pictured rocks, swimming, bicycling around Mackinac Island ~ she even incorporated our tie-dye theme in the frosting colors.

#RoamLikeAPro: Make a vacation even more special and memorable by creating a theme and designing swag for the vacation. A unique t-shirt design helps a large group stay together while also celebrating the special occasion. In this case, we selected a tie dye t-shirt theme and a platter of cookies that made for a social-media-worthy moment and a memorable snack. Be creative ~ Memorable swag possibilities are endless!

The nieces had spent much of the summer tie-dying various patterns on t-shirts and socks for our vacation. Each member of the family had a least two tie-dyed articles that could be worn during the trip. See how many different varieties you can find in the photos below.

After our drive and getting settled into our rental house, we opted to drive back over the bridge to Mackinaw City for dinner and a chance to stretch our legs. We browsed the various shops and eateries, stopping for ice cream and sampled a few fudge selections. We returned to St. Ignace and gathered on the second-story balcony just in time to watch the sunset over the Straits of Mackinac.

Day Two: Mackinac Island

The Mackinac (pronounced Mak-in-awe) Island Ferries depart from two locations, Mackinaw City on the northernmost point of Michigan or St. Ignace, the southernmost point of the Upper Peninsula. We left from St. Ignace on Shepler's ferry at 8:30 am for a full day on the Island. Visiting Mackinac is like stepping back in time, no vehicles are allowed on the island. Horse drawn carriages are a popular mode of transportation for travelers with luggage, while others prefer bicycles for single or tandem riders.

After a quick 15 minute boat ride in the brisk morning air, we arrived on the Island and headed directly to Cindy's Riding Stables. The nieces, my mom, my brother-in-law, and Deveny went on a horseback riding tour through the woods.

We visited Fort Mackinac. Established in 1780, this historic landmark sits atop Mackinac Island offering sweeping views of the Straits. Market Street, the main street flanked by both ferry docks, is lined with tourist shops, local artist galleries, eateries, and fudge shops. We walked up and down the street sampling candy and browsing shops (while donning our stylish face masks). After lunch, we rented bikes and rode out beyond Mission Point to Arch Rock. Lake Shore Boulevard, a popular ride for cyclists wrapping 8.2 miles around the entire island, was damaged due to erosion and ice dams during the winter season. The road was closed shortly after Arch Rock, so we turned around and headed back through town stopping at the school yard nearest the Grand.

My sister's family opted to return to the rental house for an afternoon swim, while my parents, Deveny and I remained on the island for an evening carriage tour and dinner at the Great Turtle before returning to St. Ignace.

Day Three: Pictured Rocks National Park

The day started early. I heard the pitter-patter of feet around 6:30 am - the downfall of being a soft sleeper while on a family vacation. I awoke and walked out front to find my sister and my youngest niece sitting lake-side feeding the seagulls. The Straits were as smooth as glass as the sun was cresting the horizon, the soft sounds of gulls could be heard as they swooped down to fetch the bread from water.

I cherish these little moments with my family, as we make it a point to travel together once every couple years. As the nieces age and become more heavily involved in extracurricular activities, it will leave less and less time for family getaways. We are blessed to be able to travel together, taking time away from our hectic and busy lives to focus on family.

“Do you know why six is afraid of seven? Because seven ate (eight) nine!” My youngest niece.

Our lazy morning consisted of making breakfast for the family at the rental house which consisted of homemade pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon enjoyed lakeside, followed by a family hike along the lake. Around 11 am, we all loaded up into one van and headed North for our two-hour drive to city of Munising where we boarded a pontoon for a self-guided tour of Pictured Rocks. My nieces had us cracking up in laughter as they took turns telling jokes and funny stories to pass the time as we traveled to Pictured Rocks National Park.

Our half-day pontoon rental was just enough time to travel to the farthest point and swim in the hot springs. Along the way, we stopped to admire the natural arches and rock formations, and the women wanted to swim in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior.

The pontoon adventure was a GREAT experience, but we wished that we did a full day instead of the half-day tour. We've learned that the best part of the trip was the hot springs near the end of Pictured Rocks. The warm water made it more compelling to swim, the erosion of the water made the rocks smooth and created natural water slides. There were hiking trails and a bridge that made for a great snapshot opportunity.

Day Four: Tahquamenon Falls

The pictures do not do this destination justice. Depending upon the time of year and amount of rainfall, the speed of the current at Tahquamenon Falls changes to allow passage across the deeper sections of the Falls. During our visit, the vibrant orange/red hued water was turbulent and quick. My sister's family had visited the falls a couple years earlier and said it was a "must visit" destination.

The cool water was fairly high and fast-flowing in several areas, but we managed to negotiate our way across the uneven rocks for several nice family pictures.

To access and experience the falls, you must row across the river to the island and dock your canoe. The island also has a groomed trail for easy walking. Along the trail there were several access points where you could enter the water for different unique views of the falls.

While at the falls, a tourist recommended that we visit Oswald's Bear Reserve to see black bears "running free." In the year of the "critically acclaimed" Netflix Original Series: Tiger King, we couldn't resist the opportunity. While no tigers, Oswald's fit the bill with the staff, fencing, and touristy vibes that I had come to expect from watching the show. One of the employees even donned a face tattoo that read "cutthroat" above his right eye. Male and female black bears were enclosed in large pens of chain link fences, separated from one another to prevent increasing the population at the reserve. One could enter the cage with an employee and pose for a picture with a baby bear, which you can see us pictured below. My eldest niece said, "It's kind of depressing watching the animals, I expected something different." Not me. This place met ALL of my expectations.

Day Five: Sleeping Bear Dunes

We departed the Upper Peninsula, driving over the Mackinac bridge one last time on our descent toward Traverse City and Sleeping Bear Dunes. From St. Ignace, we opted to take MI-31 for a scenic view of Lake Michigan, passing through Petoskey, across the bay from Harbor Springs, Charlevoix, Central Lake, and other sleepy lakeside towns. Having sat for nearly 3 hours, the family decided to stretch our legs on the Empire Bluff Trail; hiking up-hill (in both directions) lead to spectacular views of Lake Michigan.

Unlike most tourists, we chose not to hike miles of sand dunes in the summer heat. Rather, we donned bright colored tubes and floated down the Platt River. Outside of loosing my wedding ring in the cool waters, this was so much FUN!!


Our family vacation was a success. We were able to remain safe and socially distant during our vacation and only traveled as a family unit. Mackinac Island felt almost deserted, even during the peak hours of mid-day. The state parks in Michigan offered the perfect outdoor destinations to visit and get the most out of our summer vacation. Family vacations are incredibly special, combining my love for travel and an opportunity to have dedicated time with my family. #summerUPnorth

Travel Date: June 2020



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