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We recently returned from a trip to Upper Lower Michigan and wanted to share a few of the things we did on our trip. To be clear, when I talk about “Upper Lower” Michigan, we’re talking about the northern part of the lower section of Michigan. Our Airbnb was about 40 minutes south of Traverse City and about 30 minutes east of Lake Michigan itself.

We wanted to take a relatively short vacation somewhere within reasonable driving distance of our home in Cincinnati, and we settled on this area of Michigan which is about an 8-hour drive for us. Rather than spend an entire week, we decided to just do a 3-night trip. We left home early on a Tuesday morning and drove back on Friday.

I’ll talk a bit more in another post about some of the logistics including whether I felt safe, COVID restrictions and closures, and budget but in this post, I will share three things that we did in the Traverse City area.

Swimming in Lake Michigan

We got to our Airbnb at about 4 p.m. and after unpacking, unwinding for a bit, and eating dinner, we headed out to the beach. We thought that we would see if we could catch the sunset and snap some cool photos. It’s all about the ‘gram, amiright? 😛

a group of people in the water

We went to Frankfort Public Beach as it was closest to us, and it was great. Not crowded at all with plenty of room to spread out and social distance. I also appreciated that they had put some benches on concrete pads to make for relaxing and watching the kids swim. But I think they maybe forgot that the wise man builds his bench upon the rock and the foolish man builds his bench upon the sand…

a man sitting on a bench in the sand

Sunset was a downer as there were too many clouds to get anything too spectacular. Still, it was a great way to salvage a fun activity out of only 1/3 of a day.

a body of water with a lighthouse in the distance

Old Mission Point Lighthouse and cherry picking

On Wednesday we drove north past Traverse City and up to Old Mission Point Lighthouse. Mission Point is a peninsula that sticks out into Grand Traverse Bay (a part of Lake Michigan). We drove all the way to the end of the peninsula to where they have an old lighthouse.

a white building with a light tower with Mission Point Light in the background

The lighthouse itself was closed but it was nice to go out and see the sights. We took a small hike at the park near the lighthouse then drove back towards Traverse City. On our way back, we stopped at a cherry farm. Apparently Traverse City is the Cherry Capital of the World and the five surrounding counties make up 40% of the tart cherry production of the US (who knew!). We weren’t quite sure how much it would cost for cherries. We had seen some farms charging per person in addition to per pound but the farm that we found  (Edmondson Farm) did not have a cover charge and charged just $2 / pound with a 5-pound minimum.

a group of people standing under a tree

We got 8 pounds ($16).

In Traverse City, we grabbed some pizza and took it to a local park and beach. We swam there for a while after lunch and managed to get out just as the storms hit. Another successful day.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

On Thursday, we drove up to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which was about a 45-minute drive from our Airbnb. There is a lot of things that you can do at Sleeping Bear Dunes. The Scenic Drive is currently closed for renovation but we went to the Dune Climb in Glen Arbor. There is a parking lot with a big sand dune right there that you can climb up / run down

a group of people on a hill

We decided to brave the 1.8-mile Dune Trail over to Lake Michigan. They say it’s 1.8 miles but they kind of gloss over the fact that it’s all up and down (feels like all up!) and all in sand. Sadly, this isn’t the first time in my life that I have been deceived by short distances with a large uphill component…

a group of people walking up a sand hill

It can be a bit disorienting out on the dunes, so follow the markers on the Dunes Trail. There are markers like this spaced periodically on the trail. They don’t seem to be at any particular distance apart but there are 27 markers total

a wooden pole with a number on it

The hike out was long and fairly exhausting, but there was a nice reward with a cold yet refreshing beach on Lake Michigan

a group of people in the water

Of course, some people weren’t that tired from the hike over the dunes and decided to “flex” a bit for everyone 😉

The hike back was pretty exhausting. Of course, it’s not any longer and it didn’t feel like the elevation change was any different, but it was probably just that we were already exhausted from having done the first hike. The hikes took our family of eight about 90 minutes each way. On the way back, there was a nice view of Glen Lake with the knowledge that we were almost there.

a group of people walking up a sand hill

I also got to gleefully give a group the bad news when they asked if the views of Lake Michigan were “just over that ridge”. Oooooh suerie my friends you are nowhere close to Lake Michigan 🙂

Have you been to this part of Michigan? What are your favorite things to do? Leave them in the comments

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