Hiawatha National Forest: This fascinating journey will take you through the beautiful Hiawatha National Forest. After the lumbering boom a century ago, the forests here were left barren. During the Great Depression, civilian workers planted much of what you will see today. This is indeed a land where fortunes were won and lost to the song of the saw blade and the swing of the axe.
To begin your adventure, head south on Mackinaw Trail to Six Mile Rd., (which eventually becomes the Curley Lewis Memorial Highway), turn right (west) for a short drive of 20 miles to Bay Mills. Here, take a break and enjoy casino gaming or fine dining on the waterfront at the Bay Mills Casino. If you packed your golf clubs, try out Wild Bluff, an 18-hole championship course. It’s here that you’ll meet the shores of Gitchee Gummee, also referred to as “Shining Big-Sea Waters” in Longfellow’s famous poem.
Continue driving west, and you’ll be winding along the Lake Superior shoreline. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to tour the Iroquois Point Lighthouse, explore wide, sandy beaches at any number of public access points, and visit the Pendills Creek Fish Hatchery. Turn north at M-123, and you’ll soon enter Paradise. Turn right at the traffic light and travel 10 miles to the tip of Whitefish Point.
Whitefish Point: Whitefish Point is the home of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Located on the grounds of the first lighthouse on Lake Superior (which is still active), the museum, adjoining theater, and Lightener’s Quarters chronicle the hazards of the Great Lakes shipping industry. The cornerstone of this fascinating museum is the Edmund Fitzgerald exhibit.
The Whitefish Point Bird Observatory is also located here. This organization is involved with the study of migratory birds, which pass through the area by the tens of thousands each spring and fall. Whitefish Point is located just 11 miles from Paradise.
Tahquamenon Falls: When you’ve explored to your heart’s content, drive back south, and turn right on M-123. You’ll soon arrive at Tahquamenon Falls. The upper Tahquamenon Falls are the second largest falls east of the Mississippi River. They are located in a Michigan State Park, and a fee is required for entrance. You can purchase a seasonal sticker or a day pass. The lower Tahquamenon Falls are also located in the park, about five miles downriver. They are smaller than the upper falls, yet every bit as scenic and enjoyable. Rent a rowboat and explore a nearby island with hidden waterfalls found only from the island!
Leaving the falls area, continue on M-123 towards Newberry. Here, you’ll enjoy visiting the Newberry Logging Museum. Look back in time to where lumber was king. The museum is located about three miles north of Newberry on M-123. In Newberry, connect with M-28 East, which will lead you over rivers and through woods to I-75 North. Then, it’s just a quick drive back to Sault Ste. Marie and at the end of this 170-mile round trip, you’ll agree it’s well worth a day of your vacation!
Toonerville Trolley: If you’d like to see Tahquamenon Falls in comfort and style, consider the Toonerville Trolley. Located less than an hour west of Sault Ste. Marie on M-28, this narrow-gauge railroad offers a day-long train and boat tour to the Falls, first traveling through thick forests, then transferring to a 21-mile riverboat cruise downriver to the upper falls. Pressed for time? The Trolley also offers a shorter wilderness train ride through dense woods and marshlands, home to many species of wildlife.