Much of Michigan is surrounded by Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, so it comes as no surprise that there are a plethora of beautiful lake-shore destinations for day-trippers to visit. If you love the great outdoors, and beaches and water sports in particular, you have come to the right place. Fabulous lake-side towns like Charlevoix, Point Pelee and Saugatuck invite visitors to come and enjoy resort activities like sailing, water sports and long beach walks. If you prefer culture-rich city breaks you can visit the state capital East Lansing or spend time exploring Ann Arbor, Bay City or Grand Rapids. A visit to Frankenmuth offers an insight into the area’s German settlers. There are many fabulous wineries and vineyards to visit from Traverse City.
Day-trippers in search of a bustling and vibrant city break will find everything they seek in Grand Rapids. Families can have all-day fun visiting the huge and educational John Ball Zoo, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, the Air Zoo and the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden. With a distinct emphasis on arts and culture, adults will find a wide variety of art galleries, performing arts and music venues to enjoy – don’t miss the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Actor’s Theater. Voted as “Beer City USA”, Grand Rapids is a great destination for beer lovers who can join a craft beer tour of a few of the city’s 80+ breweries.
Grand Rapids, MI 49501-9599
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Located in the northern-most tip of Michigan, Marquette promises a fun-filled day out for the whole family. If you are traveling with children you can take them to see Lakenenland (an eclectic and fun junk-sculpture park), the Marquette Maritime Museum and the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum. Everyone can have beach fun at McCarty’s Cove or Presque Isle Park and if you love lighthouses you will find no less than five to explore. There are a handful of good museums and art galleries to admire and diverse shopping to suit all tastes. Wind up your visit with a tasting at one of the city craft breweries.
Marquette, MI 49855
Ann Arbor is located in Washtenaw County in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula which means it is easy to reach from several Midwest cities. Expect to find a bustling university city with a large emphasis on arts and culture. The UMMA (University of Michigan Museum of Art) is acknowledged to be one of the finest in the country and is a must-see for all visitors. Other city highlights include the Museum of Natural History, the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and the fabulous Hands-On Museum for children. The city has a reputation for delighting palates at a good collection of international restaurants and foodies can also visit the Farmer’s Market in Kerrytown and several micro breweries.
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
A day trip to popular Bay City will delight the whole family. Located near Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron, the city has a wonderful water-side Historic Downtown which everyone will enjoy exploring on foot. Highlights for day trippers include the Delta College Planetarium & Learning Center, tours of the USS Edison and the Antique Toy and Fire House Museum. If you would like to enjoy some outdoor recreation you can visit the Bay City State Recreation Center on Saginaw Bay to hike, cycle, swim, fish and bird-watch. Art lovers could spend an entire day touring the many inviting art galleries and studios.
Bay City, MI 48708
5.Belle Isle State Park
Offering an exciting day out for all ages, Belle Isle State Park is located on an island in the Detroit River. The park covers 987 acres and is home to several attractions which include the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory which is a must-see for all nature lovers. The Conservatory comprises a large greenhouse and a very beautiful botanical garden. Families will love the Belle Isle Aquarium, the Belle Isle Nature Zoo and the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. A one-off Belle Isle Passport fee entitles visitors to enjoy all the attractions. You can bring along a picnic to enjoy as you walk or hike in 150 acres of forest. Rental equipment is available if you want to go biking or boating.
Belle Isle State Park, 99 Pleasure Dr, Detroit, MI 48207
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Charlevoix is spectacularly located on the edge of both Lake Michigan and the much smaller Lake Charlevoix on the northern-most corner of Michigan. Charlevoix is dream destination for yachting and boating enthusiasts who have endless lake vistas to explore. Don’t worry if you are not into sailing – Charlevoix has something for everyone from charming historical sites to explore by bicycle to the artsy Charlevoix Cultural Corridor which brims with art, architecture and other cultural attractions. There are many outdoor recreational activities including golf, surfing, scenic boat trips, cycling and walking/hiking. There are several wineries and craft breweries to visit and shoppers will find many unique local retailers.
Charlevoix, MI 49720
7.Cuyahoga National Park
© Kenneth Sponsler/stock.adobe.com
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located across the border in Ohio, not far from Cleveland. The park offers outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers a wide range of activities to enjoy, including golf, horseback riding, hiking, biking, canoeing and kayaking. If you are visiting with children they can join the Junior Ranger program to make the most of their visit. If you are not up to all the energetic park activities you can still enjoy the beauty of the Cuyahoga Valley by taking a scenic train journey on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Cyclists who would like to take on the Ohio and Erie Towpath trail can cycle one-way and rest their legs on a return train journey.
Cuyahoga National Park, 1550 Boston Mills Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264
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A day trip excursion to East Lansing will place you in the heart of Michigan’s administrative capital. First-time visitors should consider taking a guided tour of the city highlights, or join a walking tour of East Capital Avenue or the historic Cherry Hill Neighborhood to get a good overview of the city. Historian will have a great time touring the many historic sites in the city including the State Capitol and the Ingham County Courthouse. The city offers excellent shopping in several malls and a selection of one-off stores and boutiques and there are many art galleries and studios to admire.
East Lansing, MI 48809-8912
Frankenmuth is a delightful day-trip destination for the whole family, offering a distinctly European atmosphere which derives from the German immigrants who settled the area in 1845. People come from miles around to buy everything they need for a sparking Christmas at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. To learn more about the town you can visit the Frankenmuth Historical Museum or the Lager Mill Brewery Museum. Some unique Frankenmuth activities include Pretzel-making lessons, zip-lining at Frankenmuth Aerial Park and wonderful horse-drawn carriage rides. Other fun activities include wine and chocolate tasting boat cruises, kayak adventures and walking tours. Children will love the petting zoo at Grandpa Tiny’s Farm.
Frankenmuth, MI 48734
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10.Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
© Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
Located in Grand Rapids, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum deserves a place on any Michigan day-trip to-do list. Here you can get a glimpse of the life and times of the 38th president and his wife Betty, during his term in office. The museum boasts several very interesting permanent exhibits (such as the former president’s oval office) as well as regular temporary exhibitions. You can visit the website to see what is on offer before you visit. Visitors to the museum are free to explore at their own pace and the museum can arrange an interpretive guide for visitors with hearing or vision impairments.
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, 303 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504-5353, Phone: 616-254-0400
11.Harrisville State Park
Located close to the town of Harrisville on the scenic shores of Lake Huron, Harrisville State Park is a popular day-trip destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The park covers 107 acres and has a particularly lovely beach with clean sand and very few stones to negotiate. There is a large campground for those who would like to bring along their tent or RV and spend the night, but there are also good facilities for day-visitors including a picnic area, clean restrooms and several activities. You can go walking/hiking along a two-mile trail, explore some cross-country trails and do some birding. There are rental bicycles available on site and the park is within walking distance of the resort town of Harrisville.
Harrisville State Park, 248 State Park Rd, Harrisville, MI 48740, Phone: 989-724-5126
Holland is one of Michigan’s most popular day-trip and vacation destinations, located on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. The town was settled by Dutch immigrants in 1847 and maintains a strong Dutch identity which is superbly showcased during the annual Tulip Time Festival in May. There are plenty of activities in town that will have you thinking you have arrived in Europe – you can tour the De Zwaan Windmill, visit the distinctive red Holland Harbor Lighthouse, admire the downtown Dutch architecture or savor Dutch delicacies at several eateries. Outdoor activities include sailing, hiking and cycling. To quench your thirst you can visit a few of the city’s craft breweries.
Holland, MI 49422
Located in southern Michigan, the city of Kalamazoo boasts a rich tapestry of fascinating attractions for all visitors. To nourish enquiring minds you can take the family to visit the Kalamazoo Valley Museum and the fascinating Air Zoo Museum which features flight simulators, rides and vintage aircraft. The arts are alive and well in Kalamazoo; art lovers have a treat in store at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art, the Ballet Arts Ensemble and the Center State Theater, as well as many galleries and live music venues. There are many excellent hiking and biking trails for outdoor enthusiasts to explore, followed by great refreshment on a Kalamazoo Beer Tour.
Kalamazoo, MI 49001-9008
14.Lake Huron Bay
Beautiful Lake Huron has a long and interesting shoreline which is ideal to explore on a day trip to Lake Huron Bay. There are literally dozens of places to visit along the long stretch of lake shore including many lighthouses, beautiful beaches and much more to see and do as you take a scenic drive along the US 23 Heritage Route. Needless to say, fishing is a very popular activity along the bay and there are many fishing charters available. The treacherous waters of Lake Huron have been responsible for at least 1,000 known shipwrecks and diving and snorkeling in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a popular activity.
Lake Huron Bay, MI
Since the 1800’s Mackinac Island has been welcoming visitors to come and experience a place where time has stood still and the preferred mode of transport is the humble horse and carriage. Motorized vehicles are banned on Mackinac Island and you can look forward to exploring on foot or by bicycle along 70 miles of beautiful trails. Equestrians will love Mackinac – you have over 40 miles of bridle paths to enjoy - simply visit Jack’s Livery Stables or the Grand Hotel Stable to choose a perfect mount. History buffs can visit several historic buildings in Downtown Mackinac while canoeists and kayakers have many miles of shoreline to explore from the water.
Mackinac Island, MI 49757
Located due west of Bay City and Bangor, Midland is a popular gateway to the Great Lakes Bay area. One of the must-see attractions in Midland is the amazing canopy walk in the Whiting Forest – here you can get a bird’s eye view from your lofty 40-ft perch, before you come back to earth to explore Dow Gardens. Other outdoor activities include kayaking under the iconic Tridge (a three-legged bridge) and hiking, biking or skating the 30-mile Pere Marquette Rail Trail. Art lovers can visit the Midland Center for the Arts (which combines two museums, a performance theater and two studios), while history lovers can tour the historic Alden B. Dow Home and Studio.
Midland, MI 48623-48686
The lake-side town of New Buffalo is ideally located for day-trips from any number of places in Michigan and the surrounding states of Illinois and Indiana. Although there is plenty to see and do in New Buffalo, you will also find many other interesting places along this delightful stretch of south shore Lake Michigan. Outdoor activities include exploring the Marsh Walk and Canopy walk at Galien River County Park, relaxing on the beach or going on a scenic boat trip from Oselka Marina. You can spend some time shopping in the town’s artisanal craft stores, visit a couple of wineries or breweries and enjoy fabulous farm-to-fork dining.
New Buffalo, MI 49117
18.Point Pelee National Park
Located across the border in Ontario, Point Pelee National Park is easy to access from Detroit and Ann Arbor in around 70 minutes. The park has a lot of activities for nature lovers of all ages, including swimming and body-boarding off a lovely sandy beach. You can go hiking or walking along 12 miles of marked trails or explore on two wheels along more than 12 miles of bicycle trails, many of which are suitable for younger visitors. Canoeing and kayaking through the marshes is a very popular activity which offers the chance to spot a myriad of birds, reptiles and fish. You can also hop aboard the free shuttle for a ride to the southern-most tip of Canada.
Point Pelee National Park, 1118 Point Pelee Dr, Leamington, ON N8H 3V4
Put in Bay is located on the southern-most tip of South Bass Island in Lake Erie, which means that getting there by ferry is half the fun. Once you reach Put in Bay you will find a wide selection of fun activities for the whole family. You could spend your day playing golf or have hours of fun para-sailing for jet-skiing. Completely surrounded by water, Put in Bay is a popular destination for sailing and fishing charters and offers ice fishing in winter. Other activities include hiking and biking or exploring the island by golf-cart – rentals can be booked on-line. You can get an aerial view from a scenic helicopter ride, tour a winery or simply enjoy a delicious meal on the beach.
Put in Bay, OH 43456
Scenically nestled along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan in an area known as the Art Coast, Saugatuck welcomes visitors to come and get a glimpse on life on the lake. Outdoor activities include boating, sailing and fishing charters as well as canoeing and kayaking excursions. Landlubbers can go hiking, cycling, dune-riding or horse-back riding. In winter, you can experience a magical ride through the snow on a horse-drawn carriage. Art lovers will find several working studios and galleries to admire, while foodies can hit the Agritourism Trail South to find the freshest local produce in Harvest Country. Round off a perfect day with a relaxing massage at one of several spas.
21.Sault Ste. Marie
Sault Ste. Marie is unique in that it straddles the Michigan/Ontario border, where Lake Superior meets Lake Huron – the two halves of the city are linked by an international bridge. Sault Ste Marie is about 5 hours from Detroit, which means this is more of a weekend or overnight destination rather than a day trip. There are many historic sites and building to admire in downtown Sault including the River of History Museum, the Alberta House Art Center and historic Water Street where you can tour the John Johnston Home which dates back to 1793. For something a little different you can tour the locks of the St. Mary’s river on a Locks Boat Tour – a great maritime adventure.
Sault Ste Marie, MI 49873
22.Silver Lake State Park
A wonderful lake-side recreational area along the shores of Lake Michigan, Silver Lake State Park deserves a place on your day-trip to-do list. This park is a favorite with ATV enthusiasts who love riding the dunes in one of the only national parks which allows this activity in their 450-acre off-road vehicle area. If you don’t have an ATV you can still enjoy the dunes on a thrilling escorted excursion with Mac Wood’s Dune Rides. Walking or boarding the dunes is another possibility. There is also a long sandy beach for swimming and body-boarding as well as lots of boating activities on the lake and off the beach – canoe and kayak rentals are available at Happy Mohawk Canoe Livery.
Silver Lake State Park, 9679 W. State Park Rd, Mears, MI 49436
Situated about half-way up the eastern shore of the Leelanau Peninsula, Suttons Bay is a beautiful lake-side town which offers miles of beaches lapped by azure waters. Surrounded on three sides by Lake Michigan, Suttons Bay is a Mecca for sailing and water-sport enthusiasts. The town is also a good base for touring the many vineyards and wineries of Michigan Wine Country or exploring by bicycle along the scenic Leelanau Trail. You can learn about Ottawa and Chippewa Indian culture and history at the Eyaawing Museum & Cultural Center, visit the Black Star Farm’s city tasting room for a cheese and wine tasting or visit the Mission House Lighthouse in Traverse City.
Suttons Bay, MI 49682
Visiting Traverse City on the south shore of Grand Traverse Bay places you within easy access of the stunning Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and all it has to offer. Here you will find a 65-mile curve of beautiful lake shore dotted with fresh-water beaches for swimming, fishing or body-boarding and a vast network of scenic hiking trails. Cyclists can explore the length of the paved Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. Art lovers can spend hours admiring the many galleries and studios in Traverse City and other near-by towns while history lovers can explore lighthouses, historic missions and grand mansions. For something a little different you can try a Tall Ship excursion.
Traverse City, MI 49684
25.Van Buren State Park
Located close to South Haven on the east shore of Lake Michigan, Van Buren State Park is conveniently placed for day trippers. The one-mile sandy beach is backed by high dune formations and is a popular destination for swimming, body boarding, castle- building and soaking up the sun. There are a few scenic walking trails and a pleasant picnic area with grills and restrooms. If you bring your bicycle your can ride the 5-mile paved biking trail all the way to South Haven. There is a campground on site where you can set up camp and enjoy getting back to nature for a few days.
Van Buren State Park, 23960 Ruggles Rd, South Haven, MI 49090
25 Best Michigan Day Trips
- Grand Rapids, Photo: SNEHIT/stock.adobe.com
- Marquette, Photo: Henryk Sadura/stock.adobe.com
- Ann Arbor, Photo: Robert/stock.adobe.com
- Bay City, Photo: shrirampatki/stock.adobe.com
- Belle Isle State Park, Photo: Molly/stock.adobe.com
- Charlevoix, Photo: Thomas Barrat/stock.adobe.com
- Cuyahoga National Park, Photo: Kenneth Sponsler/stock.adobe.com
- East Lansing, Photo: eqroy/stock.adobe.com
- Frankenmuth, Photo: helgidinson/stock.adobe.com
- Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Photo: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
- Harrisville State Park, Photo: popovj2/stock.adobe.com
- Holland, Photo: SNEHIT/stock.adobe.com
- Kalamazoo, Photo: casey/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Huron Bay, Photo: haveseen/stock.adobe.com
- Mackinac Island, Photo: DoKuPiX/stock.adobe.com
- Midland, Photo: shrirampatki/stock.adobe.com
- New Buffalo, Photo: soupstock/stock.adobe.com
- Point Pelee National Park, Photo: roxxyphotos/stock.adobe.com
- Put-In Bay, Photo: nov2874/stock.adobe.com
- Saugatuck, Photo: mitgirl/stock.adobe.com
- Sault Ste. Marie, Photo: Ulf/stock.adobe.com
- Silver Lake State Park, Photo: Richard/stock.adobe.com
- Suttons Bay, Photo: D.Meissner/stock.adobe.com
- Traverse City, Photo: Richard/stock.adobe.com
- Van Buren State Park, Photo: Lerluck/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Kenneth Keifer/stock.adobe.com