Midwest Roadtrippin’: The Lake Superior Circle Tour

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Eager to hit the road but not sure where to go on your next Midwestern adventure? There are lots of options for great Midwest United States road trips, and believe me–you’ll see much more than cornfields and cows. So fill up your tank and get ready to go explore…on the Lake Superior Circle Tour. Discover the magnificent miles between Michigan,  the Canadian province of Ontario, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Lake Superior, with 2,726 miles of shoreline, is the world’s largest lake and is also the coldest, deepest, and most pristine of the Great Lakes.  The  three Midwestern states (and Ontario) have much to offer adventurous travelers.  You may begin the tour from any of the three states or Ontario.



Photo © mtellin, Flickr Creative Commons


Michigan, Upper Peninsula

Check out the 1,327-foot Marquette Mountain for awe-inspiring views.  Marquette Mountain Park offers winter and summer recreational activities such as skiing and mountain biking. The pine forests blanketing the mountain give way to the red sandstone churches and buildings of Marquette below.  Marquette is the largest town in the Upper Peninsula.

Things to do in Marquette:

-Visit the Marquette Maritime Museum

-Hop aboard a sailboat with Superior Odyssey Sailing Charters

-Climb into a canoe or kayak and explore the hidden caves and waterways of Lake Superior

-Explore Marquette harbor

-Day trips and camping to Manitou Island

-Pay a visit to the controversial Stannard Rock, home to Spectacle Reef Lighthouse

Other major cities in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) include Sault Ste. Marie, Escanaba, Menominee, Iron Mountain, and Houghton.  These areas of Michigan are home to a large number of residents with Finnish, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian ancestry.

Photo © eoz_15, Flickr Creative Commons

Ontario, Thunder Bay

Much of the area on the Canadian side of Lake Superior is wild, rich in natural resources and breathtaking scenery.  Though a good portion of the land is unsettled, bustling with an international port is Thunder Bay–the largest city in the area.

Things to do in Thunder Bay:

-Sports fishing–plenty of fishing options are available including water trolling and ice fishing.  Salmon, lake trout, whitefish, yellow perch, brook trout, and lake herring are just some of the fish harvested in the waters.

-Visit an open-pit mine and try your luck at gemstone hunting.  Thunder Bay has one of the largest amethyst quantities in the world.

-Head on out to Eagle Canyon for beautiful scenery,  great hiking, Canada’s longest suspension footbridge, and Canada’s longest zipline through magnificent landscapes.  Check out Eagle Canyon Adventures for more information.

-Stop over at the Thunder Bay Observatory to lay your hands on one of the world’s largest publicly accessible telescopes.  Set your sights on celestial objects in one of the clearest and darkest skies in North America.

-Known as the “Niagra of the North”, Kakabeka Falls lies  25 kilometers west of Thunder Bay.  It is the largest waterfall in the Lake Superior watershed.

-Sleeping Giant Provincial Park  has over 80 km of wonderful, scenic hiking trails

Photo © *Clairity*, Flickr Creative Commons

Minnesota, Grand Portage and Duluth

Grand Portage is home to a United States National Monument preserving Ojibwa heritage and a historical trade route of French-Canadian Voyageurs and Coreur des bois.  In pre-industrial times, this area was extremely important as it provided quick water access from Canada to the Northwest.

Things to see in Grand Portage:

-Grand Portage Monument.  Volunteers dressed in period attire explain what life was like at the trading fort during the 18th century.  During the second week of August, the Grand Portage National Monument hosts a re-enactment.

-Visit the Grand Portage Ojibwa Indian Reservation and learn more about the first people to live in the area.  During the second week of August, the reservation holds a Pow Wow which coincides with the Perseid meteor shower

Photo © *Clairity*, Flickr Creative Commons


Duluth is the second largest city located on Lake Superior (Thunder Bay is the 1st) with the largest metropolitan area on the lake.  The metropolitan area forms with Superior, Wisconsin,  to make the Twin Ports.  Together these cities are the Great Lake’s largest ports transporting coal, iron ore, and grain.

Things to see in Duluth:

-Check out the Great Lakes Aquarium, America’s all-freshwater aquarium

-Visit the Aerial Lift Bridge–a major landmark in the city of Duluth

-Whitewater rafting, kayaking tours, sailing, hiking

-Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center

Wisconsin, Superior and Bayfield

Superior Wisconsin forms a single metropolitan area with Duluth Minnesota.  Dubbed the Twin Ports, both cities share one of the most important harbors on the Great Lakes.  Superior is also home to the rivers Nemadji and Saint Louis.

Things to see in Superior:

-Pattison State Park: Here lies the fourth highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains and the highest waterfall in Wisconsin.  The falls in the vicinity include Big Manitou Falls (165 feet) and Twin Little Manitou Falls (31 feet).  At  1, 436 acres, the park is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Enjoy a day at the beach, nine miles of hiking trails, explore the nature center, take in the beautiful scenery and wildlife, or camp out for a day or two.


-Sailing and kayaking on Lake Superior

Bayfield Wisconsin is the main gateway to the world renowned Apostle Islands National Lakeshore–famous for its freshwater boating, kayaking, and sailing on Lake Superior. The Apostle Islands consist of 22 islands which surround the northern tip of Bayfield Peninsula.  The islands were home to Native Americans–the Ojibwa trace their history back to the 1400s.

Photo © loyaldefender2004, Flickr Creative Commons

Things to see in Bayfield:

-During the winter months, tour the Bayfield Ice Caves on the Lake Superior Bayfield Peninsula.

-Follow scenic hiking trails to the caves in spring, summer, and fall

-Take a ferry to Madeline Island and visit one of the oldest settlements in the Upper Midwest–La Pointe.

-Explore the Apostle Islands via one of the many boating tour options available

-Camp on the islands or on one of the many campgrounds surrounding Lake  Superior

-Kayaking adventures to the Sea Caves

This list is not exhaustive.  There are many beautiful cities and stops to see along the Lake Superior circle tour.  For more information, check out the Great Lakes website.

Check out some car deals, drive your own trusty vehicle, or hop aboard your Harley.  Whatever you choose, the drive is sure to be unforgettable.

Photo © uwwees, Flickr Creative Commons



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