Tahquamenon Falls

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a great destination in the Michigan Upper Peninsula. We made this a stop on our way to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore so we weren’t there overnight. You can camp in the park if you are planning a longer trip. This is a beautiful area and would be worth a trip to the UP all on its own.

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Tahquamenon Falls State Park is around 50,000 acres stretching over 13 miles. Most of this land is forested and great for hiking.  The highlight of the park is of course the waterfalls of the Tahquamenon River. There are two major viewing locations- the Upper Falls and the Lower Falls.  There is a trail in-between the two if you want to hike and see both sites. The Upper Falls is one the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. A few miles downstream are the Lower Falls. The Lower Falls are smaller waterfalls surrounding an island. You can rent a row boat at the Lower Falls to view them from the water or from the island. Since we were only there for the afternoon we didn’t take advantage of this option. We viewed the falls from land. There are great viewing decks offering lots of opportunity for great photos!
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Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub is right on site at the park and offers microbrews and   standard pub style food. Of course you are in the upper peninsula so having a pasty is a must! A pasty is similar to an empanada or other meat and veggie filled pastry. The brewery has several microbrews on tap that are made locally. What specifically is available does vary based on the time of year you are visiting.
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The park is open year round. Of course your best bet for hiking and camping will be in the summer. Check out this website for more information on activities to do in the park during all seasons http://www.exploringthenorth.com/tahqua/tahqua.html. If you are planning to camp we would recommend booking your campsites ahead of time as this is a popular summer destination in Michigan and campsites do tend to fill up. Use the MI reservations website to reserve your spot online https://midnrreservations.com.
For more on the Pictured Rocks check out our post:
-TFWYs

Grand Haven- Our Favorite Michigan Beach Town

We happen to live about 20-30 minutes from Lake Michigan and we try our best to take full advantage of this beautiful lakeshore area! We spend most of our summer time with our boat renting slips at municipal marinas exploring up and down the cost. But you don’t have to be a boater to enjoy the wonderful beach towns of Lake Michigan. These aren’t tropical beach locations but the beaches are lined with soft sand and sand dunes to climb or hike if you are feeling up for it. The water of Lake Michigan is very clear and you could easily think your on the ocean except that the water is fresh not salt!
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Grand Haven is our favorite beach town along the Lake Michigan cost. There is a lot to do and a lot of great places to eat after spending a day at the beach or on the water if you happen to be a boater. The set up in Grand Haven is really nice and allows you to make the most of your time in the area. The downtown area is within walking distance of the water front area where the channel leading from the Grand River to Lake Michigan is located. Downtown is also within walking distance to the Lake Michigan beach area. The municipal marina is located along the waterfront area. This is also where all the charter boats leave from if you are looking to do some Lake Michigan fishing. The waterfront is lined with small shops were you can get snacks, ice cream, rent kayaks, stand up paddle boards, surf boards and other beach/water equipment. There is a nice walkway all the way down past the channel and out to the big lake. They have also recently renovated the pier so there is now a nice, wide walkway all the way out to the lighthouse along the south pier.
If you want to do some fishing there are several charter boats you can book with. We haven’t done this ourselves but we frequently see the charters come back in and hang all their fish on the hooks so guests can take photos before they clean the fish. If you have a boat or a friend with boat, the fish cleaning station at the Chinook pier is available to you if needed. The charters seem to do quite well here. Depending on the time of spring/summer you go you can catch lake trout, coho, king salmon and steelhead. We are still working on perfecting our fishing skills so we’ve only caught a few so far!
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In the evenings/night all summer there are events along the waterfront you can enjoy. There are fireworks on the 4th of July which go off over the water. People will line the lawn and sidewalks all along the waterfront starting early in the morning the day of these fireworks so if you do plan to attend 4th of July here we would recommend securing your spot failry early in the day.
The Grand Haven musical fountain is located right on the waterfront near the channel. There is a fairly large viewing area with bleacher seats available, you can’t miss it if you are walking around the area. In the summer Months there are nightly shows after dusk. Show times are based on when sunset is so that you can get a good view of the lights and the fountain during the show. The shows run about 20-30 minutes long. There is a variety of music featured in the shows. For more details on the start time and the music selection for each night you can check the website https://ghfountain.com/showtimes/
Coast Guard festival runs around the last week of July/the first week of August each summer and brings a ton of people to Grand Haven. During this time there are some nights were there is live music playing on the waterfront in the musical fountain viewing area. If you are a boater you can book a slip at the municipal marina the first weekend of coast guard fest before all the big activities have really kicked off. The second weekend is the final weekend of the festival is when all the big events happen. To book a slip at the marina that weekend you have to enter a lottery and be physically present when they do the drawing in early spring. If you are not a boater and just going to Grand Haven for the coast guard festival we would recommend booking hotels well in advance as well. For a detailed list of events happening at the festival check out their website https://www.coastguardfest.org/
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Food:
Food is of course the most important part! There are a lot of great options, here are some of our favorites
Paisley Pig- This place is not right downtown but it is only 5 minute drive from downtown. Everything we have tried there is really good and the portions are quite large. We end up ordering too much food every time we go. The nachos are definitely worth a try but if you do order them you probably don’t need much else, they are huge!
Odd side ales- This brewery is right down town. they make all different types of beers. They do not have a kitchen but you can order sandwiches and snacks from a sandwich shop down the street (Electric Hero) and they will deliver it right to your table. The brewery has plenty of tables both inside and outside and has dart boards you can play as well.
Mr Kozac- This place is great for fast take out or eating there. Their gyros are amazing and the portions are huge!. There is typically a line but it is worth the wait!
Pronto pup- This is a must while in Grand Haven but fair warning the line is typically quite long on a summer weekend. Pronto pup is a small shack along the water right next to Snug harbor. They serve only corn dogs and drinks (water, pop, non-alcoholic drinks). The corn dogs come on a stick for eating on the go. You can get them plain or ask them to put ketchup and/or mustard on it for you. They fry these up all day long right next to the order window so you can watch as they make them. Even if you are not a huge corn dog fan these are delicious. The batter frys up really crisp and is thin not super thick like on some corn dogs. Definitely a stable that you must try!
Snug Harbor- This restaurant is right on the water at the channel so you can sit outside on the patio and watch the boats come in and out from Lake Michigan. There is often a wait if you are going for dinner around sunset so that is something to be aware of. The food is good and they definitely have the best view of any restaurant in town. Prices are moderately high so don’t expect to have a cheap meal here but it is worth it for the view.
The Kriby House- This is a huge building right downtown. There are several restaurants inside so it can be kind of confusing- bear with us as we try to explain. On the main level of the building they have their Kirby house menu which is burgers, sandwiches, salads, pasta (a general variety of dishes). To the left of the hostess’s stand if you are facing it there is their more upscale restaurant which offers steaks, seafood (more expensive dishes). Upstairs inside is a pizza place with wood fired oven pizzas. There is also a patio outside on the upstairs and we believe they also serve a different menu.  What makes this even more confusing is when you arrive and go up to the main hostess stand they will ask you which menu you want to eat from, if you want to go anywhere other than their main dining area they direct you to a different hostess stand where that host or hostess will then seat you. There can be a bit of a wait on a weekend night but it typically goes petty quickly since they are such a large restaurant. They do also do take out if you call ahead and want to pick up food and take it to go to enjoy outside by the water. Even with all the confusion it is still a place we would recommend for dinner. We have eaten in their main dining area off their Kirby House menu and we have eaten upstairs at the pizza place. Both menus are good and their bars have an extensive drink selection. They make a great old fashioned if you are a bourbon drinker! Their website can offer more information on each of their menus- https://www.thegilmorecollection.com/kirbyhouse/
Another great food spot is the farmer’s market at the Chinook Pier. This market is full of venders selling fresh fruits and veggies, homemade bread and other pastries. You can also find coffee, kombucha, salsa, honey and a few other goods at this farmer’s market. It is open every Wednesday and Saturday beginning at 8AM.
Summer is obviously the best time to enjoy Grand Haven. Do be aware it takes a bit for Lake Michigan to warm up so in spring and early summer you could still have quite cold water temps at the beach. July, August and early September are the best times to go. The lake shore is also beautiful in the fall you just won’t be taking advantage of the water as much that time of year.
We love Grand Haven and can’t wait for more summer adventures!
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-TFWYs

Exploring The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a great summer destination in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We have only visited in the summer but it would definitely be beautiful in the early fall as well when the leaves are changing. Late spring would also be a good time once the weather has warmed up but we have heard it is more buggy earlier in the summer. When we went in August the mosquitos were not bad at all during out hike or at night while we were camping. Lake Superior is cold even in the middle of the summer  so don’t expect warm water for swimming. But summer is definitely the best time to enjoy the lake, the beach, the hiking and some kayaking or other boat tour.
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Munising is likely where you’ll want to stay to be closest to the hiking and the waterfront. This is a very small town, don’t expect 5 star hotels and restaurants. There are a couple hotels and a couple restaurants but that is about it. We camped during our trip so cannot recommend any specific hotel. There are a lot of camp grounds in the area. You can go very rustic and camp within the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. You will need a permit so planning in advance is necessary to stay within the park itself.
We camped at a nearby camp ground. You can find campgrounds ranging from ones with a bathroom, shower, grills , electric plug ins and picnic tables on site to more minimal vaulted toilets available or no toilets/showers available just depending on what you are comfortable with. We would recommend booking in advance as this is a popular destination in the summer and camp grounds do tend to fill up.
In order to see the rocks from land you do need to hike/walk through the National Forest to the lakeshore. There are several different options for where to start your hike and how far you want to go. We parked at the parking lot on Chapel road and started the trail from there. We went past Chapel falls, Chapel lake and Chapel rock before heading all the way to Spray falls. Spay falls is a waterfall that comes jetting out of the rocks and then down into the lake. This was our favorite waterfall we saw on this trip. There is an open area on the rocks where you can sit and enjoy the view before starting your hike back or continuing on further. We packed a lunch which we enjoyed at this location, taking in the view of the waterfall and the lake. The hiking is not strenuous with any huge hills to climb. The paths are fairly well marked as you go through and chances are you won’t be the only people hiking so expect to run into other hikers as you go. We did past one or two vaulted toilets in the park during our hike but they were not super clean so that is something to be aware of. We took a different path back going by Mosquito falls. We were not in any huge hurry and we stopped multiple times to take photos. The whole like took us 4-5 hours. We would recommend starting your hike in the morning so that if it does take longer than you expect you are not stuck in the park after dark if you aren’t camping there.
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Kayaking
One of the best ways to see the Pictured Rocks is from the water. We did a kayak tour when we were there. We were bummed the morning of our tour because it was cloudy and rainy. Our tour guides assured us it is actually the best time to see the rocks because when they are wet from the rain it actually brings out the different colors much better. It sprinkled the first half of our kayaking but then the rain stopped and the sun actually did come out towards the end- so don’t let rain or clouds deter you. One other note on weather is that pending weather/water conditions they may take you to another location to kayak. You are dealing with Lake Superior so you don’t want to be stuck out there on a kayak in bad waves. There are several tour companies that offer kayak tours at various different lengths. We went through Paddling Michigan- https://www.paddlingmichigan.com/kayaking-tours/
You can do anywhere from a day long tour to a couple hours. You can also rent kayaks in the area and head out on your own. We did a tour that was a couple hours long and we felt it took us a good distance down the shoreline and back. It was nice to have a guide so we know what areas to stay further back from the rocks in case anything fell into the water and they told us when we were in areas where it was safe to get right up close to the rocks. Our tour group was about 8-10 people and most of us were in tandem kayaks. We had two guides with us to help keep the group together.
We would highly recommend kayaking while you are there, it was the highlight of our trip despite the rain! if you have a go pro definitely bring it with you. We got some great photos and videos while kayaking. The water is also super clear so you can see the bottom as you kayak along and get some great shots from in the water as well.
There is also a boat tour you can take which will drive along the shoreline offering views of the rocks. We did not take this tour so we cannot recommend a specific company but know that it is an option if you are not up for kayaking.

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Waterfalls in and around Munising:
There are several waterfalls you can see very close to Munising. We had a car since we drove from the lower peninsula. We would recommend having a car for this trip. Because there is no major city there aren’t taxi services in the area and we aren’t sure if you can get uber or lift rides from Munising. On the rainy morning before heading out for our kayak tour we drove to some of the waterfalls close by. We visited , Munising falls, Alger falls, Miner’s falls and Scott’s falls. These 4 are all very close to each other, only a few minutes drive in-between each one so you can easily see them all in a short amount of time. All of these also have only a very short walk from the parking lot to the falls so there is really no hiking involved. Horseshoe and Wagner’s falls are also within the Munising area.

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The pictured rocks is a great destination for anyone wanting to be outside and enjoy the beautiful Lake Superior lakeshore. It is a great place for an active summer vacation! A must see for anyone coming to Michigan.

-TFWYs