Great Lakes Road Trip: (July 2020)

I am very behind on posts, and have a lot of travel adventures to share! Due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, we had to cancel a trip to Disney World and a hiking trip in Peru. Brian and I discussed what we should do and if we felt it was safe to travel. We knew we weren’t catching a plane or going anywhere crowded, so we opted for a road trip instead. Our oldest, Seth, had been asking for a trip to the Great Lakes, and so a Great Lakes road trip it was!

Google Map

Road Trip Itinerary:

First night:leave and stay at a hotel on the way to Glen Arbor

Day 2-3: Glen Arbor, MI (Sleeping Bears Dunes)

Video: This video we found online gave us so many ideas for exploring Glen Arbor!

Lodging: Empire Lakeshore Inn

Must Do: 

  • Sleeping Bears Dunes: Take the scenic drive here. It doesn’t look like much, but then there’s this awesome overlook that gives you the BEST view of Lake Michigan! We did manage to hike to the top of the dunes, but we did not do the full hike across to the view of Lake Michigan (we saw this on the scenic drive). The dunes were a lot of fun, but the younger two were tired out by just doing the main dunes, so we opted not to do the full hike.
  • Cherry Republic: This place was really cool. Brian and the kids ate here and really liked it!

Where to Eat: Art’s Tavern: Art’s Tavern is one of the most popular spots to eat in Glen Arbor. Full of fun atmosphere (there are banners from colleges and universities from across the country hanging all over the restaurant), Art’s has some classic pub fare and a great staff!

Day 4: (leave and stay at a hotel on the way to Voyageurs National Park)

We stayed in downtown Duluth, MN. It was just a quick stopover, so we did not explore the city other than to visit the Duluth Trading Company across the street from our hotel. We stayed at the Sheraton, Dultuh, and it was a lovely hotel. The staff gave us a complimentary upgrade, and after a long day of travel, it was truly appreciated!

Day 5-7: Voyageurs National Park, MN (July 26-28)

Lodging: Chantilever Hotel This place was one of the coolest hotels we stayed in! Good restaurant too!

National Park Website

Popular Voyageurs National Park Hikes:

• Easy: Echo Bay Trail (2.5 mile loop trail, △144 feet)

• Moderate: Blind Ash Bay Trail (2.5 miles out & back with a loop, △300 feet)

Best Place to see Moose: Cruiser Lake Trail We didn’t do this one because it’s supposed to be crazy difficult!! And the mosquitos are supposed to be super bad.

The only way to see Voyageurs is by boat tour. Our first day in Voyageurs was spent hiking a smaller trail and kayaking. We LOVE to kayak, and everywhere we paddled was absolutely beautiful! However, once on the water, we quickly realized there was no way we were going to really experience this park on our own. Brian decided to make some calls and book a boat tour. We cannot recommend this enough. If you don’t do a boat tour, you really won’t see the park at all. Also, plan ahead… we booked this last minute and only found an opening by sheer luck! There are basically two guys who do this: Eric and Jim. We went with Jim, and he was AMAZING! A real story-teller! We loved hearing all his tales about the history of the park and the people who inhabited the land. Some highlights were: Kettle Falls Hotel, which first opened in 1913, Ellsworth Rock Gardens, and the many eagles we saw along the way.

We also did a little bit of research on the northern lights, and learned that there was a decent chance to see them that time of year. We decided to wake everyone up at midnight, drive to a remote area of the park where there would be little light pollution, and see if we were lucky. Unfortunately, we did not see them. If you would like to give it a try, I’d suggest this site: Aurora Forecast

Days 7-8: Bayfield, WI (Apostle Islands National Lakeshore) Tuesday, July 28-29 

About Bayfield: We used this site for a lot of our planning.

Lodging: Bayfield Inn: A beautiful inn right in the heart of Bayfield, with views of the lake, and an excellent on-site restaurant.

Must Do: Kayak Meyers Beach Sea Caves We didn’t do this, and we regretted it! You can’t kayak this on your own, and you need a sea kayak… book a tour!

This is such a cute little town with lots of shops and great restaurants! Live music lakeside most nights too! We spent our full day here exploring the little town, shopping, checking out some restaurants, and catching a free outdoor concert. The next day, as were leaving the town, we hiked a beautiful trail that passes by the the sea caves. In hindsight, we wish we would have booked a kayaking trip here so that we could explore them more closely!

Days 8-9: Pictured Rocks (Munsing, MI) July 29-31

Lodging: Holiday Inn Express Lakeview: A VERY nice Holiday Inn… with patios that overlook the lake.

Where to Eat: We didn’t come across any great restaurants in Pictured Rocks. We joked that the only eateries were all the roadside stands that sold “pasties.” We had to try a pasty because “when in Rome…” They were good, but we were not as crazy about them as everyone else seemed to be.

Kayaking Tours:

Pictured Rocks Kayaking: This is where we booked our Pictured Rocks sea kayak tour. The waters were too rough, so we had to do a different tour of the National Lakeshore… still very pretty! Pictured Rocks is supposed to be one of the highlights of the Great Lakes, so we were sad to miss it, but the National Lakeshore was still BEAUTIFUL! Again… you will need sea kayaks to paddle this area, and guided tours are highly recommended. This kayaking tour company was phenomenal, and we truly enjoyed seeing the lakeshore, kayaking through the lakeside caves, and checking out the lighthouse.

DISCLAIMER: This was our least favorite stop. The area around Pictured Rocks doesn’t have a lot to do nor a lot of restaurants. However, we didn’t get to see the actual Pictured Rocks, so maybe we would have liked this stop more if we would have been able to see it.

Days 9-11 Alpena, MI July 31-Aug 2nd

Lodging: Air B&B I can’t recommend this Air B&B enough… Tamy was an amazing host, and she sent us so many tips and recommendations. The house is in a great location, too!

We LOVED Alpena!!! It’s not super touristy, but there are lots of cute shops… an amazing record store–the owner was soooo nice and we talked for a long time, and a really neat comic book shop that the boys really loved!

Where to Eat:

The Hungry Hippiesooooo good!

The Hungry Hippie

Pompeyos Mexican Grill: a good Mexican restaurant right by Starlite Beach that has an outdoor patio that overlooks the lake!

We used these sites to help plan our time in Alpena:

Great Information About Alpena

More Information


Presque Isle: Kayak over old ship wrecks! Tamy (the Air BnB owner, suggested Presque Isle park for seeing the shipwrecks, and that’s where we saw the BEST views of the shipwrecks from our kayaks. As you are paddling, the water is so clear. You look beneath you, and you can see the sunken ships right beneath your kayak!

Starlite Beach: Splash Pad playground

Starlite Beach Splash Playground

Dinosaur Gardens: If you are like us and love a weird roadside attraction, this one is for you! So. Very. Weird.

Dinosaur Gardens: a Roadside fan’s dream stop!

The one thing that was closed due to Covid was the Maritime museum, and we were soooo sad because it looked like it would be an amazing experience.

There are probably a lot of places to see in the Great Lakes area that we missed. We were extremely sad that we were unable to visit Isle Royale National Park. Covid caused limited runs of the ferry to the island, which made us unable to fit it into our plans. Mackinac Island is another place that is supposed to be beautiful, but we decided to skip it in order to add Voyageurs National Park to our list of stops, and we were definitely not disappointed by our choice. Obviously, traveling during Covid required some adjustments, be we honestly felt safe and welcomed every place we visited. This was a great road trip, and increased our desire to see more of the U.S.!

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