Home Travel 33 Magical Things to do in Marquette, Michigan

33 Magical Things to do in Marquette, Michigan


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Picturesque lighthouses. Gushing waterfalls. Dramatic rocky cliffs overlooking the world’s largest freshwater lake. Marquette, a small city on the northern coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is both an outdoor lover’s paradise and a culturally unique destination. But just because it’s a small town doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things to do in Marquette, Michigan – here you can take in the beauty of pristine nature during the summer when this remote, lakeside town is bustling with locals and tourists alike.

You can spend your days paddling on Lake Superior, hiking to gushing waterfalls, and soaking up every last drop of this northerly outpost’s lengthy summer days – this is what the season’s all about. So let’s explore all the magical things to do in Marquette, Michigan!

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aerial view of marquette michigan
Marquette, Michigan is a slice of paradise in the summer. (Photo Credit)

Things to know about Marquette, Michigan

It’s fair to assume you haven’t heard of Marquette, Michigan, despite it being a gorgeous slice of paradise, so let’s tell you everything you need to know about this amazing destination!


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Where is Marquette, Michigan?

Marquette is located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – that’s the long, skinny part that sits above the mitten part. The UP touches Wisconsin on its western end and is connected to the Lower Peninsula via the 5-mile-long Mackinac Bridge. The UP has coastlines along Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron. Marquette is situated in the central third of the UP and sits on Lake Superior’s southern shore.

Marquette is the largest city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but only the fifty-fourth most populous city in the state of Michigan. That should give you a little context for what to expect from the UP, where only 3% of Michigan’s population resides. Forests, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls are more common than cities, subdivisions and people. Marquette County is bigger than the state of Rhode Island (and home to a fraction of the population).

What’s the History of Marquette?

Before Europeans came to this part of the world, it was home to Menominee, Anishinaabe, and Dakota people. They moved around to hunt different animals like deer, moose, and bears. Depending on the season, they would also trap, ice fish, and forage. Long before it became known as “Copper Country,” Indigenous peoples began digging for copper in the Keweenaw Peninsula to Marquette’s northwest.

In the 17th century, the French arrived. The fur trade dominated the economics of this region for the time being when trappers would paddle their furs around the area by birchbark canoe.

Marquette, though, owes its reputation to iron ore. This important mineral was discovered in 1844, and more wealth came from mining iron ore in the UP than from gold mined during the California Gold Rush. In fact, during the Civil War, the bulk of the iron ore used by the Union Army came from Marquette.

The mining industry attracted a wide range of immigrants to the UP, including Irish, Cornish, French-Canadian, German, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish workers. Many of these immigrants ended up farther north in the Keweenaw Peninsula, but their culture and tradition permeated through much of the UP. This cultural infusion is evident in the food, festivals, and traditions that take place across the peninsula.

The legacy of the mining industry in Marquette is still obvious today — there is still some mining done in the area, though nowhere near the level seen in the 1800s. Marquette’s harbors are home to mammoth ore docks, where giant freighters come to fill up with ore. One of these docks is still active today.

Today, Marquette is known more as an outdoor enthusiast’s dream than a mining town. Pristine rivers, beaches, and woods welcome those looking for solitude and nature. Home to Northern Michigan University, Marquette is an energetic small town with a strong sense of community and pride in their beautiful surroundings. 

Some call Marquette “the Queen City of the North” or “the Queen City of Lake Superior” — though the origins of these nicknames aren’t clear, they have a nice ring to them, don’t they?

Mosquito Beach at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lake Superior, Michigan_
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. (Photo Credit)

What’s the Best Time to Visit Marquette?

Marquette transforms from the absolute epitome of winter — buried under several feet of beautiful snow along Lake Superior’s icy coast — into an idyllic lakeside summer wonderland and a colorful playground in the fall. It’s only the in-between that’s unpleasant. “Spring” is a loaded word in the UP, and can’t be trusted (think snow, rain, mud, more snow, etc.). While we love winter in Marquette, we think summer is the best time to take advantage of this outdoor recreation paradise.

June is the earliest you’d want to visit if you’re looking for summer weather. To be honest, June can still be cold (we’re talking lows around 50, and highs in the 60s). But you might beat the crowds coming for the warmer months of July and August. You may have a hard time believing that this town clinging to the northern edge of the UP actually warms up, but average summer highs reach the mid 70s, with lows near 60. Not hot, per se, but pretty darn perfect.

Plus, thanks to this northern city’s latitude, summer days stretch on and on — around the summer solstice, sunset isn’t until nearly 10 p.m!

How do I get to Marquette?

There is an airport in Marquette, but it’s not the biggest. Sawyer International Airport is a quick 25-minute drive south of Marquette. If you fly in, you’ll have to stop in Chicago or Detroit — the only cities with direct flights from Marquette.

Otherwise, you can drive in. There aren’t many big cities close by (Detroit is almost 7 hours away, Milwaukee is almost 5) so regardless of where you’re coming from, you’ll probably have a long drive. The good news is, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is gorgeous.

A drive from the Lower Peninsula will include a memorable crossing over the five-mile Mackinac Bridge — where you can expect to pay a $4 toll — and a lovely journey along Lake Michigan’s coastline before turning north.

A drive from Wisconsin means more lakeside driving and winding through beautiful woods. In the winter, the drive can mean hours of white-knuckling the steering wheel while curtains of lake effect snow bury the roads — but summer drives through the UP are scenic and pleasant, with plenty of roadside parks along the Great Lakes and rivers to break up the trip.


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Things to Do in Marquette

Marquette has a great balance of things to do — with a heavy emphasis on outdoor activities and beautiful vistas. While summer typically brings gorgeous weather, there’s plenty to do when a storm rolls in off the lake, too.

From lighthouse tours to rocky hikes, relaxing on the beach to holing up in a cozy bookshop, here are our favorite things to do in Marquette, Michigan!

view from sugarloaf mountain in marquette michigan-2
The views from Sugarloaf Mountain of Lake Superior are unparalleled. (Photo Credit)

Take a Hike

As you’ll know by the time you arrive in Marquette, there is plenty of gorgeous nature to explore in and around this city. In truth, people come to the UP for one thing (hint: it’s not the nightlife). You guessed it — outdoor recreation.

One of the most popular things to do in Marquette, Michigan is hiking, and with a plethora of trails to explore you can’t go wrong — by foot in the summer and by snowshoe and ski in the winter, there’s always something new to see.

  • Sugarloaf Mountain (1 mile round trip, 460 feet elevation): Locals scoff at the idea of Sugarloaf as a “hike” — it’s more of a series of staircases that end atop a mountain. Whatever you call it, the journey of Sugarloaf is well worth the effort. After hiking on a steep wooded trail from one of the two parking lots, you’ll start climbing the stairs that quickly bring you up in elevation. “Hike” or not, you’ll be huffing and puffing when you arrive at the viewing platform and smooth rock faces on top. The views are unbeatable — you’ll see Lake Superior, Hogsback Mountain, Presque Isle Park and even the Upper Ore Dock. 
  • Hog(s)back Mountain (~2 miles, ~600 feet elevation): This trail is for all the adventurous hikers out there — and by that we mean you won’t find the most clear route to the top (or the most clear directions to the trail, either). Plus, the last half mile of the hike is more of a scramble up a rocky face than a hike… You get the idea. But you’ll agree it’s worth it when you get to the top — expect endless swaths of forest, the rolling Huron Mountains, and — of course — Lake Superior’s deep blue expanse. Hogback — or Hogsback, depending on who you talk to — is quintessentially UP: You won’t see many people, it’s very rugged, and it’s remote. Take extra precautions and navigation aids if you do this hike — or better yet, consult a local.
  • North Country Trail (as long as you want): The North Country Trail is a lesser-known National Scenic Trail — like the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail. It’s also the longest in the National Trail System, spanning from Vermont to North Dakota over 4,800 miles. In the UP, this trail crosses east-west and passes right through Marquette, so you can pick a section of it and hike as far as you like. You can catch the trail downtown where it skirts the waterfront to see where the historic, charming buildings line the harbor. Or you can head west and start hiking in the towering pine forests nestled along the pristine, sandy beach at Little Presque Isle
laughing whitefish falls marquette michigan
Laughing Whitefish Falls looks like a slip-n-slide staircase. (Photo Credit)

Admire a Waterfall

You may not know it, but Michigan is full of waterfalls. Hundreds of them. And only two — yes, a measly two — are in the Lower Peninsula. That means the UP is chock-full of waterfalls, and there are a ton around Marquette.

You could spend weeks, months, or years traveling around the UP trying to see all of its waterfalls, though it’s doubtful you would — some of them are quite remote. And did you know that there’s a “Grand Canyon” of the UP? To be honest, it’s really nothing like the actual Grand Canyon, but that’s not to say it isn’t gorgeous. Sorry, gorge-ous. Anyway, if you’re up for chasing waterfalls, here are some of the best around Marquette:

  • Laughing Whitefish Falls: About 30 miles outside Marquette, Laughing Whitefish Falls State Park contains one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the UP. And compared to a lot of the other waterfalls in the state, it’s big. Water flows down a 100-foot rock face that’s been eroded to form something like a slip-’n-slide-meets-staircase. (We don’t recommend you try to scale it — one slip, and you’re toast). This isn’t a swimming destination — there’s no trail to access the pool — but you’ll have no shortage of swimming options elsewhere. The drive to the trailhead is pretty straightforward, ending on a well-maintained (if muddy) dirt road. From the trailhead, the hike to the falls is about half a mile each way. Once you reach the top of the falls, you can hike down some stairs to view the falls from the bottom.
  • Yellow Dog Falls: Northwest of Marquette, toward the town of Big Bay, a half-mile hike leads to Yellow Dog Falls. Fifty feet wide with a thirty-foot drop, a large boulder splits the falls down the middle. The Yellow Dog river is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River — a designation you don’t come across often in the Midwest. There are several peaceful pools along the river both before and after the falls — perfect places to take a splash in the clear (and cold!) water on a hot day.
  • Dead River Falls: Just outside of Marquette on the city’s northwest side, Dead River Falls plunges over a half mile of rocky outcroppings dropping nearly 100 feet. The hike to get there is moderately challenging and includes a couple of water crossings and a little bit of rock scrambling. Roots, rocks, and an overall uneven trail covers almost a mile from the trailhead to falls. Enjoy the beautiful scenery, but be sure to watch your step!


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lighthouse at From McCarty's Cove, Marquette--
Marquette Harbour Lighthouse at McCarty’s Cove. (Photo Credit)

Relax on the Beach 

Great Lakes beaches are in a class of their own. No, there aren’t palm trees or beachside tiki bars. But what they lack in tropical flair, they make up for with freshwater charm. Superior’s waters are cold, blue, and clean. The beaches range from rocky cliffs to soft, sandy stretches.  And no, you can’t see Canada across the lake!

Marquette is even known for its freshwater surfing, though the waves are better in the fall. While Superior might be too cold for the uninitiated, you don’t want to miss out on relaxing at one of these beautiful beaches. Bring a towel, a book, a surfboard if you dare, and enjoy a one-of-a-kind beach experience.

  • McCarty’s Cove: This popular downtown beach is a quick walk from hotels and restaurants. It’s home to the stunningly red Marquette Harbor Lighthouse and offers gorgeous shoreline views. There’s also a lifeguard on duty, which makes this a great place to swim. Rip currents are a hazard in the Great Lakes, too, so pay close attention to forecasted conditions. 
  • Little Presque Isle Beach: Little Presque Isle Beach is a quiet destination seven miles northwest of town at the foot of the Huron Mountains. The beach itself is a picturesque, sandy expanse overlooking the rocky Little Presque Isle offshore. Inland, there are trails (for hiking and mountain biking), lakes (for fishing or paddling), and more dramatic views of moody Lake Superior and the rocky isle offshore. 
  • Au Train Beach: A 25-mile drive east of Marquette brings you to Au Train beach, where endless sand and dune grass make for a picturesque shore. The Au Train River flows gently into Superior here, adding to the interest of this popular sandy beach. Au Train Beach is easily accessible from M-28 — just park in the lot right off the highway and follow the trail to the beach.

Stuff Your Face

You may not know what to expect when visiting what feels like a wilderness outpost on the edge of civilization. But let us reassure you: You will eat well. You may be wondering, in a place with such a short growing season, what’s Marquette known for?

Two dishes stand out among the rest: pasties and whitefish

You’ll find whitefish on almost every menu in the Upper Peninsula. And for good reason — it’s fresh and delicious. Feast on whitefish sandwiches, whitefish dip, fried whitefish bites — you name it, and you can eat it.

Pasties are another UP staple — a savory meat pie born from the mining days, and a hearty meal to fuel your outdoor adventures.

There’s plenty more to Marquette’s food scene, so try these local favorites, then find your own!

  • The Vierling: The Vierling is a classic and Marquette’s oldest brew pub, just a block from the waterfront and the ore docks. (If you’re lucky, you’ll get a table with a view). Inside the restaurant, classic artwork, wood finishes, and stained glass windows create a cozy atmosphere. The Vierling is known for its fresh whitefish and house-brewed beers. The whitefish bites — fresh fish fried with homemade beer batter — are the perfect start to any meal (or the meal itself, if you eat enough), and the blueberry wheat ale is a hit. 
  • Lawry’s Pasty Shop: You can’t come to the UP without eating a pasty. This convenient, satisfying, and undeniably delicious creation is a relic of the mining days, when the men needed a convenient, handheld lunch to get them through the shift. A hand pie filled with savory meat and veggies, pasties came over with 19th-century Cornish immigrants. You’ll see pasties being sold all over the UP, but in Marquette, you’ve gotta try Lawry’s. It’s a small shop with limited seating, so get your pasties to go and bring them on a beachside picnic at McCarty’s Cove or Presque Isle.
  • Iron Bay: If you’re looking for a great, lakeside vibe, Iron Bay is the place. The restaurant sits inside what used to be the Iron Bay Foundry, built in 1872. Set right along the harbor, this hip, historic building serves up classic UP comfort food, a large selection of beer, and a gorgeous Lake Superior view. If you hadn’t already noticed, whitefish is on most Marquette menus — and Iron Bay has plenty of options. Try the whitefish chowder, whitefish tacos, or even whitefish tater tots. (And don’t worry — if you don’t like fish, they’ve got other options). 

Cozy Up With a Coffee

For a small town, Marquette has more than its fair share of coffee shops. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a college town. Or maybe it’s a way for locals to gather (and warm up) throughout the many months of winter. Whatever the reason, Marquette is lucky to be home to several fantastic coffee shops — each with its own personality. Here are our favorites — take your pick or try them all!

  • The Crib: This spacious coffee shop is situated within a renovated 1800s Victorian house in downtown Marquette. It’s the home of Crappie Coffee Roasters (don’t worry, the coffee is anything but crappy). With space both downstairs and up, you can find your own little nook to enjoy your coffee or tea. Not craving caffeine? They also serve wine, beer, cider, and cocktails. From a classic cappuccino to a fresh-squeezed margarita, the menu is as pleasantly eclectic as the space.
  • Contrast Coffee: This coffee shop emphasizes community at its four locations across the UP, partnering with local nonprofits to raise money and community awareness. “906 Days” — days on which 100% of profits go to a local nonprofit or cause — support things like mental health, support for domestic violence survivors, and youth outdoor programs. Coffee with a cause — we can’t complain about that! Besides the good they’re doing, Contrast serves up some tasty joe and food, like creative crepes and paninis. Come for a classic nitro cold brew or one of their seasonal lattes — Blackberry cobbler latte, anyone?  
  • Velodrome Coffee Company: Hip, cool, and modern, Velodrome goes the extra mile with its unique menu items, like a fruity pebbles latte, lavender basil latte, and mint Milano iced coffee. They make everything in-house, including the flavored syrups. If you need a bite to eat, they also make crispy homemade waffles with local maple syrup. If that weren’t enough, Velodrome houses a service-focused bike shop, so if your ride is in need of a tune-up, bring it along on your coffee run.


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Ore Dock Brewing Company in Marquette Michigan
Ore Dock Brewing Company is a great place to grab a beer and soak up the sun! (Photo Credit)

Sip a Drink on the Patio

Yoopers know how to take full advantage of summer. And they better — because it doesn’t last long. There’s something about capitalizing on those gorgeous summer days — sitting on a patio with a cold drink in hand — that’s nothing short of idyllic. Michigan’s summer days are long, but the season is short. So grab a spot in the sun and drink up!

  • Zephyr Wine Bar: Home to Michigan’s longest by-the-glass wine list, Zephyr Wine Bar is the place to get a pour of whatever you like. Marquette isn’t wine country, but Zephyr features some of Michigan’s best selections from the state’s booming wine regions to the south. Try one of the Michigan sparkling wines — award-winning Mawby Vineyards near Traverse City specializes in it. Zephyr also serves cocktails, beer, espresso, appetizers, and desserts. On weekends, you can even eat at The Cellar restaurant (by reservation only) and enjoy a four-course, prix-fixe dinner. Sip on the charming outdoor patio or cozy up indoors.
  • Blackrocks: Come within hundreds of miles of this much-loved local brewery, and you’ll see its logo plastered on the rear bumper of every beer-drinkin’ Yooper’s Subaru. Okay, we might be exaggerating a little, but it’s no stretch to say this is a Marquette gem. The brewery is contained within an old house, and they recently expanded to add tons of space. The indoor space is cozy and casual with plenty of room to spread out, and the patio out back (often visited by food trucks) is the place to be in the summertime. Try the 51K IPA — a subtly fruity, earthy beer named for the local Noquemanon Ski Marathon
  • Ore Dock Brewing Company: Downtown near the waterfront, Ore Dock is a brewery making Lake Superior-sourced brews and seltzers. They don’t serve food, but you can order in or grab food from visiting food trucks. On a summer day enjoy a Bum’s Beach wheat ale or a Fresh Coast IPA — or, if a chilly breeze is coming off the lake (which is sometimes the case, even in the summer), cozy up with a dark lager like the Six Pointer Dunkel. 
Revisions in Marquette Michigan
Revisions has all the gorgeous home goods you could ever need. (Photo Credit)

Shop Downtown Marquette

While Marquette is the biggest city in the Upper Peninsula, it’s not… big. But there’s a lot packed into the downtown district that’s tucked along the Lake Superior shore. This is a little city with a big personality, and it’s evident in the eclectic shops, boutiques, and stores lining the hilly streets. Spend an afternoon wandering through downtown Marquette, stopping for coffee, refreshment, or a Lake Superior view whenever you want. Here are some of the must-visit shops in Marquette:

  • Snowbound Books – Cozy, friendly, with plenty of nooks and crannies — what more could you want from a bookstore? The aptly named Snowbound Books in downtown Marquette is a must-stop in any season. While you’re unlikely to get snowed in on a summer visit, this is the best place to pick up a few beach reads before you head to the lake.
  • Downwind Sports: In a town as outdoorsy as Marquette, you need a trusty place to find all of your gear. Downwind Sports is the town’s local outfitter, with everything from hiking accessories and fishing gear to PFDs and bike helmets. Come here to shop or to get the lowdown on Marquette’s trails, rivers, and lakes. 
  • Boomerang Retro and Relics: Visit the UP’s first retro-chic boutique! Boomerang carries a variety of new and old retro, vintage, and mid-century modern clothing and treasures. This store is all about feeling fabulous and colorful — and who isn’t into that?
  • Revisions: If you have any interest in plants, cards, and the most beautiful gifts, make sure you visit Revisions. This store is a pleasure to browse and sells everything from gorgeous potted plants to bath bombs to ceramics and candles — very hygge, if you ask us. Stop here for the perfect gift or souvenir from your time in Marquette!
  • Revival: A sister store to Revisions, this boutique has the same beautiful, calming vibe. Instead of plants and gifts, Revival sells clothing, accessories, and home decor. Everything is intentionally chosen, and they don’t sell more than a few of each piece (making everything unique!). If you’re looking for a flowy dress or floppy hat to wear to the beach, this is your shop.


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people jumping off blackrocks in Presque Isle Park in marquette michigan
People jumping off blackrocks in Presque Isle Park. (Photo Credit)

Visit Presque Isle Park

Presque Isle Park is Marquette’s local gem — a 323-acre wooded peninsula surrounded on three sides by Lake Superior. The park’s claim to fame is that it was “designed” by Frederick Law Olmsted. The famous landscape architect, who designed Central Park in NYC, was in the area to design the grounds around a millionaire’s mansion but was also asked to create a plan to turn this rugged peninsula into a park. His advice? Don’t touch it. Or, more eloquently, Presque Isle “should not be marred with the intrusion of artificial objects.” Point taken. Today, Presque Isle is more or less the same wild land that Olmsted visited in the late 1800s. 

Presque Isle is most famously known for the Blackrocks — 1.7 billion-year-old rock from ancient ocean crust. While they’re fascinating to look at and marvel at their age, most locals come to do one of their favorite things to do in Marquette, Michigan: cliff jumping off the Blackrocks. If thrills aren’t your thing, there’s still plenty to do at Presque Isle. Our favorites include:

  • Watch the sunset at Sunset Point: Have you ever seen a Great Lakes sunset? There’s nothing like ‘em, and Presque Isle Park is the perfect spot to catch one. This far north, the sun sets pretty late in the summer. Cap off a day at the park with a picnic at Sunset Point, or drive in after a dinner downtown to catch the show. Either way, bring your camera to capture the glorious reds and oranges from the muted sunlight catching the rocks and the waves.
  • Hike the trails: While you can drive the perimeter of the park, you can also hike it on a beautiful, well-kept trail. Circumnavigate Presque Isle on the 2.3-mile loop, take a trail through the interior of the peninsula, and stop along as many offshoots as you like to take a picture, swim in Lake Superior, or just enjoy the view. While the park’s Peter White Drive does trace the trail at some points, it’s still pretty quiet — and there are even “Walking Hours” during which the road is closed to vehicles.
  • Hang out at the beach: The beaches on Presque Isle might not be the white, sandy stretches you’ll find elsewhere along Superior’s shore, but they’re really special: Think ancient, rocky outcrops dropping off into the deep blue lake. The beach next to the famous Blackrocks is an exciting place to hang out, have a picnic, rockhound, and watch brave locals and tourists jump off the cliffs into the frigid water below.
Presque Isle Harbor Lighthouse in marquette michigan
You can walk down the breakwall to Presque Isle Harbor Lighthouse. (Photo Credit)

Tour a Lighthouse

Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state (though for some reason Maine calls itself “the Lighthouse State”…). More than 40 of them are found in the Upper Peninsula. There are three that make an easy visit during your trip to Marquette, all on Lake Superior’s shore, though the UP has lighthouses on Lakes Michigan and Huron, too. Michigan’s maritime history is fascinating (cue: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald), and there’s no better way to bring it to life than by seeing or touring a lighthouse. 

  • Big Bay Point Lighthouse: This lighthouse sits dramatically perched on a cliff near Big Bay, a tiny outpost that was once a vacation retreat for Henry Ford. The light itself emerges from a pretty red brick structure, now home to a small Bed and Breakfast. Now, this destination on Big Bay Point attracts those wanting to spend the night in a historic lighthouse. Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast also offers tours of the active lighthouse to both guests of the Inn and to the public.
  • Marquette Harbor Lighthouse: This classic red lighthouse sits right on the harbor and makes a quick stop during a day around town. Looking like an old one-room schoolhouse (with a light instead of a bell, of course!), it was built in 1853 and is the oldest significant structure in the city of Marquette. It was a critical part of the shipment of iron ore in the Great Lakes region, and it still shines today! You can tour the lighthouse on foot with a guide from the Marquette Maritime Museum. If you time your trip right, you may even get to join a “paranormal” tour — they’re offered the third Friday of the month.
  • Presque Isle Harbor Lighthouse: Next to Presque Isle Park, the very nautical-looking red and white Presque Isle Harbor Lighthouse sits at the end of a long breakwall, which, if the weather allows, you can walk down to view the lighthouse. It’s still in operation, guiding Great Lakes freighters into the Presque Isle Dock to collect their loads of iron ore. On your way to the lighthouse, check out the monument near the breakwall that warns of Superior’s wrath: “The awesome beauty of Lake Superior’s waves have their dark and tragic side. The tremendous force of the waves and the frigid water can overpower even the strongest swimmers.” Does that give you chills or what?
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in marquette michigan
Note the kayakers at the bottom of the rocks to see how big Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore really is! (Photo Credit)

Take a Day Trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

If you’re looking for a day trip, you can’t beat Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Here you can see colorful sandstone cliffs rising from the icy waters of Lake Superior. It’s a landscape of stunning beaches, thundering waterfalls, wooded trails, and Caribbean blue water. Checking it out is definitely one of the most gorgeous things to do in Marquette, Michigan!

A quick 45-minute drive east along the shore of Lake Superior brings you to this 42-mile stretch of cliffs, beaches, and dunes. You can explore the Lakeshore by land or by water, and there are lots of activities to choose from. Hike, visit a beach, see a waterfall, take a boat ride, kayak, or swim (if you can handle the cold).

Here are some of our favorite things to do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore:

  • Go hiking: Hiking is one of the best ways to experience Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There are over 100 miles of trails that wind through dense forest, near streams and waterfalls, and along Lake Superior’s dramatic coast. The North Country Trail also traverses the lakeshore. You could spend several days hiking along the Lakeshore from end to end, but there are plenty of great day hikes, too. For a full-day hike, Chapel Loop trail (10 miles) takes hikers by some of the park’s more popular waterfalls and beaches. If you want to spend half a day on the trail, the Beaver Basin Wilderness loop (5.5 miles) winds through diverse forests, by Beaver Lake, and along Lake Superior. Finally, if you only have time for a short hike, hike from Miner’s Castle to Miner’s Beach and back (2 miles round trip).
  • Relax at the beach: If it isn’t apparent yet, Lake Superior’s south shore features some pretty spectacular beaches. And contrary to what you might expect, not all of Pictured Rocks’ shoreline is characterized by sheer cliffs. There are some gorgeous sandy beaches tucked into the Lakeshore that are worth checking out. Sand Point Beach, Twelvemile Beach, and Miner’s Beach are some of our favorites.
  • See the waterfalls: As we mentioned earlier, the Upper Peninsula is full of waterfalls, and Pictured Rocks features some of the best. Before you head into the Lakeshore, you can see the 50-foot Munising Falls right outside the city of Munising. It’s a quick walk on a paved path to get there. Miner’s Falls is the most powerful waterfall in the park and drops 50 feet over a sandstone cliff and there’s a lovely (though busy) 1.2-mile round trip hike to get there. Chapel Falls drops 60 feet into Chapel Lake, but only attempt to access this waterfall if you have a high-clearance vehicle. Finally, Sable Falls, one mile west of Grand Marias, includes a series of cascades that tumble 75 feet toward Lake Superior.
  • Take in the colorful cliffs from a boat (and see even more waterfalls): Pictured Rocks is incredible even if you stay on land the entire time. On a sunny day, the lake is impossibly blue against the orange, red, and brown cliffs that tower up to 200 feet over the water below. But to get the full experience — and to really understand the meaning of the name “Pictured Rocks” — you have to hop on a boat and cruise along the Superior shore. Pictured Rocks Cruises offers a few different trips that bring you within spitting distance of some of the Lakeshore’s most iconic landforms, including Miner’s Castle, Lover’s Leap, and Chapel Rock. Plus, two of the park’s most dramatic waterfalls cascade off steep cliffs directly into Lake Superior — and this is the best way to see them! If you want to see these same sights but prefer a more active mode of transportation, choose from a selection of kayaking tours along the Lakeshore.


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Where to Stay in Marquette

While staying in Marquette, you have two fabulous options: staying in the small downtown area where everything is a short walk away, or renting a place outside of town that puts you in the middle of nature. Because Marquette is surrounded by dense forests, rivers, hills, and Lake Superior, you don’t have to venture far out of town to access these gorgeous landscapes. 

That said, if you want to spend a lot of time enjoying restaurants, shops, breweries, and the waterfront, pick a place to stay downtown. If you want a quieter place to stay — one that makes you feel one with nature — choose a spot outside of town.

Here are some of our recommendations for each:

  • The Landmark Inn is Marquette’s most elegant hotel — where “Old-world European splendor and charm meet modern convenience.” Think chandeliers, wood-paneled walls, and stained glass! Situated in the heart of downtown Marquette, you’re close to everything at the Landmark. Plus, the rooftop views of Lake Superior — accompanied by cocktails and appetizers — is enough to make anyone swoon.
  • Superior Stay is a new boutique hotel near the university campus and plenty of restaurants and bars. This clean, comfortable, and modern hotel is perfect for anyone who wants to take full advantage of the city and surroundings while enjoying a quiet, no-fuss stay. And like any good northerly accommodations, you can bet there’s a sauna.
  • This clean and modern downtown rental is close to both the beach and downtown amenities. You can walk to the beach for a day in the sun or stroll into town for your morning coffee. Plus, it’s got a cute front porch and a private backyard patio for enjoying Marquette’s impossibly long summer days. 
  • 15 miles from Marquette, this sunny lakeside cabin is the perfect Northwoods retreat. The home’s spacious wraparound balcony takes advantage of stunning views of the peaceful, quiet Saux Head Lake. Your morning coffee or evening glass of wine couldn’t be accompanied by anything more serene. But if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can take the kayak or canoe out for a peaceful paddle around the lake.
  • This private Lake Superior cabin sits 12 miles east of Marquette on a gorgeous stretch of sugar sand beach. Spend your days strolling the beach, playing in the sun, or taking a dip in the refreshing water — and at night, gather around the firepit for a local brew or s’more while listening to the waves lapping the shore. This is UP paradise.

About Our Guest Poster: Emily is a copywriter, nature lover, and art dabbler who lives in the northern Michigan town of Traverse City. Her favorite parts of travel are the outdoor pursuits unique to the destination — and the best local food and drink she can find. Learn more at emilycarolcopy.com.

What things to do in Marquette, Michigan are you most excited to do first? Let us know in the comments below!

Psst: Planning …. here are some other posts

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Picturesque lighthouses. Gushing waterfalls. Dramatic rocky cliffs overlooking the world’s largest freshwater lake. Marquette, a small city on the northern coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is both an outdoor lover’s paradise and a culturally unique destination. But just because it's a small town doesn't mean there aren't plenty of things to do in Marquette, Michigan - here you can take in the beauty of pristine nature during the summer when this remote, lakeside town is bustling with locals and tourists alike.

Our Top Travel Tips & Resources

Here are our favorite travel tips & resources for saving money and planning travel logistics! For more tips, check out our travel tips resource page or our guide to planning a trip.

  • Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Google Flights or Kayak. Money-saving tips: fly mid-week or on the weekend; fly carry-on only on a budget airline; and take red-eyes or early morning flights.
  • Accommodations: We usually stay in budget-friendly vacation rentals, boutique hotels or private rooms in hostels. We use Booking.com to book hotels (we love their flexible cancellation policy) and Hostelworld to book hostels (low deposit, easy change/cancellation, and excellent reviews). For vacation rentals, we prefer to book using VRBO because they’ve got lower fees and better support than Airbnb, and we’re not fans of Airbnb’s unethical track record. You can also book vacation rentals on Expedia and Hotels.com. We also use TrustedHousesitters as both hosts (for our home and our fur-child) and travelers!
  • Travel Insurance: We always, always, ALWAYS buy travel insurance for international trips, and we STRONGLY suggest it – visit our Travel Insurance Guide to find out why. We recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance. SafetyWing is one of the few policies that covers Covid-19, and they have excellent monthly policies that are perfect for Digital Nomads and long term travelers!
  • Travel Credit Card: We book all of our trips on our favorite travel credit card. Not only do we earn cash back that we can spend on more travel, but the card offers fantastic travel perks like travel insurance, trip delay and cancellation coverage, lost baggage reimbursement, and rental car coverage, which helps protect us on our travels. Learn more here.
  • Vaccines & Meds: We use the travel guides on the CDC website to research recommended medications and vaccines for international trips. We always recommend getting every vaccine recommended by the CDC! You can get them at your primary care doctor’s office or a walk-in pharmacy.
  • Tours: We love booking guided tours, especially food tours and walking tours, to get a local’s perspective and a history lesson while sight-seeing! We book our tours using Viator and GetYourGuide.
  • Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to figure out how to get from place to place, and book local transportation online using Bookaway wherever we can. When we book a rental car, we use DiscoverCars to compare rental companies and find the best deal.
  • Luggage Storage: Whenever we’re checking out early or taking advantage of a long layover, we use LuggageHero to safely store our luggage while we’re running around. Use the code PRACTICALW for 2 hours of free luggage storage on us.
  • VPN Service: A VPN keeps your digital information (like website login details, bank info, etc) safe, even when you’re connected to an unsecured network while traveling. Plus, it lets you use Netflix & other streaming sites abroad! We use NordVPN. Use the code WANDERLUSTPROMO when you sign up!
  • What to Pack: Here are the travel essentials that we bring on every trip. We also have packing lists for hot weather, cold weather, and many more. Take a look at all of our packing guides!


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