5 Things to Do This Winter in St. Ignace
| 3 min read
St. Ignace is nestled along the coast of Lake Huron across from the famed Mackinac Island. Since the late 20th century, this Upper Peninsula community has become a rural destination for heritage tourism. The Mackinac Bands of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians, a state-recognized tribe, is based in St. Ignace. The region is popular for summer tourism, but St. Ignace is also a destination for winter activities, from snowmobiling to ice skating. The town hosts the biggest pond hockey tournaments in the U.S., the Labatt Blue UP Pond Hockey Championship. The three-day tournament in mid-February is on the ice of Lake Huron, with downtown St. Ignace and Mackinac Island as backdrops. Check out our list of five things to do this winter in St. Ignace.
Located on the northern shores of the Straits of Mackinac, the 181-acre state park offers panoramic views of the Mackinac Bridge and Straits. The park features a campground, overnight lodging facilities, picnic areas, viewing platforms, a playground and a waterfront area along Lake Huron. This location makes the park a great home base to visit area attractions, including Mackinac Island, Mackinac State Historic Parks, the Soo Locks and Tahquamenon Falls. Winter activities include hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
The park along the Straits of Mackinac, overlooking the place where the waters of Lake Michigan meet Lake Huron, is spanned by the mighty Mackinac Bridge. The park, located just west of the Mackinac Bridge Authority fare plaza, was created by the Mackinac Bridge Authority. It affords a dramatic view up at the Mackinac Bridge and across the Straits to the recreated Fort Michilimackinac. A telescope gives visitors a close-up view of bridge details. Inside the park's enclosed pavilion, a display and video monitors tell the story of the Mackinac Bridge project, using historic photos and movies of the construction process. The park is wheelchair-accessible.
3. Castle Rock
Statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox lead to the famed 170 steps of Castle Rock, where visitors gaze out to Lake Huron and Mackinac Island. Castle Rock is considered to be one of the oldest lookout points near St. Ignace and was known as "Pontiac's Lookout" by the Ojibwa tribe. It rises 195 feet above the water, offering a panoramic view of Mackinac Island, Lake Huron, downtown St. Ignace and wildlife habitat. The lookout point is equipped with binoculars to enhance the spectacular view.
4. Deer Ranch
Located four miles west of the Mackinac Bridge, Deer Ranch is known as the oldest live whitetail exhibit in North America. This natural setting is home to dozens of native whitetail deer and fawns, including white deer, that visitors can photograph and feed while walking along a nature trail. The popular tourist stop’s gift shop features many deerskin products, including one of the largest Minnetonka moccasin inventories in the region. Owned by the Culip family, Deer Ranch opened in 1950 and has been a popular UP tourist destination since then.
This pathway along the historic St. Ignace downtown waterfront shares invites walkers to stop at historical kiosks along the way to learn more about the community's rich history. Open-air displays include a rudder from a 1212-ton wooden steamer sunk in the Straits in the spring of 1894, a windlass from the wreckage of a ship that sank off the coast in 1891, and an original Mackinaw boat built in the St. Ignace area around 1899. You can pick up the St. Ignace Historical Walking Tour in downtown St. Ignace. A 40-page booklet, created by the Michilimackinac Historical Society, offers a self-guided, interactive tour through historic downtown St. Ignace and its waterfront boardwalk, highlighting the hustle and bustle of older days and showcasing remains of an era gone by.
There’s lots to see and do in St. Ignace this winter. Check out the highlights in this video.
Photo credit: Getty Images