Small Towns, Big Fun

Jillian Berndtson

| 4 min read

View from behind a tree of sand dunes and lake
Think you’ve seen all that there is to see in Michigan? Think again! While there are many destinations for tourists across the state, there are also plenty of fun activities and areas to explore in smaller towns.
From lighthouses and state parks, to museums and farmers markets, there’s always something to do and somewhere to go Michigan – you just might not have heard of some of them.
Here’s a list of ten tiny towns with populations under 1,000 people that just might be your next vacation or daytrip destination.
  • Saugatuck is located on the shore of Lake Michigan and is known for its laid-back lifestyle. Stop by Saugatuck to relax on the beach, go on an adventure through Saugatuck Dune Rides or explore downtown on Butler Street. Saugatuck has something for the whole family to enjoy.
  • Thompsonville is near Traverse City and is home to Crystal Mountain, giving visitors access to skiing and fat tire biking in the winter and a waterpark and golf course in the warmer months. You can also explore the Michigan Legacy Art Park, which features pieces of artwork from local artists that tell Michigan’s story. Before you leave, head to the Iron Fish Distillery to learn about Michigan’s first farm-based distillery.
  • Grand Marais Located on the eastern end of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the Sable Falls is the perfect location to visit if you’re looking for a picturesque waterfall. You can also check out the Au Sable Light Station and take a tour while you’re there.
  • Port Austin is home to an incredible farmers market with over 150 vendors each week. Stop by the market to pick up local produce while supporting small businesses. Venture off the mainland and kayak to Turnip Rock, a small rock formation in Lake Huron. If you prefer to stay on land, check out The Huron Nature Center and Arboretum and witness wilderness and plants living untouched in nature.
  • Copper Harbor If you’re looking for an educational outing, Fort Wilkins State Park is for you. Fort Wilkins is a former U.S. Army post located along Lake Superior. The park itself is also home to the Copper Harbor Lighthouse, built in 1866. Take the scenic route there by driving Brockway Mountain Drive to get a stellar view of Lake Superior.
  • Calumet is part of the Copper Country Quilt Block Trail in which local artists paint quilt blocks on different buildings. See this list to visit all the locations in Calumet. You can also take a tour of the Calumet Theatre, built in 1900 and known for its proscenium arch. Get outside and take a hike (or walk) through Mine Street Trail, a scenic trail fit for all skill levels.
  • Marenisco boasts access to dozens of lakes within its city borders. Check out the largest inland lake in the upper peninsula, Lake Gogebic for your next beach day. For fishers and water adventurers alike, Marenisco is the stop for you.
  • Oscoda fosters an appreciation for the great outdoors. This area was formerly characterized by lumber, and the Lumberman’s Monument lets you experience that lifestyle firsthand. Take a drive on the River Road Scenic Byway to see the Au Sable River Valley or stop for a picnic at the Oscoda Beach Park. If you like learning about aviation, stop by the Wurtsmith Air Museum to see the different types of aircraft.
  • Grand Beach Grab a bucket and go berry picking in Grand Beach. The area is known for its forests and has several not-so-obvious locations to pick berries. Start exploring and you’re sure to walk away with a bushel or two. After picking your berries, take a hike down Brokenhead Wetland Boardwalk to see the unique nature located there.
  • Onsted Do you think you understand gravity? Visit Mystery Hill and you’ll be second guessing exactly how water can run uphill instead of down and much more. After learning the physics of Mystery Hill, take a trip to W.J. Hayes State Park and have a picnic or camp out overnight. The park has multiple lakes within its borders so you can cool off while you’re there.
Where will your next vacation be? Share with us in the comments.
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Photo Credit: A Healthier Michigan

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