In the quest to plan the perfect summer vacation, it’s easy to lose sight of the most important part: relaxing. This is precisely what makes a Keweenaw summer getaway so special. Soaked in sunshine, washed in a clean Lake Superior breeze, this tiny peninsula at the top of the world offers the perfect balance of outdoor adventure, creature comforts and—our secret ingredient—long summer days tailor-made for doing nothing at all.
But what if you only have 24 hours in the Keweenaw? While we always recommend taking more time to enjoy what the Keweenaw has to offer, here are our top tips for making the most of your visit.
Fuel up for a day of exploration with a hearty breakfast at Suomi. A Keweenaw favorite for decades, this homey Finnish diner serves strong coffee, creamy panukakku and warm spiced nisu alongside American favorites like omelets and biscuits and gravy. If you’re time conscious, grab a breakfast pasty at Roy’s in Houghton. This breakfast-take on the Keweenaw’s beloved pasty is filled with egg, potatoes, sausage and spices enveloped in a flakey crust sure to fill you up for a few hours.
Take in the local scene with a stroll along the Houghton Waterfront Trail. A great place to start is at the docking station of the Ranger III, where you can get up close and personal with the iconic Isle Royale ferry. Meander westward, enjoying the waterfront view on one side and the series of North Country-inspired murals on the other. You can meander all the way to the park at the end of the footpath, or post up at the marina for a sweeping view of the Keweenaw stretching in both directions.
Spanning the Keweenaw Waterway and connecting the communities of Houghton & Hancock, the Portage Lake Lift Bridge is the iconic gateway to the Keweenaw. This mechanical marvel is an elevator bridge that can raise and lower its span to accommodate maritime traffic. This bridge is the only road access to the “island-side” of the Peninsula. Some argue that you’re not officially in the Keweenaw until you crossover to the Hancock side. No matter where you fall on that argument, heading north of the bridge is mandatory on your visit to the Keweenaw.
Often referred to as “The Copper Country”, the Keweenaw’s modern history is intimately tied to copper mining dating back to the mid-19th century. You’ll note the grand architecture featured in many of our towns like Calumet and Houghton, which sprang from the riches generated from extracting and shipping the red metal.
The Quincy Mine, just north of Hancock along US 41 was once called “Old Reliable” thanks to the amount of copper produced from under its ground. Today, Quincy is part of the Keweenaw National Historical Park’s 20+ heritage sites, and visitors can take a tour of the mine and go deep underground to experience life as a copper miner.
Continue along US 41 until you see the M-26 split to Eagle River. You’ll see plenty of places to stop for Keweenaw treasures, especially the coveted prize of the summer, thimbleberry jam. Just make sure to save room for goodies from the Jam Pot, a cottage bakery run by the monks who reside at the Holy Transfiguration Skete just outside Eagle Harbor. Even if there’s a line, don’t skip it—their homemade preserves, baked goods and candies are well worth the wait. Less than a mile past the Jam Pot, make another stop at Great Sand Bay to indulge in the perennial Yooper pastime of agate hunting. Even if the pickings are slim, you’ll be rewarded with memories of the sweeping view. Along the way, you’ll be treated to two road-side waterfalls in Eagle River and outside the Jam Pot.
Continuing east along M26 toward Copper Harbor, follow the signs to Brockway Mountain Drive for an unparalleled view of the sparkling coastline. Perhaps one of the best views in the Upper Peninsula, this nine-mile paved road takes you along the Keweenaw spine with several scenic turnouts. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for passing freighters.
At the top of the peninsula lies the postage stamp-sized village of Copper Harbor, home to world-class mountain biking and, some say, the cleanest air on earth. Grab a pint at Brickside Brewery, Michigan’s northern most brewery. Be sure to head east until you get to the end of US 41 (we tend to think US 41 starts in Copper Harbor) for a great selfie-op. While in Copper Harbor, spend some time at Fort Wilkin’s State Park or take a stroll along Lake Superior’s shoreline on the Hunter’s Point Park trail.
A day of adventure deserves the Keweenaw’s best sendoff: a trip through the famous tree tunnel arching over the northernmost end of U.S. 41. This natural cathedral of birch and maple has been commemorated by photographers all over the North, but the sight never gets old.