We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

touring the lake

England
Level Contributor
176 posts
4 reviews
Save Topic
touring the lake

We are looking to tour round one or more of the great lakes. I am finding it a bit hard to get an idea of how far it would be. I was looking at driving around Lake Superior but there does not seem to be an international airport close enough and we do not like to change flights. Is there enough to do for 2 weeks driving round Lake Michigan? starting and finishing in Chicago? Or is there more lake area that could be added to make a full trip? We like to drive 150 - 300 miles between stops and stay for one/two or three nights each stop depending on how much there is to see. We like scenery, waterfalls, hiking a bit (or just walking), little towns to explore, boat tours etc.

Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
13,557 posts
117 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: touring the lake

Just to give you an idea, driving from Chicago at the south end of Lake Michigan to the northern tip of the lake is probably 12 hours one way. They're very big. You can certainly do a circle tour of Lake Michigan to see the small towns and scenery along the way. It's a pretty popular thing to do and 2 weeks would be enough to do it. One week would be pretty rushed if you want to stop every couple hundred miles. There's not much in the way of waterfalls because it's very flat, but the Michigan side of the lake has lots of sand dunes and small towns. Mackinac island at the northern end is a tourist destination. I've never been to Michigan's upper Peninsula, but it is supposed to be very pretty. It's quite rural and remote. On the Wisconsin side, you can stop in door county.

Lake Superior is pretty rural and I do not believe there's a major international airport anywhere on the shores.

Ottawa, ON
Level Contributor
2,335 posts
63 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: touring the lake

There is a huge difference between a round Lake Michigan drive and a round Lake Superior drive. A Lake Superior tour is true wilderness with four relatively small cities at each end (Thunder Bay and Duluth/Superior at the west, the Sault Ste Maries to the east, with Marquette (pop. 20,000) in the middle on the south shore.

The main feature of Lake Michigan is the Chicago/Milwaukee conurbation, with a population of 12 million, on the western shore. North of that it becomes more scenic and less populated. The eastern shore is much less developed, with some interesting scenic places (Sleeping Bear Dunes, Mackinac Island, but by no stretch of the imagination, wilderness). It would be easy to spend two weeks going around Lake Michigan, but I would spend half the time enjoying the urban delights of Chicago.

Chicago, Illinois
Destination Expert
for Train Travel
Level Contributor
14,953 posts
109 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: touring the lake

You might look at a Lake Michigan alone. Chicago, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Appleton, Green Bay, Egg Harbor, Macinack Island, then head back to Chicago by way of Traverse City, Grand Rapids, Holland and Saugatuck and small towns in Michigan. The Great Lakes are flatlands so you aren't going to find waterfalls. Lake Superior has a very small population. You might want to touch on it but a circle tour may not be exciting.

You're talking about two weeks driving around one lake and two three day stops in Chicago. Perhaps you could look at a lake car ferry www.lake-express.com or www.ss badger.com that would be a fun experience, shorten your mileage and get you from one side of Lake Michigan to the other.

Chicago's North...
Destination Expert
for Illinois, Chicago
Level Contributor
6,517 posts
261 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: touring the lake

here's a TA article on the subject:

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g191-c183176/United-S…

here are a coupla TA slide shows i put together of our great lakes road trips in the past coupla years:

…tripadvisor.com/tripwow/ta-064d-4778-84f0…

…tripadvisor.com/tripwow/ta-07bd-afa8-6dd0…

in addition to these two trips above, i've driven around all 5 of the great lakes over the past 20+ years, and have done countless road trips to upper michigan, lower MI, northern wisc and ontario during all seasons---winter, spring, summer and autumn...... so, not to dislocate my shoulder patting myself on the back, but i would say i'm somewhat qualified to comment on great lakes road trips...........

the upper lakes, ie superior, michigan and huron arguably is the most underrated scenic tourist area in the USA/canada.... so to say the great lakes area is flat is totally false... so is saying the major feature of lake michigan is chicago/milwaukee.... that's so far from the truth, it's laughable.....

that all said, if absolutely stunning scenery is a priority, i'm here to tell you lake superior, hands down. with 2 weeks, you can see a lot. you can start in chicago... see the city for a coupla days and then hit the road (or hit the road ASAP and see chicago the last coupla days).... it's about a 7 hour drive straight north from ORD to munising, MI, located on the shores of lake superior.... if you arrive at ORD late morning, you could hit the road and be on the shores of stunning gitchee gumee by sundown (the sun sets pretty late up there during summer)..... to do it right, plan to spend about 9-10 days circling the lake..... you could also do a side adventure and visit isle royale national park for 2 nites.... if you choose to skip chicago altogether, you could change flights at ORD or DTW and fly up to either duluth, MN (DLH INTERNATIONAL airport) or marquette, MI (MQT)... i know it's not ideal for you, but they're short flights to the two largest cities on the USA side, and you skip the long drive up to the lake---the drawback is you'll miss most of lake michigan, as there are some great sights to see on your way up to, and back from, lake superior.....

if quaint towns, cute harbors, world class beaches and dunes, and some nice scenery is the priority, then lake michigan or huron should be considered.... we really LOVED the bruce peninsula during our road trip a coupla years ago... and the beaches on the michigan side of lake michigan, IMO, rank with the best of them.... and the dunes are of very high quality.... the beaches on the west side of the bruce are very similar..... the east side of the bruce, along with parry sound and killarney provincial park possess stunning scenery, and crystal clear water---even as clear as lake superior as seen in the slide show..... you could do a lake michigan circle tour and pick up part of lake superior in the process..... a proper lake huron tour will take up most of your 2 weeks.... you could fly into toronto or DTW and go from there......

i'm not a huge fan of the lower lakes--ie erie and ontario, HOWEVER, niagara falls is a must see, IMO....and the 3000 islands area of the st lawrence river is very beautiful.... the canadian side of the lakes are a bit more rural than the USA side, and the towns on the canadian side will remind you of home----lotsa british-type architecture in the area.... but maybe save these for another trip.....

in conclusion, whatever [upper] lake tour you take, i guarantee you will love it.

Chicago's North...
Destination Expert
for Illinois, Chicago
Level Contributor
6,517 posts
261 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: touring the lake

oh, and btw, if you choose to do lake superior or huron, make sure your car hire company allows their cars to be driven across the border into canada.... this won't be an issue if you opt for lake michigan, however....

pgo
Chicago
Destination Expert
for Chicago
Level Contributor
7,154 posts
17 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: touring the lake

The "Circle Tour" of Lake Michigan is 900 miles, or 15+ hours of driving. It has a lot of diversity - from big city to open country, with the Indiana/Michigan dunes, Mackinac Island and Door County, WI as major points of interest.

if you want to see waterfalls, consider driving or flying to the Niagara area. It's easy to combine with a visit to Toronto, and the nearby Finger Lakes are a beautiful area of the country, similar to the best of the Wisconsin countryside.

Edited: 10 June 2014, 16:41
7. Re: touring the lake

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This post was determined to be inappropriate by the TripAdvisor community and has been removed.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

Our staff may also remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason. Thanks for being a part of the TripAdvisor travel community!

Removed on: 10 June 2014, 17:06
Edited: 10 June 2014, 17:06
England
Level Contributor
176 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: touring the lake

Thanks for the responses, I appreciate it. We are not really interested in spending more than a day or two in Chicago or whichever city we fly into. We much prefer to be out in the countryside.

Strangetripper - your photos are great, they show just the kind of thing we are interested in. Beautiful scenery and small towns. You have given me plenty to think about and a bit of a starting point now. I'll do some proper planning over the next couple of months and come back to you for more advice nearer the time if that's ok?

Chicago's North...
Destination Expert
for Illinois, Chicago
Level Contributor
6,517 posts
261 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: touring the lake

no problem. check into this thread whenever you have questions and i'd be glad to help.... you can also post in the michigan, wisconsin, minnesota and ontario forums for more specific info for those areas..... i'm pretty active in the MIFo's and WIFo's, and also the road trips forum, so you'll see me there from time to time...

happy trails!

ST

10. Re: touring the lake

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 12 June 2015, 06:16