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Lake Superior Circle Tour

The official Lake Superior Circle Tour Map can be downloaded , printed, and is included in the Lake Superior Circle Tour Adventure Guide . You can also utilize our Digital Map and Trip Planner to help you plan your very own unique Circle Tour!

Lake Superior Circle Tour Digital Map

Digital Map & Trip Planner

The  Lake Superior Circle Tour Digital Map and Trip Planner  is perfect for planning your route around the world’s largest fresh water lake. This map contains several points of interests from all around the lake and allows you to filter through all of the different attractions and experiences. When you find the items you would like to visit during your Circle Tour click the Add to Trip button. Once you have an account your own personal Lake Superior Circle Tour will be generated with all of your selections. You can then print, download, and share your very own route!

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Printed Circle Tour Map

If your looking for a printed Lake Superior Circle Tour Map there is one within the  Lake Superior Circle Tour Adventure Guide . You can order the guide online or pick one up for FREE from an information center along Lake Superior. We have also made our map available on its own. You can download the Lake Superior Circle Tour Map at the bottom of this page. You can then keep it on your device or print it.

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Circle Tour Map

This map represents the Lake Superior Circle Tour, the relative positions of the city and towns around the lake, major parks and islands and the distances between locations. It does not represent the highways between towns.

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Our Full-Size Travel Map

Our more complete Lake Superior Travel Map is available free of charge at most information stops around the lake, as a part of the Lake Superior Travel Guide annual and through the mail. Jump to our free Travel Map offer if you desire the highway map. It will take up to two weeks to get it to you. If you are planning a trip sooner than that, wait until you're in the region, then pick up the map free at any information center. Be sure to check out the Lake Superior Circle Tour Club for comments from folks who have completed travel around the Lake Superior Circle Tour.

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Lake Superior Circle Tour – Ultimate Two Week Itinerary

Written By: The Planet D

Canada , Road Trips

Updated On: April 22, 2023

The Lake Superior Circle Tour is one of those great road trips that you always hear about. People dream of circumnavigating the world’s largest freshwater lake. The Lake Superior circle tour crosses through three US states. Michigan ,  Wisconsin & Minnesota, and a huge portion of northern Ontario, Canada. Driving around Lake Superior offers an array of activities, sights, and diverse landscapes to look upon in awe.

Table of Contents

the Lake Superior Circle Tour

Lake Superior can be driven around in as little 4-5 days. Seven days will showcase the highlights. But two weeks is really the optimal time.

We drove around Lake Superior on our Honda Motorcycles and couldn’t believe how much the landscape changed before our eyes. Some people decide to do the Lake Superior circle tour in 5-days. And while we added a couple of extra days, we feel that to truly appreciate the beauty and sights of Lake Superior one should plan on two weeks to circumnavigate this natural wonder of the world. Here’s a guide to all the sights to see on the Lake Superior Circle Tour to help you plan your next epic motorcycle ride.

  • The Lake Superior Tour one of The Best Road Trips in the World!
  • Read about another great drive: T he California Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1 Start: Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

We started our tour in Sault Ste Marie in Canada and worked our way clockwise around the Lake. Sault Ste Marie is a twin city with Sault Ste. Marie Michigan. There is more to do on the Canadian Side, so we suggest spending a day or two exploring here.

Canadian Bush Plane Heritage Centre

The Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre  is definitely the highlight of visiting Sault Ste. Marie with a collection of vintage planes located in a giant hanger. It traces the history of Ontario.

There’s a forest fire management display, an area showing motors and all the bits and parts of a plane, and you can go in many planes to check out the cockpit. Our favourite was to see the huge interior of planes such as the water bomber for forest fires. After you are finished at the Bushplane Museum, take a stroll on the newly refurbished waterfront in Sault Ste Marie and look over at its US twin city.

Where to Eat – Enjoy a delicious meal at Embers Smokehouse Restaurant. It had a fabulous atmosphere offering a wide variety of smokehouse meat.

Where to stay in Sault Ste Marie:

The Days Inn – An affordable choice with jacuzzis in the rooms, excellent WiFi, and a hearty breakfast included. It has a covered parking lot too which is perfect for motorcyclists.

Day 2 – U.S. Border to Grand Marais Michigan

This route follows Lake Superior in a counterclockwise direction. After crossing the border, we stay on I75 for a short drive to highway 28 to Whitefish Point.

Whitefish Point

Whitefish Point is one of those places in Michigan that needs two days to explore. Jutting out on a long peninsula of Lake Superior we took a detour from our route to see the lighthouse museum. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is an excellent stop to learn of the maritime history of Lake Superior. It’s beautiful here and is home to the oldest operational lighthouse on Lake Superior and it’s a great spot to take in the sandy beach of Lake Superior’s South Shore.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a busy park with excellent waterfalls. One looks like a mini Niagara Falls . I could see us sticking around for a day or two for hiking, swimming and simply enjoying the scenery. There were a lot of people visiting the Falls. There are two entrances, an upper and lower falls. The upper is the larger and more beautiful of the two, but the lower had an option to take a boat or go for hikes so they are both a must-stop.

Overnight in Grand Marais

Grand Marais is a good spot to spend the night before heading on the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Grand Marais bills itself as “The Gem of the Upper Peninsula” and with good reason. The beaches are spectacular. When driving along the shore of Lake Superior, one would feel as if you are in the Caribbean. (albeit the water is freezing!)

Day 3 – Pictured Rocks Michigan

Pickle barrel museum.

While in Grand Marais, be sure to check out the Pickle Barrel House Museum. A Giant Pickle Barrel dating back to 1927 was built as a summer cottage for cartoonist William Donahey. It has been turned into a museum that is worth seeing as it’s been named in the National Register of Historic Places.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Michigan . With 100 miles of trails to explore, one could spend days camping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It has extraordinary sandstone cliffs, sea kayaking, hiking, and other watersports, you could spend more than a day here if you wanted.

Painted Rocks Cruises – With limited time, we recommend the Painted Rocks Scenic Cruise. This is definitely the big draw of the area.

Evening – drive on to Marquette to make up some time.

Overnight in Marquette, Michigan

The Landmark Inn Marquette – We moved on a couple of hours to Marquette and stayed at this gorgeous hotel. It was an amazing heritage hotel downtown Marquette that made for a luxurious evening after a day on the bikes. It felt like a grand hotel with a European flair. Our four-post bed required a step to get into and our jacuzzi tub and fireplace were so inviting we didn’t want to leave. But there was plenty more to see, so we only had one night here.

Day 4 – Eagle Harbor to Copper Harbor, Michigan

Eagle harbor light station.

We were up bright and early for the drive to Eagle Harbor Lighthouse Station. If you like Lighthouses, you’ll have the opportunity to see a lot of them on the Lake Superior Circle Tour. Lighthouse keepers played an important role in keeping ships afloat. Lake Superior is a treacherous lake that claimed many a sailor’s life throughout history. The Eagle Harbor Lighthouse Station probably has the best display of the lighthouse keepers’ quarters on the lake.

Copper Harbour

It was then on to Copper Harbor. The winding road made for a fun ride and the beautiful views helped to pass the time. Copper Harbour is a very scenic ride through winding tree-covered roads along the Keweenaw Peninsula so it is highly recommended that you take the trip out there for a night.

There are many things to pass the time in Copper Harbor from kayaking, cruises, hiking or simply walking along the beach to enjoy the sunset. When visiting Copper Harbor, it’s definitely worth taking a drive to the high lookout. Most people stop at the beautiful view near the bottom but make sure to keep driving for another 10 minutes or so. You’ll be treated to a view of a tree-covered valley with lake views on both sides as here you are sitting on a peninsula.

Where to Stay in Copper Harbour

Copper Harbor Pines. – This was very basic accommodation with non-air-conditioned cabins and very spotty wifi. We can’t recommend this place too high, but if you are on a budget, it is clean and comfortable. There are places to eat nearby. We went to a basic bar for dinner.

Day 5 – Bayfield Wisconsin

Today we leave Michigan and enter Wisconsin. We awoke early and had a very long drive so we didn’t make a lot of stops other than some scenic lookouts. Wisconsin is gorgeous, so be sure to take your time driving this route to Bayfield. And then give yourself two nights in Bayfield. Bayfield is a picturesque town on the water that one can spend a day or two relaxing in.

Maggies Restaurant Bayfield

We loved our dinner at the funky and retro Maggie’s Restaurant and a stroll through downtown is a must. There was a band playing in the gazebo on the waterfront when we arrived and the bar and restaurant overlooking the harbor was buzzing with people.

Where to Stay in Bayfield

The Bayfield Inn – It offered excellent and friendly accommodation that caters to motorcyclists. We had our own covered parking spot! The staff was courteous and helpful and the rooms were great with superb wifi and a sensational view of the harbor. This was one of the more urban centers and you can tell that it has catered to motorists, road trippers, and tourists for decades.

Day 6 – Explore Around Bayfield, Wisconsin

You are nearly halfway through your trip and this is an excellent day to stay put and take part in adventures. The top draw in this area is the Apostle Islands. Take a kayaking trip to the Apostle Islands to explore the sea caves of Lake Superior. The Sea Caves are gorgeous formations that are not to be missed.

There are sailing trips and scuba diving offered as well. But be prepared, Lake Superior is cold, and you will need to dive in a 7mm wetsuit or drysuit. If you want to stay on land, there’s golfing, hiking, shopping and dining.

Day 7 – Duluth, Minnesota

The drive from Bayfield to Duluth is a scenic ride with picturesque towns and great isolated roads. We were excited to get to Duluth early to experience a bit of the city, and it surprised us immensely.

Things to do in Duluth Minnesota

It is only an hour and a half from Bayfield to Duluth, so you have the entire day and evening to enjoy this surprising town. Duluth felt very cosmopolitan.

  • Canal Park Drive is a cool area for shopping, eating, and sipping coffee and the lake walk is a gorgeous stroll along Lake Superior.
  • Be sure to watch the Aerial Lift Bridge go up and down as everything from large tankers to small sailboats go in and out of the harbour to the open waters of Lake Superior.
  • For an up close and personal view, dinner or drinks on the rooftop patio at Grandmas is an excellent choice.
  • There’s an excellent entertainment and convention centre and since you’ve parked your car or bike for the evening, why not join a brewery tour?

Where to Stay in Duluth

 We stayed at Canal Park Lodge  which was a fine hotel on the waterfront and close to all amenities.

Day 8 – Duluth Minnesota to Thunder Bay Ontario

It’s time to head north and make our way back to Canada. Get ready for a long drive from Duluth to Thunder Bay on this day. At 334 km including a border crossing, we were on the road for quite a long time. But before we leave Minnesota, there is one more stop to take in the extraordinary scenic views.

Split Rock Lighthouse Minnesota

Driving along Highway 61, you’ll run right into the Split Rock Lighthouse. Stop in at the Visitor’s Centre for a look. If you have time, take a tour and go for a short walk in the National Forest Dating back to 1910, this is one of the most scenic lighthouses on the route as it is built on a 133-foot (41 m) sheer cliff overlooking Lake Superior. After a stop here, the rest of the day is spent driving to Thunder Bay.

Day 9 – Thunder Bay, Canada

After finishing up at the lighthouse, there isn’t a lot to see, so we drive directly to the border. Once you get to Thunder Bay though, it’s worth the drive. The 10 million dollar re-envisioned waterfront is filled with commissioned art from around the world and makes for a lovely walk to wind down.

Thunder Bay is starting to boom and the amount of restaurants and cafés popping up proves it. Speaking of the marina, it’s quite picturesque and you can take a sailing excursion out from downtown.

Terry Fox Memorial

A must-stop in Thunder Bay is the Terry Fox memorial. Terry Fox was a national hero who was a pioneer is campaigning for a cause. Long before it was “in style” he made a goal to run across Canada to help find a cure for cancer. This was in 1980 and a cancer survivor himself. He lost his leg to cancer and he ran with his artificial leg from Newfoundland to Thunder Bay.

Sadly, during his run, the cancer came back. He died a short while later, but his spirit lives on in all of us and we are inspired by his sacrifice to make a difference.

There is no charge to visit the Terry Fox Memorial. T he Fox family agreed to allow a monument only if nothing was sold and no admission fee was required. This is a monument that truly embodies the spirit of Canada.

  • Watch: One Week, A motorcycle movie that traces much of this route

Where to Stay in Thunder Bay

McVicar Bed and Breakfast – There’s no doubt about it, this is the place to stay in Thunder Bay. It is run by a lovely couple who have put a lot of thought and care into their B&B. It’s luxurious, comfortable, and relaxing. Our room was grand with a fireplace, jacuzzi, and sitting area.

Day 10 – Terrace Bay

Kakabeka falls.

It’s a leisurely day today so enjoy a coffee and hearty breakfast in Thunder Bay. Before leaving the city, it’s a great idea to make a short detour to Kakabeka Falls. Those unexpected falls are a massive set of waterfalls dropping 130 feet (40 meters.) They are known as the Niagara Falls of the North. Located just 25 minutes from Thunderbay, they are a must-stop on any Lake Superior circle tour trip. It’s easy access to view them from the boardwalk.

Terrace Bay is the launching point for the Slate Islands. We had been here before when on a kayaking trip to see the Woodland Caribou that reside here. This is a good town to stop for a rest after Thunder Bay.

Where to Stay in Terrace Bay

The Drifters Motel – We were surprised with the accommodation in Terrace Bay at the Drifters Motel. The rooms were decorated with rustic elegance and the Internet was the best we had on the entire trip! The adjoining restaurant was quite good too.

Day 11 – White River, Ontario

We didn’t stay in White River during this trip, but if you want to split up the drive between Wawa, this is a good option. Or if you want to skip Terrace Bay, you can drive directly to White River instead. White River is a four-corner town famous for Winnie the Pooh. Even though it is small, it is one of the most iconic places to visit in Canada for a historical reference. Those beloved children’s books and Disney cartoons wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for White River.

Story of Winnie the Pooh

The story of Winnie the Pooh is a bit of a morbid story but it was a sign of the times. Remember, this all happened in 1914.

“A hunter shot a bear cub’s mother and brought the cub back to town to keep as a pet (as many people did in those days). A soldier who was on his way to Europe to fight in World War I stopped in White River on the train and bought the bear cub from the hunter for $20. He brought the bear with him to Europe where it stayed in the barracks with all the soldiers.

It became their platoon’s mascot. When they were shipped off to France to fight, the soldier gave the bear to a zoo in England and that is where the bear lived out its life. Writer A.A. Milne frequented the zoo and his son Christopher Robin liked the bear giving it the nickname Pooh. Thus Winnie the Pooh was born.” Kind of sad right?

Where to Stay in White River

The White River motel – While we didn’t stay here during our motorcycle trip around Lake Superior, we have stayed in White River in the past and this motel is a basic hotel that is clean, quiet, and comfortable. It’s a good place to stay before having to catch an early morning flight to a fly-in fishing lodge in the area as well.

Day 12 – Wawa, Ontario

Wawa is a fun little town known for its giant Canada Goose located high on a hill overlooking the Trans Canada Highway. There’s a good visitors center and scenic lookout here and it’s worth stopping at Young’s Family Store for fudge, ice cream, and a quick fill-up. The original goose statue is located here as well.

Where to Stay in Wawa

Best Northern Motel  – This is an excellent choice for accommodation that caters nicely to motorcyclists. They put towels on our bike seats in the morning to soak up the dew! They have an elegant restaurant, and the rooms are sophisticated and stylish. Set a bit off the highway, surrounded by forest, it’s a perfect night to relax.

Take Your Time Driving from Wawa to the Soo

There are several scenic stops along the route this day through the area known as Algoma Country . (where Lake Superior and Lake Huron meet!) Take your time and make sure to pull off at every single one of them. Once you drive it you’ll understand why. Giant sea cliffs, gorgeous beaches, and meandering rolling roads make for a drive you will never forget! It’s a stunning drive and known as one of the Top 10 in Canada.

Petroglyphs

One of the best stops we took on the entire trip was a stop at the petroglyphs (pictographs) in Lake Superior Provincial Park. You’ll see a sign for pictographs on the highway. Not only were there ancient petroglyphs painted on the side of giant cliffs, but there was also a beautiful trail and scenery. It was the most beautiful scene we saw on Lake Superior. The walk is scenic and there’s a spectacular gorge with a giant rock wedged in at the top to see. But the big views are the giant cliffs with the painted rocks.

Day 13 – Batchawana Bay, Ontario

Our next stop took us to Batchawana Bay, located about an hour outside of Sault Ste Marie where it all began. Batchawana Bay feels like one of those places that were thriving in the ’70s or ’80s. I have a feeling many locals from “The Soo” (nickname for Sault Ste Marie) came out here to enjoy the beach back in the day. As the Northern towns begin to have their renaissance, I feel that this will pick up again soon.

Where to Stay

The Lakeshore Salzberghoff Resort was a great place to stay. The rooms have a retro feel. There are tennis courts, shuffleboard, and an excellent German restaurant serving many types of schnitzel and sausage and other German food . We highly recommend eating here.

Day 13 – Sault Ste. Marie

Which takes us back to where it all began and the end of our journey. After a last look at the Soo Locks where we tried our hand at flyfishing. Hemingway called this one of the greatest places in the world for fly fishing. After a final night, we started the journey back to Toronto.

The Lake Superior Circle Tour is one of those epic drives that must be done at least once in your life if you ride a motorcycle. You can go as fast or as slow as you like.

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MotorSoul Driving School runs motorcycle training courses for all skill levels all summer long. All motorcycle gear is provided by Parts Canada – the national distributor of aftermarket parts and accessories for the Canadian power sports industry. They are exclusive to many brands including our HJC helmets and Alpinestars boots, pants, jackets, and gloves. Find out more about planning your Lake Superior Ride  at RideLakeSuperior.com Motorcycles courtesy of  Honda Canada

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO . 

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
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Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

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Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine , the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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29 thoughts on “Lake Superior Circle Tour – Ultimate Two Week Itinerary”

Dave & Debra, what a great read/trip!

This Circle Tour has been on my bucket for a few years. I thought we’d wait till my husband retired, he retired and covid showed up and shut life down.

You didn’t mention if COVID was a issue anywhere and you didn’t mention crossing the border being a issue. Were passports required?

I’d love to plan a September trip, 7-9 days just for the Circle Tour. We’d like to drive to Minnesota and start the Circle Tour in Duluth so we can end up where we started. You can’t be in Duluth and not stay for a few days to enjoy cold brews & Minnesota wild rice burgers from Fitgers.

I’m just trying to get info on covid travel outside of our countries.

Thanks! Janice B.

You forgot the northern lights inn near Wawa, nothing fancy but they make you feel like you stopped in for a night at your grandma’s!

Looks great I want to do the Lake Superior Circle Tour July or August can you help

Would anyone know where to find information on camping on circle tour

Its so awesome .Nice article. Terrace Bay is a beautiful place. Thanks for sharing this…

My husband and I did this on our motorcycles in August 2016. Took one week and saw every site mentioned here. It was an amazing trip and I am itching to do it again. Maybe next summer. Fingers crossed.

Hi Kat, that’s was amazing trip and great itinerary guide, it’ will be awesome if you show us more the videos of the trip, thanks for sharing

Do you prefer cars or bikes?

The ride between Duluth and Thunder Bay is excellent. Can’t see how you missed this. I do it every year.

Lake Superior looks amazing! We are avid motorcycle travellers and love finding out about new places to check out. Thanks guys!

Hello, My wife and I both have long haul Harley’s and are going this route in August 2018. Your journal left us with few questions as it was superbly written and we appreciate the effort. We do wonder about bugs though. Many of our cross country trips have placed us in some dreadful swarms near water. Any info on that issue on the loop? I am sure there are some no brainer answers here but am still curious in anticipation. We have experienced the Northern Minnesota bugs so we are not anticipating a no bug trip. Thank you, Ken

Hi Ken, have a great trip! We didn’t have problems with bugs. We actually have commented on this recently. Where have all the bugs gone? We used to have bugs on our windshields all the time and the past few summers have seen no bugs. That’s not to say they won’t be there. I guess it always depends on winters. I know it was a really harsh winter the year we did our trip and bugs weren’t an issue. From remembering how summers go in the North, Spring and early Summer are big for mosquitoes and black flies. (May – June) they die off by July and August. Horse Flies and Deer flies take over in July/Auguest, but I didn’t notice them at all. Hope that helps! Enjoy your tri!

Nice article. Terrace Bay is a beautiful place. Thanks for sharing this…

We are planning our tour September 24th taking two weeks starting at Saul ste Marie. Any must sees along the route? We are traveling in a fifth wheel. Thank you

Have an amazing time. You are going to love it!

Great experience of Lake Superior. LOved it

In your coments you say there is not much to do or see between Duluth and Thunderbay ont You didnt do your homework there are many falls and State Parks Gooseberry, Splitrock Lighthouse Tettagouch, many awsome overlooks historic towns likTwo Harbors Silver bay And Grand Marais this stretch i has alot to offer sounds like you missed one of the best parts I live in Duluth and never miss a couple rides a season to Grand Marais for Sven and Oles Pizza

wow! these places are superb,, thnx fr sharing.

Too bad you skipped by Nipigon, home of the new “Paddle to the Sea” Park, newly renovated downtown and the building of the only four lane suspension bridge in Ontario. Nipigon is on the move in Tourism and welcomes all visitors.

We definitely have to come back! So much to see around Lake Superior.

that sounds like a great trip.. and maybe, we’ll get over there to do it one day.. pleased to see that the motorbike training has been put to good use. And, we (and likely others) would appreciate some more info about the bikes you are riding. We’ve never seen those models in NZ.

Thanks for the heads up Vincent. I’ll be sure to write about the bikes in a later post. These were Honda motorcycles NC 750X and CTX 700. The NC750x was a great adventure bike that works for multiple terrains, the CTX 700 is a great starter bike for cruisers. Cheers!

We just did the Lake Michigan Circle Tour last month, however we went along the shores of Lake Superior when in the U.P. It was so beautiful up there. We spent a week camping around the lake. Such a great experience!

Glad you had a great time! What fun to camp around Lake Superior. Did you do it on Motorcycle as well?

No, we were in the car. We would have had to have greatly trimmed our packing list if we were on motorcycles.

This has been on my list for a long time, I really want to bike the loop around the lake. I’m from Duluth and it’s cool to see you travel through my hometown. As always, thanks for sharing your adventures and safe travels!

Hi Kat, if you are from Duluth, you definitely have to give this trip a try. You’re right on it! What a great city you live in. We were extremely surprised and delighted with it. Love the waterfront and the funky downtown. Cheers!

I love these photos and really appreciate the fact that you two take time to write such extensive posts. I’d love to visit Batchawana Bay

Thanks Ani. Yes, we thought we’d give a clear picture of what it is like to drive around Lake Superior. There is so much more to see and do, but this is how we experienced it and it was fantastic.

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lake superior tour map

20 Must See Lake Superior Circle Tour Attractions

The Lake Superior Circle Tour offers ceaseless opportunities to explore a unique portion of North America. Spanning through five distinctive regions; Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ontario’s Superior Country , and Ontario’s Algoma Country . Encompassing around 1,300 mi (2,092 km) of the largest Great Lake offering remarkable panoramic views and awe inspiring geological marvels. Here are some attractions you shouldn’t miss on your Circle Tour journey.

lake superior tour map

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

One of Michigan’s most popular attractions, the Shipwreck Museum offers Circle Tour travelers a glimpse into some of the dangers faced by those who traveled Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes of North America. Take a 56 step climb to the top of  Whitefish Point Light Tower   with a guided tour and experience this American Civil War Era Lighthouse. Full of history, great views, and fun times for the entire family the Great Lakes Shipwreck museum will be one of your most memorable visits along your  Lake Superior Circle Tour  journey!

lake superior tour map

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

With close to 81 square miles (130 km) of immaculate undeveloped woodland this State Park is one that should not be missed. The centerpiece of the park is the impressive Tahquamenon River and waterfalls. An accessible path leads you to observation platforms for the Upper Falls that rushes nearly 50 feet down and more than 200 feet across. A 4 mile (6.4 km) hiking trail along the river leads you to the picturesque Lower Falls, an arrangement of 5 smaller cascading falls. The restaurant, brewery, and gift shop were originally logging camps and the buildings are a replica of the original. A perfect way to end a visit to the park with amazing food, brew, and a memory to bring home with you.

lake superior tour map

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Hugging the shoreline of Lake Superior, nestled between Munising and Grand Marais is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore . There you will find more than 40 miles (64 km) of pristine beaches and impressive sandstone cliffs. The famous and unique Pictured Rock cliffs have been shaped by the absolute power of Lake Superior, so named by the streaks of mineral stain that decorate the weather sculpted sandstone. Within Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore, you will discover incredible scenic hiking trails, waterfalls, and back-country camping opportunities in a truly spectacular setting.

lake superior tour map

Presque Isle Park

Popularly referred to as  Marquette’s  recreational crown jewel  Presque Isle Park   on the  Lake Superior Circle Tour  is defiantly a must see. This peninsula extends into Lake Superior with a natural beauty that is unmatched. Some Circle Tour travelers boast that there is no better way to experience Presque than a family picnic. You will enjoy a quiet atmosphere as you sit back and experience over 100 plant species, spectacular pebble beaches, and a beautifully rich forest. With a must-see marina and the beautiful Upper Harbor Lighthouse this piece of Marquette should not be missed along your  Lake Superior Circle   Tour !

lake superior tour map

Copper Falls State Park

Just off the Circle Tour sits the must do and see experience of the  Copper Falls State Park  . This nature lovers dream world will be sure to offer you an adventure of a life time. Witness canyons, streams, and even water falls in between a swimming and camping experience that you will be sure to never forget. With year-round trails Copper Falls State Park is a relaxing and rewarding  Lake Superior Circle Tour  attraction!

lake superior tour map

Ashland Murals

Known as the Historic Mural Capital of Wisconsin, Ashland’s business district is covered in works of art depicting the city’s rich and vibrant history. Sixteen full-color murals along eight-blocks tell the fascinating story of Ashland from the nineteenth century to modern time. The murals were painted by local artists Kelly Meredith and Susan Prentice Martinsen, whose newest addition is entitled “Women of Ashland”.  Take a stroll or guided trolley tour through Ashland’s past of this must-see exhibition of the town’s history and culture.

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Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

With 12 miles of mainland shoreline the  Apostle Islands National Lakeshore  will be sure to captivate every member of your Lake Superior Circle Tour journey. With world class boating, camping, hiking, sight seeing, and so much more you can easily spend days at this great national park. For the more ambitious, and those looking for the true Apostle Islands experience, you can make your way to the islands themselves by embarking on a cruise or by taking a water taxi. You will never forget the feeling of the complete beauty the Apostle Islands offers on the  Lake Superior Circle Tour !

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Wisconsin Point Lighthouse

The Wisconsin Point Lighthouse was built in 1913 and is located between the twin ports of Superior and Duluth .  The lighthouse is nestled between a 10 mile (16 km) long sand bar that splits in the middle to form the Wisconsin Point and Minnesota Point , making it the longest freshwater sand bar in the world. The lighthouse is not open for tours however it is a popular attraction to visit and is a favorite among photographers.

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Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge

One of the most frequented and photographed landmarks in Duluth , or on the Circle Tour for that matter, is the 386-foot Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge . Watching huge impressive ships coming through the canal and under the bridge as it lifts to a clearance of 180 feet never gets old. Canal Park itself is bustling with things to do while visiting this amazing 900-ton structure. Spend a day sampling culinary delights, visiting brewpubs and art galleries while watching the bridge raise and lower for water traffic.

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Great Lakes Aquarium

The Great Lakes Aquarium  , located at the beautiful waterfront of Duluth Minnesota, boasts a mission to inspire visitors to explore their connection to Lake Superior; and accomplishes that mission tenfold! This stop is a must for your  Lake Superior Circle Tour   and offers a memorable experience for all ages with hands on exhibits, interactive zones, and live animal displays. The great experiences you will have at this excellent attraction will be a highlight of your Tour !

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Split Rock Lighthouse

This Lighthouse, located in Two Harbors Minnesota along the Lake Superior Circle Tour  offers some of the most memorable views of the lake. It was from a November storm in 1905 that issued the need and eventually the construction of the Lighthouse which is now one of Minnesota’s most beautiful and best known landmarks. Through its restoration   Split Rock Lighthouse allows you to travel back in time to the 1920s and experience Lake Superior in a whole new ‘light’! This national historic landmark is a must see during anyone’s  Lake Superior Circle Tour !

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Devil’s Kettle

Located in Judge C.R. Magney State Park , the Devil’s Kettle is a rock formation that has bewildered visitors for decades. Until recently, geologists had no explanation as to how the flowing water of a river could seemingly vanish, never to be seen again. A short hike will lead you to Brule River, which splits in two as it goes over the Devil’s Kettle waterfall. Astoundingly, while one side of the river continues into Lake Superior, the other half disappears. Scientists believe they have now uncovered the mystery of the Devil’s Kettle, but you’ll have to visit this incredible marvel and find out for yourself.

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Kakabeka Falls

This Niagara of the north, situated only 19 miles (30 km) west of Thunder Bay in Superior Country , boasts a 130 ft. height making it the second largest waterfall, by capacity, in Ontario. The Kaministiqua River, which hosts this marvelous attraction, is a historic route to the First Nations of the region. It is surrounded by beautifully maintained walking and hiking trails that offer spectacular scenery to any Mother Nature enthusiast. Kakabeka falls is a must experience stop along your  Circle Tour  Journey and offers great camping, swimming, and wild life experiences!

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Ouimet Canyon

In Dorion , 40 miles (64 km) northeast of Thunder Bay , Ouimet Canyon serves as a testament to the sheer force of nature. Over millions of years, the natural elements have worked to carve a 330 ft. deep gorge from solid rock. The bottom of the canyon is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna that can otherwise only be found in the arctic. The ecosystem is so fragile, in fact, that visitors aren’t allowed down into the canyon itself – but don’t worry! A short trek on an accessible path will lead you to breathtaking views of the canyon.

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Paddle to the Sea Park

Relive the adventurous and thrilling children’s book Paddle to the Sea, published in 1941, by visiting  Nipigon , only an hour east of Thunder Bay in  Superior Country . The park, boasting a range of twelve play stations, leads your family on an adventure from downtown Nipigon to its beautiful marina offering majestic views of Lake Superior and the beautifully constructed Nipigon River Bridge. This park is fun for all ages with story telling taking place at each of its locations. You will be sure to lose yourself in its great story. With a newly integrated splash pad this is a great place to experience while cooling off on your Lake Superior  Circle Tour !

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Aguasabon Falls & Gorge

The Aguasabon Falls & Gorge is a stunning, must-see attraction in Terrace Bay and on the Circle Tour . There is an accessible boardwalk that leads straight to a viewing platform for instantly gratifying views of the falls, gorge, and Lake Superior. With a magnificent ferocity in the spring and a tranquil beauty in the summer and autumn, this spectacular 100 ft. waterfall cascades into the Aguasabon Gorge—flowing along a 2.6-billion-year-old rock face. The Casque Isle hiking trailhead begins at the parking lot and is said to be the most popular segment of this incredible 33-mile (53 km) trail along Lake Superior.

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Poised over the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 101, stands the Wawa Goose. Another widely popular and photographed attraction on the Circle Tour . In Ojibway, Wawa means “Wild Goose or Land of the Big Goose” so this 28 ft. tall structure is a very fitting welcome for millions of visitors to the town. Originally made of plaster, the Goose has been through a few iterations and is now the mighty steel construction we see today that is sure to stand up to the elements for years to come.

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Agawa Rock Pictographs

Along a rugged rock-face in Lake Superior Provincial Park , 81 mi (130 km) north of Sault Ste. Marie, Agawa Rock is a sacred site where the area’s Ojibwe went to record their stories. The pictographs are said to date from the 17th and 18th centuries, and depict visions and dreams from the past. Agawa Rock is only accessible when Lake Superior is calm, and visitors are encouraged to exercise caution along the short but slippery trail.

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Agawa Canyon Tour Train

All aboard! In the center of Sault Ste. Marie, located in Algoma Country, sits the  Agawa Canyon Tour Train Station  waiting for your arrival and to take you on a journey of a life time. There is no better way to witness the beauty of Algoma Country then from your comfortable and relaxing Agawa Train. With a fully operational dining car you can take in a wonderful meal while bringing your mind back to simpler times. This is a great stop along the  Circle Tour    any time of the year but is especially recommended during the fall for a colourful experience that will never be forgotten!

lake superior tour map

Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre

This must-see attraction, located in the beautiful Sault Ste. Marie in Algoma Country, tells the fantastic story of  Canadian  Bush Plane   history through hands-on experiences and displays. With an all new children’s section, and many different and interactive exhibits, your family will be sure to have a great time while learning some great Canadian history. The number of things to do at the  Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre   are uncountable. Your  Circle Tour   wouldn’t be complete without a visit this attraction!

The Lake Superior Circle Tour boasts endless adventure for those ambitious enough to take on the challenge. From natural marvels to treasured pieces of nostalgia, Lake Superior is home to a plethora of must see attractions. What are you waiting for? Start planning your Lake Superior Circle Tour today!

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Because life's too short to stay home …, lake superior's greatest hits, with this nine-day itinerary, take in the highlights of the magnificent circle tour..

Eagle Harbor Light on the Keweenaw.

© Torsten Muller

The Circle Tour of Lake Superior is one of the world's most scenic drives, 1,300 miles of non-stop scenery and attractions.

There's a staggering number of things to do and see around Lake Superior. But if you have only a week's vacation, you can see the highlights on this nine-day, eight-night Circle Tour.

Drive clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on what festivals or events you want to catch. For more, see Planning a Circle Tour .

For an overview of what you'll see, go to Circling Lake Superior .

Duluth to Thunder Bay, 189 miles

Every year, readers of Lake Superior magazine vote Minnesota's North Shore their No. 1 favorite attraction on the big lake.

With Lake Superior rarely out of sight, it's everyone's favorite drive. Get an early start from Duluth's Canal Park; if you're lucky, you can watch a boat arriving or departing.

The 150 miles from Duluth to the Canadian border is a national scenic byway , with non-stop scenery, including countless cobblestone beaches and waterfalls .

Be sure to take Scenic 61 to Two Harbors , not the Expressway, and stop in Knife River for some smoked fish or old-fashioned candy.

In Two Harbors, see the lighthouse and ore docks and walk the lovely Sonju Trail around the front of the lighthouse.

Between mile markers 40 and 60 , you can see Gooseberry Falls, visit Split Rock Lighthouse, enjoy the view from Palisade Head and walk the half-mile trail to Shovel Point at Tettegouche State Park.

Stop for lunch in Grand Marais . Visit the re-created fur post at Grand Portage National Monument ; admission is free.

Just short of the Canadian border in Grand Portage State Park , hike half a mile to 120-foot High Falls on the Pigeon River. For closer views, including from the top of the waterfall, hike from the Ontario visitors center just across the border.

A saltie waits in Thunder Bay's harbor.

© Beth Gauper

Ontario is on Eastern time, so you'll lose an hour. In Thunder Bay , the largest town on Lake Superior, the best-located hotels are the Delta Hotel by Marriott and the 1911 Prince Arthur near Marina Park. The nearby Courthouse Hotel also has lovely views.

Multicultural Thunder Bay is a great place to eat. And if you're there on a Wednesday afternoon or Saturday morning, stop at the indoor Country Market to stock up on pierogies, cheese and pies.

Thunder Bay to Rossport, 116 miles

Spend at least several hours with the costumed living-history interpreters at Fort William Historical Park , the world's largest re-creation of a fur post. See nearby Kakabeka Falls .

On the way to Rossport, you'll see the turn-off to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park , but that deserves more time. Instead, stop to see Ouimet Canyon , a provincial park with sheer rock walls.

In Rossport, stay at the Willows Inn B&B or Serendipity Gardens Guest House , which also has a nice cafe .

Rossport to Wawa, 178 miles

Spend the morning kayaking the Rossport Islands , whose three tiers protect paddlers from the big lake.

Stop to see the falls in Rainbow Falls Provincial Park and, just short of Terrace Bay, Aguasabon Falls .

In White River, see the statue of Winnie-the-Pooh, who was inspired by a real-life bear from the town. For more, see Giants of Lake Superior .

In Wawa, stop at the quirky Young's General Store. Adjoining the Best Northern Motel , Kinniwabi Pines has been the best restaurant east of Thunder Bay.

Another option for lodgings is Rock Island Lodge , on Lake Superior at the mouth of the Michipicoten River.

A tour boat goes through the Soo Locks.

Wawa to Paradise, 210 miles

Twenty minutes south of Wawa, stop on the beach of Old Woman Bay on the north end of Lake Superior Provincial Park and then, on the south end of the park, see the pictographs at Agawa Rock.

In Sault Ste. Marie , watch the boats go through the Soo Locks and take a Soo Locks cruise on the St. Marys River.

If you can build in an extra day to see one of the highlights of the Circle Tour of Lake Michigan , drive an hour south to St. Ignace and take a ferry to visit Mackinac Island .

Otherwise, head west around Whitefish Bay, stopping at Point Iroquois Lighthouse on the way to Paradise and on to Whitefish Point , the Graveyard of the Great Lakes.

Playing in the Lower Falls.

In Paradise , the Magnuson Grand Hotel has a beach and indoor pool. Eat at Brown Fisheries Fish House or the Inn Gastropub & Smokehouse .

Or, stay in Tahquamenon Falls State Park , camping or in a camper cabin and a three-bedroom lodge that sleeps eight. The park has its own restaurant and brewery .

Paradise to Munising, 99 miles

Tour the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point, if you haven't already.

Otherwise, get back on Michigan 28 and head west. From Seney, it's 25 miles north to the little town of Grand Marais , where you can climb the Grand Sable Dunes .

Or continue on Michigan 28 to Munising and the west end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore .

If possible, hike the stunning, 10-mile Chapel Loop, which includes the only trail section where the cliffs can be seen from land. If you don't have time, there are many shorter hikes .

A cruise boat along Pictured Rocks.

In Munising, stay at the Sunset Motel , facing on the bay. It's friendly and quiet and has places for children to play. There are other options, and Munising now has a couple of good restaurants and also craft breweries.

Munising to Copper Harbor, 190 miles

If you didn't have time for the hike along the cliffs, take a Pictured Rocks Boat Cruise or Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tour from Munising.

Or take a kayaking tour along the multicolored cliffs, with transportation there and back by cruise boat.

In the college town Marquette , stop to shop, have lunch and see beautiful Presque Isle Park, a peninsula just north of downtown.

Then, head up the Keweenaw Peninsula . In Houghton, take a stroll along the waterfront trail. In Calumet, see the historic business district and visit Coppertown Mining Museum .

At Ahmeek, get off U.S. 41 and take 5 Mile Point Road toward the lake and into Eagle River. Continue on the picturesque lake drive, stopping at the Jampot to buy baked goods from the monks of the Society of St. John.

In Eagle Harbor, see the 1871 lighthouse and, if it's warm, take a swim in the protected harbor. East of town, turn onto Brockway Mountain Drive and take it into Copper Harbor .

In the hills above Copper Harbor, stay at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge , which rents motel rooms and log cabins, many with wood-burning fireplaces but no kitchens.

Eat at the lodge restaurant or in town at the Harbor Haus , which also has B&B rooms.

Copper Harbor to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, 115 miles

Between the harbor and Lake Fanny Hooe, visit Fort Wilkins Historic State Park , a former frontier post staffed by costumed interpreters.

Drive back to Houghton on the east side of the peninsula between Lac La Belle and Gay, using pullouts to explore the beaches and pick blueberries from late July to early August (bear sightings are likely).

A hiker on the Porkies' Escarpment Trail.

Drive to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and spend the rest of the day hiking the Escarpment Trail high above Lake of the Clouds. The park has camping as well as four yurts, 19 rustic cabins and a lodge.

Or, stay just outside the park at Mountain View Lodges , well-equipped cabins right on the lake.

Porcupines to Bayfield, 125 miles

Drive the park's South Boundary Road to the Presque Isle River to see the waterfalls, and rejoin U.S. 2 in Wakefield, where you'll get your hour back.

If you have time, head north from Bessemer, Mich., to see the five waterfalls of the Black River and/or ride to the top of the Copper Peak ski-flying hill for a panoramic view. It's 32 miles round-trip.

In Ashland , stop for lunch and to see the downtown murals. Just west of town, stop at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center to see the exhibits, including a cool relief map of Lake Superior.

The rocks of Big Bay State Park.

In Bayfield , take a cruise to the Apostle Islands or the ferry to Madeline Island if there's time. In the evening, see a show at Big Top Chautauqua .

There are many good places to stay, such as the Seagull Bay Motel , which includes rooms, a cottage and a guest house.

Bayfield to Duluth, 80 miles

Explore Bayfield. Continue west through Cornucopia and buy picnic goods at Ehlers General Store .

Just before Wisconsin 13 rejoins U.S. 2 east of Superior, take County Road U to Amnicon Falls State Park and have a picnic among the rapids.

In Superior , visit the Richard Bong Veterans Historical Center and the S.S. Meteor whaleback museum on Barker's Island.

If you're spending the night in Duluth , reserve far in advance. It's very popular in summer, especially the Canal Park area.

The beach at Tee Harbor.

If you have more time

In Duluth, visit Glensheen mansion, explore Park Point , go on a train excursion or hike short sections of the Superior Hiking Trail , or long ones using city buses as shuttles.

Spend more time exploring Minnesota's North Shore .

Sightsee around Thunder Bay and stay in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park , a 40-mile round-trip detour from the highway but a highlight for many travelers.

The Trans-Canada Highway heads inland around Pukaskwa National Park , beloved by kayakers for its coves and backpackers for the 60-kilometer Coastal Trail. You can get a taste of the park by making the 20-mile round-trip detour to Hattie Cove Campground, just east of Marathon.

Spend time hiking and swimming in Lake Superior Provincial Park , or take the Agawa Canyon Tour Train out of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Backpackers stand on a cliff at Pictured Rocks.

Stay at one of the five yurts in Pancake Bay Provincial Park , on Lake Superior just north of Sault Ste. Marie.

Stay overnight on Mackinac Island on Lake Michigan. It's only an hour from Sault Ste. Marie to St. Ignace, from which ferries go to the island. You can see the sights by bike on the no-vehicles highway that circles the island.

On the south shore of the lake, backpack the 42 miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore , from Grand Marais to Munising.

Visit Isle Royale National Park by ferry from Copper Harbor or Houghton on the Keweenaw (or Grand Portage in Minnesota, the shortest trip if you're heading for the Windigo side of the island).

In the Apostle Islands , take a kayaking tour to the islands or take the ferry to Oak or Stockton Islands and camp.

And if you want to see the Crisp Point and Au Sable lighthouses in Michigan, build in extra time; they're at the end of bumpy forest roads, and Au Sable requires a hike as well.

If you'd like to stay overnight at those lighthouses and the ones in the Apostles, you can sign up to be a volunteer keeper for a week or more.

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Our Lake Superior Circle Tour Adventure | #MittenTrip

Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes and the world’s largest freshwater lake .  It is moody, strong, and deep.  It’s cold but clear. It’s deep but clean. It looks different throughout the day and at different vantage points. It’s mysterious and rocky. It is something you want to see.

And the Lake Superior Circle Tour is a great way to enjoy all that Lake Superior’s coastline has to offer…

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What is the Lake Superior Circle Tour?

The Lake Superior Circle Tour is an approximately 1,300-mile highway drive around Lake Superior that goes through Michigan, Ontario, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.  There are many cities and stops, and you get to pick the ones you want to see. 

The goal is to drive around Lake Superior and enjoy its vast beauty. And yes, we got a sticker for the back of our car that says we did it! Here’s a look at our Lake Superior Circle Tour itinerary and lots of photos from our trip…

Overview of the Lake Superior Circle Tour Route

Since we have a family vacation home on Lake Huron, we made this our jumping-off point.  It’s about 5 hours from our home in Columbus .  So we stayed here for a night and then began the journey.

For the purposes of this guide, I’m going to start the circle at Mackinaw City and end with Pictured Rocks .  I’ve included the stops we made along the way, and the hotels we stayed at.  All the hotels were good.  I would do this trip again, and wouldn’t change anything major!

How Long is the Lake Superior Circle Tour?

This route took us 7 days.  It was approximately 32 hours of driving.  We split that pretty evenly among all the days.  Every day we made at least 2 stops to break up the driving.  We each drove half each day.

We listening to podcasts and audiobooks to pass the time.  But this drive is so scenic.  I only got driving fatigue once because there was just so much to look at, I forgot we were in the car. 

(If you’ve ever driven on the PA turnpike, you know that you get driving fatigue after 2 hours because there’s nothing to see.  This was not like that.)

Where to Eat Along the Lake Superior Circle Tour

There is a lot of driving on this trip, and many long stretches with nowhere to stop.  We planned and packed for eating all our lunches on the road.  This did end up saving us some money and gave us the flexibility to eat wherever we wanted.  We ate at parks, picnic tables, and right by the water.

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We brought a cooler and two totes of snacks. We had one tote for snacks, and one for meals.  We kept the snacks up next to us. We brought a case of water, too. 

We each had a day bag where we kept the items we would need for the day, such as our hiking boots and a jacket.  (I prefer to wear sandals while I drive).

We brought stuff to make picnic-style lunches with meats, cheese, crackers, and fruit.  We also brought sandwich stuff for peanut butter and jelly and chicken salad.  I found a recipe on this blog for No-cook chicken salad and it worked out well for sandwiches, or just eating with crackers.  Packets of chicken are the way to go!

We brought a tote with cups, plates, bowls, cutlery, a knife and cutting board, a bowl for mixing, and some cloth napkins.  When we got to our hotel, we would just wash the dishes in the sink for use the next day.  Worked out very well!

5 of the 7 hotels offered breakfast, so we only had to eat out twice for breakfast.  We budgeted $400 for food for the week, including what we bought ahead of time.

I did research to find a nice restaurant to eat for dinner each night.  We had some great meals.  I would recommend using Google reviews or TripAdvisor to find good restaurants.  Look for recent reviews.  If no one has eaten there lately, you probably don’t want to either!

Where to Stay on the Lake Superior Circle Tour

The average cost of the Lake Superior Circle Tour hotels we stayed at was $80.  And a few of them had hot tubs and pools!  They were very nice for the price. 

We made use of the ice machines for our cooler.  We chose to stay at budget-friendly places that were nice.  No fleabags, but we didn’t need any Ritz-Carltons either.  You can see our selections on the map above.

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How to Drive the Lake Superior Circle Tour

We took our RAV4 and set it up for a road trip.  It was a perfect car for this.  Easy to get things in and out of.  We put the backseats down so we had room to organize all our items. 

I would definitely recommend a roomy car for this long trip.  And this goes without saying, but something very reliable.

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We spent about $200 on fuel.  Fuel was more expensive in Ontario, but it balanced out with the cheaper prices in Minnesota.

Total Road Trip Budget

Between restaurants, hotels, fuel, car food, and park fees, we spent about $1,250 for a week-long vacation.  That’s $90 per person per day for lodging, food, sightseeing, and transportation.

Packing for the Lake Superior Circle Tour

We packed for Spring temperatures, which meant we were prepared for warm weather, cold weather, rainy weather, and anything in between. 

We brought sandals and hiking boots.  We brought a lightweight winter coat and a rain jacket.  I dressed in layers every day. Some days I was in a t-shirt, some days I had on three shirts and a jacket. 

Be prepared for it all!

Sightseeing Along the Lake Superior Circle Tour

Now that we’ve gotten all the basics out of the way, it’s time to talk about the feature event.  I’ve broken it down by state and country. 

You can see our exact route on the Lake Superior Circle Tour map above, this is where we stopped, what we did, and what we saw (and sometimes, what we ate).

In Michigan

Mackinaw city.

This is the jumping-off point to explore the pedestrian-only Mackinaw Island .  We will most definitely come back to take the ferry.  In the summer, the ferry runs every day all day long, making it very easy to get over.  We couldn’t do it this trip but will be back.

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The area by the pier is a cute place to walk around and see the old-timey shops.  If you like popcorn, fudge, and t-shirts that say Mackinaw Island, this is the place for you.

The highlight of this town was dinner at Scalawags .  It was recommended by the Lonely Planet and it didn’t disappoint.  Best fish and chips we had the whole trip.

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Agawa Rock Pictographs

I thought these were a lot older than they actually were.  They were painted around the 1600s, according to the signage.  I will say though this was one of the most beautiful views we saw the whole trip. 

It was a short little steep hike and then you get to the side of the cliffs.  There is a chain you can hold onto to walk to the pictographs.  The view of the water and rocks was stunning.

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Nokomis Trail

We accidentally took the more scenic route, but it was welcome after a lot of driving.  This hike within Lake Superior Provincial Park  was so beautiful.  If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know I love birdseye views. 

This hike was hard but worth it.  You will not regret what you get to see on the top of this mountain.

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Old Woman Bay

Right across the street from the Nokomis Trail is a beach called Old Woman Bay. The name derives from a rock formation along the Old Woman River that apparently looks like an old woman. 

I immediately thought of Dennis in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when he says, “I’m 47.  I’m not old.”  I wonder how old that rock formation really is, and shouldn’t we just call it Woman Bay?

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This beach was stunning.  It rivaled something on the coast of Scotland.  There were rocks galore, and I know I wasn’t supposed to, but I took a few.  I couldn’t help myself.

Magpie Falls

This was a pleasant little pit stop after dinner in Wawa. We saw it on a brochure and I didn’t realize there were such big falls nearby.  We stopped by at sunset for a look.

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Pukaskwa National Park

Another highlight, this park has a lot of great trails and views.  There were so many hikes to choose from, it was hard to pick.  We picked one that went along the water and through the forest. 

The forest had so much moss that as you walk through it was like a damper and it gets completely silent.  You hear nothing.  It’s eerie and beautiful.  It reminded me of the Shire.

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We got to a point where you could walk out and see the water and its vast glory.  As you turn your head you see beautiful rocks and trees as the water crashes into it.  It was like stepping into a Bob Ross painting.

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Aguasabon Falls

This waterfall is so much bigger in person than pictures show.  It’s a short walk from the parking lot down to the view. 

You can see the fall, as well as a few of Lake Superior.  It’s an easy stop on a road trip, it only takes about 15 minutes to see.

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Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

This park offered many hikes and beautiful views. We saw some smaller lakes within the park and gorgeous trees.  We intended to canoe here, but canoe rental season hadn’t started yet, so we missed out on that.  The park was lovely, as you can see.

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We drove the car to the very top to see a sweeping view called Thunderbay Lookout.  It sort of catches you off guard because you can see the view from far away but then as you walk out on the platform it’s suspended so it gives you a bit of a scare.

If you are afraid of heights, I would avoid this.  If you love heights (like me), it’s a thrill you will love!

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In Minnesota

Naniboujou lodge.

I found this lodge on Atlas Obscura.   It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is a place to stay and eat, but we just popped our heads in to look. 

It’s very beautiful.  Jared also got the coolest hat he’s ever bought.

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World’s Best Donuts

Upon recommendation from the clerk at Naniboujou, we decided to stop in Grand Marais (Minnesota).  We drove in and saw a sign for the World’s Best Donuts and a long line.  We went through and got an assortment. 

And the sign is completely true.  It was the best donut I’ve ever had.  We were immediately sad we may never have these again.  The plain cake and the raspberry jelly-filled were so good.  My mouth is watering while I type this.

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Tettegouche State Park

We did a few hikes in this park and it had some amazing waterfalls.  This park felt more like ones that we’ve seen out west.  It was a beautiful forest, with suspended bridges over the rivers. 

I think I need to get a thesaurus so I can be more descriptive besides just saying “beautiful.” There were rocks, trees, and rivers.  It was the perfect combo.

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Split Rock Lighthouse

They actually have a brochure with all the different views of the lighthouse and where to go to see it.  I’m positive it’s because they get asked about these specific views so often, they have preemptively created a brochure. 

We used this handy guide to find the view I had seen.  It was the perfect view of a traditional lighthouse.

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In Wisconsin

Tetzner dairy farm.

Because you gotta get some cheese curds when you’re in Wisconsin.  We stopped by this dairy farm that has a self-serve fridge area.  Prices are posted, and you leave the money in an envelope and take your items. 

We got string cheese, cheese curds, and some homemade ice cream sandwiches.  Now, I can say I’ve experienced Wisconsin.

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Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Porcupine mountains.

We didn’t stay in the Porcupine Mountains for very long because we didn’t fuel up ahead of time and all the sights within this park required a lot of driving. 

We saw one of the main views, and there were so many bugs.  I saw people walking up with nets around their bodies and realized I was severely unprepared for this. It was still a great view!

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

When we arrived at our hotel, a local told us that if we do nothing else, do the boat tour through the National Park Service . 

It takes you to all the main rock formations on Lake Superior.  It was well worth the money.  It was sunny and breezy; my favorite combination. 

You learn a lot about Lake Superior and how it compares to the other Great Lakes.  You also get to see an adorable lighthouse that the folks who live on the island have repaired and maintained.

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We didn’t do any hiking in Pictured Rocks , because we have plans to come back soon and do that portion.  There is so much to do in this area, including snowmobiling in the winter.  We’d also like to rent kayaks next time!

Add the Lake Superior Circle Tour to Your Bucket List

The Lake Superior Circle Tour is a relatively inexpensive trip that’s filled with beauty and good donuts.  It’s something that should be on your bucket list. 

We have now officially seen all five Great Lakes.  They’re all different, with special characteristics that make them unique. 

If you haven’t been to Lake Superior, what are you waiting for?

A lover of new experiences and fun road trips, Nina enjoys local and worldwide travel. She seeks authentic adventures ranging from wilderness camping to fine dining. Her passion is to share her experiences with others, so they can get the most out of their travels. Nina manages a local history museum in Columbus, Ohio, where she lives with her husband. Her travel motto comes from a woman she met locally who told her, "Always have a trip planned."

Hi Nina, Thank you for this great idea! I’ve decided to wait until I have a whole week. Although you’ve made me hungry enough to drive to Grand Marais for donuts today and that’s doable! Consider yourself followed. Kris

Thanks for a great article. I’m from Michigan but live in Oregon now. I hope we can do this drive next summer. I always thought Lake Superior was the largest fresh water lake in the world, too. However, then I visited Lake Bakail in Siberia. Look it up. It is amazing!

I’ve done this route twice in my younger days on a motorcycle, once clockwise and the other time counter-clockwise. Awesome ride! Duluth is still one of my favorite cities.

We live in MN and have been to Duluth and the North Shore many times. We’re finally doing the Lake Superior Circle Tour this summer and cannot wait to explore the MI side more, we’ve never been so I am going to save this post for research.

Hi Nina, Thanks for this wonderful recap of your trip. I hope to be able to replicate your trip! What were the dates of your trip? It looks like you had amazing weather. Happy trails, Sandy

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lake superior tour map

10 Reasons to *NOT* Travel the Lake Superior Circle Tour

lake superior tour map

Superior Country in Northern Ontario, Canada, is home to one of the most scenic road trips in North America: The Lake Superior Circle Tour . Travellers can begin this self-guided 1,300-mile adventure from anywhere along the shores of Lake Superior in either the U.S. or Canada. Along the way, visitors will enjoy dozens of scenic stops, endless lakeshore views, friendly historic towns, and a whole host of accommodation options—from rustic cabins to luxury resorts to familiar hotel and motel chains.

The  Lake Superior Circle Tour  is the most scenic road trip in North America. Travellers can begin this self-guided 1,300-mile adventure from anywhere along the shores of Lake Superior in either the U.S. or Canada. Along the way, visitors will enjoy dozens of scenic stops, endless lakeshore views, friendly historic towns, and a whole host of accommodation options—from rustic cabins to luxury resorts to familiar hotel and motel chains.

Border Crossing

There are two border crossing points of entry on the Lake Superior Circle Tour: The Pigeon River border from Grand Portage, Minnesota to Neebing in Ontario’s  Superior Country  and the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario’s  Algoma Country .

*Note:  There are no longer any COVID-related restrictions when crossing the Canadian/US border in either direction.

For more border-crossing information visit  here .

Here are 10 Things Visitors May Want to Consider Before Travelling the Lake Superior Circle Tour

1. too many scenic views.

If you don't like scenic views then the Lake Superior Circle Tour isn’t for you! There are countless look-outs around Lake Superior. They're everywhere, from the tops of mountains to the shores of Superior, avoiding them is merely impossible.

lake superior tour map

2. Too Many Natural Wonders!

There are  natural wonders spread all around the Circle Tour! If you don’t like to look out over or toward something that makes you think how on earth?  then this tour definitely isn’t for you! Not only are there several natural wonders around the tour but it circles the greatest of them all—Lake Superior!

lake superior tour map

3. Too Many Attractions!

From those pesky natural wonders to kid-friendly attractions , roadside attractions , lighthouses , and more there are just way too many things to enjoy. There is definitely something for everyone on this tour. If that doesn’t sound intriguing to you then you need to stay home.

lake superior tour map

4. Too Many Waterfalls!

Wow! If you hate waterfalls then you are going to hate the Lake Superior Circle Tour! There are hundreds of waterfalls around Lake Superior. The biggest of them is Kakabeka Falls located west of Thunder Bay.

lake superior tour map

5. It’s Awesome During Any Season!

Don’t you hate a trip that can be enjoyed during each of the four seasons ? It’s an ultimate road trip no matter what time of year! They don’t call it one of North America’s best road trips for nothing.

lake superior tour map

6. It’s Too Romantic!

People have circled Lake Superior for their honeymoons and to rekindle romance for generations. If you don’t want the most memorable trip with a loved one then definitely stay away from the Lake Superior Circle Tour!

lake superior tour map

7. Too Much Culture and Heritage!

If you hate visiting places that have a vast history and lots to learn and explore then you should stay away from the Circle Tour! From myths and mysteries  to local events, festivals, and celebrations, there is just way too much to do. The lake is even surrounded by several museums and galleries.

lake superior tour map

8. Too Much Nature!

There are just way too many beaches , lookouts, accommodations, and many other things all centered around enjoying nature. If you hate fresh air then you’ll hate the Circle Tour!

lake superior tour map

9. Too Many Travel Games!

The Circle Tour has things like the Lake Superior Ale Trail , Lake Superior Java Journey , Lake Superior Bingo , and Lake Superior Stamp Collecting . These things just make the Circle Tour far too enjoyable!

lake superior tour map

10. It’s Too Easy to Plan!

The Circle Tour is approximately 1,300 miles (2,092km). Therefore planning it should be a nightmare! But things like the Lake Superior Circle Tour Adventure Guide , the online Lake Superior Trip Planning Map , and the Lake Superior Circle Tour Mobile App make it way too easy to plan! If you prefer planning a trip and being constantly stressed out during your holidays then the Circle Tour isn’t for you!

Plan Your Lake Superior Circle Tour Adventure Today

Well there you have it—10 tongue-in-cheek reasons to not travel the Lake Superior Circle Tour . To summarize—t’s just way too much fun!

Edited Body Text

Superior Country in Northern Ontario, Canada, is home to one of the most scenic road trips in North America: The Lake Superior Circle Tour . Travellers can begin this self-guided 1,300-mile adventure from anywhere along the shores of Lake Superior in either the U.S. or Canada. Along the way, visitors will enjoy dozens of scenic stops, endless lakeshore views, friendly historic towns, and a whole host of accommodation options—from rustic cabins to luxury resorts to familiar hotel and motel chains.

The  Lake Superior Circle Tour  is the most scenic road trip in North America. Travellers can begin this self-guided 1,300-mile adventure from anywhere along the shores of Lake Superior in either the U.S. or Canada. Along the way, visitors will enjoy dozens of scenic stops, endless lakeshore views, friendly historic towns, and a whole host of accommodation options—from rustic cabins to luxury resorts to familiar hotel and motel chains.

BORDER CROSSING

There are two border crossing points of entry on the Lake Superior Circle Tour: The Pigeon River border from Grand Portage, Minnesota to Neebing in Ontario’s  Superior Country  and the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario’s  Algoma Country .

Note: As of late 2022, all pandemic-related restrictions for entering Canada have been dropped. Proof of vaccination or a negative test are  not  required. Canadians entering the U.S. are required to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of vaccine upon request.

For more border-crossing information visit  here .

Here are 10 things visitors may want to consider before travelling the lake superior circle tour

1. too many scenic views.

If you don't like scenic views then the Lake Superior Circle Tour isn’t for you! There are countless look-outs around Lake Superior. They're everywhere, from the tops of mountains to the shores of Superior, avoiding them is merely impossible.

lake superior tour map

2. Too many Natural Wonders!

There are  natural wonders spread all around the Circle Tour! If you don’t like to look out over or toward something that makes you think how on earth?  then this tour definitely isn’t for you! Not only are there several natural wonders around the tour but it circles the greatest of them all—Lake Superior!

lake superior tour map

3. Too many attractions!

From those pesky natural wonders to kid-friendly attractions , roadside attractions , lighthouses , and more there are just way too many things to enjoy. There is definitely something for everyone on this tour. If that doesn’t sound intriguing to you then you need to stay home.

lake superior tour map

4. Too many waterfalls!

lake superior tour map

5. It’s awesome during any season!

Don’t you hate a trip that can be enjoyed during each of the four seasons ? It’s an ultimate road trip no matter what time of year! They don’t call it one of North America’s best road trips for nothing.

lake superior tour map

6. It’s too romantic!

People have circled Lake Superior for their honeymoons and to rekindle romance for generations. If you don’t want the most memorable trip with a loved one then definitely stay away from the Lake Superior Circle Tour!

lake superior tour map

7. Too much culture and heritage!

If you hate visiting places that have a vast history and lots to learn and explore then you should stay away from the Circle Tour! From myths and mysteries  to local events, festivals, and celebrations, there is just way too much to do. The lake is even surrounded by several museums and galleries.

lake superior tour map

8. Too much nature!

There are just way too many beaches , lookouts, accommodations, and many other things all centered around enjoying nature. If you hate fresh air then you’ll hate the Circle Tour!

lake superior tour map

9. Too many travel games!

lake superior tour map

10. It’s too easy to plan!

The Circle Tour is approximately 1,300 miles (2,092km). Therefore planning it should be a nightmare! But things like the Lake Superior Circle Tour Adventure Guide , the online Lake Superior Trip Planning Map , and the Lake Superior Circle Tour Mobile App make it way too easy to plan! If you prefer planning a trip and being constantly stressed out during your holidays then the Circle Tour isn’t for you!

plan your lake superior circle tour adventure today

Well there you have it—10 tongue-in-cheek reasons to not travel the Lake Superior Circle Tour . To summarize—t’s just way too much fun!

Dan is the Executive Director of Ontario's Superior Country. Dan spends the majority of his free time fishing the Nipigon River with his friends and family while exploring the North Shore of Lake Superior.

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lake superior tour map

The Red Rock Inn: The Quirky, Fascinating History of this Lake Superior Hotel

A Circle Tour Of Lake Superior Is The Best Way To See America's Largest Great Lake

Planning a circle tour around Lake Superior is the best way to see it, and the trip, according to some, is a life-changing experience.

Not everyone is up to taking a circle tour of Lake Superior. Lasting at least five days and spanning 1300 miles, this is not a trip for the faint of heart. Anyone who does make it around the largest of the Great Lakes will be thankful they did. In their journey, they'll see vast Canadian wildlands, thundering waterfalls, historic lighthouses, tragic shipwrecks, and amazing views at every turn. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ontario , and Michigan will surprise travelers with their hidden wonderlands and beautiful shores along Lake Superior. There's truly something for everyone on this journey: prime fishing spots, cliffs for rock climbing, fantastic kayaking routes, gorgeous hiking paths, and amazing wildlife.

What Travelers See On A Circle Tour

Beautiful scenery. Lake Superior's shores and the parks around them are full of breathtaking landscapes. This journey takes travelers through Canadian and U.S. national parks like Pukaskwa, Quetico, Superior, Chequamegon-Nicolet, Ottawa, and Hiawatha. Isle Royale is a national park on an island in Lake Superior. There are numerous provincial and state parks along the way as well.

related:  Skip Mackinac Island And Explore The Great Lakes’ Mackinaw City, Instead

The stretch along Minnesota's northern shore from Duluth to the Canadian border takes tourists past rushing waterfalls. April is the month for seeing them, and melting snow mean they're fiercer than at any other time of the year.

  • Gooseberry Falls located at mile 39.5 of Minnesota State Highway 61 is the easiest to see.
  • It's in a state park with no parking fee.
  • Travelers walk a short way to the falls.

The same highway will lead travelers to waterfalls on the Split Rock River, Beaver Bay, Baptism River, and more. Over 200 rivers flow into Lake Superior, and many have waterfalls along them.

  • The Pidgeon River in Portage State Park marks the border between the U.S. and Canada.
  • This river is home to High Falls which drops 120 feet over a basalt cliff.
  • Visitors can also see it from the Canadian Pidgeon River Provincial Park.

The trek through Canada from Thunder Bay through Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie is the area where drivers are most likely to see wildlife. This is the northern shore of the lake and far more isolated. Bears feast on blueberries growing on wild bushes next to the road, and moose wander through the forests and across the highway. Lucky travelers may even see the northern lights.

Susan Schaeffer described this leg of the journey on her Lake Superior Circle Tour Report : "Rugged, remote and dramatic are the words that best describe this section of our route. This was the true Canadian North. The isolation of the wilderness was palatable as we traversed Lake Superior’s North Shore."

Wawa, Ontario, about halfway along the northern shore, is the home to a huge statue of a Canadian goose. Most people making a circle tour don't want to miss a photoshoot with it. Further along, travelers will want to stop at the Old Woman Bay and again at the Agawa Rock pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park. The drive between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie was named one of the “Top 100 Things to do Before You Die” by Canada’s National Post newspaper.

Then Sault Ste. Marie is the perfect place to see boats go through the Soo Locks.

related:  Devil’s Lake, North Dakota Is Full Of Devilishly Good Fun, And Here’s How To See It All

Entering Michigan, tourists can visit the Point Iroquois Lighthouse and then the one at Whitefish Point. This town is also known as the "Graveyard of the Great Lakes." People call it that because so many ships sank there. Curious tourists can find out more about the SS Edmund Fitzgerald and other wrecks at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Munising, Michigan offers visitors cruises at the Pictured Rocks and a Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tour. Somewhere along the Michigan shore, every passer through must eat at least one traditional pasty.

Wisconsin's shore is home to some nice beaches and quaint towns worth exploring. Travelers can also take a ferry to the Apostle Islands. It's a beautiful place to camp before heading to Duluth, Minnesota.

How Long Does A Circle Tour Take?

One brave motorcyclist and member of the Lake Superior Circle Tour Club completed the circuit in just 21 hours. Kate Crowley and Mike Link, on the other hand, decided to take the tour at a "strolling" pace. These grandparents took 49 days to walk Michigan's Lake Superior shoreline when they were in their 50s. The complete journey was five months. They wrote a book about their experience, Going Full Circle .

In conclusion: making it around the world's largest freshwater lake takes at least a day, but can take as long as travelers want. There's enough to see that visitors won't get bored.

  • Many travelers take somewhere between five and ten days on their circle tour.
  • A ten-day tour means driving about three hours a day.
  • It allows tourists plenty of time to gawk at the sights, visit museums, and frolic on beaches.

Don't Forget This On A Circle Tour

Every part of the circle tour is popular in the summer months of June and July. That means that restaurants and state parks are crowded, and lodging is fully booked. Campgrounds are crawling with visitors. Making a circle tour means planning and reserving hotels or campsites and doing this will ensure a smoother trip.

Lake Superior is split between the US and Canada, so anyone driving around it will be going through two countries. Travelers should check ahead so that they know what paperwork they'll need at the border crossing. Most likely, they'll need passports. In some cases, borders may be closed, so tourists should find out before they get there. People making the trek with children may need to present additional documentation like birth certificates to immigration control.

The work of planning a circle tour pays off, though. Anyone who makes it around this magical lake will treasure the experience.

next:  A Beginner's Guide To Freshwater Snorkeling In The Great Lakes

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Your Lake Superior Circle Tour Guide to the Keweenaw

The Lake Superior Circle Tour is an incredible 1,300-mile self-guided route that takes you on a scenic journey around the world’s largest freshwater lake. The world-class tour offers the road trip of a lifetime. We promise that the Keweenaw Peninsula is one part of the Circle Tour that you will not want to miss! In this guide we’ll share why you’ll want to spend an extra day (or two) before getting your stamp and motoring to the next check-in! 

Where is the Keweenaw Peninsula? 

The Keweenaw Peninsula is the northernmost part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and projects into the freshwaters of Lake Superior. For those of you putting your hands together to create the shape of Michigan, the Keweenaw is the “thumb” of the Upper Peninsula and is a geographically prominent part of the U.P.  

Why stop in the Keweenaw?  

When looking at the map, the Keweenaw may seem a little “out of the way,” but we promise you it is worth the extra time to explore. The Keweenaw offers over 125 miles of Lake Superior shoreline and historic scenic drives that take you to some of the best lookout points around the entire lake.   As you venture into the Keweenaw, you will notice unique geological and topographic features different from other areas around the lake. Roadside waterfalls, scenic drives that tunnel through towering trees, rugged cliffs, and rich history make the Keweenaw a special place to spend some time. Not convinced? Follow along for our Keweenaw Peninsula route designed specifically for Lake Superior Circle Tour visitors.  

Entering the Keweenaw Peninsula 

For those of you headed clockwise around the lake, you will enter the Keweenaw via US-41. Make sure to stop at Canyon Falls Roadside Park , about nine miles South of L’Anse on your way! Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the UP,” Canyon Falls is one of the easiest falls to visit along the Circle Tour. Then enjoy scenic Lake Superior views as you pass through the communities of L’Anse and Baraga and around Keweenaw Bay, entering the Keweenaw Peninsula region.  

Man and woman look at waterfall

Canyon Falls Roadside Park is a must-see waterfall on your Lake Superior Circle Tour. 

Visitors traveling counter-clockwise around the circle will enter the Keweenaw via M-26. Consider stopping at Twin Lakes State Park or Wyandotte Falls on your way! Regardless of which way you come, both highways will funnel into the charming small town of Houghton, Michigan. 

Houghton 

Houghton is the “big city” of the Keweenaw. Home to Michigan Technological University and buzzing with energy, Houghton is a great place to pick up essentials and grab a bite to eat. The downtown area has many local shops and award-winning restaurants to choose from.  

After grabbing a bite to eat, make sure to check out the scenic Waterfront Trail that runs along the southern shore of the Portage Canal. The most prominent landmark along the trail is the Portage Lake Lift Bridge. This unique lift bridge was officially dedicated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in the summer of 2022 and is considered the official “Gateway to the Keweenaw.” It serves as the only connection between the Keweenaw Peninsula and mainland.  

Aerial of Downtown Houghton with Bridge in Background

Downtown Houghton features many shops and restaurants, as well as the Waterfront Trail that takes you along the scenic Portage Canal. 

Another point of interest in the Houghton area is the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum at Michigan Tech. This is the official Mineral Museum of Michigan and the unofficial Mineral Museum of the Great Lakes Region. It is home to the world’s best collection of Michigan minerals and a fantastic selection of specimens from around the Great Lakes. New this year, the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum introduced a “Yooperlite” exhibit where you can learn about the mineral properties of sodalite that make these mystical rocks glow under UV light. Make this a destination on your Circle Tour to learn more about the geology of Lake Superior, Michigan, and the Great Lakes Region.  

Woman looks at native copper at AE Seaman Mineral Museum

The A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum is the official Mineral Museum of the State of Michigan and offers awe-inspiring educational displays. 

Hancock to Calumet 

After spending some time in Houghton, it’s time to cross the iconic lift bridge and pass through the town of Hancock. The downtown area features many historic buildings, great restaurants, arts and cultural activities, and green spaces. Stop by Milly’s for a mouthwatering Detroit-style pizza or sip on a refreshing Patio Pail while soaking up sunshine at Gino’s Restaurant.  

Learn more about the unique cultural heritage of the area by exploring the Finnish American Heritage Center . During the peak of the copper mining boom in the Keweenaw, many Finnish immigrants came to the area searching for work. Today the region is home to generations of Finnish-Americans that take pride in their cultural heritage. The Finnish American Heritage Center is a place near and dear to the hearts of many locals and provides an opportunity for individuals to learn more about the Finnish culture and Finnish-American history. The Heritage Center also keeps traditions alive through special events such as Heikinpäivä and Juhannus/Midsummer.  

For those who enjoy arts and culture, the Copper Country Community Arts Center is another great stop. The arts center features three galleries, including the Artists Market Sales Gallery, a Youth Gallery, and the Kerredge Gallery. The art featured in these galleries is created by local and regional artists and is in great part inspired by the natural beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Arts Center also offers a variety of classes and programs that will inspire you to create during your time in the area.  

Hancock is also home to the Orpheum Theater , a restored vaudeville theatre that now showcases a variety of musical performances. Make sure to check our events calendar to see if there are any shows scheduled during your time in the Keweenaw!  

Exterior of Historic Orpheum Theater at Night

Hancock is a destination for art and music lovers. Stop by the Orpheum Theatre for a show, or head to the art gallery to see local art. 

When you’re ready to continue your adventure north, we recommend taking the M-203 to Calumet. This scenic route hugs the Keweenaw Waterway and features some great stops along the way.  

F.J. McLain State Park is about 10 miles from downtown Hancock on M-203. This beautiful state park is located at the point where the Keweenaw Waterway opens into Lake Superior. It offers hiking trails through towering pines, over 2-miles of Lake Superior shoreline, and the best views of the Keweenaw Waterway Upper Entrance Light. Built in 1950, this historic light is still an important structure used by ships entering the canal.  

Sunset at McLain State Park

The Keweenaw Waterway Upper Entrance Light can be seen at F.J. McLain State Park and marks the entrance of the Keweenaw Waterway. 

Another destination along the M-203 is Calumet Waterworks Park . This Lake Superior park offers green space, a playground, horseshoe pits, pavilions and grills for picnics, as well as a nice beach for rock-picking. Just across the street from the park is the Gardner’s Creek Trailhead. These trails offer a gentle hike through a maple-dominated forest. Not only do the maple trees offer shade, but they also offer protection from any winds coming off Lake Superior. It’s the perfect place to stretch your legs! 

Calumet Waterworks Park is just five miles from the historic streets of downtown Calumet . Once a bustling metropolis that was home to tens of thousands of immigrant mine workers and their families, this small town embraces its historic character. We encourage you to walk the streets of Calumet and imagine the buzzing energy that filled the streets during community events during the peak of the copper mining boom. Or visit during the annual CopperDog 150 dog sled race or Pasty Fest to feel the energy of the community today.  

Dive into the history of the region by exploring the Keweenaw National Historic Park (KNHP). While the KNHP includes several heritage sites scattered throughout the peninsula, the Park Headquarters and Visitors Center and a handful of heritage sites are located in the Calumet area. The Park Headquarters offers an incredible multi-level museum that is free to visitors, and the Calumet Theatre and Laurium Manor Inn are nearby Heritage Sites that are certainly worth a visit. 

The Calumet Theatre is a breathtaking turn-of-the-century opera house that features built-in acoustics, beautiful paintings above the stage, and stunning architectural details. Today, the theatre continues to offer a quality entertainment experience and hosts talented musicians and performers on a regular basis. If you happen to attend an event at this historic venue, tradition beckons a visit to the neighboring 1890’s Saloon, Shute’s , during intermission or after the show.  

Calumet Theatre Paintings

The Calumet Theatre is a stunning space that offers quality entertainment throughout the year. 

The Laurium Manor Inn is a jaw-dropping mansion built in 1908 for Thomas Hoatson, the owner of Calumet & Arizona Mining Company, and his family. No expense was spared in the building of this 45-room mansion. At the time, it was the largest mansion in the Western Upper Peninsula and was the most opulent of all of them. The mansion now serves as a bed and breakfast and offers tours every day between 12PM and 3PM during the summer months.  

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to stop by our Visit Keweenaw Welcome Center to grab your official Lake Superior Passport Stamp. But don’t let your passport stamp be the end of your Keweenaw Circle Tour. Some of the most scenic Keweenaw destinations are yet to come!  

Calumet to Eagle Harbor 

Continue North on US-41 through several old mining communities until you see something that looks like a large thermometer on the right side of the highway. What is this large thermometer? It’s the iconic Keweenaw snow gauge! This life-sized snow gauge shows what a record-breaking amount of snow looks like. The current record was set during the winter of 1978-79 when the Keweenaw saw 390.4 inches of snow.  

Enjoy views of Cliff Ridge and Keweenaw forests as you continue your drive to Eagle River Michigan . Make sure to stop at Eagle River Falls (both upper and lower ) before following the river down to Eagle River Beach . This beach is the perfect spot to take in a Lake Superior sunset or enjoy a picnic lunch. It is also home to the Fitzgerald’s Restaurant, which serves mouth-watering hardwood smoked barbeque and craft whiskey with incredible waterfront views.  

Fitzgerald’s Eagle River Inn and Restaurant

Catch a sunset while sipping on glass of wine at the Fitzgerald's Restaurant. 

About four miles past Eagle River on M-26, is a small roadside waterfall called Jacob’s Falls . Grab a baked good at the neighboring Jampot and take in the views of this easy-to-access waterfall. From this point, the drive to Eagle Harbor is spectacular and often referred to as Sand Dune Drive because of the sand dunes in Great Sand Bay and Cat Harbor area. The varied beaches in this area are perfect for rockhounds and swimmers alike.   

If you’re ready for a hike, we recommend exploring the Redwyn Dunes Nature Sanctuary . This Michigan Nature Association Trail is about one 1-mile long and takes you through stable sand dunes covered with Red Oak and Pine. The scenic trail weaves around dune ponds that are often inhabited by migrating waterfowl.  

Stopping at the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse is a must for any Lake Superior Circle Tour traveler. The first light in this location was a wooden structure built in 1851 and supported a fourth-order Fresnel lens illuminated by an oil lamp. This structure soon deteriorated and was replaced by the current red-brick structure in 1871. The Fresnel light was eventually replaced by a beacon-aviation style light that now reaches some 20 miles offshore. Today, the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse operates as a museum complex that is open to the public from mid-June to early October. Visitors traveling during the off-season can still explore the lighthouse grounds but will not be able to enter the buildings. 

Eagle Harbor Light House on rocky shore

The Eagle Harbor Lighthouse rests on the rugged rocky shores of Eagle Harbor, MI. 

Eagle Harbor to Copper Harbor  

M-26 continues from Eagle Harbor all the way to Copper Harbor , following the increasingly rugged shoreline the entire way. About 9 miles west of Copper Harbor, you will have the option to continue the shoreline drive along M-26 or take Brockway Mountain Drive into Copper Harbor. While we can say both options are gorgeous and worth exploring, no Lake Superior circle Tour is complete without a detour up Brockway Mountain Drive. The top of Brockway Mountain offers panoramic views of Lake Superior, Keweenaw forest, inland lakes, and the charming small town of Copper Harbor. Once you’ve taken in the views of Copper Harbor, it’s time to continue your drive into town.  

Aerial view of car driving along Brockway Mountain Drive at dusk

 Brockway Mountain Drive is the highest paved road between the Rockies and the Alleghenies and offers panoramic views of lush forest and Lake Superior. 

Copper Harbor is a treat – a quaint, peaceful town that offers unlimited outdoor recreation. If you are ready for an adventure, head to the Keweenaw Adventure Company for a guided sea kayak tour or a guided mountain bike excursion. If you want to relax, book a reservation at the Harbor Haus . Here you can enjoy fine dining while taking in the views of the Queen IV as she makes her return trip to the harbor from Isle Royale around 6:30PM  

If you love lighthouses, a trip to Copper Harbor Lighthouse is a must! This lighthouse is only accessible by boat, but Noah’s Ark Charters makes it easy to visit! This boat tour will take you on a scenic cruise through the harbor before docking at Hays Point. Your captain will unlock the lighthouse and old light keepers house so that you can view the historic exhibits set up inside. Originally, the light was constructed as a singular tower and a lightkeeper lived in a small house nearby to maintain the light. The first tower was later replaced by the current lighthouse in 1849 using stones from the original structure as the foundation for the new one. Not only is the lighthouse remarkable, but the views of Brockway Mountain from Hays Point are really hard to beat!  

Copper Harbor Lighthouse

Noah's Ark Charters offers boat tours to the Copper Harbor Lighthouse on Hays Point. 

While history can easily be felt through the rugged and natural landscape of the Copper Harbor area, it can also be experienced at the historic Keweenaw Mountain Lodge or Fort Wilkins State Park. The Keweenaw Mountain Lodge is a WPA-era wilderness resort with history dating back to 1934. Not only does the lodge offer cozy cabin stays, but the property also features many outdoor recreation opportunities. From hiking and biking trails to golf, disc golf, and dark skies – the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge has something for everyone. During 2021, the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge went through the process of establishing the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park , and in June of 2022, the International Dark Sky Association officially designated the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge and surrounding areas as an International Dark Sky Park. Stop by the Lodge for maps and information that will help you as you chase the northern lights and stargaze.  

Man standing on vans looking at stars.

The Keweenaw is a great place to take in the night sky. 

Fort Wilkins , now a Michigan State Park, was built in 1844 and was intended to keep law and order during the Keweenaw copper rush. The fort is now set up as a museum and tells the story of life on the northern frontier during the mid-1800's. During the summer, it also offers a living history program that allows family to experience what life was like at the fort for soldiers and their families.  

Copper Harbor to Gay 

From Copper Harbor, we recommend taking US-41 through the "Tunnel of Trees" and then following signs toward Lac La Belle . Spend some time enjoying the soft "singing" sands of Bete Grise and be sure to stop by Mount Bohemia for a bite to eat and sauna at their Nordic Spa before hopping back in the car to continue your Keweenaw Circle Tour cruise.  

Mount Bohemia Summer

Mount Bohemia's Nordic Spa features the largest outdoor hot tub in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 

After relaxing in Lac La Belle, take Gay-Lac La Belle Road to follow the shoreline along the east side of the peninsula. We love this scenic drive because it takes you along roads less-travelled and offers a unique perspective on the varying of the region. Some of our favorite things to see along this road are Haven Falls Roadside Park , Brunette Park , and Tobacco Creek Park . As you traverse this side of the peninsula, you will notice the shoreline is much different. This side of the peninsula offers more sandy beaches, with red and white Jacobsville bedrock stretching into Lake Superior. The soft sands, smooth bedrock, and shallow waters extending into the lake make this side of the Keweenaw ideal for swimming on warm summer days.  

Just past Tobacco River Park, you will enter the historic small town of Gay. Make sure to stop at the iconic Gay Bar for a drink and one of their famous footlong hotdogs. While visiting the small town of Gay, check out the Gay Stamp Sands and the site of the Mohawk Stamp Mill. Today the stamp mill is nothing more than ruins but it offers insight into the history of this seemingly remote town. Please respect this historic site by leaving what you find and practicing responsible recreation .  

The Last Leg of Our Keweenaw Circle Tour Journey 

From Gay, take Lake-Linden-Gay Road, following signs towards Lake Linden. Lake Linden is another historic mining town lined with red sandstone buildings and historic churches. Explore the Houghton County Historical Museum and grab a bite to eat at Lindell’s Chocolate Shoppe or the Loading Zone II .  

Just south of Lake Linden is the small village of Hubbell – home to the lovely Hungarian Falls . Enjoy a short hike back to Dover Creek and explore at least three scenic drops as water flows through the steep gorge created by the Keweenaw Fault.  

Man and woman stand on rocks overlooking Hungarian Falls in spring.

Hungarian Falls is a waterfall created by the Keweenaw Fault and is a local favorite for hiking. 

When you continue south back to Houghton, you will see several historic landmarks, including the Tamarack Stamp Mill, Quincy Stamp Mill, and Quincy Dredge Number Two. The drive will take you along the Portage Canal as you return to the Portage Lake Lift Bridge that spans between Houghton and Hancock. As you return to the Portage Lake Lift Bridge, we hope that you that your mind is full of wonderful memories made during your time in the Keweenaw. Enjoy the rest of your Lake Superior Circle Tour, but don’t forget to circle back around to the Keweenaw the next time you need to reconnect with mother nature or enjoy a little rest and relaxation.  

A woman snowshoes through the woods.

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Kayleigh

Kayleigh White

Kayleigh is a U.P. native with a passion for the outdoors. Some of her favorite outdoor hobbies are rock collecting on the shores of Lake Superior, springtime foraging, and hiking. She is also passionate about flow arts and can be found recording technical double hula-hooping videos throughout the scenic Keweenaw Peninsula. If you are interested in seeing her latest flow arts videos, you can follow her work here:  https://www.instagram.com/waywardkay/

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Ride Lake Superior

The Ride Lake Superior route takes you as close to the shoreline as possible while remaining on pavement. There are some incredible stretches of road you will want to double back on and do again. You can chose the ready-made 8 day itinerary or customize your own using our list of accommodations and attractions or the interactive route planner.

We can't stress enough to take your time and see as many of the incredible sites as possible. If you do log big, big miles each day, you will just have to do it twice. Enjoy the ride. *Note: The route is best experienced in a clockwise rotation.

Accommodations

From secure indoor parking, cleaning supplies, places to hang gear, these places allow you to rest your chaps and welcome bikers.

Food

Your bike needs fuel and so do you. From the biggest burgers, biggest donuts or the biggest breakfast, the size of Lake Superior isn't the only thing that's huge.

Attractions

The routes offer many incredible natural and man-made attractions. We’ve selected only the best ones for riders. Be sure to have lots of memory in your camera.

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Bike shops aren't just for repairs; they're the source of knowledge about the local riding scene. Get the skinny on the best roads, fix a flat, or score some new riding gear.

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Lake Superior Circle Tour Itinerary

Lake Superior Circle Tour

Going on a Lake Superior Circle tour is one of the best ways to experience all of the beauty this unique part of North America offers. On top of exploring breathtaking wilderness areas and shorelines, you’ll also get the chance to dive into the rich history of the many amazing cities you’ll visit.

As you travel along the more than 13,000 miles of exciting scenery, you’ll be able to cross through Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada. Since the whole tour is a circle, you have your choice of which Upper Peninsula towns you want to start and end in, along with which ones you want to spend the most time in along the way.

While you can add a few personalized touches to this itinerary, reading through this general guide on making the perfect loop around Lake Superior will help you start planning one of the most iconic road trips everyone should experience at least once in their life.

where to visit in the upper peninsula

Start in Ironwood and Head to Duluth

Technically, you can start the Lake Superior Circle tour in any town. Mackinaw City, Marquette, and Thunder Bay are all other potential places to start, and you might find it hard to narrow down where to visit the Upper Peninsula first. But, Ironwood has a few key characteristics that help you kick your tour off right. Since the town is smaller than some of the others, you’ll enjoy beginning your trip in an area where you can take in the local sights without dealing with too many crowds.

Ironwood hosts several historic sites and museums and is close to the Copper Peak Ski Hill, so you can start seeing some amazing places immediately. Plus, the town gives you a fun, family-friendly place to refuel and rest up at the end of your loop when you’re tired from crossing through the Porcupine Mountains.

Going from Ironwood to Duluth takes between two to three hours, depending upon the route that you take. Along the way, you can stop in Ashland, where you can explore the murals downtown. If you opt to go through Bayfield, then you can take a ferry to Madeline Island, which is the largest of the Apostle Islands. Or, you might choose to spend some time in Amnicon Falls State Park, where you can take in the awe-inspiring rapids that flow through the area.

Move Through Duluth to Thunder Bay

This portion of your drive is around 189 miles, and the first 150 before you arrive at the Canadian border is a gorgeous scenic byway that gives you a chance to check out waterfalls and wildlife that will take your breath away. For this part of your route, you’ll want to avoid taking the Expressway and instead travel along Scenic 61 to get to Two Harbors. There, you can check out the lighthouse and stretch your legs along the Sonju Trail.

On your way to Grand Marais, you should be able to see Gooseberry Falls somewhere between mile marker 40 and 60, and you’ll be in close proximity to another lighthouse and Tettegouche State Park if you’re ready for a picnic or up for a hike. Once you hit Grand Marais, you can visit the Grand Portage National Monument, which houses a re-created fur trading post that lets you learn more about the industry. You’ll encounter another state park just before you arrive at the Canadian border. The Grand Portage State Park offers you a short hike to see the 120-foot falls, or you can choose to see it from the top once you move over the Canadian border.

Travel from Thunder Bay to Wawa

Thunder Bay is a fun place to spend several hours, especially if you love learning from costume-loving history interpreters that can tell you all about the history of the fur trading in the area. For waterfall chasers, the town also brings you close to Kakabeka Falls. If the thought of driving from Thunder Bay to Wawa is overwhelming, then consider stopping mid-way in Rossport, where you might choose to go kayaking or view the waterfalls at the Rainbow Falls Provincial Park. As you leave Wawa, try to make sure you have time in your schedule to visit the Lake Superior Provincial Park, where you can view pictographs on Agawa Rock.

Explore the Beauty of Wawa Through Munising

The drive back into the United States and around the other side of Lake Superior is just as full of fun-filled adventures as the previous part of your journey. After venturing through Wawa, you’ll come into Sault Ste. Marie, where it’s worth planning to spend some time watching the boats in the harbor. If you’ve got some extra time on your trip, then you may also want to drive an hour south to St. Ignace, where you can take a ferry to Mackinac Island, which feels like stepping back in time since bicycles and horse-drawn carriages are the primary way to get around.

Lake Superior Circle Tour

If you find yourself feeling tired as you get close to Paradise, then you can choose to stay in one of the many local hotels overnight. Or, you could head to the Tahquamenon Falls State Park, where you can enjoy seeing some wildlife in the Upper Peninsula as you camp or spend the night in a lodge.

Keep Going to Copper Harbor and the Porcupine Mountains

If you have time as you move through Munising, taking a Pictured Rocks cruise is an idyllic way to spend some time before heading through some of the most scenic parts of your trip. If the time of year is right, Copper Harbor offers a chance to burn off some energy on more than 25 miles of mountain biking trails. Or, you might opt to go kayaking.

upper peninsula towns

Whatever you do, make sure to plan for plenty of time to stay in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, where you can see three famous Upper Peninsula waterfalls if you take the Presque Isle River hiking loop. The State Park also has yurts, cabins, lodges, and traditional camping spots that you can use to spend a night or two before returning to your modern lodging options in Ironwood, where you can finish your trip by dining in style at one of the local restaurants.

The Lake Superior Circle Tour can be accomplished in as few as four to five days, or you can extend it to two weeks or more when you have enough time to fully explore all of the best Upper Peninsula towns on your itinerary. Now that you’ve got this basic outline of how to make your way around the loop and where to visit in the Upper Peninsula, be sure to fill it in with festivals, events, and longer stops where you can mingle with the locals and discover more about the rich history of the area.

upper peninsula towns

When it comes to bucket list trips, you’ll find that this is one that lets you see waterfalls, view wildlife and take part in adventures that range from going to the top of a breathtakingly high ski jump hill to exploring a shipwreck while spending time on the many miles of land and sea that make up the Upper Peninsula. Let Travel Ironwood help with your Lake Superior circle tour itinerary or any questions you have about the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

TravelAwaits

13 Beautiful Michigan Towns To Visit On Lake Superior

I f water sports are top of mind when you think of a fantastic summer vacation, Lake Superior and its beautiful Michigan lake towns are a great option. You’ll find plenty of shorelines, uncrowded quaint villages, and various other activities to meet the entire family’s needs. 

The Ojibwe called Lake Superior gitche gumee , “the great sea.” Lake Superior lies directly north of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; it’s the largest of the Great Lakes, with a surface area of 31,700 square miles. That also makes it the largest freshwater lake on the planet. The lake is 160 miles wide and about 350 miles long. That makes the area perfect for water sports like fishing, kayaking, swimming, and — although a bit cold — surfing. 

With the entire population of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula at just over 314,000, the towns along Lake Superior’s coastline are relatively small, quaint, and uncrowded even during the summer. Starting from east to west, here are some of the towns you should plan to explore.

1.  Sault Saint Marie

Sault Saint Marie, affectionately referred to as the Soo, lies at the intersection of Lake Superior and Lake Huron, about 50 miles north of the Mackinac Bridge. One of the main attractions is the Soo Locks, an engineering marvel. While they have an observation tower where you can watch the boats pass through the locks, you can experience going through them on a boat tour . In addition to experiencing passage through the locks, the tour provides a narrative history. You’ll also see Sault Saint Marie, Ontario, Canada, from the water during the ride. The Sault Saint Marie International Bridge connects two cities of the same name in two different nations, the United States and Canada.

Open from early May through mid-October, the Tower of History , 210 feet above street level, provides panoramic views of the area and is well worth the journey to the top. Start on the ground floor, exploring the museum, which includes a video. Then, you can climb the 292 stairs to the top of the structure or ride the elevator to the 25-plus-story building. From the observation deck, you can see up to 1,200 square miles, from the Soo Locks and Sugar Island to the Canadian waterfront and the wilderness to the north.

The Museum Ship Valley Camp is a Great Lakes freighter that is more than just a tour of her deck. The ship’s massive cargo holds feature a 20,000-square-foot museum with over 100 exhibits, explaining the role of freighters on the Great Lakes. Aquarium enthusiasts will also enjoy the four 1,200-gallon aquariums featuring fish from the Great Lakes region.

Pro Tip: While the Tower of History has an elevator to the top, you’ll find steps to get inside and a few steps while you’re inside.

2. Paradise

Paradise sits on Whitefish Bay, 11 miles south of Whitefish Point. The hallmark of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is wildlife and waterfalls, and Tahquamenon Falls State Park features both. Tahquamenon Falls offers both Upper and Lower Falls, and the Upper Falls has a drop of almost 50 feet and a width of more than 200 feet. It’s one of the most significant falls east of the Mississippi. The Lower Falls are a string of five lesser waterfalls that cascade around an island. The Lower Falls are not as massive as the Upper Falls, but they are stunning. The water takes on colors that are a cross between copper and root beer, and the foam adds to the root beer feel.

When visiting the falls, don’t rely on your GPS. Maps are a must. The first view of the Lower Falls is 100 yards from the parking lot. To reach the next viewing platform, it’s a 10-minute walk. You’ll want to drive to the Upper Falls from the Lower Falls. For people who use wheelchairs, Tahquamenon’s track chair assists where standard wheelchairs may not work. You can reserve the chair by email, phone, or Facebook Messenger beforehand.

Pro Tip: Be sure to remember insect repellent when visiting Tahquamenon Falls.

3. Whitefish Point

This area on Lake Superior, known as the Shipwreck Coast, contains about 200 shipwrecks. To learn about their tragic stories, visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The museum is located at Michigan’s Whitefish Point Light Station, about a 1.5-hour drive from the Mackinac Bridge.

The star attraction at Whitefish Point is the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum . The museum focuses on the region’s maritime history. One exciting artifact at the museum is the bell from the S.S. Edmond Fitzgerald , the namesake of the Gordon Lightfoot song “The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald.”

Birdwatching is another popular activity. Whitefish Point acts as a migration corridor for birds and the area has a global Important Bird Area designation with over 340 recorded species of birds. The Whitefish Point Bird Observatory is an excellent place for birdwatching and photographing birds in flight. The piping plover is an endangered species and this is a great place to catch a glimpse of them from early to mid-summer.

Pro Tip: The observatory has an owl banding lab where you can meet the researchers and maybe see an owl. They are open Friday and Saturday nights from dusk to midnight during the banding season.

4. Grand Marais

Grand Marais is the eastern entrance to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore . Grand Marais is a quaint harbor town of only 350 people, so the miles of Lake Superior beaches provide an opportunity for solitude and serenity. With some of the darkest skies in the United States, the beach is an excellent place for stargazers to take out their telescopes. Rockhounds will want to head to Agate Beach, directly north of Main Street, to try to uncover those semi-precious agates.

Those who enjoy exploring lighthouses have a pair to photograph in the Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge Inner and Outer Lights, located on the west pier at the entrance to Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge. These lights are also on the National Register of Historic Places.

Pro Tip: While you’re in the area, you shouldn’t miss the stunning Kitchi-ti-kipi , Big Springs, located in Palms Book State Park.

5. Munising

Munising is the western gateway to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore . Located on Lake Superior’s south shore, it was the first of four national shorelines. The National Park Service operates the Pictured Rocks, where you’ll find vivid multi-colored limestone cliffs.

Pictured Rocks National Shoreline sits between Munising and Grand Marais, and you’ll find it to be an outdoor-lover’s heaven.

A Michigan Upper Peninsula food specialty is a pastie, and Muldoon’s Pasties and Gifts is a popular place to try one. The pastie is a hand-held Cornish meat pie made with ground beef, potatoes, carrots, onion, and rutabaga, all baked in a pie crust. Sometimes, they’re served on a plate and topped with gravy.

Pro Tip: One of the easiest ways to fully view the Pictured Rocks National Shoreline is through a boat tour, especially if you find hiking difficult. The boat tour is excellent for all activity levels. Pictured Rocks Cruises leave from the Munising City Dock, where the longest tours are two hours and 15 minutes and include Spray Falls, covering 32 miles roundtrip.

To learn more about what you need to know before visiting Pictured Rocks National Shoreline, check out this article: 11 Things To Know Before Exploring Pictured Rocks National Shoreline .

6. Marquette

Marquette is the largest city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s a major port for shipping iron ore and home to Northern Michigan University, where you’ll find the DeVos Art Museum on the University’s campus. With over 1,500 items in its permanent collection, you’ll find art ranging from local and regional artists to Japanese art and artifacts.

Another museum worth a stop is the Marquette Regional History Center . It offers a permanent collection that includes interactive, immersive exhibits highlighting the history between man and the environment. The six hands-on exhibits include touch-screen kiosks featuring information on Lake Superior and the Native American Culture. 

Stay at the Hampton Inn Marquette Waterfront on the Lake Superior shore. We enjoyed our breakfast and morning coffee on the deck overlooking Lake Superior. Even on cold mornings, the large windows allow for a beautiful view of the lake.

Pro Tip: In the summer, the Marquette Regional History Center offers 90-minute Historic Marquette Walking Tours, where you’ll meet historic characters in period dress who provide fun historical interpretations of local sites. Digital audio tours are available on their website.

Located about 45 minutes northwest of Marquette, Big Bay is a small town with attractive accommodations. Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast offers an overnight lighthouse experience. While the Big Bay Lighthouse is an active navigation aid that the U.S. Coast Guard still monitors, you can still stay overnight here in the bed and breakfast.

Van Riper State Park in nearby Champion, Michigan, isn’t on Lake Superior, but rather Lake Michigamme, an inland lake. This state park creates a fun day trip from Big Bay, where you can spend the day picnicking and enjoying the sandy beach. Take a slow drive through the park’s northern area, and you might experience a moose encounter.

Pro Tip: Be aware that Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has two time zones. The Lake Superior coastline is in the Eastern time zone; however, some west near Wisconsin areas are on Central time. When making time-sensitive reservations, check which time zone the venue is following.

On U.S. Route 41 between L’Anse and Baraga, take time to see the giant copper sculpture rising over 60 feet above Keweenaw Bay. Nicknamed the Snowshoe Priest, Frederic Baraga left an upper-class European lifestyle in 1830 to open Catholic missions along the south shore of Lake Superior. The stunning statue pays homage to one of Keweenaw’s most loved pioneers. 

Located east of Pequaming is Second Sand Beach, an ideal location for swimming, picnicking, and other day-use activities.

Pro Tip: Second Sand Beach offers a handicapped porta-potty, an accessible beach walkway, and van-accessible parking.

If you prefer camping to hotels, Baraga State Park , located on Lake Superior’s Keweenaw Bay, makes a good base camp for exploring the western part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The park offers a 0.75-mile nature trail for hiking, kayaking, and ORV-friendly activities.

Pro Tip: Baraga State Park is one of few state parks allowing off-road vehicles between the campground and the nearby ORV trails.

10. Copper Harbor

Located on the northernmost point of the Keweenaw Peninsula, Copper Harbor got its name from its mining history. For stunning views of Lake Superior up to 1,300 feet above sea level, the Brockway Mountain Drive takes you 9 miles along a picturesque drive.

History buffs will enjoy Copper Harbor’s 700-acre Fort Wilkins Historic State Park. The park offers an 1844 U.S. Army Outpost and an 1866 Copper Harbor Lighthouse, one of the first lighthouses on Lake Superior.

Located about 1 mile south of Copper Harbor, spring is the best time to view the 45-foot-tall Manganese Falls. The falls are often non-existent in the summer months.

Pro Tip: Under the right weather conditions, you can view the northern lights from Copper Harbor.

11. Calumet

Located along Route 41, Calumet dates back to 1875 and has a rich mining history. Start your tour of the region by stopping in at the visitor center . The Keweenaw National Historical Park tells the story of the entire Keweenaw Peninsula, with sites throughout the area.

The Calumet Theater began as an opera house in the late 1800s. In the early 1900s, the theater featured Broadway productions. Over the years, as Calument’s economy declined, the theater primarily was for movies. Today, it still has events and musical entertainment. History buffs will enjoy a tour of this stunning theater.

Pro Tip: The Visitor Center is open year-round from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and has two floors of interactive exhibits about Calumet and its connection to the mining and copper industries.

12. Houghton

Situated on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Houghton is the largest city in the Copper Country region. Houghton is a fun town to visit if you’re interested in geology. The A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum includes three mineral collections: the A.E. Seaman Mineral Collection, the University of Michigan’s collection, and the Great Lakes collection. Houghton, one gateway to Isle Royale National Park, but a true hidden gem), provides ferries and seaplanes to transport you to the island.

Pro Tip: During the summer months, May through September is the best time to visit. In winter, the area measures snow in feet rather than inches, and some activities like access to Isle Royale National Park are seasonal.

13. Ontonagon

Michigan’s largest and arguably most beautiful state park is the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park . If you love the great outdoors, you’ll want to spend some time here. We only had a day when we visited, which wasn’t enough to explore the vast area.

For more information on exploring the area, check out How To Spend A Perfect Long Weekend In Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains .

Pro Tip: Be sure to pack snacks or even a picnic lunch, as we found it challenging to find restaurants available when and where we needed them.

Related Articles:

  • Why You Must Visit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula In An RV
  • 7 Incredible Lighthouses To Visit In The Midwest

This article originally appeared on TravelAwaits

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  1. Lake Superior Circle Tour Map

    Order Guide The official Lake Superior Circle Tour map can be downloaded, printed, and is included in the Lake Superior Circle Tour Adventure Guide.

  2. Simple Map of Lake Superior

    This map represents the Lake Superior Circle Tour, the relative positions of the city and towns around the lake, major parks and islands and the distances between locations. It does not represent the highways between towns. Download a larger version of this map. Our Full-Size Travel Map

  3. Planning a Lake Superior Circle Tour: When to go, what to know

    How to plan: First, get Lake Superior magazine's map with mileage chart. You can download it or pick it up free at information centers. It's also included in the annual Travel Guide, which is nice to have. The guide is free with a magazine subscription or available at newsstands, bookstores or the magazine's store in downtown Duluth.

  4. Lake Superior Circle Tour Map

    Viewed from the Scenic Wayside at the top of Palisades Head. Lake Superior Circle Tour Road Map Circle Tour Scenic Drives & Travel Attractions Interesting things to see and do around Lake Superior

  5. Lake Superior Circle Tour

    Lake Superior Circle Tour map. We started our tour in Sault Ste Marie in Canada and worked our way clockwise around the Lake. Sault Ste Marie is a twin city with Sault Ste. Marie Michigan. There is more to do on the Canadian Side, so we suggest spending a day or two exploring here. Canadian Bush Plane Heritage Centre

  6. 20 Must See Lake Superior Circle Tour Attractions

    A 4 mile (6.4 km) hiking trail along the river leads you to the picturesque Lower Falls, an arrangement of 5 smaller cascading falls. The restaurant, brewery, and gift shop were originally logging camps and the buildings are a replica of the original.

  7. Greatest hits of the Lake Superior Circle Tour: What to see and do

    Thunder Bay to Rossport, 116 miles Spend at least several hours with the costumed living-history interpreters at Fort William Historical Park, the world's largest re-creation of a fur post. See nearby Kakabeka Falls. On the way to Rossport, you'll see the turn-off to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, but that deserves more time.

  8. Wisconsin Travel Guide

    Discover Wisconsin's South Shore of Lake Superior. Fall Color at Potato River Falls. See Wisconsin Lake Superior Fall Color Drives. If you are heading east from Duluth, Mn on US 53, the first stop on the Wisconsin portion of the Lake Superior Circle Tour Route is just over the bridge in Superior, Wisconsin.Waterfall enthusiasts will want to take a short side trip south of Superior to visit ...

  9. Our Lake Superior Circle Tour Adventure

    The Lake Superior Circle Tour is an approximately 1,300-mile highway drive around Lake Superior that goes through Michigan, Ontario, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. There are many cities and stops, and you get to pick the ones you want to see. The goal is to drive around Lake Superior and enjoy its vast beauty.

  10. Lake Superior Circle Tour

    Our Superior Trails Travel Guide provides first hand information on taking the Lake Superior Circle Tour and various festivals, scenic drives, hiking, camping, recreation, waterfall discovery and other interesting things to see and do along Lake Superior's shoreline and in towns and villages along Minnesota's North Shore, Ontario's North of Superior, the Michigan Upper Peninsula, and Wisconsin ...

  11. Lake Superior Circle Tour

    1. Too Many Scenic Views! If you don't like scenic views then the Lake Superior Circle Tour isn't for you! There are countless look-outs around Lake Superior. They're everywhere, from the tops of mountains to the shores of Superior, avoiding them is merely impossible. 2. Too Many Natural Wonders!

  12. Upper Peninsula Michigan Travel Guide

    Travelers along the Lake Superior Circle Tour coming from Wisconsin will enter the Michigan Upper Peninsula either at Hurley-Ironwood on US Highway 2 or through taking the longer but scenic route via Wisconsin Hwy 122. See Western UP Map.

  13. A Circle Tour Of Lake Superior Is The Best Way To See ...

    Published Jul 1, 2021 Planning a circle tour around Lake Superior is the best way to see it, and the trip, according to some, is a life-changing experience. Not everyone is up to taking a circle tour of Lake Superior. Lasting at least five days and spanning 1300 miles, this is not a trip for the faint of heart.

  14. Lake Superior Circle Tour Map

    Lake Superior Circle Tour Maps. Wisconsin Travel Road Map of South Shore Lake Superior Travel Attractions. Discover Wisconsin' s scenic attractions in Bayfield, Madeline Island, the Apostle Islands, Ashland, Superior and Northern Wisconsin State Parks, and points in between. Campgrounds, hiking, waterfalls, restaurants, lodging, and other ...

  15. Your Lake Superior Circle Tour Guide to the Keweenaw

    By Kayleigh White on Jun. 15, 2023. The Lake Superior Circle Tour is an incredible 1,300-mile self-guided route that takes you on a scenic journey around the world's largest freshwater lake. The world-class tour offers the road trip of a lifetime. We promise that the Keweenaw Peninsula is one part of the Circle Tour that you will not want to ...

  16. Lake Superior Circle Tour

    Select Starting Point Distance: 2,300 kms/1450 miles The Ride Lake Superior route takes you as close to the shoreline as possible while remaining on pavement. There are some incredible stretches of road you will want to double back on and do again.

  17. Lake Superior Circle Tour Itinerary

    Going on a Lake Superior Circle tour is one of the best ways to experience all of the beauty this unique part of North America offers. On top of exploring breathtaking wilderness areas and shorelines, you'll also get the chance to dive into the rich history of the many amazing cities you'll visit.

  18. 13 Beautiful Michigan Towns To Visit On Lake Superior

    DeVos Art Museum. Marquette Regional History Center. Hampton Inn Marquette Waterfront. Pro Tip: Digital audio tours. Big Bay Point Lighthouse Photo credit: John Brueske / Shutterstock.com ...