One of North America’s most interesting and varied travel destinations is Great Lakes, the largest grouping of freshwater lakes in the world.
Spanning more than 750 miles from east to west and offering more than 10,000 miles of coastline, Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huran, Ontario and Erie offer scenic coastal villages, waterfront towns and historical sites, including lighthouses and military forts, as well as some of the country’s largest cities.
Others will enjoy beautiful waterfalls, dense forests and numerous lakes and rivers that are perfect for fishing as well as canoeing and kayaking. Here’s a closer look at the Great Lakes region with great places to camp and nearby attractions.
Buffalo Valley Camping in Duluth, Minn. is a great base camp for exploring the west end of Lake Superior. Attractions include:
Minnesota’s North Shore Drive, a scenic 154-mile drive from Duluth to the Canadian border, which passes by several small shoreline towns with art galleries and restaurants that serve local seafood.
Heading further east, Wildwood Campground in Iron River, Wis. is a terrific base camp for visiting Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, a kayakers’ paradise with 21 islands that the National Park Service considers to be the “Jewels of Lake Superior.”
Here is an overview of things to see and places to camp around Lake Michigan, from Door County, Wisconsin on the west to Traverse City, Mich. on the east.
Door County, Wis.: One of the most popular vacation destinations in Wisconsin, Door County is famous for its lakefront campgrounds, its dense forests and numerous scenic locations for canoeing, kayaking, fishing and hiking.
Green Bay, Wis.: The cities near Green Bay are popular summer camping destinations for Green Bay Packers fans, who go to Laumbeau Field to watch the packers practice until football season starts in the fall.
Milwaukee, Wis.: New attractions in Milwaukee include Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin (www.discoveryworld.org), a 120,000-square foot facility with interactive science and technology exhibits, theaters as well as fresh and salt water aquariums that feature aquatic life from the Great Lakes, the North Atlantic and the Caribbean.
Chicago, Ill.: Top attractions in Chicago include the Art Institute of Chicago, which was considered one of the top rated museums in the United States. Other attractions include the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, the Chicago Children’s Museum and Navy Pier, an entertainment venue that includes a 150-foot ferris wheel and an IMAX theater.
Traverse City, Mich.: This is scenic area is popular area is popular with hiking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts. Local attractions also include Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore, which offers miles and miles of white sand beaches as well as sweeping views of Lake Michigan from atop the park’s sand dunes.
Spanning the east side of Michigan, Lake Huron encompasses several popular camping areas, which are listed below from north to south.
Mackinac Island, Mich.: Located on the northern tip of Michigan on Lake Huron, Mackinac Island was voted one of the top 10 islands in the world by Condé Nast Traveler for its historic architecture and scenic environment. The island, which is also the site of Michigan’s oldest state park, is also the site of the annual Mackinac Island Fudge Festival, which is scheduled for Aug. 22-23.
Frankenmuth, Mich: This German-themed town, a few miles inland from Lake Huron, is the only city outside of Munich, Germany to have an officially sanctioned Oktoberfest celebration, which takes place this year from Sept. 18-21. Other upcoming Frankenmuth events include the Michigan Zombie Run, a 5k mud and obstacle course run through a densely wooded course filled with zombies that jump out at the runners. Zombie runs are scheduled for July 19 and Aug. 9.
Lake Erie has many historical sites, including lighthouses and museums. Here is a sampling of sites to see along the southern border of Lake Erie, from west to east.
Several historic lighthouses are located along Lake Erie, including the Land Lighthouse in Erie, Penn. Originally built in 1818, this was the first lighthouse built by the U.S. government in the Great Lakes. The current structure was built in 1867.
Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park in Buffalo, N.Y.: This park features historic submarines and ships, artifacts and special events.
Here is an overview of popular sites to see along Lake Ontario, from west to east.
Niagara Falls: One of the most famous waterfalls in the world, Niagara Falls is actually a series of three waterfalls on the Niagara River that drain Lake Erie into Lake Ontario.
Old Fort Niagara Lighthouse in Youngstown, N.Y.: This lighthouse was first constructed on the roof of the Old Fort in 1781. It was the earliest official lighthouse on the Great Lakes.
Selkirk Lighthouse in Port Ontario, N.Y.: Built in 1838, this is one of only four lighthouses in the U.S. to retain its original birdcage lantern.