At the northern end of the five-mile mighty Mackinac Bridge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you’ll find the quaint town of St. Ignace. This town situated at the point where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet is the perfect place to enjoy northern Michigan’s great outdoors.
Things To Do In St. Ignace
Northern Michigan is the perfect place for an outdoor enthusiast who wants to spend their days at the beach or getting close to nature. Nature hikes, fishing, and boating are all part of the experience. History buffs interested in Native American history will find museums that share the tales of Father Marquette, fur traders, and Native Americans.
Feed The Deer At Deer Ranch
Michigan’s state animal is the white-tailed deer. These mammals are abundant in the wild throughout Michigan, and you’re likely to encounter one on a nature hike in the woods. But if you don’t want to leave this to chance or enjoy a more intimate experience, visit Deer Ranch. Deer Ranch is the oldest live white-tailed deer exhibit in North America and offers interaction with white-tailed deer of all types. You can buy deer feed for a nominal fee, feed, pet, and photograph the deer in a natural setting. Walking the trail will help you get your steps in for the day.
Each year they have to bottle feed some fawns. Call ahead to find their schedule, and they may let you help with their feeding. Their gift shop offers a selection of Minnetonka moccasins and deerskin gloves.
Uncover The Mystery At The Mystery Spot
At the risk of spoiling the surprise, the Mystery Spot in St. Ignace is a gravity hill that features tilt-induced visual illusions. This attraction is a family-fun place where optical illusions mystify. An interactive guided tour usually lasts 20 minutes, depending on visitor interaction. It’s the perfect place to play an 18-hole round of mini-golf or try to find your way through the Fort Maze. The zip lines are another challenging activity.
Climb Castle Rock
Castle Rock, three miles north of St. Ignace, showcases Lake Huron, Mackinac Island, and downtown St. Ignace. Rising 195 feet above the water, you can see up to 15 miles on a clear day. To get to the top, you need to climb 207 steps, but it’s worth the effort, and the million-dollar view costs around $1.
Check Out The Museums
Father Marquette National Memorial and Museum tells the story of that 17th-century missionary/explorer and the meeting of French and Native American cultures deep in the North American wilderness.
The Museum of Ojibwa Culture has indoor and outdoor exhibits that provide a window into the Ojibwa culture and the Huron’s lifestyles. It’s also the location of the French Jesuit mission where Father Jacques Marquette lived and was buried. The museum displays an authentic collection of Native American arts and crafts.
If you love winter but are visiting in the summer, get your winter on at the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum. Located in Naubinway, it’s about 50 miles from St. Ignace. The museum features snowmobiling and displays vintage and antique snowmobiles.
Walk The Mackinac Bridge On Labor Day
Labor Day is the one day of the year that the Mackinac Bridge becomes a pedestrian bridge, and you can walk the entire five-mile span. It’s the world’s longest suspension bridge, and the bridge crossing, usually led by the governor of Michigan, must be completed by noon. You can cross the bridge one-way on foot and take a shuttle back or leave yourself enough time and energy to be a “double crosser” and walk both ways.
Picnic At Gros Cap Roadside Park
Take a road trip on U.S. 2 about six miles west of St. Ignace, and stop at the Gros Cap Roadside Park on the south side of the highway. The perfect photo opportunity of the Mackinac Bridge and Lake Michigan is worth the short drive. If you have a picnic lunch here, watch out for seagulls -- the little bandits love to snatch a bite of your lunch.
Discover The Dunes
While you’re taking in the bridge from Gros Cap Roadside Park, stop to enjoy the dunes along the same route. The beachy waterfront along the south side of U.S. 2 and just west of St. Ignace is the perfect place to pull over on the shoulder of the road and enjoy Lake Michigan. You can even play in the water.
Take A Day Trip
St. Ignace makes an excellent base for a day trip to other areas around Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Soo Locks in Sault St. Marie, Michigan, is about 52 miles north of St. Ignace, and you can take a tour of the locks.
Another popular day trip from St. Ignace is Mackinac Island. Both Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry and the Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry offer ferry service to the island. Mackinac Island doesn’t allow motorized vehicles on the island, so you can expect to do a lot of walking or biking. Carriage tours and horse-drawn taxis are alternative modes of transportation.
Best Restaurants In St. Ignace
We’ve found that all the fresh air in northern Michigan’s outdoors makes you work up an appetite. You’re going to want to sample some of the Upper Peninsula’s local favorites. Try some fish from the Great Lakes, like whitefish, perch, or walleye. Second on the list are pasties, traditionally hand-held meat pies made from beef, potatoes, onions, carrots, and rutabaga packaged in a homemade pie crust. Today you’ll find various kinds of pasties, including vegetarian, chicken, and dessert-style with apple or cherry fillings. Two other Michigan specialties are tart cherries and fudge.
Downtown Fudge Shop
There’s no need to go all the way to Mackinac Island to enjoy the tempting smell of chocolate. Murdick’s Fudge opened its original shop in 1887 on Mackinac Island; however, today, they have a store in St. Ignace that offers the same great fudge. Fudge is a great way to combine with the flavor of Michigan cherries. While fudge comes in dozens of flavors, one of my favorites is the chocolate cherry fudge, and they also make a cherry version minus the chocolate.
After having your fill of whitefish, go to Clyde’s Drive-In for arguably the best burgers in the Upper Peninsula. Clyde’s is reminiscent of a 1950’s drive-in and offers milkshakes and pizza.
Pro Tip: Go prepared with cash, as Clyde’s doesn’t take credit cards.
Java Joe’s Cafe
While you can get great cuppa Joe at Java Joe’s Cafe, it’s a must-try breakfast or brunch place. Joe has some healthy selections that he makes in-house, like granola and yogurt. He serves them with fruit and honey for a healthy breakfast. Our favorites were the pancakes and crepes. My choice from more than 20 types of pancakes was the banana pancakes. If you decide to go for the crepes stuffed with a homemade cream cheese mixture, have them topped with local Michigan cherries.
While Java Joe’s Cafe doesn’t roast their beans, they have great coffee. Java Joe’s Cafe is a seasonal restaurant, open April through October.
The Gangplank Pub And Grub
The Gangplank Pub and Grub is an outdoor-dining restaurant, open seasonally, with a view of the lake. We love this place for lunch. The patio has a roof and is open on three sides to provide stunning views of the lake. Their beef burgers are never frozen, and the fries are fresh cut. Here’s another great place to try Lake Superior whitefish -- try the whitefish fingers as an appetizer. We also enjoy the lightly breaded whitefish sandwich, served on a toasted brioche bun.
Jose’s Cantina takes Michigan ingredients like Traverse City cherries and Lake Superior whitefish and turns them into Mexican specialties. They have the number-one-ranked fish taco in Michigan. Try Jose’s award-winning Lake Superior whitefish tacos. Paired with a cherry margarita and enjoyed on their deck with sunset views of Lake Michigan, it’s a scene to enjoy over dinner. Jose’s Cantina is a seasonal restaurant open from April through October. The chef also has excellent choices for vegetarians and vegans.
Best Hotels In St. Ignace
After a day in northern Michigan’s great outdoors, all that fresh air always helps us sleep well. Need a place to rest your head? Here are some spots to consider.
Kewadin Casino’s St. Ignace Hotel
Located on Lake Huron, Kewadin Casino St. Ignace Hotel is an 81-room hotel offering Las Vegas-style table gaming and slots.The rooms have log cabin styling in keeping with the “Up North” feel. Amenities include free Wi-Fi, free valet parking, an indoor pool, and a gym. Pets aren’t allowed at Kewadin, but service animals with the proper papers are welcome.
Breaker’s Resort And Beach Bar
A seasonal option is the 100-room Breakers Resort and Beach Bar that’s right on the beach. Breakers doesn’t allow pets, either.
Pro Tips: Be sure to reach specific hotels, restaurants, and activities before you go. Many venues are open seasonally, late April through late October. If you’re going on the shoulder season, call ahead to ensure the place you want to visit is open. If you’re going to take some additional time to enjoy northern Michigan’s natural beauty, stay at one of Michigan’s state park campgrounds.