36 Hours in the Keweenaw: Summer Edition

Posted on July 14th, 2020

 

In the quest to plan the perfect summer vacation, it’s easy to lose sight of the most important part: relaxing. This is precisely what makes a Keweenaw summer weekend getaway so special. Soaked in sunshine, washed in a clean Lake Superior breeze, this tiny peninsula at the top of the world offers the perfect balance of outdoor adventure, creature comforts and—our secret ingredient—long summer days tailor-made for doing nothing at all.

We all know how quickly summer goes by. So save yourself the stress of endless research, price comparison, and itinerary mapping. We’ve mapped out a three-day vacation that highlights the peninsula’s best-loved attractions, with plenty of time built in to rest, refresh and restore.

Friday

3 p.m. – Northern Exposure

Celebrate your arrival in the Keweenaw Peninsula with a breezy stroll across the Portage Lift Bridge to take in the 360-degree view. On the Hancock side, you’ll find Gino’s, a corner pub known for its elegant Art Deco-era bar and its welcoming back patio.

7 p.m. — Get Your Steps In

Take in the local scene with a stroll along the Houghton Waterfront Trail. A great place to start is at the docking station of the Ranger III, where you can get up close and personal with the iconic Isle Royale ferry. Meander westward, enjoying the waterfront view on one side and the series of North Country-inspired murals on the other. You can meander all the way to the park at the end of the footpath, or post up at the marina for a sweeping view of the Keweenaw stretching in both directions.

9 p.m. —  (Almost) Midnight Sun

Just like its sister cities in Scandinavia, the Keweenaw boasts extended daylight during the summer months. That gives you plenty of time to catch the sunset after dinner. While Shelden Avenue offers plenty of comfortable venues for a Michigan microbrew or a craft cocktail, summer is the perfect time to get your favorite tipple to go and bring it back down to a waterfront picnic table, where you can savor the boreal sunset along with your drink.

A sunset over the Keweenaw Waterway's Portage Lift Bridge

Sunset over the Keweenaw Waterway’s Portage Lift Bridge

Saturday

9 a.m. – Stoke Your Sisu

Fuel up for a day of exploration with a hearty breakfast at Suomi. A Keweenaw favorite for decades, this homey Finnish diner serves strong coffee, creamy panukakku and warm spiced nisu alongside American favorites like omelets and biscuits and gravy.

10 a.m. – Treasure Hunting on 26

Following U.S. 26 will take you on a leisurely drive along the peninsula’s western coastline, hugging the canal until it meets Lake Superior, then continuing past the historic mining town of Calumet and the tiny villages that lie farther along the road. You’ll see plenty of places to stop for Keweenaw treasures, especially the coveted prize of the summer, thimbleberry jam. Just make sure to save room for goodies from the Jam Pot, a cottage bakery run by the monks who reside at the Holy Transfiguration Skete just outside Eagle Harbor. Even if there’s a line, don’t skip it—their homemade preserves, baked goods and candies are well worth the wait. Less than a mile past the Jam Pot, make another stop at Great Sand Bay to indulge in the perennial Yooper pastime of agate hunting. Even if the pickings are slim, you’ll be rewarded with memories of the sweeping view. 

Agate hunting at Great Sand Bay

Hunting for agates is a local pastime. Great Sand Bay offers scenic views of Lake Superior just north of Eagle Harbor.

12 p.m. — The End of the Earth

At the top of the peninsula lies the postage stamp-sized village of Copper Harbor, home to world-class mountain biking and, some say, the cleanest air on earth. Check into your lodging, then visit Rock Skippers food truck parked beside Brickside Brewery for a hearty lunch of crisp-fried Lake Superior whitefish. No one will blame you if you dip into the brewery for a pint to wash it down.

1 p.m. – Choose Your Own Adventure

Despite its small size, Copper Harbor offers plenty of options for spending your Saturday. If you’re raring to explore the peninsula, look no further than Keweenaw Adventure Company, where you can find equipment rentals and enthusiastic local guides for everything from kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding to mountain biking. Prefer exploring at a slower pace? The short loop around Manganese Falls is a beautiful beginner-level hike through the woods, ending at the top of a cascading waterfall. Of course, you may have come to the Keweenaw in the first place for the peninsula’s legendary beaches. If so, head to Bête Gris, a crescent-shaped cove just southeast of Copper Harbor, where the shallow depth and enclosing rocks tame Lake Superior’s wild waters into a serene lagoon. 

Kayakers paddling near Bete Grise

Enjoy a serene paddle along the coast of one of the Keweenaw’s legendary beaches.

4 p.m. — A View From the Top

Take a late afternoon break from adventure, and head back for a stroll around the harbor and its neighboring rock shops and galleries, as well as the Keweenaw’s artsiest souvenir shop, the Laughing Loon. For a mid-afternoon boost, visit the historic Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, where you’ll find a coffee bar serving Calumet’s Keweenaw Coffee Works, then ride that energy wave to the top of Brockway Mountain for an unparalleled view of the sparkling coastline. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for passing freighters.

6 p.m. – Vienna Waits for You

Reward your long day of exploration with a visit to the Harbor Haus, an Austrian-inflected fine dining establishment where every table has a view. Keep your eyes peeled for the Isle Royale Queen to appear on its return from the island.

8.30 p.m. — One More Saturday Night

Not ready for the day to end? Drive a few miles down the coast to Fitzgerald’s Inn, aka The Fitz, for a nightcap on their back deck while watching another late-night sunset over the lake.

Beer being poured at the Fitz

Sample an assortment of cocktails and beers on The Fitz’s patio on the shores of Lake Superior.

Sunday

9 a.m. —  Morning Glory

Start your day with breakfast at Jamsen’s, a hole-in-the-wall bakery on the harbor known for their wild berry turnovers and bacon-cheddar scones. While the bakery does have seating, enjoying your breakfast outside on the water is definitely recommended.

11 a.m. — The Long Goodbye

A weekend of adventure deserves the Keweenaw’s best sendoff: a trip through the famous tree tunnel arching over the northernmost end of U.S. 41. This natural cathedral of birch and maple has been commemorated by photographers all over the North, but the sight never gets old.

To learn more about the Keweenaw’s many lodging options, visit our “Places to Stay” page.

About the Author

Bryan Thompson is a Keweenaw writer/photographer and co-founder of The Last Coast Media. 

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