Even though Keweenaw summers only last three months or so, any given summer day feels as though it lasts forever. It could be due to the peninsula’s lazy pace of life, or the hypnotic whisper of Lake Superior, but we suspect it might be our multiplied hours of daylight. Summer sunsets in particular seem to last for hours, with the sky not going dark until 10 p.m. (It’s even later around the solstice.)
As anyone will tell you, it’s hard to pick the perfect beach for enjoying a Keweenaw sunset. So we recommend trying a “chase the sunset” tour. Grab a blanket, a sweater, and a good friend or two, and beach-hop along the coastline, enjoying the sky’s kinetic artwork in a variety of settings until darkness descends. It’s a great way to deepen your acquaintance with this little peninsula at the end of the earth.
To help guide you, we’ve picked out some of the Keweenaw’s best places to catch the sunset, and listed them in order from south to north.
The Keweenaw Waterway
The Keweenaw is best known (and rightly so) for its beachside and mountaintop overlooks. But at sunset, the peninsula’s downtown skyline gets a chance to show off. The iconic Portage Lift Bridge connecting Houghton and Hancock creates a striking frame for the painted sky, and the reflection off the serene face of the Portage Canal offers a double dose of pastel gradient. You can enjoy the view from any of several downtown bars and restaurants, from the bike path through the park, or even on the bridge itself. However, if you have a boat, canoe, kayak or SUP board at your disposal, your best option is to follow the sinking sun toward the mouth of the waterway. A quiet cruise through the calm, gold-tinted water is an experience you won’t soon forget.
F.J. McLain State Park
Facing directly west, situated on a vast sandy cove with the Portage Entry Light on one side and a series of tree-sheltered bluffs on the other, there’s not a bad seat in the house at McLain’s, as it’s locally known. However, a few choice spots include the sand beach on the park’s south side, the tree-protected bluff on the main lawn, and—if you’re lucky enough to have a boat, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard—Breakers Beach, a rocky jetty on the other side of the canal mouth that will make you feel like you’re walking straight into the sun.
Black Creek Nature Sanctuary
If you’re a committed agate hunter, this is the spot for you. The wide shoreline is a field of possibility for those in quest of the Keweenaw’s most prized gemstone, and the setting sun brings out the hidden stones’ inner fire, making them nearly impossible to miss.
During the summer, the sun sets around 35 minutes later on the western shore of Lake Superior than at its southeastern shore. | Photo credit: @chefjamesrigato
Great Sand Bay
If the sunset were a rock concert, Great Sand Bay would be its dream amphitheater. The colors are framed by a vast, sweeping crescent of sugar-textured sand, which also serves to amplify the rhythmic rush of the waves. Honestly, you may not want to go any farther—the night sky over this beach is something you’ll never forget.
Eagle Harbor Marina
Just to the right of the marina parking lot is a tiny sand beach with a front-and-center view of the iconic Eagle Harbor lighthouse. This means that you may not see the actual sun hitting the water, but we think the historic red-roofed building with the backdrop of a brilliantly painted sky makes a pretty decent trade.
With its old stone wall and its cozy rocky coves on either side, Esrey Park looks like the setting for the closing scene in a romantic drama. With plenty of cozy corners to shelter in, it’s the perfect place for a first kiss, a fancy picnic, a proposal, or simply sharing a quiet moment huddling under a blanket.
With a full 360-degree view of the twilight sky, the top of the Keweenaw is what a planetarium aspires to be. Throwdown a blanket on the west-facing grassy knoll, lie on your back, and watch the sky’s gradient intensify from soft pastels to flaming primary colors. Keep an eye out for the lights of freighters as they cruise ’round the tip of the peninsula.
About the Author
Chelsea Batten is a Keweenaw writer/photographer and co-founder of The Last Coast Media.