Clear blue waters. Majestic waterfalls. Towering cliffs. A national forest.
For those looking for spectacular scenery and a myriad of activities that go with it, the Lake Superior shoreline communities of Munising and Christmas offer numerous attractions for gas tank getaway travelers.
"It's the jewel of the Upper Midwest," said Kathy Reynolds, executive director of the Alger County Chamber of Commerce and the Munising Downtown Development Authority.
Hole No. 4, a par-3, 184-yard layout at the Pictured Rocks Golf and Country Club in Munising. (Journal photo by Craig Remsburg)
"It's one of the most picturesque areas in the Midwest. For those living in the area, it should be No. 1 on your 'bucket' list.
"To get here on a tank of gas is quite a deal," she said.
Munising is about 42 miles east of Marquette along the south shore of Lake Superior. It can be reached via M-28 from the southeast and west, M-94 from the west or Alger County Highway 58 from the east.
n Destination: Munising area
n Mileage: Marquette to AuTrain:?30
miles; Marquette to Munising,
n Did you know: There are more than 20
waterfalls in and around Munising.
Pictured Rocks National
Park. The shoreline is lined with
picturesque natural rock formations
that draw over 600,000 visitors each year.
For more information:
Get more information on Munising and the
surrounding areas by visiting www.algercounty.org or www.munising.org
Perhaps the biggest draw for the area is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It encompasses more than 73,000 acres and extends 42 miles east of Munising.
Some 15 miles of sandstone arches, colorful cliffs and sculpted rock formations impress visitors at Pictured Rocks. Formations called Miners Castle, Indian Head and Battleship Rock provide sweeping vistas and outstanding natural scenery.
All can be viewed up close aboard Pictured Rocks Boat Tours craft. Trips are available two-four times a day throughout the summer and well into October. It's a roughly three-hour round trip.
"A lot of people also hike along Pictured Rocks, which is some of the best hiking available in the Midwest," Reynolds said.
"We get 600,000 visitors a year - state, national and international - who come to Pictured Rocks. It's a huge drawing card."
Travel along H-58 along the lakeshore and visit sites such as Miners Falls, Miners Beach and Twelve Mile Beach.
Kayakers can get an up close and personal view of Pictured Rocks through Paddling Michigan - which also offers trips to Grand Island just west of Munising - and Uncle Ducky's Paddling, to name a couple of companies who provide the service.
A roughly half-mile ferry boat ride to Grand Island provides visitors an opportunity to bike or hike along 25 miles of scenic beauty, particularly in the fall when leaves change color. The island is maintained by the U.S. Forest Service.
Those wishing to view turn-of-the-century shipwrecked boats in Lake Superior's Munising Bay can do so through Alger Underwater Preserve tours. Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tours provide views of wrecks in crystal clear water, along with sites of rock formations off Grand Island.
The two-hour excursions are narrated, so guests can learn about the history of the shipwrecks.
Waterfalls around Munising are must-see attractions. More than 20 dot the local landscape, with perhaps the most spectacular and popular the Miners, Sable, Wagner and Munising falls.
"Some are a short distance to hike to, others require a longer distance," Reynolds said.
Numerous campgrounds are located around Munising, including Wandering Wheels, Jack Pine, Pictured Rocks and the Munising Tourist Park just west of town.
The latter, on the shore of Lake Superior, offers a view of Grand Island for trailer and tent campers.
The Pictured Rocks Golf Club sports an 18-hole course in an impressive layout sure to test beginners and more advanced golfers alike. It features rolling terrain, natural hardwoods and some water hazards.
"It's very picturesque and serene," Reynolds said.
Lighthouses in the area are a major destination for many visitors.
"There are basically five in the area," chamber assistant director Pat Sanderson said. "The East Channel Lighthouse on Grand Island is the most popular and the North Light Lighthouse is visible from any commercial boat ride."
She added the Au Sable Lighthouse is also an attraction, as is the Range Lights Lighthouse in nearby Christmas.
In Christmas, visitors can use their gaming skills at the Kewadin Casino operated by the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Camping, picnicking and beachcombing are available at a U.S. Forest Service campground at Bay Furnace in Christmas.
"There's an old blast furnace in the campground which was used to melt down Iron ore," Sanderson said. "It has been restored."
Nationally registered among historic places, Bay Furnace at one time produced 20 tons of pig iron a day.
No visit to Christmas is complete without a stop at Santa's Workshop, which offers unique gifts, souvenirs and collectibles with the Christmas holiday theme.
"Visitors can obtain a Christmas postmark all year long there," Sanderson said.
A short distance from nearby AuTrain, off Forest Lake Road, is access to the Hiawatha National Forest, home to dozens of lakes, trails, campgrounds and wilderness areas.
"People comment all the time they didn't realize the area is as pretty as it is or that there's so much to do right down the road from them," Reynolds said. "The area can easily keep someone busy for three-four days."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.