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  • Taking in the scenery on a Detroit bike path
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    Detroit: Motor City Dazzles in the Urban Outdoors

  • Admiring classic automobiles at the Gilmore Car Museum in Kalamazoo
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    Kalamazoo: Award-wining Nature Center, Car Museum and Craft Beer

  • Exploring Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids
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    Grand Rapids: Artistic Haven With an Affinity for Ales

  • A colorful scene at Holland’s Windmill Island Gardens
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    Holland: Dutch Heritage in Stunning Wilderness

  • Savoring Michigan flavors and panoramic views on the Traverse Wine Coast
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    Traverse City: Lake Michigan Views in the State’s Wine Country

Strolling Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Traverse City, Michigan
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Urban Attractions and Coastal Gems: An Epic Michigan Road Trip

By Kevin Navitskas

  • Route distance:
    1,080 km
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

Discover picture-perfect spots on and beyond Michigan’s magnificent coast on this driving tour of the Great Lakes State.

The nation’s longest freshwater coastline is calling, bursting with outdoor activities great for cooling off in the warm summer sunshine. The shore is dotted with cute and unique beach towns, each with its own shopping and dining experiences against the backdrops of the stunning Great Lakes. Away from the coast, the state’s inland cities and towns provide exceptional entertainment and cultural experiences. Separated into two peninsulas in the nation’s Midwest region, Michigan offers memories in metropolises surrounded by wilderness and islands with perfect sunsets and sunrises with citizens proud of their heritage, food and drink. Fly into the international hub, or, if you're visiting from Canada, drive over the border bridge, and rent a car in Detroit to start this spectacular road trip.

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Taking in the scenery on a Detroit bike path
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Detroit: Motor City Dazzles in the Urban Outdoors

Revitalization over the years has brought Detroit back as an entertainment hub full of award-winning restaurants, unbeatable music venues, top sporting teams and endless attractions. Utilizing over 402 kilometers of biking lanes gets you maneuvering around the Motor City with ease. Almost five kilometers of biking lanes can be found on the Detroit International Riverwalk, a promenade full of cafés, gardens, plazas and the Aretha Franklin Amphitheater. Days can be spent on the trail that directly connects to Belle Isle, Detroit’s Island getaway with an aquarium, golf course, boat launches and green spaces offering panoramic skyline views of Detroit and Canada. A quick ride away from the riverfront gets you to Eastern Market, a nationally registered historic commercial district home to more than 150 specialty businesses. Savor the soul food at Bert’s Market Place, an Eastern Market staple cooking up tasty dishes with live jazz, blues and Motown shows throughout the week. Fall-off-the-bone ribs are a specialty among other comfort food favorites. On your way back downtown, stop off for a craft cocktail at the legendary Café d’Mongo’s Speakeasy. Jazz and soul music are enjoyed nightly in the comfortable ambiance.

226 km
2 hours by car
02
Admiring classic automobiles at the Gilmore Car Museum in Kalamazoo
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Kalamazoo: Award-wining Nature Center, Car Museum and Craft Beer

Jump onto Interstate 94 and drive two hours to Kalamazoo. Located in the western half of the state's lower peninsula, the area is known for its breathtaking nature, captivating museums and flavorful craft beer. Spend your day in the great outdoors enjoying over 20 kilometers of trails through woods, wetlands and prairies at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Be your own docent with self-guided tours through its enormous arboretum, barnyard, seasonal hummingbird-butterfly garden and interactive exhibit spaces. The road trip spirit is alive at the nearby Gilmore Car Museum with its collection of over 500 vintage and collector cars and motorcycles, on-site 1940s-inspired diner and year-round car shows. Head to downtown Kalamazoo for your first pint of award-winning beer on this adventure. Tour Bell’s Brewery and stay for a beverage and grub in their spacious beer garden. Live music takes over multiple times a week inside in the café or the outdoor music spot.

80 km
0.75 hour by car
03
Exploring Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids
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Grand Rapids: Artistic Haven With an Affinity for Ales

A quick drive north gets you to the state’s second-largest city and cultural hub, Grand Rapids. Raise a glass to another beer destination on the trip; over 40 breweries in the area helped Grand Rapids win several different “best beer city” accolades over the years. Its walkable downtown transforms into an open air art gallery every year for ArtPrize, a contemporary art event that sees thousands of pieces take over nearly 200 venues from hotels and museums to bars, laundromats, public parks and even the Grand River – it’s impossible to escape from the artistic talent. For an outstanding art experience available all seasons, head over to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Days can be spent exploring the comprehensive outdoor sculpture collection, indoor and outdoor manicured gardens, tropical conservatory, nature trails, children’s area, Japanese garden and outdoor amphitheater. Just six kilometers up the road gets you to a classic Michigan experience, time enjoyed at an apple orchard. Robinette’s Apple Haus and Winery creates tasty baked goods, fresh ciders and sweets from fruits grown in their fields. Explore the wine tasting room and specialty gift shop and enjoy horse-drawn hayrides, a corn maze and games every autumn.

49 km
0.5 hour by car
04
A colorful scene at Holland’s Windmill Island Gardens
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Dan Athey

Holland: Dutch Heritage in Stunning Wilderness

In under an hour you will find yourself on the sandy coast of Lake Michigan at the next stop, Holland. Its rich Dutch heritage is celebrated every day with fun attractions and festivals that will make you think you’re in the Netherlands. Windmill Island houses the only authentic Dutch windmill in the USA, still turning and grinding wheat into flour, and a dazzling display of over 150,000 brightly colored tulips in the island’s garden in early May. Stroll through streets of the nearby Dutch Village, a replica of an 1840s town with kid-friendly games and rides. The sidewalks of the charming downtown are heated, perfect for year-round enjoyment of the shops, cafes and pubs, including the highly accoladed New Holland Brewery. Take a break on the patio while enjoying a chat from the knowledgeable bartenders. A block is all you need to travel for delicious homemade pastries from Crane’s in the City, a quaint café baking up tasty treats from local farms. The 10-kilometer distance from downtown to the sandy beach of Holland State Park can be covered walking, driving or paddling. Sunsets on the unsalted waters of Lake Michigan and Big Red lighthouse are awe-inspiring. Adventure around the dunes, or through the forest preserves to the state park’s campground on Lake Macatawa.

291 km
3.5 hours by car
05
Savoring Michigan flavors and panoramic views on the Traverse Wine Coast
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Traverse City: Lake Michigan Views in the State’s Wine Country

The drive to our final destination of this trip is on Highway 22 (known as M-22), often publicly voted as one the best scenic lakeshore drives, especially when the leaves brighten to hues of reds, oranges and yellows in the fall. Before arriving in the final stop of Traverse City, stick along the lake for time at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This outdoorsy paradise has 56 kilometers of sandy beaches and dunes, multiple uninhabited islands, campgrounds and forested preserves all with blue water views of Lake Michigan. Drive 30 minutes through the state’s wine country to the cherry capital of the world, Traverse City. Multiple beaches, public parks and marinas can be found around Grand Traverse Bay, but make sure to spend time exploring its elevated food scene. Restaurants like The Delamar Traverse City’s Artisan give hungry patrons a farm-fresh fine dining experience on their spacious waterfront decks and patios. Tour over 40 different wineries in the area, like Mari Vineyards, for behind-the-scenes tours and tastings with views of Lake Michigan. When it is time for your trip around the Great Lakes State to come to an end, get a connecting flight out of Traverse City’s Cherry Capital Airport (TVC) or drive four hours southeast back to Detroit to catch an international flight home.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
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