I parked the truck overnight at a pull-out (where sign said no overnight parking) a couple miles east of Marquette, where there is a wealth of sandy beaches. Lake Superior is definitely colder than Lake Michigan in summer, but I found it warmer than the Pacific Ocean of California. There aren't any significant waves unless a storm comes.
This was a teacher's college founded in 1899, on 22 acres and starting with just 32 students, hoping to meet the regional K-12 schooling need. Today, there's a large hospital that has an extensive nursing program. The campus is not rich in old architecture, much to my disappointment, but the landscape of newer buildings is shaping up.
Marquette, wealthy as it was in iron and snow fall, prompted builders to install some beautiful and durable steel roofs. This is a very unusual roofing material in my survey of American towns. The old heavy gauge steel roofing was originally painted, but now often appears red with rust.
The oldest home I could find was a post-Civil War 1870's brick structure about a block north of downtown (see photo). Most other grand residential architecture in Marquette was built from the late 1880's through the early 20th century. The wealthiest residents lived on the hill above the harbor, near Front Street.
Down at the waterfront park, there is a large grassy area where food, beer, and music festivals occur regularly. I was walking through when one of these were being set up, but didn't have time to stay and enjoy. Contact the Chamber of Commerce for scheduled events. There's also a theater down in this park.
The private docks are open for everyone to walk around and admire the fleet, mostly local to Marquette. There's a historic boat docked there too--the Coaster II. This is also a good place to buy fresh fish.
Marquette's weath of ore wasn't gold, but it was enough to afford sharp looking commercial buildings downtown during the late 19th century. The walk around downtown can be done in a matter of a few minutes if one is in a hurry.
The massive concrete and steel structure right in the middle of the harbor once transferred pelletized ore from rail cars to ships, but no longer. The current facility is located around the bend to the west, and there are other such facilities still in use on Lake Superior, mostly now in Wisconsin and famously at Duluth, Minnesota. The railroad trestle leading from the hillside across to the ore dock has been demolished, and a recent proposal, that was turned down, was to turn the concrete structure into waterfront condominiums.
One of my favorite beaches in all of Michigan is this rather secluded gem on the Big Bay Road (County Road 550) north of Marquette. In fact, if you aren't from this area, it might be quite difficult to find the right place to turn. Actually, the little dirt road to the beach parking area is right after the Harlow Lake Road which heads off to the west. It's about two miles north of the parking area for Sugarloaf.
On a windy days, waves are big enough for surfing. I'm not kidding!
You can also wade out to Little Presque Isle - which actually _is_ an island now, thanks to changing currents in the lake over the last 50 years which have washed away the "land bridge" out to the island. Depending on the water depth in the lake in any particular year, getting out to the island can actually be a relatively dry journey. And in the winter time, there is often an ice bridge, though of course you'll want to be careful about that.
Technically, you are required to have a Michigan parks permit before you can access the beach parking lot. Little Presque Island is part of State Forest lands. The sign that guards entrance to the parking lot is relatively new - it just went up a few months ago. I haven't heard of anyone getting ticketed for not having a permit - but that's not to say that it won't happen.
One final thing: in the spring and early summer, the blackflies out here can be really bad. Not much you can do about them. By August they've usually died off - or moved inland, I'm not sure which.
Mattson Lower Harbor Park covers 22 acres, and has a large grassy open space area, park benches, picnic tables, a children’s playground filled with wooden structures to play on, a concession and restroom facility, boat ramp, and a large nearby breakwater. Lower Mattson Harbor Park is the site for many festivals, such as the Seafood Festival (see photo 3), the International Food Festival, Winterfest, concerts, fireworks, as well as group projects, often centering around art. A lighted outdoor ice rink is located in the park during the winter months. Walk around, and enjoy the many boats from the nearby marinas, let your children play in the playground area, have an ice cream cone at the concession located near the children’s playground, or on many summer nights just sit and listen to the various bands that perform in the park. If you enjoy riding your bike, the shoreline bike path also runs through the park. The first photo is from 1999 when people were invited to decorate poles to be displayed in the park. In 2007 people had painted doors to honor women. See photos 4 and 5 for examples of these doors. The Second photo is of the lighted historic fire bell that forms an entranceway to the city dock in the park.
For photos of some of my favorite poles and doors, see my travelogue, “Summer Art In Mattson Lower Harbor Park.”
The Marquette Maritime Museum has an agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard to offer tours of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse. As part of the tour agreement, the museum will help to preserve and protect this historical building, which is the oldest important building in the city, as well as being one of the most historic navigation aids on Lake Superior. It was especially important to the development of the Great Lakes iron ore trade. The lighthouse, built in 1866, added a second story in 1909. Until 1998 Coast Guard personnel and their families lived in the lighthouse. You will not be able to climb to the top to view the beacon, as the Coast Guard still continues to operate the light in the tower. You will, however, have a guided tour of the inside of the lighthouse, and a view from the grounds behind the building. Purchase your tickets for this tour at the Marquette Maritime Museum. There is a discount rate if you purchase tickets for both the museum and the lighthouse.
An (almost) island with biking/hiking trails, a road ot drive through, woodland, cliffs, great views onto the lake, a marina, nature/bog walk, sandy beaches, rocky beaches, and a great view when the barges come in.
If you enjoy hiking or biking, the Marquette Region has 25 miles of various loop trails. These range from easy to very difficult, with level to steep and hilly terrain. You will find mostly forested trails, with several lakes and overlooks, as well as a lakeshore route. You may pick up a trail guide at the Chamber of Commerce as well as some businesses in the area. On one of our bike rides, as we followed the path along the lakeshore leading to Presque Isle Park, we saw the Lee A. Tregurtha, a ship at the newer working Ore Dock. It was being loaded with tacomite. (See photo 2) We sat and watched the process for some time. It was quite fascinating to see the shoots lower and the tacomite slide down the shoots into the holds.
The Main photo for this tip shows an area along the bike trail where you will see the Old Lower Harbor Ore Dock, which is no longer in use, and the beach nearby. For more information on the Holly S. Greer Shoreline Bike Path, visit the web page listed on this tip, scrolling to the trail entry at the bottom of the web page.
Here are some additional activities you may wish to do if you will be in the area for a number of days. Please note that I have never visited any of these, so this is for your information only, and not a personal recommendation. The Marquette County Historical Society and Museum located on 213 N. Front Street has a walking tour map of historic Marquette which you may purchase that will enable you to explore a little of the history of the town on your own. This Historical Museum contains pioneer artifacts, mining and lumber displays, as well as changing exhibits. The Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum is located at 123 W. Baraga Avenue and features interactive exhibits with subjects ranging from bees and forests to trains and planes. It is recommended that you plan at least an hour if you wish to take your children here.
NOTE: This comment was sent to me by member showard23228
"The Children's Museum is one of the best I've been to and I've been to a few."
Laughing Whitefish Falls is one of the most substantial in the Upper Peninsula, and so it's worth a drive out. The Falls are located about a half hour drive to the south and the east - follow US 41 south to Michigan State Route 94, head east on 94 toward Munising - and follow the signs to the Falls. (The road to the falls is about 4 miles to the east of US 41.)
The Falls are located in a wooded area, and it's about a half-mile walk from the parking area to the falls themselves. The best view of the falls is from a platform down down several flights of wooden stairs.
The falls are at their "fullest" in the springtime, after the meltdown. On the other hand, from early June to early August the area of the Falls is likely to be home to many blackflies and mosquitos. Be prepared!