Introducing Sault Ste Marie & Tahquamenon Falls
Founded in 1668, Sault Ste Marie (Sault is pronounced 'soo') is Michigan's oldest city and the third oldest in the USA. The town is best known for its locks that raise and lower 1000ft-long freighters between the different lake levels. Soo Locks Park & Visitors Center is on Portage Ave downtown (take exit 394 off I-75 and go left). It features displays, videos and observation decks from which you can watch the boats leap 21ft from Lake Superior to Lake Huron. Pubs and cafes line Portage Ave. The Sault CVB has all the lowdown.
An hour's drive west of Sault Ste Marie, via Hwy 28 and Hwy 123, is eastern UP's top attraction: lovely Tahquamenon Falls, with tea-colored waters tinted by upstream hemlock leaves. The Upper Falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, 200ft across with a 50ft drop, wow onlookers – including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who mentioned them in his Song of Hiawatha. The Lower Falls are a series of small cascades that swirl around an island; many visitors rent a rowboat and paddle out to it. The large state park also has camping (tent and RV sites $16 to $23), great hiking and – bonus – a brewpub near the park entrance.
North of the park, beyond the little town of Paradise, is the fascinating Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, where the intriguing displays include items trawled up from sunken ships. Dozens of vessels – including the Edmund Fitzgerald that Gordon Lightfoot crooned about – have sunk in the area's congested sea lanes and storm-tossed weather, earning it such nicknames as the 'Shipwreck Coast' and 'Graveyard of the Great Lakes.' The grounds also include a lighthouse President Lincoln commissioned and a bird observatory that 300 species fly by. To have the foggy place to yourself, spend the night at Whitefish Point Light Station B&B, which offers five rooms in the old Coast Guard crew quarters on-site.