When you visit Michigan’s upper peninsula make sure to include the city of Munising on your UP road trip travels. It’s a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors in both winter and summer months. The Munising area includes Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Hiawatha National Forest, Grand Island National Recreational Area along with numerous waterfalls, beautiful beaches, miles of trails and so many natural wonders and outdoor activities. So, let Munising surprise you, and discover the 20+ best things to do in Munising, Michigan.
Where is Munising, Michigan
Munising is located in the upper peninsula of Michigan. It’s on the southern shore of Lake Superior and considered the gateway town to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Munising is 45 minutes east of Marquette, which is the largest city in the Upper Peninsula.
How much time to spend in Munising
You can see so much of Pictured Rocks in one day from boat tours to hiking. However, in my opinion you need a few days in Munising to see all it has to offer. There are so many hiking trails, water excursions and waterfalls to explore.
Things to do in Munising Michigan
Pictured Rocks Interpretive Center and Gift Shop
One of your first stops in downtown Munising should be the Pictured Rocks Interpretive Center. It is free to visi,t and open daily from 10am to 5pm. You can learn about the history of Munising and Pictured Rocks through a self guided tour and short video. It is a great way to gain some insight about the area and plan your visit. And afterwards you can walk over the Munising Visitor Center and pick up a packet with lots of additional information about the area.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
One of the main draws to this area is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This amazing park is open year round so you can enjoy both winter and summer activities. With 15 miles of pictured rock cliffs, 100 miles of trails, waterfalls and historic lighthouses you can understand why it was designated as the first national lakeshore in the great lakes area.
Pictured Rocks covers about 42 miles of shoreline From Grand Marais to Munising with sandstone cliffs, rock formations, stunning beaches and enormous sand dunes. And with 15 miles of incredible rock formations towering from 50 to 200 feet on Lake Superior, the best way to see and experience this natural beauty is from the water. Luckily there are many options to choose from, all located within the town of Munising.
And while you can experience Pictured Rocks National National Lakeshore without being a boat. It is recommended to see it from the water. Because seeing it on a hike and seeing it from the water are two very different perspectives.
Exploring Pictured Rocks by boat and kayak tours
Pictured Rocks Cruises:
The most popular way to see the shoreline is a boat tour from Pictured Rock Cruises. They offer 3 tours: Classic Cruise, Spray Falls Cruise and Sunset Cruise. Each of the boat rides offer great views of the East Channel Lighthouse, Miners Castle, Lovers Leap , Bridal Veil Falls and more.
The cruises range form 2 to 3 hours and are open seasonally from mid-May to mid-October. We took the Spray Falls Sunset Cruise and had a great time. We saw so much of the shoreline we never would have seen otherwise.
My travel advice would be to arrive at least an hour early to try to get seating on the top right deck for the best viewing.
If you prefer a little more adventure on your cruise the Riptide may be the best ride for you. Riptide Ride zips around Grand Island aboard an exciting jet boat. You get to see cliffs, waterfalls, the East Channel Lighthouse, Grand Island North Lighthouse, and some of Pictured Rocks. Tours are 90 minutes and run form Memorial Day weekend to mid September.
I am pretty sure you will get wet on this tour, so if adventure calls you, this is the one.
Lake Superior Boat Tours
And if something more private is your style, then chartering a pontoon cruise may be your best option. You can customize a personal tour for up to 6 guests by Captain Mark of Lake Superior Boat Tours.
Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tour
Another option for being on the water is a Shipwreck Tour. After visiting many maritime museums on our UP adventure, it seemed appropriate to take a shipwreck tour. After all, You get to see real shipwrecks of Lake Superior in the Alger Underwater Preserve of Munising Bay. Aboard the glass bottom boat you’ll see two shipwrecks, the East Channel Lighthouse and rock formations of Grand Island.
The experience was completely different from the Pictured Rocks Cruise however both are worth it! This tour operates from Memorial Day weekend through September.
And for another adventurous way to experience Pictured Rocks, you can go on a kayak tour. The Pictured Rocks Kayaking Tour offers a 3 hour tour to Miners Castle or a 5 hour tour paddling 5 miles down to Chapel Rock viewing 13 different points of interest. You launch safely from the boat and the boat is never that far away. Kayaking tours are a great way to see the beautiful water of Lake Superior.
Exploring Pictured Rocks by land
You can spend a few full days exploring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore from hiking, waterfalls, scenic overlooks and sandy beaches. Here are some great places to stop and enjoy the beauty of Pictured Rocks.
Sand Point Beach
Just 4 miles east of Munising and really easy to find is Sand Point Beach. This popular beach for both tourists and residents is a great place to spend the day or watch sunsets. The sandy beach has a nice area to walk and sometimes has a great sandbar. The beach is a great spot to relax, sunbathe or swim. And makes a nice place to enjoy a packed lunch with a view.
Miners Castle Overlook
Definitely don’t miss the Miners Castle Overlook, its one of the most famous landmarks along the Pictured Rocks shoreline and the only cliff area in the park accessible by vehicle. It an easy walk from the parking area with breathtaking views of the beautiful rock formations and blue water. You can also take the 2 mile roundtrip trail from Miners Castle to Miners Beach. Unfortunately this trail is not pet friendly.
If you enjoy hiking, then Chapel Rock is something to consider. After Chapel Falls, continue about 2 miles one way to Chapel Rock and then on to Chapel Beach. You can return the way you came or make a loop by taking the forest trail along Chapel Lake. Round trip the hike is about 7 miles but you will see great views. Remember no pets are allowed on this trail.
Visit the Waterfalls in Munising
Munising has 17 unique waterfalls to see ranging in size from 5 to 50 feet. And also ranging in accessibility from a roadside viewing to a short hike up to a few miles. Below are some waterfalls to consider on your visit and determine which ones are best for you.
Alger Falls is a roadside waterfall located on M-28. It was a little hard to see because of the tree growth but you drive past it to get to Wagner Falls. There was only a small spot to pullover to get a view, so be on the lookout.
Wagner Falls is an easy and short walk along the boardwalk trail to get to the falls. There you will find a 20 ft cascading waterfall with a small viewing platform. It was not busy so we were able to enjoy the view without crowds.
The waterfall has easy roadside parking and is very accessible. So it is also a nice waterfall for someone with limited mobility.
This is one of the busier waterfalls. It is a pleasant 1/4 mile hike with lots of greenery to get to the central viewing platform. From there you will find 2 other sets of stairs that lead to elevated viewing platforms with better views of the 50 foot waterfall cascading over sandstone cliffs.
The busiest of all the waterfalls was Miner Falls, so I would recommend going early or later to avoid crowds. Its a .6 mile walk to the viewing platform. There, you have to walk down 77 steps to get to the lower and better viewing platform, however smaller. And because it was so busy we had to wait on the stairs to get our turn. It was a pretty waterfall but the crowds were not that much fun.
Chapel Falls is a 3 mile round trip hike to see the 60 feet high waterfalls. The drive is about 40 minutes from Munising and a 5 miles bumpy dirt road to access the trailhead. I would arrive early, or you may have to walk a fair distance just to get to the trailhead from the roadside parking. We drove there and then realized it was not pet friendly, so do not make the same mistake we did. Leave your pet at home for this one. If you continue from Chapel Falls, you will get to Chapel Rock and Chapel Beach.
Horseshoe Falls ended up being my favorite waterfall. Yes, you have to pay a fee to enter, because it is on a private property, but it was worth it. The Horseshoe Falls area has a lovely garden with a fish pond, walking paths, garden decor and flowers. The beautiful 20 foot waterfall is a very peaceful place, so make sure not to overlook this one. They also have a cute gift shop on site.
Grand Island National Recreation Area
To visit Grand Island, you have to take the Grand Island Ferry Service. The ferry service departs daily from May 27th to October 10th. Tickets are $23 for adults and $15 for children 6 to 12 years of age.
On the island you can rent bikes, rent kayaks and take the bus tour. The bus tour is a 4 hour tour including ferry time. You will enjoy scenic views and historic sites on the narrated tour with 10 different points of interest. You may even see a black bear, white tailed deer or sandhill crane along the way. Reservations are recommended, so it is best to call ahead. Bus tour is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Bay Furnace Ruins
Located just a few miles outside of Munising in the town of Christmas, you’ll find Bay Furnace Ruins. The ruins are in the Bay Furnace Campground. You can park near the day use area and make your way down a short trail and you will find the ruins and scenic views of Lake Superior and Grand Island. The ruins are the last of its kind and what remains from the 1870’s where pig iron was once made.
Places to eat in Munising
Looking for a great meal in Munising? These are my top recommendations: The best meal we had in Munising was hands down was Tracey’s at Roam Inn. Yes, it was a little pricey but worth it. Very cute place with outdoor seating offering top notch food with eclectic flair. Make sure to call ahead for a reservation.
Also visit Eh! Burger, owned by the same group as Tracey’s. They make a great burger with a veggie patty option too. Another casual option is Cap’n Ron’s Fish & Chips, a food truck stop with great fish sandwiches. Falling Rock Cafe is a unique coffee shop/bookstore with a small food menu. Pictured Rocks Pizza is another good option, just note they are closed on Monday and Wednesday.
Where to camp near Munising
If you are looking for some campgrounds close to town, read this: Best RV Campgrounds in Munising MI to Visit Pictured Rocks
Munising is a great base for the for visiting the area of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Hiawatha National Forest and Grand Island National Recreational Area. There are endless outdoor activities. And as much or as little of adventure as you prefer. So enjoy the best things to do in Munising Michigan and share with a friend who would like to visit Michigan’s upper peninsula!
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