Marquette is the largest city in Michigan’s upper peninsula and home to Michigan Northern University.
This charming small town is a great destination in Northern Michigan. Whether Marquette is your base to explore the surrounding areas or you are here to explore the city, Marquette will surprise you! From outdoor recreation, to miles of beautiful Lake Superior shoreline, stunning cliffs and rock formations, hiking, biking, shopping and lots of great dining. So get ready to explore the city with some of the best things to do in Marquette MI.
Is Marquette Michigan worth visiting?
The answer is definitely YES. The town has so much to offer as a destination city. A cute downtown, shopping, dining, hiking, biking, history, beaches and so much more!
Stroll through the charming downtown of Marquette
Whether you are staying downtown Marquette area or a near by town, you will want to visit this great little city. The most popular parts of downtown are located on the shores of Lake Superior and a few blocks inland from there. It’s all within walking distance, so take a few hours and stroll along the shoreline and the downtown. There are so many cute shops downtown Marquette, you will be sure to find many treasures to take home. There are also many great restaurants in this area, and we will talk about that later.
Down by the water you will find the Lower Harbor Ore Dock. The structure is huge and hard to miss. It is a historical landmark formerly used for loading iron ore onto lake freighters. It’s a great place for a photo opportunity as the building is shaped like no other. The old building has plans for redevelopment so catch a glimpse now before it changes forever.
And just down from the ore dock you will find the Old Fire Bell. It is all that remains from the “Great Fire of Marquette” 150 yers ago. The entire town burned to the ground and the bell was all that remained. It stands till this day as a memory of what happened and how its shaped the downtown area and city of Marquette.
Further along the water you will find Mattson Lower Harbor Park. This cute little park hosts numerous events through out the season. And if you continue walking down the multi-use path along the water you will see Shiras Park, the Marquette Maritime Museum and the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse.
Learn a little at the Marquette Maritime Museum
Located in the old city waterworks building, the museum has the largest collection of fresnel lenses on the great lakes. The museum features self guided exhibits on shipwrecks in Marquette and Lake Superior. You can also take a guided tour the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, tickets are available at the museum.
Explore Presque Isle Park
If you continue down Lake Shore Blvd, on your way to Presque Isle Park you will pass by the Marquette Ore Dock and hopefully catch a freighter at the dock. You can see the process of loading ore onto the freighter. It is something unique to look for on your way.
The road continues into Presque Isle Park, which is Marquette’s recreational crown jewel. This 323 acre peninsula is referred to as “the island” by the locals. And is known though out the United States because of its natural beauty. You can find some of the best views of Lake Superior at Presque Isle Park.
The park has day use facilities with picnic tables and grills for the public and also a playground with a merry-go-round, swings and slide. The 2 mile Peter White Drive scenic loop will take you around the perimeter of the park that you can walk, bike or drive. As you drive, you will find scenic overlooks, the black rocks, hiking trails trough dense forests, the bog walk, bird watching and many other outdoor activities with parking along the way. At the end of the loop you can grab an ice cream at the island store and then walk over to the Moosewood Nature Center.
Cliff Jumping at the Black Rocks
Make sure to stop at the Black Rocks along the 2 mile loop. It is a very popular place for cliff jumping. The cliffs are about 10 to 15 feet high and it is entertaining just to watch all the people jump off. Some are diving, jumping, falling and even flipping. So if you ever wanted to try cliff jumping, then this is the place to do it. You may want to bring water shoes if you plan to jump, the rocks are sharp and unless you have someone to carry your shoes down, you will need them to walk back.
Climb to the highest spot at Sugarloaf Mountain
If you enjoy hiking with a stunning scenic view then make sure to hike Sugarloaf Mountain. With two parking areas and an easily marked trail, this beautiful 1.4 mile round trip hike will take you to the highest point in Marquette. There you will get to see 360 degree of views including Lake Superior, Little Presque Isle, Presque Island Park, the Superior Dome, mountain views and everything in between. There are multiple viewing platforms to enjoy the view from all directions.
Taking a hike up to Sugarloaf Mountain is one the best things to do and I would highly recommend it. Try to go on a sunny and clear day to get the best view. And keep in mind there are many stairs, so I would consider this hike moderate in difficulty as there are 304 steps to climb. So make sure to take water with you.
Chasing Waterfalls at Dead River Falls
Considered one of the best waterfalls in the upper peninsula. Dead River Falls in a 1.7 mile out and back hike rated moderate in difficulty. This waterfall drops a total of 100 feet over about 1/2 mile. Make sure to wear proper shoes and get ready for a hiking adventure. We didn’t get to go on this hike because we loaded up on Waterfalls in Munising and ran out of time in Marquette. But this hike gets a great rating.
Get Artsy at Devos Art Museum
Located on the Northern Michigan University’s campus, and part of the School of Art and Design , the Devos Art Museum is open Monday through Friday from 12pm to 5pm and is free to the public. It hosts 8 to 12 rotating contemporary art exhibits each year long with permanent collection.
Catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights
If you are lucky enough to be in town when this natural phenomenon happens, then you don’t want to miss it! The opportunity to see the lights is not rare, but the right conditions are needed to make it happen. So keep on eye on a few apps that help track the weather forecast such as: NOAA, Space Weather and Space Weather Live an Aurora Alerts. Here are a few tips to be prepared to get outside in the dark to get a view that only a few get to see.
- Wear proper gear. Northern lights mostly take place in colder weather, so it’s a good idea to have extra layers, so pack for the weather to make suer you are comfortable.
- Know a location to navigate to. Trying to find your way in the dark can be a challenge. So if you going somewhere remote, I would advise to arrive early or scope out the area ahead of time.
- Proper photo settings- know how to use your equipment to get the best photos.
- Bring a chair and/or a blanket to sit on while you wait. It is kinda a waiting game sometimes.
And if the conditions are not right for the Northern Lights, and you want to learn about the night sky, you could visit the Shiras Planetarium instead. You can check for website for dates and shows. https://shirasplanetarium.org/
Shop the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market
I love farmers markets! And the farmers Market in downtown Marquette was one on the best we found in all of the Michigan’s upper peninsula. Located just off the Iron ore heritage trail at the Marquette Commons. You can find all kinds of things from fresh baked goods, pre-made foods, salsas, jams, fresh vegetables, flowers, arts and crafts and so much more. The market is open from May to September on Saturday mornings from 9am to 1pm and also on Wednesday evenings June to September 4pm to 7pm. So be sure to stop by if you are in town.
All Season Marquette Mountian
Marquette Mountain is great for activities in summer or winter months, as they offer adventure for every season. We visited in the summer and you can enjoy hiking, mountain biking and Lake Superior kayak tours. For a scenic adventure, take a chair lift ride up the mountain and a hike down weasels gulch. And at the end, you can enjoy a drink or a bite at T Bar located at Marquette Mountain.
Lakeshore Hiking at Wetmore Landing Trail & Little Presque Isle
Another great hike in the area is Wetmore Landing Trail. We were told about this trail by a local and sure glad they did. This 3.6 mile out and back trail takes you along the coast, through the forest and out to see Little Presque Isle. If you stay on the marked trail, it is very easy, less the stairs. So make sure to use the markers to stay on track otherwise the trail gets tricky and washed out in some areas. And you may find yourself climbing up a steep hill to get back on the right track like we did.
The lakeshore views and cliffs are beautiful and it is similar to a small version of painted rocks. When you get to the end of the trail you will see Little Presque Isle. Sometimes there is sandbar so you can walk over to the island, but be careful as weather changes fast and can make it impossible to get back.
Don’t miss Pictured Rock National Lakeshore
Less than an hour form Marquette is Pictured Rock National Lakeshore, It is highly recommended to see this beautiful landscape. The best way to see it is by a boat tour, we used Pictured Rock Boat Cruise.
Ride a Bike down the Iron Ore Heritage Trail
The Iron Ore Heritage Trail is a 47 mile multi use trail open year round. Whether you walk, run, bike, snowmobile or cross country ski, there is a part of the trail for you. Catch it downtown at the Marquette Commons and ride along Lake Superior or head into the Marquette Iron Range.
Take a look at that large wooden structure
Located on the campus of Northern Michigan University, the Superior Dome is the largest wood dome in the world. Built in 1991 from 781 Douglas Fir beams, it stands 14 stories high and has a diameter of 163 meters. Today it is still home to a variety of sports and other campus community events. The dome can easily be seen from a distance like the Sugarloaf Mountain hike.
See some Scrap Art at Lakenenland Sculpture Park
On your way into Marquette, make sure to stop in to “the coolest unofficial roadside rest stop in the state.” This 37 acre sculpture park is free to visit and open 24 hours, 7 days a week. We unfortunately missed this park and it was too hard to turn around with the Airstream. So mark your map and make a stop at this scrap iron art display of over 100 sculptures. The park also features a bog walk, pavilion, picnic area, playground, fishing ponds and two entertainment stages.
A kids day at upper peninsula children’s museum
For little ones between the ages of 3 and 13, the children’s museum is a great place to spend the day, although it can be enjoyed at any age! You can experience interactive learning within the subjects of art, science, communication, global issues and the environment. Open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm with affordable daily and weekly rates. https://www.upchildrensmuseum.org/
Festivals in Marquette to Attend
Marquette hosts festivals and events all year long. You can plan your travel around some of these popular events:
- Winter: New Year’s Eve, The Polar Roll, UP 200, Ice Races
- Spring: Festival of the Angry Bear, Restaurant Week, Big Bay Relay
- Summer: 4th of July, Ore to Shore, Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival, Blueberry Festival, Seafood Festival
- Fall: UP Fall Beer Festival, Dryland Dash, Fresh Coast Film Festival
Where to eat in Marquette
Marquette has a lot a great restaurant with a little something for everybody. Here are some of the restaurants we enjoyed and would recommend.
- Zephyr Wine Bar– a cozy wine bar with a great selection of wines including ports and desert wines. They have indoor and outdoor seating in courtyard setting. We had the most amazing desert there, a hummingbird cake. Its a great place for a glass or wine, lite bite or dessert.
- Delft Bistro- A fun eatery in a historic theatre space. The Delft Theatre originally opened in 1914 and they try to keep the theatre vibe. American style bistro with fun cocktails and creative food menu. Serving brunch, lunch and dinner.
- Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery– Surprisingly this was one of my favorite meals. The dishes were bursting with flavor and large portions made for lots of leftovers. They do not take reservations so make sure to get there before the crowds.
- Elizabeth’s Chophouse– For a special occasion, the chophouse is a nice option. The food is good but the service is even better. Its on the pricey side, so its not the best option for being budget friendly.
- Babycakes– A great place to pick up something sweet. We had the blueberry muffin and blueberry cake during the Blueberry Festival. They have sweet selections to choose from but also have sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads.
- Blackrocks Brewery-For a craft beer in a fun atmosphere, Blackrocks Brewery is the place. Offering yearly and seasonal brews and daily rotating food trucks.
Where we stayed:
We stayed at the Rippling River Resort, just a few miles from the downtown area. It was a very nice RV park with a large variety of accommodations. Ranging From luxury cabins to rustic cabins, and full to partial hook up campsites along with rustic and glamping tent sites, there is a spot for all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts. The amenities of the properties include general store, heated pool and hot tub, Carp River access, playground, restrooms and showers, wifi, on site bar with pizza and more. It was a great place for the entire family to relax and enjoy the outdoors and also be close enough to explore the downtown and surrounding area.
Make Marquette a stop on your Upper Peninsula Travels
In summary, we loved our stay in Marquette. It was one of our favorite places in the UP, as it offered so much to do and see all within a few mile radius. We wished we would have stayed longer! So I hope you enjoy Marquette as much as we did! Please share with a friend who wants to visit and leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you!