I am fortunate to have lived my life along the ocean. But unfortunately because of this, I haven’t spent much time around lakes. During the time of COVID, we headed on a socially distant road trip by motorhome to South Dakota from our home in Rhode Island.
With a road trip in general, but especially one during quarantine plans change. Therefore circumstances steered us away from SD. Instead, we decided to use our week exploring Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Here is our one-week Lake Michigan road trip itinerary. It is a version of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour with a few deviations added in and concentrating on experiencing the water, not visiting cities.
Because we were socially distancing, we decided to try our hand at RVing. We also did mainly outdoor activities because we love them and they are much safer in a pandemic. We loved experiencing the freshwater of the Great Lakes, the farmland of the area, and the yummy food derived from the land and Scandinavian heritage of its current residents.
Ideally done in two weeks, we spent nine days but ended up missing a few things we would have loved to see. I include the things we missed here to help you plan your ideal 2-week road trip of Michigan and Wisconsin.
One of the things, Sleeping Bear Dunes, we didn’t get to because we ran out of time, but also because the scenic loop is still closed due to quarantine.
The conditions on the Great Lakes are very weather-dependent. I desperately wanted to see Pictured Rocks, but it is only visible by water. The two days we were nearby, it was very windy, making time on the water impossible.
I recommend that you build extra time into your trip to ensure that you can see everything that you want, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate. That was one of the best parts of traveling in an RV.– it was easy to deviate our plans. Now if I only had more time off work…
The driving and ferry time for this road trip is about 13 hours. Expect it to take longer in an RV.
Table of Contents
Wisconsin Road Trip
I had no idea that Wisconsin is so lush. There are the ubiquitous rolling cornfields of the Midwest, but it is also so green! Lakes are sprinkled everywhere, and Wisconsin has 495 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. The presence of limestone provides spectacular bluffs and rock formations along the water. If not for heading to South Dakota, I don’t know that Wisconsin would have ever been on my radar, but my husband now lists it as one of his favorite US states, and he has seen most of them.
The fertile land provides not only ample trees, but also yummy fruits, veggies, and cheeses.
Things to See in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Dells
The Dells are rock formations along the Wisconsin River and also the name of a town. The town of Wisconsin Dells is the childhood version of Las Vegas plopped down in the Midwest, unlike any place I have experienced. Along with the Wisconsin River, the area has many small lakes worth checking out, such as Devil’s and Mirror Lake.
Read more about Experiencing the Nature of the Wisconsin Dells.
This peninsula, located between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, is the perfect combination of forest, upscale, historic towns, and farmland. Full of cherries, cheese, and fish, it is known as the Cape Cod of the Midwest.
We loved Door County and would like to spend a whole week here at some point. Read on for the whole story about our weekend in Door County.
Things to Eat in Wisconsin
As I have mentioned, Wisconsin has its own set of things you must try when you visit thanks to its Scandinavian heritage and delicious offering of the land and sea. Be sure to try:
- Cheese- Wisconsin is famous for this dairy product for a good reason.
- Cheese curds- These precursors to cheese are little irregular ovals and can be eaten raw or fried. The fresher they are, the squeaker they are.
- Tart cherries- Door County is known for its tart cherries, found in various forms such as jams, salsa, pastries, ice cream, and pie.
- Frozen custard- This frozen treat is a lot like soft-serve ice cream. It contains egg yolk, making it smoother and creamier than ice cream. It is often served blended with candy.
- Lake whitefish caught the day you eat it from Lake Michigan.
- Smoked tuna and salmon from a lakeside stand- The best we had was from the County Store as we were driving into St. Ignace.
- Cherry Pie
Michigan Road Trip
Since we were limited on time and wanted to experience nature, we spent our time in northern Michigan.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Also known as the UP, this forested area of Michigan borders three Great Lakes, Wisconsin, and the Mackinaw Bridge.
Pictured Rocks National Seashore
Located on Southern Lake Superior, these gorgeous rock formations can best be seen from the water. Be sure to book your kayak, scenic cruise, or pontoon boat early. Give yourself a few days to make sure you can view this area, as tours can’t go out if the day is very windy.
Sitting in Lake Huron right between the UP and the rest of Michigan sits Mackinac Island seeped in the past. You must take a ferry to this popular tourist destination. The 4-mile island has a state park, historic buildings, a fort, famous fudge, and limestone cliffs looming over Lake Huron’s turquoise waters. What it doesn’t have are motorized vehicles. The only ways to get around the island are by horse and carriage, bicycle and foot.
Read my full Mackinac Island post.
Read on for a list of the best hikes in the Upper Peninsula.
Continue your trip of Michigan with some time by Lake Michigan’s shore with a stop in Petoskey. We stayed in the Petowsky KOA. Conveniently located, the campground has a lot of amenities. The sites in KOAs are generally close together, and this was no exception.
We stopped here mainly to take a fishing charter onto Lake Michigan with Whitecap Adventures. Art and Joshua worked so hard to make our charter great despite some rocky weather. Our evening fishing on Lake Michigan was my two teen boys’ favorite part of the trip. The prizes in this lake are primarily salmon and lake trout.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park
End your Lake Michigan experience exploring this national park with a hike up and over the 450 feet sand dunes one Lake Michigan’s blue waters.
Are you dreaming of a Wisconsin and Michigan road trip? Do you have any questions for me? Please let me know in the comments.
For more US road trip ideas, visit my US Road Trip Planner. If you have more time and want to add upstate New York to this road trip, read my 9-Day Upstate New York Guide or head over to Niagara Falls.
16 thoughts on “An RV Trip Around Wisconsin and Michigan- Who Knew This Kind of Beauty is in the Midwest US?!”
This will come in handy! We’ve been plotting a Michigan road trip for years, but always get distracted – usually by New England. 😉 Thanks for the details and recommendations.
Hello! We are trying to decide what to do! We leave from CO on Aug 28th. We would love to do UP and Michigan then NY and over to the NE for fall colors, then make our way to FL. We have no time constraints, but do you think this is realistic time wise? I am so so torn on what to do!
To be sure you get foliage in New England I would make sure to get there before the end of September. Will that be too quick for you?
I feel like it’s do-abke. We’re used to long drives, but also, this is our first big trip – newly FT. So I’d like to think yes….there’s not much we want to see the way there. So maybe?!?!
The title could not have said it better; who know there was such beauty in the midwest?? This all looks so stunning. The whole tour is full of surprises and beauty. Hidden gem forsure.
I’ve wanted to visit Mackinac Island for quite a while. I’m fascinated with the lack of cars and think that would be a wonderful way to live on an island. Now I want to kayak at Wisconsin Dells as well. Beautiful!
Wow Julian was a fatty..but what a beautiful trout! Did you guys Keep & Cook or Catch & Release?
I haven’t been back to Wisconsin since the early 90s but from what I remember it was an amazing state. We did a lot of horseback riding, camping and backpacking there one summer. I remember how amazing it was to see all the stars without the city lights interferring!
I havent explore Michigan yet, so I am definitely adding a few of these spots along your Lake Michigan circle tour like Mackinac to my list. I may have to run over to the Wisconsin side though to snag some of those tart cherries
We kept and cooked dear Julian.
I am seeing myself on that kayak, gliding through Cave Point County Park in Door County. So much on offer including nature, historic towns and farmland. My hands would be full with cherry-picking and cheese-mongering. Love the idea.
If we are guaranteed catching a trout from Lake Michigan, then my son will be happy to do it. Haha… Mackinaw Island sounds interesting since there’s no motorized vehicles and it’s only 4-mile around. My family and I will have fun exploring the island by foot. I love fish, so I won’t skip eating smoked tuna and salmon in Wisconsin.
I am not a huge fish lover, but the smoked trout was one of the best things I had on the trip!
Good travel tip! Sometimes we think of the United States only with its big megalopes, but it is good to know when nature is still so beautiful in this great country.
Thanks for sharing!
What time of year did you make the trip?
We are planning on doing a similar trip. Did you have any issues parking with an rv? Did you stay at quite a few campgrounds? Can you recommend any?
We got lucky with the parking but travelled during COVID. I may try to bring a small car next tome I go. My favorite campground was on Door County- Frontier Wilderness.