Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is best known for the large number of year-round outdoor activities it offers. My #MittenTrip to Escanaba encompassed the best of the best when it comes to summertime in the UP. I spent my weekend on beaches, in the water, and drinking great local brews on patios; read on to discover which part I liked best.
My husband, Joe, and I arrived on Friday around 1 PM. We checked into the beautiful Terrace Bay Hotel and spent some time scoping the place out. The balcony in our room overlooked Little Bay de Noc, so we decided to spend some time out there drinking some of our favorite Michigan-made beverages.
Escanaba’s newest brewery had been highly recommended, so we knew we had to check it out. The tasting room at Upper Hand Brewery had only been open for a couple of months at this point, but they already had operations running smoothly. They always have six beers on tap; we sampled each and advise that you do too. The six beers available cover the full spectrum of beer varieties, and there are options available to satisfy all beer consumers. Even the older gentleman who informed me he “only likes Budweiser,” discovered that the lager fit him well.
After leaving Upper Hand Brewery, we headed to the ‘downtown’ area of Escanaba. Here we stumbled on a local tasting room for a winery called Leigh’s Garden. At Leigh’s Garden, we sampled the full spectrum of wine offered. We purchased some delicious bottles of Old Escanaba, which is a dry red blend. Many of the wines are named after family members of the owner, Leigh Schmidt. This tasting room also offers spaces for small events, such as bridal showers and birthday parties.
After Leigh’s Garden, we decided it was high time to get some food. We walked a bit farther down the street and came across another local brewery with a full menu. Hereford & Hops offers great outdoor seating, brews beer in-house, and has a self-serve stash of freshly popped popcorn. Nothing makes me happier than establishments with free popcorn. In addition to eating mass amounts of popcorn, we ordered poutine and a hefty bunch of buffalo wings. As a connoisseur of wings, I found these to be top-notch. The wings are extremely meaty, slightly crispy on the outside, and extremely saucy. In addition to Hereford & Hops’ great food, of course, we had to sample their beer. We tried their version of a black and tan, which really emphasizes the flavors of their Blackbird Stout.
After dinner, we walked to the end of the street and stumbled upon Ludington Park, which is home to a large variety of things to explore. We arrived as the sun was starting to set and checked out the Sand Point Lighthouse. This historic monument was constructed in 1867 to warn ships of the sand reef that extended into the Bays de Noc.
At this point, it was quickly becoming bedtime. The Terrace Bay Hotel has a large pool, hot tub, and sauna that are surrounded by beautiful views of Little Bay de Noc. After a busy day of traveling and exploring, this was the perfect way to wind down.
Saturday morning started with a great continental breakfast spread at the Terrace Bay Hotel. My favorite way to explore a new area is on foot, so we went out for a run. We started on the boardwalk in front of the hotel, which offers tremendous views of Little Bay de Noc. Then we headed farther along the Bay toward the Escanaba River. This location is a great spot to watch early morning fishers and enjoy the peacefulness that can only be found in the UP.
After our exploratory run, we headed back out to Ludington Park to visit Mish Watersports, which offers kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, as well as kiteboarding lessons. We opted for the paddleboards.
Mish Watersports is located on a peninsula between a small harbor and the larger bay, so there are multiple routes for water adventures. We chose to complete the full circle around the outer portion of the harbor, and it turns out Little Bay de Noc can be pretty rough. Alternative, less extreme options are available for beginners. The harbor where you start is very flat and calm; great for getting the hang of a new watersport. We still had a great time, and the trek took about an hour. We got to see part of the Ludington Links disc golf course, multiple beaches, and dozens of beautiful sailboats.
After paddleboarding, we had lunch in downtown Escanaba at a Mediterranean restaurant called Bobaloon’s. They offer a vast selection of Mediterranean and Greek food. I had their Greek salad, which honestly was the best Greek salad I have ever had on this side of the Atlantic. Joe had extremely fresh chicken shawarma tacos, and we shared an order of ‘crack fries.’ These are appropriately named.
Since we had noticed the Ludington Links disc golf course while paddleboarding, we thought it would be a great activity to check out while in the area. We realized we hadn’t thought to pack our discs, but we found a great store that remedied that sadness. The Beaten Path offers new and used discs, bicycles, and other sporting equipment for purchase. We were able to purchase two discs for $20 and quickly head out onto the course.
Since Ludington Links is located right in Ludington Park, we got to disc along the coast of Little Bay de Noc the entire time. We got to the seventh basket before a problem occurred. As I mentioned, the course is along the shore of Little Bay de Noc; on basket seven, the wind took hold of Joe’s disc and carried it far into the bay. Since we had just purchased those discs, we didn’t have any extras on us, but we didn’t let that get us down. Since we were already close to the beach, we decided to grab a couple of bottles of Short’s Soft Parade and plop in the sand to watch an incoming storm roll in.
Once the rain started, we made a mad dash back up the street to a local bar called Cat-Man-Do’s. It is a perfect dive bar. Their drink special is a bucket of five craft beers for $15. This bar also had free popcorn, so naturally, I was in heaven. For dinner, we ordered an appetizer called the Junk Basket. I’ll let you use your imagination with this one, but rest assured that everything was deep-fried.
Saturday night we were staying at the Lakeside Motor Inn, which is extremely cozy, clean, and conveniently located just off of US-2. We immediately went to bed after a full day of eating, drinking, and playing around Escanaba.
For breakfast, the Lakeside Motor Inn sets out donuts and a bread unique to the UP that tasted very similar to an elephant ear in the best way possible. We had to take off right after sampling the bread though, as we had a bit of traveling to do for our more formal breakfast.
The Cedar Street Cafe in Manistique did not disappoint. They follow the UP tradition of ginormous portions with low prices. Joe consumed a platter of biscuits and homemade gravy while I devoured a homemade croissant with ham, egg, and cheese. As a result, I slept for a large portion of the drive back along US-2 (sorry, dear!), but I did wake up for a bit of sightseeing and, of course, a pasty.
My favorite way to find a great pasty is to stop at a small roadside establishment that specializes in these wonderful UP treats. The Hog Island Country Store was just the place for us. Eight minutes after ordering we were enjoying a hot, chicken pasty. (Make sure to carry cash! Many of these places do not take cards.) After that I stayed awake long enough to cross the beautiful Mackinaw Bridge, then I promptly passed out again, sulking in my depression that the most perfect Escanaba weekend had come to a close.
Article written for Awesome Mitten by Jennifer Symons - a therapist by day and an explorer of all things Michigan the rest of the time.