Anyone who has been to Northern Ontario will tell you that, from Kenora to Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie, the area has its charms, many of them natural. Shining waters and green forests attract anglers, kayakers, canoeists and hikers in the summer and snowmobile, snowshoe and other snow-related enthusiasts in the winter. It’s the perfect destination for those fed up with the headaches of urban life.
And right next door sits an area often overlooked by many Canadians: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a place where Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron meet. (Click here to listen to an excellent Tim Allen-narrated radio commercial about the Upper Peninsula’s Great Waters.) If you’re heading to Northern Ontario (or even if you’re not), “the UP” is definitely worth a visit. The area contains many natural wonders and a very well-developed tourist infrastructure that makes these earthy attractions accessible for visitors—especially families. Think: peaceful, pristine forests opened up by solid, smooth wooden boardwalks, big waterfalls (including, surprisingly, the second largest east of the Mississippi—bested only by Niagara) with staircases to the bottom, and kid-friendly outfitters equipped to take the whole family on a Great Lakes adventure.
Culturally, the UP is also an interesting place. Cut off from the rest of Michigan until the massive Mackinac Bridge—which spans the narrows between Huron and Michigan—was built in 1959, “Yoopers” developed a distinctive accent, attitude, love for nature and fierce independent spirit. When you visit, be sure to ask the locals the difference between a troll and a fudgie. And aesthetically as well, this place feels somewhat frozen in time (in a good way), a throwback to the days when signs announced things in old-school neon and the server at the restaurant actually owned the place. Indeed, the pace is rather agreeable in the towns and forests and waters that dot the UP, and I will point out some of the highlights in the next few dispatches.
—Tim Johnson, CF’s contributing editor