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If you are planning a trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this summer, don’t miss Marquette! Read on to find out the best things to do in Marquette, MI…
Lovely Marquette, on the shores of Lake Superior on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, was a complete surprise to me. I knew next to nothing about this small college city before visiting, and it turned out to be one of my favorite places on our Great Lakes Road Trip.
Marquette is just the perfect little lakeside city and the vibe there reminded me a lot of my favorite Colorado Mountain Towns. It is outdoorsy, it’s home to lots of young residents who are proud of their city, there are multiple breweries, and it is full of beautifully restored historic buildings. Very Colorado.
How this gorgeous city with so many things to do has stayed under the radar is beyond me. The only thing I can think of is that it isn’t really close to any major hubs. Whatever the reason, the fact that it isn’t full of vacationers and that it feels like a real town that caters to locals, not tourists, is why it is so fabulous.
Although it is the most populated place in the Upper Peninsula, known locally as “the U.P.”, there are only 20,000 residents so it doesn’t feel like a big city and has retained the relaxed vibe and friendly charm of a smaller town.
It has all of the amenities of a city along with excellent access to the outdoors with many beaches and parks. It is an outdoor lover’s dream, especially in the summer months, and is one of the best places for a romantic getaway in Michigan.
People that are in the know come back year after year for their vacation, they know a good thing when they see it and if I lived closer, I would definitely do the same.
If you are lucky enough to visit, here are the best things to do in Marquette to enjoy this beautiful city and everything it has to offer the visitor.
15 Best Things To Do in Marquette MI
Check out my detailed interactive map for the best things to do in Marquette MI here.
1) Hang Out at the Beach
One of the best things to do in Marquette MI is to go to the beach because, being situated right on the clear waters of Lake Superior, this city is blessed with a bunch of them.
My favorite beach is McCarty’s Cove which has views of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse and is backed by trees. This pretty cove beach is the perfect place for beach walks and lake swims. The beach on the other side of the lighthouse is gorgeous too.
Another beautiful beach is Black Rocks Beach on Presque Isle, which is surrounded by forest, and has gorgeous clear blue water and smooth pebbles.
2) Hike to the Top of Sugar Loaf Mountain
There are a number of hikes around Marquette but one of the best-known hikes is to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. This short and steep hike is around two miles out and back, and will take you up through the forest to a beautiful viewpoint overlooking the pristine coastline and surrounding mountains.
3) Explore Beautiful Presque Isle
The crown jewel of Marquette’s park system is the stunning Presque Isle Park. This 323-acre peninsula juts out into Lake Superior and is home to wild beaches, thick forest, sandstone cliffs, epic lake views, and hiking trails.
The best way to experience the beauty of the park is by hiking or biking the two-mile scenic perimeter road that loops the peninsula. Stop often along the way to enjoy the views and maybe take a dip in Lake Superior at one of the isle’s beaches.
4) Have a Picnic by the Water at Ellwood A Mattson Lower Harbor Park
While Marquette is an active outdoors city, one of the best ways to soak up the natural beauty of the place is to just sit and enjoy it. Pack a picnic or grab takeout from a local bakery or restaurant and head to Ellwood A Mattson Lower Harbor Park situated on the lake in the lower downtown.
This grassy 22-acre park has picnic areas, walking paths, a playground for kids, and restrooms. You can gaze out on the lake and watch sailboats come and go. Make sure to check out the historic Ore Dock while you are there, it’s a piece of Great Lakes history.
5) Go Brewery Hopping
Marquette is home to a number of breweries, a disproportionately large amount for the size of the city. That’s my kind of place!
Downtown you will find excellent Ore Dock Brewing, my favorite in Marquette, and Blackrocks Brewery which has live music and outdoor seating along with delicious brews.
A little out of town are Drifta Brewing Company, Michigan’s first coop-owned craft brewery, and Barrel + Beam which is women-owned and focuses on farmhouse and barrel-aged beers.
Another brewery you should definitely check out is Superior Culture for ciders, alcoholic seltzers, and kombuchas.
6) Try a Pasty – A Local Favorite
If you are visiting the U.P. you have to try a pasty – it’s a thing here. Similar but different to the Cornish pasties from Cornwall, England, the U.P. pasties have a less flaky, more bread-like pastry. I have to say that I prefer the original style of pasties more but you should definitely still try a pasty while you are in Marquette.
I went to Jean Kay’s for my pasty fix. I don’t eat much beef so I skipped the traditional and tried their veggie pasty, and it was pretty good. Lawry’s is another popular spot in Marquette to try a local pasty.
7) Eat Some of the Most Delicious Smoked Fish You Will Ever Try
Along with pasties, another U.P./Great Lakes delicacy is smoked whitefish and unless you hate fish, you have to try it. You can find it all over the U.P. but the best spot in Marquette to get your hands on some excellent smoked whitefish straight from the cold waters of Lake Superior is Thill & Sons Fish House (Thill’s Fish House on Google Maps) located at the end of Main Street downtown.
You can also get delicious salmon, lake trout, and cod, and, if you’re lucky, some delicious smoked whitefish or salmon dip.
8) Visit the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse and Maritime Museum
If you love a lighthouse as I do, then don’t miss the historic, cherry-red Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, which was built in 1866 and has undergone lots of changes over the years. You can only visit by taking a tour but it is definitely worth it.
We learned a lot during our one-hour tour, including about the history of the lighthouse, what life was like there for the keeper and his family, and that the lighthouse is haunted! The views from the lighthouse were excellent too.
Make sure to visit the Maritime Museum as well as it has lots of interesting information and exhibits about the Maritime history of Marquette and the Great Lakes.
9) Take a Wander Downtown
Marquette has a compact but vibrant downtown full of attractive historic buildings from the days when it was first established as an iron mining town in the mid 19th-century. These days the buildings are home to boutiques, restaurants, art studios and galleries, gift shops, and other stores.
It is a very walkable downtown and that is the best way to explore everything this bustling city center has to offer.
10) Shop Local on Third Street
On the edge of downtown, Community-focused Third Street is full of eclectic shops and some of the best cafes and restaurants in Marquette. Third Street is a popular haunt for students so has a lively atmosphere and is definitely worth exploring. You can find live music here on the third Thursday of the month from June till September.
One must-visit on Third Street is the iconic and very popular Third Street Bagel. After eating incredible bagels in New York City on multiple occasions I am a bit of a bagel snob, but Third Street Bagel really knows their stuff.
There are a wide array of bagels and cream cheeses to choose from but I went with one of my old favorites – a blueberry bagel with blueberry cream cheese. It was divine.
11) Walk the Marquette Breakwater
A short and easy walk with a difference, walk the concrete 1,200-foot Marquette Breakwater to the Marquette Breakwater Light. The breakwater has water on both sides and will give you a unique view of the lower harbor and the old ore dock.
Use caution and don’t go out there if the weather is bad because it can be dangerous.
12) Attend the Twice Weekly Farmers Market
Marquette has a lively Farmers Market held downtown on Saturday mornings from May through November and Wednesday evenings from June through September. There is also a holiday market in December.
This is a popular community event and it is the largest farmers market in the U.P. You can find fresh local produce, artisan products, arts and crafts, delicious food stalls, and live music.
13) Go to One of Marquette’s Summer Events
Marquette really comes alive in the summer and there is a full agenda of concerts and other events through the warmer months. Visit in July for the annual Blueberry Festival, or in fall for the U.P. Beer Festival, and there are also film festivals, bike races, a blues festival, and more.
Check out the schedule of official events in Marquette here.
14) Bike Along the Lakeshore
Marquette has a 19-mile multi-use path that stretches from Presque Isle in the north to the town of Harvey in the south. Hire a bike and bike the whole thing, or walk the section that follows the lakeshore between downtown and Presque Isle, which is around four miles and offers gorgeous Lake Superior views.
15) Do a Day Trip To Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is the top attraction in the U.P. and offers miles of unspoiled coastline on Lake Superior where you can see sandstone cliffs, white sand beaches, waterfalls, sand dunes, lighthouses, and hiking trails. It is only a 45-minute drive away from Marquette making it perfect for a day trip.
I highly recommend getting out on the water and doing one of the boat tours to see the cliffs from the water. We did the Spray Falls cruise with Pictured Rocks Cruises and loved it! You can also kayak the coastline if you are looking for a more hands-on adventure.
The boat cruises are usually around 2.5 hours long so you will have time to see some of the attractions in the western part of the park too like Miners Beach and Miners Falls.
Plan Your Trip to Marquette
How To Get To Marquette
The best way to get to Marquette is by driving. It is around a five-hour drive from Duluth and Milwaukee, and six hours from Chicago. You can also catch a Greyhound to Marquette from numerous places in the Midwest and then catch buses or hire a bike to get around town once you arrive.
Where To Stay in Marquette
There are a few campgrounds around Marquette including Marquette Tourist Park, Rippling River Resort, and Forestville Campground. If you have an RV, you can also stay in the car park of Ojibwa Casino just south of town for free – that’s what we did.
Some excellent midrange accommodation options include Marquette Inn & Suites, Landmark Inn, Cedar Motor Inn, and Superior Stay Hotel.
If you prefer vacation rentals, there are a number of highly-rated and affordable options around town:
- Adorable One Bedroom Cabin on a Lake
- One Bedroom Vacation Cottage Close to Beach
- Cute Two Bedroom Home in the Heart of Marquette
- Lil’ Casa One Bedroom Southwest Style Home
- Three Bedroom Hilltop House With Lake Views and Jacuzzi
- One Bedroom Oak Street Retreat Apartment
The Best Time To Visit Marquette
To enjoy all the places mentioned in this post, the best time to visit Marquette is in the summer and fall months from May to October. I loved visiting in summer but I would definitely love to return to Marquette in fall too because the fall colors here are meant to be spectacular.
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