Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids To Mackinac City with 30 Must-See Stops Along The Way!

The Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City!

Remember, it's the journey, not just the destination! Be silly, make memories!  

SO, we are simply giddy about this AWESOME self-guided road trip! You are going to make so many memories as you embark on this exciting adventure! 

We have included an astounding variety of stops promoting discovery, history, nature and fun! 

You'll find road trip games, delicious restaurants, roadside oddities, photographic opportunities and so many fun things to do it will blow your mind!  Just be open to experiencing something new!

I, for one, NEVER want to jump in the car and juggernaut all the way up to Mackinac City without stopping along the way. Seriously, what fun is's not.  We feel it's the journey, not just the destination that makes a memorable trip. 

Take your time to soak in the amazing sights, flavor of the area, unique experiences and awesome photo opportunities as you discover them.  Even if you think, "meh, let's skip it," DON'T!  You just might surprise yourself and enjoy discovering something unexpected along the way.

The "Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City" guide is what you make of it.  If you simply breeze through the locations your trip will go faster but many of our stops can turn into an afternoon of hikes, exploring, photography, eating, drinking and playing!  Make it work for you!

NEED PACKING TIPS?  We've compiled a helpful list! 

Get Ready for your Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City!

The goal is to pack smartly, not over-pack.  You can do it! 

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids To Mackinac City with A Bonus Trip to Cheboygan

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City


  • Hint: Pace Yourself. This road trip could easily span two to three days plus your trip to Mackinaw City if you take time to explore the majority of the stops.  
  • Mileage from Grand Rapids to Mackinaw City utilizing the most direct route and bypassing Cheboygan by remaining on I-75 is approximately 237 miles and takes about 4 hours (without stopping). 
  • Mileage from Grand Rapids to Mackinaw City with a stop in Cheboygan is approximately 287 miles and takes about 6 hours (pure drive time only, without stopping at any of our listed locations).  
  • OPTION 1: We recommend spending your first night in Cheboygan which is only 16 miles from Mackinaw City (20 minutes). We have lodging suggestions for you and the city has quite a few options for lodging, entertainment, food and supplies. In the morning, you can explore Cheboygan and then continue to Mackinaw City.  Book your second night in Mackinaw City.
  • OPTION 2: Antsy to get to Mackinaw City?  Consider taking in a few sights on your way up, bypass Cheboygan and continue to Mackinaw City via I-75.  Then on your way home, visit Cheboygan and any spots you missed. 

Your Adventure Begins In Grand Rapids, Michigan

If you flew into Grand Rapids, we suggest spending your first night in the city.  There are plenty of lodging options and you will want a fresh start in the morning for our road trip.  If you are looking for things to do in Grand Rapids, we suggest:

  • Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park-1000 E Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525.  This magnificent place houses a 158-acre botanical garden and outdoor sculpture park.  It's a wonderful way to spend an afternoon and they also have a cafe with good food-seriously. 
  • Gerald Ford Presidential Museum-303 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
  • The Bob-20 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.  We love this place!  It has numerous restaurants, a craft brewery, live music venue, nightclub and stand-up comedy club.  So many choices!
  • Amway Grand Plaza Hotel-187 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
  • Zoo
  • Bars
  • Walk trails
  • Visit Grand Rapids page with link

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

We hope you slept well, as we have a full day planned for you!  

Let's DO THIS!

Let's knock some miles out right away so we have time to enjoy the good stuff.  Travel 95 miles on US-131 N until you reach Cadillac.  If you are hungry for lunch, pull off at Exit 177 for lunch...otherwise take Exit 180 and proceed east onto M-55 toward North Higgins Lake State Park which is our first stop.

1. Paris State Fish Hatchery and 20 Foot Eiffel Tour!

Quick FREE Stop! Paris State Fish Hatchery 22090 Northland Drive, Paris, MI

Built in the late 1800s, the Paris Fish Hatchery was the second hatchery to be built and run by the State of Michigan. It raised fish to be transferred up north by train to stock rivers and lakes so residents could fish for their food. Now, the hatchery remains open to preserve its historical value and is the only free attraction in the Mecosta County Parks system.Paris Park which is part of the old Paris State Fish Hatchery next to the White Pines Trail State Park, you will find this 20-foot tall Eiffel Tower and strange Indian statue that was close by.Opened in 1881, the Paris Fish Hatchery was the state's second fish-rearing agency. This area was selected because of its abundant sources of water and excellent railroad connections. The Paris Fish Hatchery was a major supplier of salmon and brown trout fingerlings. Fish in milk cans painted a distinctive red were shipped throughout the state in railroad baggage cars, the most famous was the "Wolverine," which was used from 1913 to 1938, when motorized vehicles began to dominate shipments. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) renovated and expanded the facility in the mid 1930s. It continued to operate until 1964, when it was closed by the Department of Natural Resources. The site was acquired by the Mecosta County Park Commission in 1973, refurbished as a park and reopened in July 1976.

  Here is a YouTube video about the Paris State Fish Hatchery!

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

1. Clam Lake Beer Company

Directions: 106 S Mitchell Street, Cadillac, Michigan 

  1. Take Exit 177 toward Cadillac.  
  2. Turn left onto US-131 Business N.  Travel on this road for 2.3 miles.  The restaurant is on the right.
Clam Lake Beer CompanyClam Lake Beer Company

Clam Lake Beer Company-Located at 106 S Mitchell Street, Cadillac, Michigan   

If you had a late start (hey, you are on vacation and traveled all day yesterday, we get it!) and need lunch, we recommend the Clam Lake Beer Company, a new restaurant and brewpub in Cadillac.

This casual and friendly restaurant offers brick fired pizzas, tasty burgers and an awesome selection of beer. 

2. North Higgins Lake State Park

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

DIRECTIONS: 1747 N. Higgins Lake Drive, Roscommon, MI. 

  1. While traveling on US-131 N, take Exit 180 and proceed east onto M-55. Stay on M-55 for about 8 miles until the road comes to an end. 
  2. Turn left onto S Morey Rd/MI-66/MI-55. Travel for 5 miles on S. Morey.
  3. Turn right onto W. Houghton Lake Rd/MI-55.  Travel 20 miles on this road.
  4. Merge onto US-127 N via the ramp on the left toward Grayling. 
  5. Take Exit 206 toward Camp Grayling and turn right at the stop sign.  Continue on this road for 1 mile.  North Higgins Lake State Park is on the right.  

The road traveling into North Higgins Lake State Park is simply stunning. It has rows of tall beautiful pine trees. There is a boat launch on the right.

Friends herald North Higgins Lake as one of the better state parks as the camping lots are a good size and have plenty of trees. 

The lake is clear and the swimming area is shallow so it's a good lake for younger children. Some people mention this is not a "party" campground so you can actually enjoy some quiet time with your family.

There are plenty of picnic tables and grills to enjoy the park for a couple of hours. Restrooms are available. North Higgins Lake hours are 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. 

3. Dead Bear Brewing Company

Directions: 2552 S I-75 Business Loop, Grayling, MI.

  1. Turn left out of the park and merge back onto North US-127.  Merge onto I-75 North.
  2. Take Exit 254, on the left toward Downtown/Grayling/MI-72/Traverse City. 
  3. Merge onto S I 75 Business Loop. The restaurant is on the left so you will need to make a U-turn. 

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

Dead Bear Brewing Company-2552 S I-75 Business Loop, Grayling, MI.

This restaurant, brewery and pub has definite character!  Enjoy a wide variety of foods and try a beer flight so you can sample a wide variety of their brews! 

Did you say onion rings?! YUM!

They have outside seating and live music in the summer!

4. Bottle Cap Museum and Dawson & Steven's Classic 50's Diner

231 Michigan Ave, Grayling, MI

The Bottle-Cap Museum is the largest private collection of Coca-Cola related items in Northern Michigan! Over 10,000 pieces of memorabilia are housed here!

Plus, if you want an absolutely awesome ice cream sundae this is the place to come!

Grayling Fish Hatchery Museum Project

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

4890 W. North Down River Road, Grayling, MI.  Fun place for families to watch the fish splash!  Take a fun self guided tour and try your hand at fishing with their provided bait and tackle!

Tip: Check their website or call to verify their hours as they may be limited.

Jordan River National Fish Hatchery

6623 Turner Rd, Elmira, MI 49730

Side trip-So this place is out off our path, but I wanted to share it because, well, it's cool. If you have time and are interested, it's a neat place to visit.

Want to see a large hatchery where you can see lake and brook trout?  This hatchery is a self serve visitor center that is accessible 24/7 with a hot drink station and restrooms.

Jordan River National Fish Hatchery has picnic tables and beautiful summertime pollinator gardens to view in the summer. 

Plus, they are adjacent to the north county trail and snowmobile trail!

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

Hartwick Pines State Park

4216 Ranger Road (M-93), Grayling, MI, US.  Lots of great trails to hike through the gorgeous red pine trees, large campsites and a great location for bird watching.  Numerous miles for mountain biking with two beautiful lakes. 

Be sure to check out their logging museum, bird viewing areas in the visitor center and contact them for upcoming events such as workshops and maple syrup day!

45th Parallel Marker

We had a lot of fun watching the latitude and longitude on our phones as we drove closer and closer to the 45th Parallel (just go to your app store and download a free app).  

This green sign signifies you are halfway between the equator and the North Pole! How cool is that?

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

Otsego Lake State Park

7136 Old US Highway 27 S. Gaylord, MI

Michigan Sled Tours

819 N Otsego Lake Dr, Gaylord, MI, US (This is a winter activity for this area so mark it in your "things to do" this winter!)

Call of the Wild Museum and Bavarian Falls Park

850 S. Wisconsin Ave., Gaylord, MI. The wildlife museum features a wide variety of animals, habitats, and activities including over 60 wildlife displays, the Wildlife Theater, and the Hands-on Learning Center. They also have a great gift shop!

Located right next to Call of the Wild is Bavarian Falls Park.  Test your putting skills on an adventure golf course, try out the 1/4 mile go-cart track or bump it out on their bumper cars!

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

Want to See Elk?

Pigeon River Country Elk Range-7136 Old US 27 S, Gaylord, MI 49735

Gaylord City Elk Park-116 Grandview Blvd, Gaylord, MI 49735.  (The best way to find this viewing area is to park at the Elk's Lodge. We found this the hard way after following other directions that lead us astray.) 

Here is a fantastic Elk Viewing Guide with fun facts about elk!  You didn't know you were going to learn on this trip, did you!! 

The Pigeon River Country State Forest is home to the Midwest’s second largest free ranging elk herd.  Elk inhabit this site year-round, but generally the best months for viewing are September and October, when the males (bulls) are trying to establish dominance for mating rights with the females (cows). You may hear loud vocalizations and breaking brush with their antlers to impress cows and intimidate their rivals. Mid-week is less populated with human viewers so you may have a better chance at spotting the elk.

Another good time to view elk is from late April through early May. The best viewing is done from your car, since elk are accustomed to seeing cars. Use binoculars or spotting scopes for best results. 

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

Looking for a fun GPS navigational game?  Try to find 5 (or all?) of the 13 magnificent elk viewing locations by GPS latitude and longitude coordinates.  Here's your trusty map!  You can do it!!

Liberty Valley Ranch

4301 Hayes Tower Road, Gaylord, MI, US.  
Want to learn how to ride a horse?  Liberty Valley Ranch offers guided trail rides for all ages, families. and groups by appointment.  Private & semi private lessons are available for children and adults by CHA Certified Riding Instructors. Therapeutic Horsemanship and riding sessions are also offered by NARHA Certified Instructors.

Big Bear Adventure

4271 S. Straits Hwy, Indian River, MI, US.  
Paddle the crystal-clear Sturgeon River (the fastest in Michigan's Lower Peninsula!) on canoe, kayak, raft and tube trips! Big Bear Adventure also has an 18-Hole Adventure Golf Course, Ropes Challenge Course and Bumper Boats!

Big Bear Adventure offers Guided Winter Raft trips, X-C Ski or Snowshoe rentals. You can have fun there all year!

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

Burt Lake State Park

6635 State Park Dr, Indian River, MI. Great lake for excellent tubing and swimming!  The park also has lots of campsites with some slightly in the woods and some near the lake. Each site has a convenient fire ring and picnic table. 

Cross in the Woods National Shrine

7078 W. M 68 Highway, Indian River, MI.  LARGEST CRUCIFIX IN THE WORLD!!  The sight of this cross will leave you in awe! Just being in the presence of this majestic masterpiece is amazing. 

Cross in the Woods is the largest crucifix in the world, standing 55 feet tall and 22 feet wide.  It was carved by famous sculptor Marshall Fredericks from a single redwood tree.  The bronze figure of Jesus Christ that is attached to the cross weighs about 14,000 pounds. 

The site was declared a national shrine by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in September 2006. The site also includes several outdoor and indoor churches, numerous smaller shrines, and a doll museum. More than 300,000 visitors visit this site every year!

Pier M33 On The Cheboygan

9500 North M-33, Cheboygan, MI, US.  Restaurant

This Old House Pizza

112 Jackson St, Cheboygan, MI, US

Cheboygan Brewing Company

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

101 N Main Street, Cheboygan, MI

The Cheboygan Opera House

403 N. Huron Street Box 95, Cheboygan, MI

Cheboygan Front Range Light

606 Water Street, Cheboygan, MI

Cheboygan Crib Light

See F on map, it's located at the end of the pier

Historic Mill Creek

9001 US-23, Mackinaw City, MI 49701

WOW!  This place is seriously cool.  There is a sawmill, dam and bridge, walking trails and a very cool forest canopy bridge!  Enjoy live programs, tours and ziplining!!  Entrance Fee.

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

Alice's Kandy and Korn

512 S Huron Ave, Mackinaw City, MI 49701.  A friend and her family stop at Alice's for delicious popcorn every time they visit Mackinac City!!  She swears it's the best!

Nonna Lisa's Italian Restaurant

312 S Huron Ave, Mackinaw City, MI 49701

If you are a wood fired pizza freak like us, I suggest you stop at Nonna Lisa's for a meal. The inside of the restaurant features wood carved tables and chairs with multiple animal mounts. 

Shepler's Lighthouse Cruises

229 S Huron Ave, Mackinaw City, MI

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum Inc.

131 S Huron Ave, Mackinaw City, MI

Ugly Anne Boat Cruises

556 E. Central Avenue, Mackinaw City, MI

Mackinaw City Historical Pathway

102 S Huron Avenue, Mackinaw City, MI

Mackinaw Crossings

248 S Huron Ave, Mackinaw City, MI

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

Mackinac Bridge Museum

231 Central Ave., Mackinaw City, MI

Krueger's Fish Market

203 W Etherington St, Mackinaw City, MI 49701. Looking for an authentic experience? Stop by Krueger's Fish Market for just-caught fresh water fish!  Take home fresh or smoked fish! BTW, I've heard their beef sticks and white fish pate are out of this world!  Actually, you might want to stop here on your way home.  ;)

Colonial Michilimackinac

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

102 Straits Ave, Mackinaw City, MI

Heritage Village At Mackinaw

1425 W Central Ave, Mackinaw City, MI

McGulpin Point Lighthouse & Historic Site

500 Headlands Road, Mackinaw City, MI

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse

Best Scenic Road Trip From Grand Rapids to Mackinac City

526 North Huron Avenue, Mackinaw City, MI

Mackinaw Trolley Company

410 North Huron Avenue, Mackinaw City, MI

The Headlands, an International Dark Sky Park

15675 Headlands Road, Mackinaw City, MI, US. End your day with a spectacular experience viewing the stars without light pollution.  

Best Western Plus Dockside Waterfront Inn

505 S Huron Ave, Mackinaw City, MI 49701

Mackinac City Chamber Link

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About the Lead Author | Sherry Trautman

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    Sherry Trautman is a seasoned business owner and a multifaceted content creator, deeply entrenched in the world of travel in Michigan. With her extensive background in writing, editing, photography, marketing, website design, web mastering, social media, and publishing, she is the driving force behind the acclaimed Michigan Travel site "" A lifelong Michigander, Sherry's journey began in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan led her to St. Joseph during her formative years, and further to Kalamazoo for her higher education. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design and Fine Art from Western Michigan University. Her career initially blossomed in Battle Creek, where she contributed significantly to aviation, marketing, and the art industry.

    In 2018, Sherry, alongside her husband Chris, embarked on a passionate endeavor with the inception of This venture was not just a business but a full-time commitment to exploring and celebrating the diverse landscapes and communities of Michigan. Together, they tirelessly traverse the state, curating unique experiences, capturing stunning visuals, and weaving engaging narratives that showcase Michigan's rich cultural tapestry and natural beauty. From her early experiences in different Michigander locales to her extensive professional background, Sherry's life and work epitomize a deep-rooted expertise in Michigan travel, making her an authoritative voice in this niche.

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