Trolling the Mitten: a 12-Day Michigan Circle Tour

Sleeping Bear Dunes Trail- a wonderful stop for your Michigan Circle Tour
Sleeping Bears Dune Trail in Northwest Michigan

Discover the Magic of Trolling the Mitten

Michigan, the Great Lakes State, harbors a secret—did you know that everyone who lives in the Lower Peninsula is called “Trolls” as they take refuge under the Mackinac Bridge and everyone from the Upper Peninsula is called “Yoopers” for UP’er? At the Michigan Bed and Association, we love both but are highlighting an amazing Michigan Circle Tour that trolls the Mitten. This isn’t just any loop; it’s our very own MichBnB- Michigan Circle Tour. Buckle up as we explore the heart of Michigan, where lighthouses beckon, apple and cherry orchards bloom, and sunsets paint the horizon. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a curious wanderer, this circular route promises surprises at every turn.  To make your Michigan Circle Tour easy, we’ve included a twelve-day itinerary, with comfortable #MichBnB bed and breakfasts to stay at along the way.

 

Little Sable Lighthouse at Sunset in Ludington
Little Sable Lighthouse at Sunset in Ludington

Twelve-Day Itinerary for your MichBnB- Michigan Circle Tour

🚗 Day 1: Detroit 

Detroit, a city rich in history and culture, offers an array of experiences for visitors. Some of our favorite attractions include exploring the Detroit Institute of Arts, stepping into the birthplace of Motown music, and escaping an island oasis in the Detroit River-  Belle Isle offers lush green spaces, a conservatory, a beach, and the historic Belle Isle Aquarium.

🌟 Best Bed and Breakfasts to stay at Frederick K Stearns House and the Cochrane House.

Motor boats in a harbor with a frontal view of sand and grasses
Lexington State Harbor

🚗 Day 2: Detroit to Lexington

After experiencing the Motor City, cruise along the scenic M-25, hugging the eastern shore of Lake St. Clair. Stop in the charming town of Port Huron and check out the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, stroll along the scenic boardwalk by the St. Clair River, and dive into maritime history aboard the Huron Lightship. The drive from Detroit to Lexington is 83 miles and will take you about 1 1/2 hours.

Once you reach Lexington you will love this quaint harbor town where tree-lined streets invite strolls. The Lake Huron Shores provide time to relax by the water and the town includes several upscale restaurants with water views. The town is also known for its Music in the Park which is free every Friday evening during the summer months.

🌟 Best Bed and Breakfasts to stay at Lexington House Bed and Breakfast– A Night To Remember. They also have an on-site Ice Cream Shop for you to enjoy after dinner

🚗 Day3: Lexington to Bay City

Continue to follow the shoreline northward on M-25. There are many quaint harbor towns, lighthouses, and parks for you to enjoy. Highlighted below are some of our favorites:

  • Harbor Beach– A lakeside community that is home to the largest man-made freshwater harbor in the world. It’s filled with maritime history and scenic parks and trails.  The harbor offers excellent fishing from aboard a boat or along the picturesque breakwall. Enjoy a guided boat tour to the lighthouse in the warmer months.
  •  Grindstone City- A popular fishing port for anglers in search of salmon, lake trout, steelhead, and small-mouth bass.
  • Port Austin– The village of Port Austin is at the “tip” of Michigan’s Thumb. Here you will find great shopping, paddling, diving, fishing, golf, or relaxing in a beachside park. Visit nearby Veterans Waterfront Park and stroll along the half-mile breakwater for a great view of Port Austin Reef Light and the shoreline.
  • Caseville– M-25 winds through the heart of the city, which offers a wide range of restaurants, shopping, and clear views of Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay. Sleeper State Park is five miles northeast of Caseville on M-25 and includes a huge stretch of sandy coastline and dunes, perfect for an afternoon hike.

If time allows spending the night in Port Austin, we love the Port Austin Bed and Breakfast.

Once you arrive in Bay City, check out Wenonah Park which has lush green spaces by the water. Step back in time at the Antique Toy and Firehouse Museum, take a walk along the Riverwalk Pier, and hop on a boat tour at the Bay City Boat Lines. After your day of adventure come back to the Historic Webster House for a relaxing massage or relax in your room with a pampering whirlpool.

The total trip around the thumb via M-25 is a little under 150 miles.

🌟 Best Bed and Breakfasts to stay at Historic Webster House Bed and Breakfast

🚗 Day 4: Bay City to Oscoda

This area along the Lake Huron Coast is known as the Sunrise Coast of Michigan. If you are an early riser,  you will be rewarded with spectacular colors rising over Lake Huron at sunrise.  Your destination is a special bed and breakfast that sits right on the water. Breakfast will be delivered to your door and outside spaces will beckon you to sit and relax and enjoy the water views. Here are some of our favorite stops along the way:

  • Standish- This small town is often recognized as the Gateway to the Sunrise Side of Michigan. This is the place to pick up the Huron Shores Coastal Water Trail, which follows the Sunrise Coast for 200 beautiful miles.200 miles of spectacular scenic views of Lake Huron and an astounding array of large public forests and recreational properties await travelers on the Huron Shores Heritage Route. This route offers some of the most extensive and significant recreational, ecological, historical, and cultural sites in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The northern Lake Huron shoreline boasts water, forests, wetlands, lighthouses, parks, trails, museums, small towns, culture, attractions, golf, dining, and many other hidden treasures. Visit the US-23 Heritage Route website for more upcoming events and trail details.
  • Au-Gres- Nearby, visit the river settlement of Au Gres that is home to Modern Craft Wine and explore the bustling downtown district featuring local shops and restaurants, and its quaint and peaceful Chapel in the Park as you travel along US-23.
  • The Charity Island Lighthouse is another scenic lighthouse along the lake. It’s on Charity Island in Lake Huron, just off Au Gres. It was originally built in 1857, but it was abandoned for an easier-to-access light in the 1930s and quickly fell into disrepair. Recently, the lighthouse has been updated to preserve its legacy. You can find boat tours of the island and grounds; the boat tours also pass by the unique, art deco-style Gravelly Shoal Lighthouse, which is Instagram-worthy.
  • Tawas Point State Park is home to pristine beaches and a beautiful lighthouse.  On the Lake Huron side, expect big waves—a playground for water enthusiasts. Meanwhile, the bay-facing side offers calm waters, ideal for relaxation and family-friendly dips. Wander the nature trails that wind through the park. Enjoy birdwatching and immerse yourself in the coastal beauty. Visit the historic lighthouse—a beacon that has witnessed generations of maritime history. Its Victorian-era charm adds to the allure.
  • If time allows, consider staying overnight in East Tawas at the comfortable Always a Holiday! B&B. 
  • On one side of the Au Sable River, you’ll find the town of Au Sable. The river is a popular spot for canoeing, fly-fishing, and kayaking, so rent a boat here and explore the water and forested landscape around this serene part of the state.
  • The other side of the river is home to Oscoda. Here, you’ll find the Au Sable-Oscoda Historical Society & Museum, Iargo Springs Interpretive Site.  After your busy day of site-seeing head off to the award-winning Huron House B&B located in Oscoda.

🌟 Best Bed and Breakfasts to stay at the Huron House B&B

If you would like to extend your time in this area we can also highly recommend this new B&B which is a purpose-built log cabin right on the water in Greenbush- Sweetwater Sea B&B.

Mackinack Bridge
The majestic Mackinac Bridge at night

Mackinac Island

This is the time in your Michigan Circle Road Trip to decide if you want to continue north to see the amazingly popular Mackinac Bridge and Island. The island covers 4.35 square miles and boasts stunning views of Lake Michigan. Its rugged cliffs, lush forests, and crystal-clear waters create an enchanting landscape. The island’s ban on motor vehicles (except for emergency vehicles) adds to its allure. Horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, and walking are the primary modes of transportation. The entire island is listed as a National Historic Landmark, preserving its architectural heritage and cultural significance. In the late 19th century, Mackinac Island became a popular summer colony and tourist destination. Visitors flock to its historic sites, including the iconic Grand Hotel. Reservations are needed as this is a VERY popular tourist destination in the summer months

Autumn colors along the AuSable River
Autumn colors from a lookout point on the National Scenic Byway

🚗Day 5: Oscoda to Grayling

If you decide to head west in Oscoda you will be rewarded with amazing lookout points along the AuSable River, similar to the one shown above. The twenty-two-mile River Road National Scenic Byway extends westward from Lake Huron into the Huron National Forest. The Au Sable River was a major transportation route for floating Michigan’s giant white pine from the forest to the sawmill towns on Lake Huron. You can learn more about this lumbering history at Lumbermen’s Monument Visitor Center which sits at the center of the byway. You will find many scenic stops along the way and you will end in the picturesque Huron National Forest.

After your day of travel, we recommend stopping in the quaint town of Grayling. Here you will find great barbecue and cozy lodging at Borchers AuSable Canoe & Kayak.  Nestled along the scenic AuSable River in Grayling, Michigan, this family-friendly Michigan Bed & Breakfast offers a delightful blend of outdoor exploration and cozy accommodations. Depending on your schedule, book an early morning kayak experience on the AuSable.

🌟 Best Bed and Breakfasts to stay at – Borchers AuSable Canoe and Kayak with the Riverside B&B. 

Beautiful turquoise colors over a lake
Beautiful turquoise colors over Torch Lake

🚗Day 6: Grayling to Ellsworth

After your kayaking adventure, head north to the quaint towns of Charlevoix and Ellsworth. This area surrounds the Chain of Lakes where you can kayak or swim.  You have several great B&Bs to choose from.  Not to be missed during your stay in this area is the Sky Bridge on Boyne Mountain which is the world’s longest timber-towered suspension bridge. You will be rewarded with magnificent views!

🌟 Best Bed and Breakfasts to stay at House on the Hill B&B and Torch Lake B&B

🚗 Day 7: Ellsworth to Onekema

Now you are on the Lake Michigan side and will primarily be traveling on Highway 31.  Check out this link for road details throughout this area.  Listed below are some of our favorite destinations not to be missed:

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park spans 71,199 acres along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Visitors can explore towering sand dunes, pristine beaches, lush forests, and crystal-clear lakes. The Park gets its name from the Mother Bear Dunes, which once resembled a sleeping bear.
  • If you would like to extend your stay in this area check out the lovely B&B loving at the Cottonwood Inn B&B and Glen Arbor B&B. Both are quality-assured and inspected by the Michigan Bed and Breakfast Association.
  • Traverse City sits on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay, offering brilliant blue waters, sandy beaches, and stunning sunsets. The area is renowned for its vineyards and farms. Two quality-assured #MichBnB’s in the area include the Wellington Inn and the Country Hermitage Inn.  The Hermitage is located on a cherry farm with beautiful vistas go Grand Traverse Bay.

Adirondack Chair beside a lake at sunset with distant views of a moored sailboat

After your busy day of road travels you can look forward to the amazing lakefront lodging at the Canfield House, located on the beautiful shores of Portage Lake. Your bed and breakfast hosts used to own a bakery so you are assured of an amazing breakfast.

🌟 Best Bed and Breakfasts to stay at the Canfield House.

🚗 Day 8: Onekema to Ludington 

The next trek of your road trip is shorter but packed full of wonderful stops. Plus, your final destination of Ludington has so much to see and do. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Manistee boasts unspoiled sandy beaches and the vibrant downtown area features quaint shops and beautifully preserved Victorian-era architecture. Stroll through the streets and soak in the nostalgic charm.
  • Explore Ludington State Park. Hike scenic trails, visit the iconic Big Sable Point Lighthouse (reachable via a 2-mile trail), and relax on sandy beaches. Ideal for biking, hiking, and kayaking.
  • Visit the picturesque Ludington North Breakwater Light for great views. It’s an excellent spot to watch the arrival of the SS Badger car ferry from Wisconsin.
  • Visit the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum
  • Immerse yourself in history at the White Pine Village. Explore a one-room schoolhouse, courthouse, jail, and more.

🌟 Best Bed and Breakfasts to stay at in Ludington- Candlelite Inn B&B, Cartier Mansion, Lamplighter B&B, and Ludington House B&B. 

Grand Haven Lighthouse in the evening
Grand Haven Lighthouse

🚗Day 9: Ludington to Grand Haven

We are now on to the beach towns that western Michigan is known for. Here you will find magnificent beaches, beautiful sunsets, and lakeside dining along the way. You’ll also find water sports galore and hiking trails amongst the dunes. In Grand Haven here are some of our favorites:

  • Grand Haven Lighthouse and Pier- Visit the iconic lighthouses on the south pier. Even in rough waters, they stand as picturesque landmarks during all seasons.
  • Relax on the sandy beach, swim, and take in the lake views at the Grand Haven State Park. The park also hosts the enchanting Musical Fountain—a water and light show set to music
  •  Stroll the streets of downtown Grand Haven that are lined with boutiques, breweries, candy stores, art galleries, and cozy cafés. The historic architecture adds to the charm.

🌟 Best Bed and Breakfasts to stay at – The Looking Glass Beachfront Inn. Here you will enjoy magnificent views of the lighthouses and beach. For more downtown lodging check out the Washington Street Inn.

🚗 Day 10: Grand Haven to Saugatuck

Have you ever heard of the Art Coast of Michigan?  Saugatuck and the sister town of the Douglas is known for its upscale dining, quaint shops, and art galleries.  It became a noted art colony during the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century and includes the Ox-Bow School of Art.  Visitors are drawn to art galleries, marinas, and the view from atop Mount Baldhead. Saugatuck/Douglas is a popular vacation destination for the LGBT+ community.

Big Red Lighthouse
During your tour of the Michigan lighthouses, you can refer to this map provided by the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce which shows the locations of the lighthouses.

Not to be missed during your travels is a stopover in Holland and a visit to the Big Red Lighthouse. Holland’s Dutch heritage shines through its tulip gardens and windmills. Stroll the charming downtown and enjoy the quaint shops.

🌟 Best Bed and Breakfasts to stay at in Saugatuck- The Hotel Saugatuck and The Historic Judson Heath.  Douglas- The Rosemont Inn

The Hotel Saugatuck is known for its easy walk to downtown Saugatuck for dining and the amazing breakfasts delivered to your door each morning and decadent dessert after dinner. The Rosemont Inn is right across the street from Douglas Beach.

🚗 Day 11: Saugatuck  to South Haven

Moving south on 31, you’ll come to the charming coastal town of South Haven.  Explore unique shops and restaurants in the vibrant downtown area, and discover its port city heritage and maritime culture. This area is renowned for several vineyards as well as beautiful farmland including acres and acres of blueberry fields and apple orchards. We can recommend two extraordinary Michigan Bed and Breakfasts in the area that are an experience all by themselves. Vintage Inn at Veritas Estate is located on a country road, but still close to town and beaches. This bed and breakfast is special in that one innkeeper is a sommelier and the other a chef. Here you will enjoy amazing breakfasts and private dinners previously arranged. For a more downtown experience, we love to recommend the Victoria Resort B&B. Here you will find all the amenities of a resort with easy access to downtown and breathtaking sunsets on the beach.

🌟 Best Bed and Breakfasts to stay at The Vintage Inn at Veritas Estates and Victoria Resort B&B

Flower gardens surround the main building at Goldberry Woods.
Flower gardens surround the main building at Goldberry Woods.

🚗 Day 12: South Haven to Union Pier

For the last trek of our road trip, we are on to the area of Southwest Michigan known as Harbor County. Harbor Country comprises eight small towns—New Buffalo, Union Pier, Three Oaks, Lakeside, Grand Beach, Michiana, Harbert, and Sawyer. Each has its unique character and allure. Pristine sandy beaches, stunning sunsets, and crystal-clear waters await. Whether you’re swimming, sunbathing, or building sandcastles, the lakeside views are breathtaking. Harbor Country has a rich artistic community. Explore galleries, studios, and local craftsmanship. From hiking trails to scenic countryside, there’s plenty to explore. Don’t miss the lush farmland and farm-to-table eateries.

🌟 Best Bed and Breakfasts to stay at Goldberry Woods & Garden Grove Inn

Goldberry Woods is a modern farm resort and is a mere 12-minute stroll to a sugar-sand Lake Michigan beach. Their perfect location is on the banks of a meandering river that you can navigate by kayak, canoe, or paddle board. Guests enjoy an on-site year-round pool and jacuzzi.

This area is just an hour and a half drive from Chicago or a three-hour drive back to Detroit.  If you are returning to Detroit to return your rental car, consider a stopover in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor where we have three exceptional MichBnB’s to recommend- The Newton of Ypsilanti, Baxter House B&B & Burnt Toast B&B. All three serve amazing breakfasts!

Let us know what you think of our very own MichBnB Michigan Circle Road Trip. While we highlighted a twelve-day tour, as you can see from what we highlighted, it could easily extend into a 24-day tour. Happy travels! 🌟🛤️🏡

 


Each quality-assured MichBnB along the way has its own story—whether it’s a restored Victorian mansion, a lakeside cottage, or a farmhouse with a wraparound porch. Capture the warmth, hospitality, and unique experiences that a bed and breakfast has to offer.

For a full list of all our Michigan Bed and Breakfast members, check out our website here.