Great Lakes
Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois

Journey to the Great Lakes

Chicago and Great Lakes

Our trip around Lake Michigan starts at the international airport of Chicago. However, we save the city for the end of our trip and head directly to Milwaukee, one of the most beautiful cities we have visited in North America so far. The summer exhibition “Sculpture Milwaukee” on Wisconsin Avenue with 22 colorful sculptures is a great event. The colorful and modern riverwalk and the Historic Third Ward District both are absolutely worth seeing.

After a short detour to historic Cedarburg we reach Madison, the capital of Wisconsin. You can’t miss the massive state capitol; don’t forget to spend some time on the two terraces at both lakes. On our journey north we follow Lake Winnebago and find accommodation for two nights in Green Bay, gateway to the Door Peninsula and home of famous Green Bay Packers. Our journey to the peninsula takes us to Kewaunee to the world’s largest grandfather clock, to Sturgeon Bay at Michigan Strait and to the small village of Egg Harbor.  

Our next destination – already in the state of Michigan – is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on the southern shore of Lake Superior with its picturesque rocks, waterfalls and sand dunes. We follow the huge lake to Whitefish Point Lighthouse, where the waters are also known as the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes”. Next highlight are the Soo Locks in the American-Canadian twin city of Sault Ste. Marie. The lock system connects Lake Superior with Lake Huron.

The “Roadside Attraction” Castle Rock with a sculpture of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox is only an hour’s drive south and invites you to take some pictures. The following Mackinac Bridge called “Mighty Mac” spans the confluence of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron as an 8 kilometers long suspension bridge.

From Saint Ignace at the northern end of the bridge, you can take a boat to the small car-free paradise of Mackinac Island; on its roads – completely untypical for the United States – you will only find bikes and horse carriages. Main attraction on the island is the white Grand Hotel, according to its own statement the biggest summer hotel in the world.

We follow the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, and after a stopover in Petoskey with its dotted Petoskey Stones we reach Traverse City. “The Village of Grand Traverse Commons”, a former mental hospital, is quite interesting and houses small shops and restaurants. Nevertheless, this “underground hospital” is somehow spooky.

Next destination is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with its breath-taking dunes. While driving 8 miles on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive you can explore all highlights of the park. We continue our journey south for a few hours; Ludington halfway down is perfect for a coffee break. In the evening we reach the small city of Holland, where – as the name suggests – everything is about tulips, windmills and wooden shoes.

Another detour leads us to Grand Rapids, more precisely to the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park – another highlight of our trip and absolutely worth visiting for those who like sculptures. Plan at least half a day for a tour to the more than 170 works of Borofsky, Calder or Oldenburg, to name but a few.

After a last coffee break in Michigan City (which is – quite misleadingly – in Indiana), we circle the southern shore of Lake Michigan and reach the final destination of our tour, America’s third largest city Chicago in the state of Illinois. A guided boat tour on the Chicago River is an excellent experience, since you can see dozens of skyscrapers from 150 years of architectural history. Grand Park and Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, the artworks of Picasso, Chagall and Miro in downtown or the amusement park Navy Pier are further destinations – plan three days for this great city.

Google Maps

Route Description

DayFromToRoute
01Chicago Airport (ORD)Skokie015 m / 025 km
02SkokieMilwaukee080 m / 130 km
03MilwaukeeCedarburg045 m / 070 km
04MilwaukeeMadison080 m / 130 km
05MadisonGreen Bay140 m / 225 km
06Green BayDoor Peninsula140 m / 225 km
07Green BayMunising170 m / 275 km
08MunisingSault Ste. Marie200 m / 320 km
09Sault Ste. MarieSaint Ignace050 m / 080 km
10Saint IgnaceTraverse City110 m / 180 km
11Traverse CityHolland210 m / 340 km
12HollandGrand Rapids060 m / 100 km
13HollandChicago160 m / 260 km
14Chicago000 m / 000 km
15Chicago000 m / 000 km
16ChicagoChicago Airport (ORD)000 m / 000 km
Total1.460 m / 2.360 km

The Journey in Pictures