In 1671, Father Marquette established a mission in St. Ignace, making 2021 the 350th anniversary of the city being continually inhabited. Here are a few things you might not have known about the community at the north end of the Mackinac Bridge, the gateway to the U.P.

  1. Native Americans lived along the Straits of Mackinac for many generations before the arrival of the first Europeans. The Museum of Ojibwa Culture sits on land that’s one of the oldest native gathering sites in the western U.S.
  2. There are six miles of beautiful, sandy beaches on Lake Michigan within the Hiawatha National Forest that are such a hidden gem, they don’t even have a name. One particularly attractive dune area is found eight miles west of downtown on US-2, from Point Aux Chenes to beyond the National Forest boundary.
  3. Hiawatha National Forest encompasses 879,000 acres and touches three Great Lakes: Superior, Huron and Michigan. Visit the information center, and find guided nature trails and a Lake Michigan lookout, at the forest’s St. Ignace office on US-2. (Consider a fall camping getaway.)
  4. St. Ignace is home to six of the 30 bird-watching spots along the North Huron Birding Trail (all of which are within driving distance of downtown). The area is an important migratory resting area for 275 bird species, including the scarlet tanager and indigo bunting.
  5. Climb craggy Castle Rock, known as “Pontiac’s Lookout” by the Ojibwa Tribe, for a breathtaking view that stretches on for 20 miles.
  6. With a little luck, if Moran Bay freezes without snow falling too quickly, it turns into a sheet of black ice and you can see to the bottom, including fish swimming around. Ice skating on the bay is a favorite winter tradition for locals, and each February, 180–200 teams from across the world head to St. Ignace for the Labatt Blue UP Pond Hockey Championship. (Canceled this year due to COVID-19.)
  7. The Big C burger is famous at Clyde’s, as are the pasties from Lehto’s (order a beef pasty—no gravy). Jose’s Cantina and Java Joe’s Cafe are also popular. Downtown, many restaurants have outdoor patios—with views of Lake Huron and its passing ferries and freighters.
  8. St. Ignace hopes to celebrate its 350th with a party in August, depending on COVID-19 restrictions. Visit for updates on the event and for more information about each of these attractions.

Photo(s) by Rachel Haggerty