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Sparkling white sand dunes roll into crystal-clear turquoise waters along the section of US-2 that stretches from St. Ignace to Naubinway. You can drive it in under an hour, but don’t breeze by—stop for a sunny dune picnic and a scenic hike, or soak in the views from one of the quaint coastal towns along the way.

We all know that quintessential summer moment. You’re blasting the perfect road trip playlist. The afternoon sun shines through the windshield, warming your legs. Windows rolled down, the wind whips through your still-wet hair after a quick lake dip. And then, the exhilaration of hitting open highway.

That’s the exact feeling you get headed west out of St. Ignace—the Upper Peninsula’s coastal gateway to a kaleidoscope of day trips. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill highway; the scenery along the dune-swept stretch of US-2 is what summer dreams are made of. To your left, shades of blue as far as the eye can see. To your right, the U.P.’s lush, wild woods.

You’ll be tempted to stop … a lot. And you should. Because here, the breezy, sun-soaked journey is the destination. Let your cramped trip schedules and rigid timelines fly right out the window—spontaneity is king on US-2.

The 41 miles ahead are sprinkled with undiscovered beaches, under-the-radar roadside parks and purveyors of fresh local fare like smoked Great Lakes fish and golden-brown pasties. You can even find wooded lakeside campsites to turn your day trip into a leisurely weekend getaway.

Ready for a drive? Here are our favorite pit stops, watering holes and side quests along this scenic stretch of Highway 2 …

Photo by St. Ignace Visitors Bureau

St. Ignace

After crossing the Mighty Mac, you’ll want to stop at this charming port town for provisions before you continue your journey along the upper reaches of Lake Michigan.

Savvy travelers know to stock up on pasties—the traditional (and delicious) meat-and-veggie pies that U.P miners packed for lunch. Take your hand pies to-go from the family-owned Lehto’s Pasties (choose from two St. Ignace locations). Or indulge in the U.P.’s version of fast food and hit Clyde’s Drive-In for an olive burger, onion rings and an old-fashioned malt.

If you’re looking to DIY your own picnic spread, we recommend dropping by Mackinac Straits Fish Co., where you’ll find smoked whitefish sausage links, fillets and whitefish and trout spread. They’ll pack their house-smoked fish for travel or a picnic—owner Thomas Coveyou recommends grabbling a fillet, a nip of dip, plus Pinconning cheese, crackers and local jams for a beach-ready charcuterie board.

Just outside of St. Ignace, you’ll find family-friendly attractions like Deer Ranch, where you can visit and feed native whitetail deer and fawns; and the beloved Mystery Spot, known for its gravity-defying magic—enjoy interactive tours, mini golf, a maze, zip lines and more.

Photo by Allison Acosta

You’ll also run into the St. Ignace Ranger Station for Hiawatha National Forest, which is where you’ll stop if you need to grab a National Park Pass.

Further along, you’ll come upon the aforementioned Lehto’s Pasties (the OG location, complete with picnic tables) alongside Country Smoked Fish, where you can score snacks like smoked salmon or whitefish, dip and the best beef jerky you’ve ever had.

Photo by St. Ignace Visitors Bureau

Moran

About 10 miles into your trip, you’ll roll into the township of Moran—you know you’ve made it when the scenery on your left shifts from towering trees to an otherworldly dunescape. From here on out, you have plenty of opportunities to pull over for a picnic, beach blanket sesh, a quick dip in Lake Michigan, or all of the above. You’ll see Lake Michigan Beach on Google Maps about 13 miles west of St. Ignace, and Sand Dunes Beach another half-mile down US-2.

If you’re looking for a campsite to crash at, continue on a few more miles to Lake Michigan Campground, a gorgeous 35-site campground nestled into sand dunes that rise up to 30 feet tall. Past the towering dunes, your backyard is miles of sandy beach, where you can relax, take a swim, do some birdwatching and soak in a big water sunset. Day use is $6, site fee is $24, and reservations are open May 23–Sept. 14 (first-come, first-served prior to that). Don’t forget to head to Wildwood Pasties, just a few minutes away, and grab a pasty, ice cream and supplies for your campfire.

Photo by Kristi Gustafson

Brevort

When you make it to the quaint community of Brevort, your mission is simple: Stop for gas and treat yourself to the famed Gustafson’s Smoked Fish, tucked away discreetly in a convenience store/smoked fish house. About 20 miles from St. Ignace, this iconic Yooper pitstop lures travelers in with fresh smoked whitefish, jerky and cheese curds.

Next door, the Backwoods Farm Market is stocked with locally grown produce, maple syrup, dried cherries and more. Drop in to round out your charcuterie picnic.

Read Next: Visit St. Ignace to Taste Some of the Best Smoked Whitefish in Michigan

Photo by St. Ignace Visitors Bureau

Epoufette

The charming village of Epoufette welcomes road trippers with a chance to stop and stretch your legs at the Heath M. Robinson Memorial Cut River Bridge. A true hidden gem, this bright green cantilever bridge was built in 1947 and stands 148 feet tall. There are roadside parks on both sides of US-2, and you’ll find paths leading over and under the bridge, with stairs that continue down to the beach.

For a home-cooked meal, head to nearby Epoufette Bayview Inn for the broiled whitefish, or Cut River Inn for a cup of their ever-popular whitefish chowder (and don’t forget to finish your meal with an apple dumpling topped with homemade rum sauce!).

If you’re ready for more smoked fish (who isn’t?), hang a right after the inns and check out the newly opened Frazier’s Fish House for smoked whitefish dip and hunks of smoked salmon and lake trout.

On the outskirts of town, stop by the Scenic Overlook, where an ADA-accessible deck offers sweeping views of Epoufette Bay; bring quarters for the coin-operated binoculars. (Pro tip: Come back in October for spectacular fall color views.)

Read Next: St. Ignace is Home Base for Upper Peninsula Birdwatching

Photo by Hog Island Country Store & Cottages

Naubinway

About five miles from the overlook, you’ll enter the fringes of Naubinway, the largest U.P. commercial fishing port on the Great Lakes. Your first stop: the cozy Hog Island Country Store, where you’ll find everything from homemade jams and jellies, to smoked fish and pasties. The owners of this old-fashioned country store also offer six clapboard cottages for rent, with access to a private white sand beach (call to reserve, 906.477.9995).

If rustic camping is more your speed, keep rollin’ ‘til you reach Hog Island State Forest Campground, with 42 first-come, first-served campsites ($20 fee, recreation passport required). This campground is nestled along the Lake Michigan shoreline, making it perfect for paddlesports. Note: You may want to bring water shoes, as part of the beach is composed of large rocks.

Just down the road is Garlyn Zoo Wildlife Park, a local favorite where you can observe an array of native North American animals, as well as exotic species—lions and tigers and bears!—while also enjoying family-friendly activities like gem mining.

Continue on until you hit another beloved hidden gem—an MDOT Rest Stop with sandy beach access and dog runs. Perfect for a picnic and some afternoon rock hunting. And just a mile away is the Northernmost Point of Lake Michigan, also great for stretching your legs. Naubinway, an Ojibwe word meaning “Place of Echoes,” is the most northern community on Lake Michigan. (Tip: For a photo op, you’ll find the official monument marker on Millecoquins Point, south of downtown Naubinway.)

As you ride into Naubinway proper, you’ll come across a variety of culinary delights, from King’s Fish Market and Hiawatha Pasties, to the legendary Cove Bar (Bloody Mary bars every Sunday!) and Moofinfries, where you can get burgers, whitefish and 16 flavors of ice cream.

And for those really looking to stretch their legs, there’s a gorgeous 9-hole golf course at the Hiawatha Sportsman’s Club Golf Course, open to the public and never crowded, just off of US-2.

This is where we leave you to choose your own adventure … Head another 20 miles west, then north on M-77 to Germfask to see “Benny the Beard Fisher,” the resident riverside troll at Northland Outfitters. Or keep driving west toward Manistique and Escanaba (stopping at the Kitch-iti-kipi natural spring), and take US-2 all the way to Ironwood and the Michigan/Wisconsin border. Or, turn it around and cruise the highway back to your home base of St. Ignace, taking your time, of course.

No matter your route, you’re guaranteed a one-of-a-kind, Northern Michigan adventure.

Lodging

Whether you’re planning a round-trip journey or ending a long day of driving in St. Ignace, you have an array of lodging options at your fingertips.

If your dog is your co-pilot, choose from one of 15 pet-friendly establishments in the city. Or for lodging with a historical twist, check into the 19th-century Colonial House Inn (906.643.6900). And for those wanting to immerse in the outdoors while retaining some creature comforts, check out the glamping yurts at Tiki RV Park & Campground. Situated near downtown St. Ignace, the canvas bell tents at this forested campground feature queen beds, access to private restrooms, a heater and fan, and a fire pit on-site with a free bundle of wood for each night you’re there.

Photo(s) by St. Ignace Visitors Bureau