Uncovering Michigan and the beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes

September 25, 2012



I’m often guilty of opting for obvious destinations when planning my travels – picking out famous ‘Wonders of the World’, capital cities or clichéd experiences. There is, of course, nothing wrong with such holiday preferences; those kind of trips are raved about because they do merit the hype, and I feel lucky whenever I tick another off my ridiculously-long wishlist.

That said, it sure did feel refreshing to find myself exploring a region recently that’s relatively little-known to many Britons – namely, the state of Michigan. I too didn’t know a lot about Michigan before my visit and, on a road trip (the best way to see America!) from Chicago – taking in Traverse City, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Mackinaw Island – I found myself continuously surprised at what this gem of a state had to offer.

Travelling can produce highs that are difficult to replicate in ‘normal’, everyday life. Sleeping Bear Dunes made me feel like I was on Cloud Nine, for instance. ABC’s Good Morning America awarded it the title of ‘Most Beautiful Place in America’ and it’s obvious why.  Located on the north-western coast of what’s now Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the dunes were shaped by glaciers thousands of years ago. What remains today is a breathtaking mix of rolling hills and sandy verges alongside vast turquoise lakes and dense forest. Despite taking up a relatively small area of four square miles, the environment displays considerable diversity. It felt unique and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.

We took it all in by following the Pierce Stocking* Scenic Drive – a perfect, 7.4-mile route that winds through towering trees and features designated stops en route where you can take in jaw-dropping views or walk along marked trails. My highlight was walking barefoot along the 1½-mile Cottonwood Trail through the sand dunes – with a cloudless sky overhead – and enjoying yet more picture-perfect vistas, as well as a tranquillity that brought about a meditative-like calm.

*Pierce Stocking (1908-1976) spent his youth working as a lumberman in Michigan’s forests.  Awed by his views of the dunes and keen to share this beauty with others, he conceived the idea of a scenic drive, which eventually opened to the public in 1967. What a guy.  

(Steph Reed)

If you’re thinking of holidaying in the USA, our client Vacations to America offers an extensive range of fly-drive, escorted and tailor-made tours that cover all 50 states.