9 Great Road Trips

Sure, gas is hovering around $3 a gallon. But hey, it’s summer, this is the Motor City and driving is a tradition. Time to take a road trip. Hop in the car and just go. Beat it out of town on the interstates — you have only a weekend — but eventually switch to the red or gray roads on your official MDOT map or, better yet, roads not even on there


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Union Station
Union Station
Photograph by j.r. valderas

7. Cruising Canada_250 miles

Go on, get beyond Windsor. To see another side of our neighbors, cross the Bluewater Bridge to Sarnia, continuing east along Kings Highway 402 for 35 kilometers and then north on Kings Highway 21. This road skirts Lake Huron — all the way to Bruce Peninsula if you’re so inclined — and your first opportunity to dip into its waters is at PINERY PROVINCIAL PARK (519-243-2220 or pinerypark.on.ca). With its towering dunes, beautiful sunsets and six miles of wide, sandy beach, this park makes you think you’re on Lake Michigan.

Beyond the park, Kings Highway 21 passes through a number of towns and tiny hamlets. BAYFIELD is delightful and farther north, GODERICH is larger but just as quaint. It boasts three excellent beaches, and on Saturday morning a large farmers market fills COURT HOUSE SQUARE. If you’re in town on Friday evening, join the locals at ROTARY COVE BEACH for the sunset while listening to the Celtic Blue Highlanders “pipe down the sun.” And then retreat to nearby BENMILLER INN (800-265-1711; benmiller.on.ca), a country inn tucked away on the wooded banks of Sharpe’s Creek. The food is outstanding and the beds are impossibly soft. Tourism Goderich (800-280-7637; www.goderich.ca) .

8 South to the Border_90 miles

Before there was I-75, there was US-24 (Telegraph Road). Built in 1925, Telegraph will still lead travelers to Toledo, and help you dodge all that highway construction. 

This road trip is short but packed with places to stop, with one of them being Monroe. The home of La-Z-Boy is also one of Michigan’s most historic cities. At the Monroe County HISTORICAL MUSEUM (734-240-7780), you learn about a youthful Gen. George Custer, who grew up in the neighborhood. Nearby, the RIVER RAISIN BATTLEFIELD Visitor Center (734-243-7136) guides you through the site of one of the largest battles fought during the War of 1812. 

Back on the road, Telegraph will lead you into the heart of Toledo. The city’s beloved Mud Hens may be a Triple-A affiliate for the Detroit Tigers, but this no minor-league town. FIFTH THIRD FIELD (419-725-HENS; mudhens.com) is a fun place to watch baseball because of its proximity to the field — box seats are only 40 feet from first base — and amenities such as Muddy’s Marsh, a play area for children. Families will also love the TOLEDO ZOO (419-385-5721; toledozoo.org). Located four miles south of the city, the 62-acre zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals.

For dinner, cross the Maumee River to TONY PACKO’S CAFE (419-691-6054; tonypackos.com). The neighborhood tavern became a landmark after Cpl. Max Klinger, played by native Toledo native Jamie Farr, repeatedly mentioned it on M*A*S*H. It’s debatable what’s more interesting: the Hungarian dishes on the menu or the memorabilia on the walls. Greater Toledo Visitors Bureau (800-243-4667; www.toledocvb.com).

9. Tripping at the TIp of the Mitt_633 miles

If you try this trip on a Friday, leave work early to beat the northern traffic jam on I-75 and cruise to exit 310, where you’ll pick up M-68 toward Petoskey. M-68, M-119 and US-23 create a 191-mile loop that includes the shorelines of two Great Lakes, one strait and a lot of woods while going from ritzy (Harbor Springs) to rural (Onaway).

Off M-68, attractions begin with ODEN STATE FISH HATCHERY (231-347-4689), which opened in 1921 and today includes interactive exhibits and an underground viewing area where you can stand eye to eye with trout swimming in a stream.

M-119 begins near PETOSKEY STATE PARK (231-347-2311), where visitors flock not just for sand, but also the famed stones in the surf. The state highway then passes through upscale Harbor Springs and becomes the “Tunnel of Trees,” a scenic and winding drive that skirts forested bluffs above Lake Michigan. It ends in Cross Village, where a Polish meal and a Polish beer await you at LEGS INN (231-526-2281; legsinn.com).

Continue north by following Lake Shore Drive, which in 6.5 miles brings you to BLISS TOWNSHIP PARK, a wonderful, undeveloped beach. At Mackinaw City, you can pick up a pound of fudge and then follow US-23 south along Lake Huron, pausing at HISTORIC MILL CREEK (231-436-7301; mackinacparks.com), the re-created lumber mill that cut the timber for the British to build Fort Mackinac in the 1780s. Tuckered out? Rent a snug cedar log cabin at MANITOU SHORES RESORT (989-734-7233). The next morning, pick up M-68 in Rogers City and head west to I-75, stopping along the way to admire the tumbling water at OCQUEOC FALLS near Onaway, one of only two waterfalls in the Lower Peninsula. Whatever you do, avoid heading home on Sunday evening when I-75 is jammed with road trippers. Boyne Country Visitors Bureau (800-845-2828; boynecountry.com) or the Mackinaw Area Visitors Bureau (800-666-0160; mackinawcity.com).

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