Marquette Maritime Museum and Lighthouse in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

256px-MichiganUpperPeninsula.svgAlmost everyone knows that the state of Michigan is affectionately known as “The Mitten” due to its shape that resembles a human hand. What some people don’t realize, though – especially those from outside the Midwest – is that there is a whole other part of Michigan that is not even attached to The Mitten! Separated from Lower Michigan by the Straits of Mackinac and physically attached to northeastern Wisconsin is the Upper Peninsula, or the U.P.

The U.P. has long been an outdoor adventure playground for Midwesterners. There is plenty of wild land in the U.P., as the peninsula makes up 29% of Michigan’s landmass but contains only 3% of the state’s population. I made my first trip to the U.P. at the age of sixteen and I look forward to every opportunity I get to return. So when my family and I were invited to visit Marquette, the U.P.’s largest city, by Marquette Country CVB, I didn’t have to think twice. It would be my first trip to Marquette in almost fifteen years; my first winter trip to the western U.P.; and my daughter’s first ever U.P. adventure.

My travel-partners-in-crime (my mom and my daughter) and I made the seven-hour drive to Marquette from Chicago last month. The easiest route to the western U.P. from Chicago is north through Wisconsin and then east into the U.P. At this time of year, the weather can be a bit dicey. We lucked out, though: bright sunshine, blue skies, and open roads all through Wisconsin, with a few flurries encountered as we crossed into Michigan but nothing we couldn’t handle. We were invited to Marquette this particular weekend to experience the start of the UP200, an Iditarod-qualifying sled dog race, and Marquette’s first ever Downtown Showdown Rail Jam. We had a great time at both events and we got to see and do quite a bit more during our time there.

SONY DSCOur first stop upon arrival (after a delicious, filling lunch at The Portside Inn) was the Marquette Maritime Museum and Lighthouse. We were treated to a personal, guided tour of the lighthouse by Museum Director Carrie Fries. On the shores of mighty Lake Superior, Marquette definitely has a nautical vibe with a strong maritime history. The Marquette Harbor Lighthouse was built in 1866 and was occupied until as recently as 1990, being used as housing for the United States Coast Guard. Thought of as the “most historically important building in Marquette”, in 2002, the lighthouse was acquired by the Marquette Maritime Museum from the Coast Guard. We got a tour of the lighthouse, getting a peek inside both apartments of the two-story, schoolhouse-style structure and viewing all of the pictures, historical documents, and artifacts on display. At the time of our visit, the lighthouse was closed to the public as museum staff is hard at work restoring the building with the intent of reopening it as an extension of the Maritime Museum. All the while I was trying to imagine being a young child growing up in there and thinking how cool it would be to have lived in a lighthouse. Now as an adult, I’d love to live there just for the unobstructed views of Lake Superior.

Maybe I’m crazy, but when Carrie allowed us to take a stroll out onto the lighthouse catwalk, I jumped at the opportunity. I braved the biting, brutal wind and the ice-covered walkway to get even closer to Lake Superior. As I stood there paying my respects to the fierce Great Lake, I couldn’t help but silently recite the famous lyrics, “The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee…”

SONY DSCMy family’s trip to Marquette, including accommodations, was provided by Marquette Country CVB and its partners. All words and opinions, as always, are my own.

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16 Responses to Marquette Maritime Museum and Lighthouse in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

  1. lola March 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    oooo love the pretty lighthouse and the red pier! i think being near the water in wintertime is magical.
    lola recently posted…why i will be returning to Costa BravaMy Profile

    • Francesca March 6, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

      I agree, Lola. Though I love to be near the water any time of year!

  2. The World Wanderer March 6, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    “Almost everyone knows that the state of Michigan is affectionately known as “The Mitten” due to its shape that resembles a human hand.” <— I totally didn't know this, haha. But, I LOVE IT! Also, these photos are beautiful – the white snow, red railing, and blue water – seriously? Amazing!
    The World Wanderer recently posted…Montreal’s Snow Village. [VIDEO]My Profile

    • Francesca March 6, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

      Really, Erin?? Wow, I guess even “The Mitten” is a Midwestern thing. Glad you enjoy the photos – thank you! It means even more since I had to fight the freezing, brutal winds to get those photos!

    • the lazy travelers March 8, 2013 at 12:32 am #

      omg, ok thank you. i was like …oh yeah, everyone totes knows that… idiots… (def had no idea).

      in other news, i <3 lighthouses.
      the lazy travelers recently posted…five frugal habits of highly effective travelersMy Profile

      • Francesca March 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

        Well, lazies, now ya know. And tell the hubs to share his knowledge from now on.

  3. Kieu ~ GQ trippin March 7, 2013 at 3:34 am #

    That’s one cool looking red light house!
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted…Around the World in Mickey D’sMy Profile

    • Francesca March 8, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

      I’m sure it’ll look even cooler once it gets its first fresh coat of red paint in almost 50 years!

  4. D.J. - The World of Deej March 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Lighthouses are one of my favorite things to find when traveling. My great-aunt used to keep the lighthouse on Key West!
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted…One Day in Atlanta – A 24-Hour AdventureMy Profile

    • Francesca March 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

      So cool, Deej! During our tour of the lighthouse, Carrie told us how many women around there ended up becoming lighthouse keepers when their husbands were sent off to war or passed away. In fact, this lighthouse was once kept by a woman when her husband went off to fight the Civil War.

  5. Leah March 8, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    I’m totally digging the red paint against that gorgeous white snow. You keep surprising me with Michigan.
    Leah recently posted…We’re from Texas. You’re Not.My Profile

    • Francesca March 8, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

      Happy to hear that, Leah. Come visit so you can see first-hand how awesome Michigan is!

  6. Fiona March 8, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    Never knew Michigan was known as “the mitten” – the views from the lighthouse are stunning!
    Fiona recently posted…The Yummy Way to See VeronaMy Profile

    • Francesca March 14, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

      I wouldn’t expect you to know that, Fiona – you’re from Ireland!!

  7. Craig Zabransky March 10, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    that is a great last photo… winter travel is definitely for adventurous… stay adventurous, Craig
    Craig Zabransky recently posted…Sunset Sunday-The Balcony Sunsets at the RIU Hotel in MazatlánMy Profile

    • Francesca March 14, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

      I like to think I’m a bit adventurous, Craig 😉

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