Once, Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula supplied half the copper for the United States. Now, it’s a paddler’s paradise of quiet coves and moose-filled forests. Bring your favorite fly rod or play golf, tour an old mine, and savor a classic Cornish pasty.
You’ll be flying to the northernmost part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which juts into Lake Superior from the south. Houghton County Memorial Airport lies just north of the Keweenaw Waterway that divides the Keweenaw from the rest of the Upper Peninsula. Seaplane landings are permitted on any open water around the islands off the peninsula.
From the airport or Houghton, you’ll travel northeast up the Keweenaw Peninsula toward Copper Harbor, the northernmost part of the peninsula, 45 miles away. Tailor your journey to your interests; you can tour historic copper mines, explore tiny towns and their museums, or head to the wild Lake Superior coastline. See photos for more history and details on all activities.
Take a guided tour of the huge Quincy Mine in Hancock, between Houghton and the airport. In Laurium, near Calumet Township, you can stay at the luxurious, yet affordable, historic Laurium Manor Inn. Many area miners originally came from Cornwall, England, and Cornish pasties, a meal of meats and veggies wrapped in dough and baked, are a lunchtime mainstay of the area’s “Yooper” cuisine. No doubt, the best pasties are at Toni’s Country Kitchen in Laurium—I can’t visit this area without having at least one!
On a walk through downtown Calumet you’ll see a 9,392-pound single piece of float copper, an 1883 locomotive house, and the Coppertown Mining Museum. Catch a concert or play at the Calumet Theatre, established in 1900. Shop for everything copper at Copper World, housed inside an 1869 wood-framed building. Like the Quincy Mine, the entire city is a part of the Keweenaw National Historic Park, a confederation of historic sites centered on the mining towns of the peninsula. Park headquarters are at the historic Calumet and Hecla Mining Co. General Office Building. Hungry? Stop at the Michigan House Café and Brewpub for cedar-planked trout, accompanied by a pint of oatmeal coffee stout. Later, you can take a self-guided tour of the Delaware Mine or head to the coast.
If you choose the coast, at Ahmeek, take 5 Mile Point Road toward Lake Superior. You’ll pass the North Woods Conservancy Merganser Pond, home to ducks, eagles, and trumpeter swans. Then follow the road northeast along the shoreline to Eagle River, where fine dining, lovely wines, and sensational views are yours at Fitzgerald’s Restaurant. Continue northeast on Highway 26 (Sand Dunes Drive), which showcases sand dunes, bluffs, and a marsh. Built in 1871, the red brick Eagle Harbor Lighthouse is surrounded by four small nautical-themed museums: the Maritime Museum, Commercial Fishing Museum, Lifesaving Museum, and Eagle River Museum. Between Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor, you’ll pass several wildlife sanctuaries. Board a narrated boat tour to visit the Copper Harbor Lighthouse. At Fort Wilkins State Park, you can check out 21 restored buildings that date back as far as 1844. Fort Wilkins also offers camping, hiking, and fishing at Lake Fanny Hooe.
You can rent a mountain bike or kayak to explore Copper Harbor, or, join a guided single- or multi-day kayak trip. Expert paddlers can take six to eight days to kayak the 100-mile complete loop around the peninsula via the Keweenaw Water Trail, exploring remote rocky islands, Michigan’s wildest coastline, and the Keweenaw Waterway.
Copper Harbor provides plenty of lodging; choose a private cabin on the lake from Eagle Lodge and Lakeside Cabins, a 1950s-style motel room at the Minnetonka Resort, or the historic Keweenaw Mountain Lodge and cabins, where you can also play golf. Dine on the water at the Harbor Haus Restaurant, watch another Lake Superior sunset, and toast your good fortune to have found such a magical place!
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