15+ Best Scenic Drives in Michigan [Ultimate Guide]



There are plenty of beautiful scenic drives to take in Michigan. The best part is you don’t have to go far to find them! Whether you’re crossing the Mackinac Bridge or exploring the Porcupine Mountains, there’s something for everyone in Michigan. So, get in your car and hit the open road-you won’t regret it!

why should you take a scenic drive in Michigan

Why Should You Take a Scenic Drive in Michigan?

Michigan is a beautiful state with plenty to offer. The backroads and highways offer some of the best scenic drives in the country. These routes take you through forests, farmland, and small towns, which are all great venues for the best romantic dates in Michigan with your partner. You’ll get a chance to see plenty of Michigan’s natural beauty this way.

The Benefits of Taking a Scenic Drive in Michigan

  1. Go At Your Own Pace: One of the great things about taking a scenic drive is that you can go at your own pace. If you want to stop and take pictures or explore a certain area, you can do that. You’re not beholden to anyone else’s schedule but your own.
  2. Mini Weekend Getaway: Another benefit of taking a scenic drive in Michigan is that you can easily turn it into a weekend getaway. If you don’t have time for a week-long vacation, no problem! Just pack up your car and hit the road for a long weekend. You’ll be surprised at how relaxed you feel after just a few days away from home.
  3. Explore Michigan: Even if you think you know Michigan well, there are probably parts of the state that you’ve never seen. By taking a scenic drive, you can explore all corners of Michigan and find hidden gems that you didn’t even know existed. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your new favorite spot in the state!

Best Scenic Drives in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula

Getting lost on an open Michigan road sounds like the perfect way to spend a summer day. If you’re looking for the best scenic drives in Michigan, we’ve got you covered. From Michigan’s upper peninsula to the great lakes coastline, these routes will take you through some of the most beautiful parts of the state.

best scenic drives in Michigan's Lower Peninsula

M-119 Tunnel of Trees

One of the most scenic drives by far in northern Michigan is the M-119. This route takes you through the Tunnel of Trees, a two-mile stretch of road lined with tall maples and oaks. The best time to take this drive is in the fall when the leaves are changing color.

Nearby Towns Worth Visiting:

The Tunnel of Trees M-110 scenic drive will take you through the villages of Harbor Springs and Cross Village. These small towns are nestled in the woods with rolling hills and offer a great escape from city life. If you’re looking for things to do, make sure to check out the Little Traverse Lighthouse and Petoskey State Park. The state park has camping available with access to the Lake Michigan coast.

M-22 Coastal Drive

One of Michigan’s most popular scenic drives is the breathtaking M-22 coastline scenic drive. This route takes you along the coast of the Lake Michigan shoreline at times and offers stunning views of the water. This drive is a 116-mile scenic drive that starts in Manistee and ends in Traverse City. You’ll pass scenic vineyards and wine country, scenic overlooks, and many Lake Michigan access spots.

michigan scenic drives M22 coastal drive
Michigan Scenic Drives: M22 Coastal Drive

Nearby Towns Worth Visiting:

There are plenty of great towns to stop in along the M-22 scenic drive. One of our favorites is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This park offers hiking, camping, and stunning views of the dunes. Make sure to stop at the Dune Climb for a great view of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Another great town to visit is Glen Arbor. This quaint town has many shops and restaurants to explore.

Additional towns include Frankfort, Northport, Arcadia, and Leelanau. Stop at Arcadia Bluffs for a round of golf and a great view of Lake Michigan. Or enjoy the unique shops and restaurants in downtown Frankfort.

M-1 Woodward Avenue

The best urban scenic drive in Michigan is definitely Woodward Avenue. This historic route takes you through Downtown Detroit and the surrounding, some of which are the best Detroit suburbs for young families. You’ll see some of Detroit’s most iconic landmarks, like the Guardian Building and the Fox Theatre. The best time to take this drive is during the summer when you can have your windows down and enjoy the warm breeze or the Woodward Dream Cruise, perhaps.

Michigan Scenic Drive M1 Woodward Avenue
Michigan Scenic Drive: M1 Woodward Avenue

Nearby Towns Worth Visiting:

There are plenty of great things to do in Detroit, such as visiting the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History or taking a riverboat cruise on the Detroit River. If you’re looking for a bite to eat, make sure to check out one of the many restaurants along Woodward in Birmingham or trendy Royal Oak. Ferndale is a great place to explore with its many art galleries, shops, and coffeehouses.

US 23 Eastern Sunrise Coastal Drive

If you are craving a drive along the sunrise coast in Michigan, this drive is for you. This is one of the longer Michigan scenic drives spanning from Saginaw Bay and Standish to Harrisville, Rogers City, and Mackinaw City. Along the way, you’ll see plenty of stunning landscapes full of forests, historic small towns, and beaches. Make sure to stop at Tawas Point Lighthouse for a great view of Lake Huron.

Nearby Towns Worth Visiting:

Stop in Oscoda to take a look at Au Sable Indian Light Station or try your luck at fishing in the area. Tawas has some of the best Lake Huron beaches around and is a great spot for swimming. Cheboygan is a great destination for an afternoon of shopping or dining along the waterfront. All in all, Michigan’s Eastern Sunrise Coastal Drive is not one to miss!

River Road Scenic Byway

The River Road Scenic Byway is a national byway that runs 22 miles in length and has plenty of spots for recreational activities, like kayaking and fishing. You’ll go through the Au Sable River camp, which is popular with canoers and kayakers on the AuSable river.

Nearby Towns Wirth Visiting:

While this byway is mainly through state forests, nearby towns are Rose City and Hale. Rose City has a hot air balloon festival during the summer months. Hale is close to sand lake, which is great for swimming and boating.

Edward Hines Drive

Located in Wayne County, this drive is a great option for anyone looking to take part in picnics and parks. This route is unique because it was developed from land donated by Henry Ford himself. The whole route from Dearborn to Northville is about 18 miles and passes through wooded areas, wetlands, and small towns. The route is mostly flat. However, there are some hills that make the list of best sledding hills in Metro Detroit.

Nearby Towns Worth Visiting:

Northville is a great town to explore along this route. It has a charming downtown filled with shops and restaurants. Dearborn is also nearby and offers many attractions, such as The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. Make sure to check out the historical buildings as well as the outdoor activities like canoeing or kayaking.

Grand River Avenue

Originally a pathway constructed by Native Americans, Grand River Avenue is a fantastic drive through Michigan’s countryside. This route will take you from one side of the state to the other. Starting in Detroit, the drive goes through Jackson and Lansing and ends in Muskegon along the Lake Michigan shore. Along the way, you can see some of Michigan’s iconic spots, like the Capitol Building in Lansing, and picturesque farmlands.

michigan scenic drives grand river avenue
Michigan Scenic Drives: Grand River Avenue

Nearby Towns Worth Visiting:

Stopping at Novi will give you access to some of the best shopping centers in Michigan for unique and boutique items. There are also plenty of dining options nearby. Lansing is home to Michigan State University and has great nightlife. In Lansing, make sure to check out the Impression 5 science center for some interactive fun. Muskegon is located on Lake Michigan and has a beautiful beachfront as well as an amusement park and boating opportunities.

All in all, Michigan’s scenic drives provide something for everyone, from sightseeing to shopping or just enjoying nature’s beauty.

US-31 West Michigan Coastal Drive

If you are looking for the perfect Lake Michigan overlook, you will have plenty on this scenic drive. US-31 runs the whole length of the western side of the state. You’ll pass through Grand Rapids and South Haven. It is also part of the Lake Michigan circle tour. You’ll definitely want to make a few stops along the way for some beautiful views of the lake and visit some of the sandy beaches. You can stop at the best Lake Michigan beaches for scenic views and activities. Manistee County is lush with forested areas and rivers, making it a great spot for outdoor activities.

Nearby Towns Worth Visiting:

A great spot to stop is Ludington State Park which has tons of stunning beaches, lighthouses, and trails. If you keep going north towards Traverse City, you’ll find plenty of wineries, cideries, and the best Traverse City breweries for those looking for some delicious libations. Further north in Petoskey, you can find interesting boutiques and restaurants to try out while having views of the lake. Take your time and explore all that Michigan has to offer along this drive-you won’t be disappointed!

M-37 Old Mission Peninsula Route

Wine lovers rejoice! M-37 is the route that takes you on a journey through some of Michigan’s best Old Mission Peninsula wineries. The scenic drive starts in Traverse City, where you can find plenty of restaurants and breweries before heading off to explore the wineries. Along this route, you will come across beautiful lake views and rolling hills with farmlands. You’ll be able to enjoy nature while also enjoying some delicious wines and ciders all at once!

M37 Old Mission Peninsula Route
Michigan Scenic Drives: M37 Old Mission Peninsula Route

Nearby Towns Worth Visiting:

On your way, make sure to stop by Suttons Bay for antique shopping or Mission Point Lighthouse, which has a great view of Lake Michigan. Further north, you will find charming Old Mission Village, where you can take a break from wine tasting to explore its historic buildings. And if you want to stay overnight, there are plenty of lovely B&Bs in the area.

M-22 Leelanau Peninsula

One of the best scenic drives in Michigan that will take you through some of the best Michigan real estate would be M-22. This route starts north of Manistee and continues up the western coast. From there, you will find crystal-clear lakes, rolling hills, and miles of orchards full of ripe fruit. The drive is perfect for those looking to take in the natural beauty while also enjoying a fun day trip with plenty of activities to do.

Nearby Towns Worth Visiting:

One stop you won’t want to miss when taking this route is Leland. Here you’ll find historic fishing shanties and lovely cafes for you to relax. Continuing north, take a break from driving and enjoy some time on Northport beach-the sunsets here are breathtaking! The best Leelanau peninsula wineries are located here as well, so make sure to make a few stops along the way for some wine tasting.

Best Scenic Drives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

There is no question that Michigan’s upper peninsula is one of the most beautiful places in the country. With its vast forests, rolling hills, and rugged coastline, there is no shortage of amazing roads to explore. Here are some of our favorite scenic drives in Michigan’s upper peninsula:

M-28 Lake Superior Drive

The M-28 Lake Superior drive takes you along the northernmost part of Lake Superior. This route offers stunning views of the lake. The 53-mile route runs from Munising to Marquette and takes just over an hour.

M28 Lake Superior Drive

Nearby Towns Wirth Visiting:

Alger Falls is must-see. Located about halfway along the M-28, this waterfall is fed by the larger Munising Falls and is worth a stop for pictures. If you’re looking for things to do in Marquette, make sure to check out Presque Isle Park for hikes along sandstone cliffs for the ultimate views of the vast Lake Superior. There is also a sunset point on the west side of the park for a picturesque sunset.

US-2 Top of the Lake Scenic Byway

This 92-mile route runs from Manistique to St. Ignace, and the drive through Mackinac County is one of the best scenic drives in Michigan. You’ll pass through forests, hills, and valleys along Lake Michigan’s shores. The Hiawatha National Forest has many sugar-maple trees, and thick timber abound. Keep your eye out for northern wild animals, like deer and bald eagles.

Nearby Towns Worth Visiting:

Stop in Manistique for some great shopping or a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants. The nearby town of St. Ignace offers ferry rides to Mackinac Island, where you can explore the historic fort or enjoy some fudge. Make sure to check out the best Mackinac Island restaurants too!

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

If you are looking for a scenic route to take you through hardwood forests and views of amazing sedimentary rock cliffs, head north. Alger County Road H-58 is a great way to explore the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This drive offers some of the best views of Lake Superior and its shoreline from an elevation that gives you breathtaking vantage points. The rocky shoreline, colorful mineral deposits, and pristine turquoise waters of Lake Superior are must-see.

Nearby Towns Worth Visiting:

Nearby towns include Munising, which is known to be one of the best places to kayak in Michigan because of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There is no place like it if you’re looking for a great view. You can kayak over to Grand Island, which is just north of Munising. The Grand Island National Recreation Area has some of the best views in the area, with plenty of hiking trails and beaches. You can also visit Munising Falls or take a boat tour to see the Pictured Rocks.

US-41 Copper Country Trail Byway

Located in the Keweenaw peninsula, the Copper Country Trail Byway is a great way to explore the Upper Peninsula. This scenic drive in Michigan is located in the northernmost region of Michigan. The drive takes you through rolling hills, forests, and the rich copper mining history of this area. This byway originates in Copper Harbor and ends in Hancock. It takes 1 hour to drive the entire route and is a great way to explore the UP.

Nearby Towns Worth Visiting:

The nearby town of Calumet has plenty of history for you to explore, including many historical sites, old mine shafts, and even a few ghost towns! The Keweenaw National Historical Park is another great place to visit, or you can stop in Eagle Harbor for some great shopping and sightseeing.

Whitefish Bay National Forest Scenic Byway

Starting on the shores of one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes, this drive takes you through the Whitefish Bay National Forest. Enjoy sweeping views of Lake Superior and rolling hills of hardwood forests as you make your way down this scenic route. Make sure to check out upper Tahquamenon Falls, located in the area. This is an awe-inducing waterfall that is Michigan’s largest.

Nearby Towns Worth Visiting:

Make sure to stop in Sault Ste Marie for some great shopping and dining. Or check out the nearby town of Paradise, where you can visit Whitefish Point Lighthouse, a historic landmark. Make sure to check out the local wineries and breweries too! There is plenty of beauty to explore in Michigan-no matter which route you take. So, get in your car and hit the road-you won’t regret it!

what to bring on your Michigan scenic road trip

What to Bring on Your Michigan Scenic Road Trip

Before you hit the open road, though, you’ll need to make sure you have everything you need for a comfortable and stress-free journey. To help you out, we’ve put together the ultimate list of items to pack for your Michigan road trip.

1. A map of Michigan

Even if you’re using GPS, it’s always a good idea to have a paper map on hand. This way, if your electronic device dies or you lose reception, you won’t be left totally lost. Plus, there’s something satisfying about plotting out your route on an old-school map. You can pick one up at any gas station or bookstore.

2. A cooler

family picnic supplies for a road trip

You’ll want to pack food and drinks for the drive, both to save money and to avoid getting hangry (hungry + angry). Make sure your cooler is large enough to hold everything you need, plus some ice packs to keep things chilled. Don’t forget the napkins!

3. Sunscreen and sunglasses

Michigan is beautiful, but its sunny days can be brutal if you’re not prepared. Slather on some sunscreen before heading out, and don’t forget to pack your sunglasses so you can actually enjoy the view. 

4. Comfortable clothes

You’ll be spending a lot of time in the car, so make sure you’re wearing clothing that won’t leave you feeling sweaty and uncomfortable. Pack light layers that can be easily removed if necessary; a hoodie or light jacket is always a good idea since the temperature can drop quickly once the sun goes down. 

5. An emergency kit

family first aid kit for road trips

No one likes to think about breakdowns or accidents, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Pack a basic first-aid kit, some road flares, and a spare tire (if your car is equipped with one). If possible, throw in a small toolkit as well—you never know when you might need it. 

6. Entertainment for the kids (or yourself)

If you’re traveling with young children, it’s essential to have some form of entertainment to keep them occupied during long stretches in the car. Coloring books, handheld video games, and portable DVD players are all great options. And if you’re traveling solo or with adults who are just as prone to boredom, don’t forget to bring along a good book or two—or your all-time favorite movie soundtrack for sing-along fun!

FAQs:

When is the best time to take a scenic drive in Michigan?

The best time to take a scenic drive in Michigan is during the summer months when temperatures are mild, and the days are long. This gives you plenty of time to explore the state’s many attractions. However, if you don’t mind cooler temperatures, autumn can also be an ideal season for taking drives through Michigan’s beautiful landscapes.

Are there any toll roads or entrance fees I should know about?

No, there are no toll roads or entrance fees on most of Michigan’s scenic drives. However, some attractions that you might visit along your route may have their own entrance fees or parking charges. Be sure to check with individual sites before visiting them so that you aren’t surprised by any additional charges.

Is there wildlife I should be aware of when taking a scenic drive?

Yes, Michigan is home to a variety of animals, including deer, elk, and even black bears. If you’re driving through areas with dense foliage or wooded areas, be sure to stay alert at all times and keep an eye out for any signs of wildlife. Keep your speed low and never approach wild animals—they are unpredictable and can become dangerous if provoked.

Overall, Michigan is one of the most beautiful states in the country. It’s full of amazing places to explore on a scenic road trip. From the Mackinac Bridge to the Porcupine Mountains, you’ll find plenty of picturesque drives to enjoy. So what are you waiting for? Pack up your car, grab a map, and get ready to hit the open road—you won’t regret it!

Happy travels!

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BG Vance

Founder and editor of Inside Michigan, I started this site as a passion project for people who live in or are visiting the state of Michigan. I'm a lifelong resident of Michigan highlighting the best attractions and hidden gems Michigan has to offer. More about me...

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