A couple of weeks ago my wife and I took a quick trip to the Eastern U.P. to pick up some pint glasses from Soo Brewing for our U.P. Bottle Opener and Pint Glass Set. So we set out on an Eastern Upper Peninsula winter road trip.
Since it’s about a three-hour drive from where we are in Iron Mountain, I wanted to squeeze in a few extra stops. And we did! Starting with “the largest gift shop in the north.”
The Largest Gift Shop in the North
Our first stop was at Treasure City, “The Largest Gift Shop in the North.” Now that we’re wholesaling our products we’ve been scoping out gift shops, and this one may indeed be the largest in the U.P.
They only had half of it open (they open up the other half for the summer months) but it was still one of the bigger gift shops I’ve seen.
Manistique is a good spot to stop and stretch your legs between the Escanaba / Iron Mountain area and the Mackinac Bridge, and this gift shop makes a compelling stop.
Equally compelling (more so if you’re hungry) is the Upper Crust Deli, hidden just a few blocks off US2 in Manistique. It was really tough not to stop there this time but we had to get some miles behind us so we could have lunch at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewpub.
So, we hit the road and about an hour later we were passing through Newberry. And that’s exactly what we intended to do (pass-through) because, as I’d mentioned, we were trying to get to Tahquamenon Falls for lunch, but then a place called Great Waters Coffee caught our eye and we decided to check it out.
Lunch at Tahquamenon Falls
Did you know that there’s a cool restaurant / brewpub just off the parking area for upper Tahquamenon Falls? There is. And they have great food!
I’ve eaten here a few times and have always been happy with what we had. This time my wife had a chicken wrap, which was pretty good. I had the beef brisket special, which was really good. Both were $10.
And the place was packed! Mostly with snowmobilers, but there were a good number of people there just to check out the falls, too. It was around 3:00 eastern time when we rolled in so I expected it to be a little slow.
I was wrong. Regardless, it was only about five minutes before we got a table and half an hour later we were out of there and on our way to see the (partially) frozen Tahquamenon Falls in winter.
Tahquamenon Falls in Winter
The trail to the falls was super packed down. We could have done the walk with tennis shoes, but I’m glad we had boots because it was pretty friggin’ cold with the wind.
The chilliness subsided once we got away from the parking area and closer to the falls. The path downstream toward one of the viewing areas was closed, but still passable if you didn’t mind trouncing through the snow.
We chose to stick to the beaten path and head upstream.
I wondered if there’d be any sort of snow build up on the stairs down to the falls, but there was none. The stairs are made of a grippy metal grate so all the snow falls through. I wish all the Black River waterfalls had stairs like that!
At any rate, about a hundred stairs later we were up close and personal with the mighty Upper Tahquamenon Falls. There were two other people there when we got down, and a few more came before we left. It wasn’t crowded at all.
I’d never seen the falls up close in the winter, so that was cool! Next, we went snowshoeing!
Snowshoeing the Tahquamenon Falls Trails
We brought our snowshoes hoping to do a little snowshoe trek while over by the falls, but I wasn’t sure what they had for trails. I knew there there are a ton of trails near Tahquamenon Falls, I’d just never hiked on any of them.
It turns out there there’s a really nice little 1.2-mile loop that starts at the shelter near the bathrooms (where the picnic tables are). There are red snowshoe trail signs that clearly mark the trail. It loops behind the restrooms, down toward the falls viewing area, then crosses the main path to the falls, loops back, and comes out right on the main trail by the bathrooms.
The scenery is beautiful, the snow is deep, and the whole thing has a “winter wonderland” vibe.
Note: If you cross over the cross country ski trail and then find yourself at a dead-end at the Upper Falls viewing area, you missed a left turn.
My wife and I were talking and enjoying the scenery and did this. It’s not a big deal, though, as you can snowshoe next to the cross country trail anyway. Or you can backtrack a few yards and find that turn you missed.
We didn’t exactly follow the trail (see note above) but still had a great time. We hopped on the aforementioned cross country ski trail for a bit, but it still only ended up taking us about a half hour. Before we knew it we were back at the trail head (by the bathrooms) and ready to head on to “the Soo” for the night.
A Night in “The Soo”
This was sort of an early anniversary getaway for my wife and I so I wanted to stay at a decent place. And let me just say I am not at all familiar with lodging options in the Soo. I’ve only stayed there once and I tent camped at the Soo Locks campground. Which, incidentally, is more RV haven and less of a “tenting it” sort of campground. Anyway, we ended up at the Holiday Inn.
The Holiday Inn Express in Sault Ste Marie was nice enough. It was clean, the staff was friendly, and it’s only a few blocks from downtown.
So back at the Holiday Inn, we changed out of our Yooper daytime wear (long underwear and snow pants) and into our Yooper formal evening wear (jeans) and drove over to Soo Brewing.
Soo Brewing on a Saturday Night
We were running a little behind, otherwise we would have stayed for a beer. It was fast approaching 9:00 eastern, when many area restaurants stop serving, so we needed to grab the pint glasses we came for and then get to a restaurant.
But, I was happily surprised at how busy the place was for a Saturday night in winter. It was actually about the same as I’ve seen it on a Saturday night in summer, which just goes to show how much local support Ray and the crew have over there. Good stuff.
We were there long enough for my wife to sample a “Mr. Smooth” (Vanilla Porter), though, which she liked. After that it was on to The Antlers.
Dinner at The Antlers
I’d heard about the legendary “Antlers” restaurant in the Soo many times and how it’s been a local institution for many, many years, so we decided to give it a try. I knew there were stuffed animals in the place, but I had no idea just how many there were.
In case you’re wondering, there are many, many stuffed animals at the Antlers.
And just to clarify, not the stuffed animals a kid takes to bed. The sort of stuffed animals that were once alive and are very much no longer so. I ended up sitting with my back to a boa constrictor while looking at a giant polar bear in a glass case.
The dinner atmosphere was rapidly winding down but the service was still great. Our server’s name was Jessie, by the way, so props to her for providing great service even though it was very near closing time.
I had a burger and my wife had the perch. I would rate the food as “okay” and the atmosphere as pretty cool. We’ll probably stop back here in summer to see what it’s like on a busier night in tourist season.
Oh, I should note that I had Upper Hand Brewery’s “UPA” (one of my new favorites) on draft with dinner. It was really good and I was pumped to see it there.
Because we are old and boring, after dinner we just went back to the hotel and went to bed (despite our twenty-five-year-old selves scolding us for being old and boring). Had we decided to go out, we would have either gone back to Soo Brewing or to Molonye’s Alley, which has a surprisingly good Michigan beer selection on draft.
It also was really, really cold that night, which may or may not have had something to do with our decision to turn in early. I did some searching on Yelp for a good breakfast spot, and then it was lights out.
Breakfast at Frank’s Place
Frank’s Place appeared to be one of the most popular breakfast spots in town, so we decided to give it a try. We walked in sort of late morning, and the place was packed. We had to wait a view minutes for a table. Turns out there was a hockey tournament in town.
Insider’s tip – try not to sit by the door at Franks’ Place. It’s cold and busy in winter, and I imaging, possibly even busier in summer. The people waiting for a table can’t help but crowd you a little. We eventually moved to a booth by the wall, which was much better.
Both of us opted for the breakfast buffet, which turned out to be a good choice. When we return, which we definitely will, I’ll probably order off the menu for slightly fresher food. (Tough to keep hash browns crispy in a buffet, ya know?)
After breakfast, we visited Das Gift Haus (nice gift shop, open on Sunday) and then hit the road.
Heading Home: Road Trip to Iron Mountain
We drove over to Moose du Nord (again for the gift shop). It’s a gas station/gift shop/coffee shop/ice cream shop/convenience store in Helmer.
We had intended on stopping for a coffee at the Dancing Crane Coffeehouse but they were closed because it was Sunday. I’ve read great things about it, though, so it’s on our short list of places to visit soon.
From there, we cruised down county road 135 / Manistique Lakes Rd., passed Chamberlin’s Ole Forest Inn (which I’ve heard is a super cool place but haven’t been yet), to US2, and then ultimately to the Nahma Inn for lunch, which would be our last stop.
Lunch at the Nahma Inn
I’ve eaten at the Nahma Inn probably four or five times now and it’s been consistently, really good. In the past I’ve had their “Johnny” burger (bacon, fried egg, etc.), which was messy and awesome. This time I had what I think was called the “Nahma Burger”, which was equally awesome and slightly less messy.
They make their burgers from fresh ground beef and it shows. Oh, we also had a basket of their “Pickle Chips,” which I really like. They come with a spicy ranch dressing dipping sauce.
Yes, we eat SUPER healthy when we’re on the road. (Not.)
Overall, it was a great trip. We got what we went there for and saw a few cool things on the way! I’m looking forward to heading back to the EUP in the winter when we have a few days to explore!
Be sure to check out other areas to road trip during the winter in the UP!
Have you visited the Eastern U.P. in the winter? What’s your favorite Eastern Upper Peninsula winter road trip destination or attraction?
article written by Jesse Land