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Awesome Mitten’s Guide to Exploring Fayette Historic State Park

Michigan is a state that is rich in history and overflowing with natural resources — and when you visit Fayette Historic State Park as part of an Upper Peninsula road trip, you get to experience both the beauty of the past and the present.

This state park, which is located in the Village of Garden in Delta County, features a historic townsite as well as a campground, harbor, beach, and five miles of trails.

Fayette Historic State Park-Garden
Fayette Historic State Park | photo via mykeateam

About Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park is truly something to behold. Once a bustling company town at the tip of the Garden Peninsula, the well-preserved buildings have now been standing for nearly 150 years, and it’s a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.

After the iron operation that created the town shut down in the late 1800s, Fayette passed through several phases before being snatched up by the State of Michigan and turned into an awesome state park.

The park rests on one of the most scenic parts of Lake Michigan’s shoreline (think huge limestone bluffs and rocky beaches) and there’s a nice campground right there for those who wish to stay a while. It’s one of the finer points of the Upper Peninsula.

Fayette Historic State Park - Garden, Michigan - Fall Colors
Fayette Historic State Park | photo via @williamoverbeeke

Fayette Historic Townsite

Your day at this Michigan summer bucket list attraction should begin at the historic townsite, which features more than 20 buildings that have been lovingly preserved so that visitors can learn more about what life was like in a Michigan industrial community in the 19th century.

While Fayette Historic State Park is open throughout the entire year, you can only experience the historic townsite if you visit during the summer months. This seasonal attraction opens in the middle of May, and visitors are welcome to explore the buildings until the middle of October.

There are both self-guided and guided tour options available.

Fayette Ghost Town Jesse 3
Fayette | photo via Jesse Land

Snail Shell Harbor

After you have taken a stroll back in time, you will want to come back to the present moment and soak up the views at Snail Shell Harbor. This harbor, which is nestled in the heart of the historic townsite, has waters that are surprisingly deep.

With 15 slips available, there are boats that go cruising through the harbor on a regular basis.

In addition, visitors are able to scuba dive within the harbor, but only during specific and scheduled times. A permit is required to scuba dive, but those who participate may discover hidden treasures below the water — some of which include artifacts from shipwrecks.

The key is to look at the treasure, but not to touch. Everything must be left exactly as you found it.

Fayette Historic State Park
Fayette Historic State Park

Hiking Trails in Fayette Historic State Park

Of course, no visit to the Fayette Historic State Park would be complete without an adventure. Throughout this 711-acre park, there are more than 5 miles of hiking trails.

Visitors of all skill levels can hike along these trails in order to experience the natural wilds of this park and appreciate the panoramic views that surround them.

Fayette Historic State Park-Garden
Fayette Historic State Park | photo via mykeateam

Our Visit to The Ghost Town of Fayette

My wife and I (Jesse) drove over to Fayette with our daughter this summer. It was only my second visit to the place, the first being a sixth-grade field trip over twenty years ago, so my memories of the place were a little fuzzy. Fond, but fuzzy.

So here’s how it went down…

We breezed through the admissions area (thanks to our Michigan recreation passport), parked in a spacious parking lot and made our way down a little hill into the main welcome center. Guided tours go out every half hour, I was told, and the next one would be starting in about five minutes.

A few minutes later, we were being led through the town by an enthusiastic college student who seemed to have a pretty comprehensive knowledge of the place. She was super friendly and gave a short but informative tour that ran through the entire history of the town, from it’s beginnings in 1867 as a company town to it’s present date status as a state park.

After the tour we were free to roam about the town on our own. We spent an hour or so poking our noses into well marked historic buildings and reading interpretive signs about the town’s past, but could have just as easily spent half a day here.

There’s a scenic overlook trail, a souvenir shop that sells ice cream, and plenty of open space near the harbor that would be a great place for a picnic, tossing Frisbee around or just hanging out for a while.

We had packed a lunch but left it in our car, so we ended up dining at a picnic table alongside the parking lot. Next time we’ll definitely bring our lunch down near the water. Also on our next visit, we’ll probably try to allow a whole day just for the Garden Peninsula.

In addition to Fayette, there are art galleries, wineries, and a cool little harbor at the very tip of the peninsula, so it’d be easy to blow a day here and enjoy every minute of it.

Sand Point Lighthouse, Escanaba - Upper Peninsula Lighthouses
Sand Point Lighthouse – Escanaba | photo via Jennifer Symons

More to Do Near Fayette Historic State Park

When your day is finished at Fayette Historic State Park, you may be craving even more time outdoors in Michigan. There is nothing quite like a Michigan summer in the Upper Peninsula, and there are so many places to explore.

If you are interested in visiting another park near Garden, you may want to consider a stop at Ludington Park in Escanaba.

This coastal park is located on the shores of Lake Michigan, and it features a bicycle path, a swimming beach, and a fishing pier. If you happen to be visiting during the week, you may want to make time for the weekly outdoor concerts that take place at the Karas Memorial Bandshell on Wednesday evenings. It is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable ways to finish a day in the U.P.

Upper Peninsula Lighthouses Near Fayette Historic State Park

As you continue to cross off items on your MI bucket list, don’t forget to add a few Upper Peninsula lighthouses to your itinerary.

There are several Michigan lighthouses that are located nearby Fayette Historic State Park, including the Sand Point Lighthouse in Ludington Park and the Manistique East Breakwater Light in Schoolcraft County. 

Breakfast At The Family Inn In Escanaba
Breakfast at The Family Inn in Escanaba | photo via Ashley Pichea

Where to Eat Near Fayette Historic State Park

With all of these outdoor adventures, you won’t want to forget to make time for a few good meals.

And if you’re hungry (or thirsty) while in the area, Sherry’s Port Bar is a neat little family-friendly spot for a meal or a beer. I’ve heard they have a good all-you-can-eat whitefish fish fry on Fridays during the summer season, and it’s within walking distance of the Fayette campground.

If you’re staying in nearby Escanaba, start your day with a hearty breakfast at The Family Inn where the portions are generous and the service is home-style.

For a fine dining meal in a casual atmosphere, consider The Stonehouse in Escanaba. It is the perfect place to go when you want to get a delicious meal for an affordable price without the pomp and circumstance of a fancy restaurant.

For a more low-key meal, you may want to think about Mo’s Pub, which is open for dinner service in Escanaba.

Fayette Historic State Park-Garden
Fayette Historic State Park | photo via michiganskymedia

Campgrounds Near Fayette Historic State Park

Camping is one of the most convenient ways to make the most out of your time in the Upper Peninsula.

There are several campgrounds in and around Garden, including the Fayette Historic State Park campground. This campground is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, and it allows you to surround yourself with the natural beauty of the park, as well as easily access its interesting attractions.

For those with an RV, the Bay Ridge RV Park and Campground is an excellent choice in Garden. This campground has more than 40 sites available, and its waterfront location makes it particularly popular among campers.

Not a fan of camping? Here are some other nearby lodging options:

Thanks to Jesse Land for his contributions to this article!

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