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A Local Reveals 19 Hidden Gems in Michigan

Michigan is home to bustling cities, scenic small towns, and beautiful natural wonders that are well-known nationwide. But Michigan is also home to dozens of hidden gems, which allow visitors and residents to experience the things that make Michigan special.

Visitors of all ages don’t have to go very far to find hidden gems; sometimes they’re even right in your backyard. But there are also hidden gems that only locals know about – special places where they bring family members and friends to showcase the best of Michigan.

This guide offers a look at just a few of Michigan’s many hidden gems, some of which are more well-known than others, but it’s a good place to start for those who want to experience Michigan’s wonders.

Secluded Beaches in Michigan

Black Rocks-Marquette-Fall
Presque Isle Park | photo via burgerplex

Presque Isle Park

Marquette

Tucked way up in the Upper Peninsula in Marquette is Presque Isle Park, a family-friendly park that’s perfect for an adventure.

Situated on a forested peninsula that extends out into Lake Superior, the park offers incredible views of the lake, hiking trails, a variety of wildlife,  sandstone cliffs, and chances for other outdoor recreation such as fishing and swimming.

Adventurous visitors can visit the Black Rocks, a popular park attraction that’s a hit with cliff jumpers

Mouth Of The Huron River
Mouth of the Huron River | photo via @woolcapphotos

Mouth of the Huron River

Baraga County

The Mouth of the Huron River is another UP hidden gem that must be seen to be fully appreciated.

This beautiful windswept patch of beach where the river flows right into Lake Superior isn’t really “near” anything, making it the perfect UP getaway. The Huron River in Baraga County flows through waterfalls, and woodlands on rapids on the way to Lake Superior.

The Mouth of the Huron has much to offer, including places for rustic camping, chances to fish, especially during the spring and fall steelhead runs, and a chance to see several nearby scenic waterfalls.

The Coves At Pictured Rocks Beach
The Coves | photo via @lost_mi_backpack

The Coves

Munising

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of Michigan’s many treasures, but one of the area’s best-kept secrets is a spot known as The Coves.

It can be found at Twelvemile Beach at the Beaver Lake trailhead. A mile-and-a-half hike through the woods leads visitors to this perfect patch of Lake Superior limestone-lined lakeshore.

Small inlets have been carved out here and the water is exceptionally blue. It’s the perfect spot for daytime photography, a picnic lunch, or even some sunbathing.

Esch Road Beach-Empire
Esch Road Beach | photo via camille.nofsinger

Esch Road Beach

Benzie County

Michiganders and visitors know how beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is, but there are several hidden gem beaches nearby, including Esch Road Beach.

Located at the mouth of Otter Creek, visitors love wading in the creek’s warm waters. The consistent wave moment on Lake Michigan moves the creek outlet north and south with some frequency, so the beach can take on a different look each time one visits.

The banks of the creek aren’t to be missed either as a variety of seasonal wildflowers line the banks, adding to the scenic beauty of this hidden gem.

Silver Lake State Park-Mears
Silver Lake State Park | photo via gregviau

Silver Lake State Park

Mears

Sprawled across 3,000 acres, Silver Lake State Park in Mears is a hidden gem nestled along Lake Michigan and is one of many magnificent beaches along the shoreline.

The park is home to the Little Sable Pointe Lighthouse, miles of hiking trails, a fishing pier, a boat launch, picnic areas, kids’ playgrounds, and more. For all visitors, it can be the ultimate summer or fall playground.

It’s also close to the Silver Lake Sand Dunes, which might be considered a hidden gem in their own right.

Hidden Waterfalls, Parks, & Trails in Michigan

Escarpment Trail-Porcupine Mountains
Escarpment Trail – Porcupine Mountains | photo via joyful.on.a.journeyandlovemyhappyvibes

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Ontanagon and Goegic counties

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering if there are mountains in Michigan, the answer is yes, in the western Upper Peninsula.

Nestled on the Lake Superior Shore is Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, the biggest wilderness park in the state that’s a massive wilderness brimming with opportunities to explore.

Miles of streams and rivers flow through the park along with several waterfalls. There are also opportunities for camping, hiking, mountain biking, and more. While it may not be the most hidden of gems, there’s enough there to experience something new during each new visit.

Ocqueoc Falls State Park-Presque Isle County
Ocqueoc Falls State Park | photo via wandering_michigan

Ocqueoc Falls

Presque Isle County

Ocqueoc Falls is the only waterfall in the Lower Peninsula and offers year-round access to a wide range of fun outdoor activities.

Visitors can stop at this Presque Isle County hidden gem and spend time hiking, biking, and even cooling off on the hottest of days.

Lodging options are available at nearby Ocqueoc State Campground and travelers can visit any time of year to indulge in their favorite seasonal activities, including spring picnics, winter snowshoeing, and swimming in the summer. 

Visiting The Animals At Wolcott Mill Metropark
Wolcott Mill Metropark I photo by Amanda Shaffer

Wolcott Mill Metropark

Romeo

There are lots of hidden gems scattered throughout Southeast Michigan, including more than a dozen scenic parks.

Wolcott Mill Metropark is one such park that’s perfect for a family day trip. The park is home to the Wolcott Mill Historic Center, which provides those who visit with a glimpse into the past. The center includes a farmhouse, a barn, and a grist mill, and the barn is often a hit with visitors who come to visit the animals.

Kitch-Iti-Kipi-Manistique
Kitch-iti-kipi | photo via boots_mud_snow

Kitch-iti-kipi

Manistique

Michigan’s “Big Spring” in the Upper Peninsula may not be a hidden gem to everyone, but it represents perhaps the very best of Michigan’s natural beauty. This natural spring is 40 feet deep and 200 feet across and its crystal-clear pool makes it a must-visit spot for residents and visitors of all ages.

The name Kitch-iti-kipi comes from the Ojibwa, who called it the Big Spring, but it’s also said to have other meanings, including Bubbling Spring and The Blue Sky I See.

No matter its name, it remains a popular attraction for visitors but remains secluded enough to be considered a hidden gem.

Fantasy Forest-Battle Creek
Fantasy Forest | photo via chef_christopher_lee312

Fantasy Forest at Leila Arboretum

Battle Creek

Visiting this hidden gem is almost like visiting another world. It’s a world filled with alien abductions, wizards, dragons, and so much more. The Fantasy Forest is a sculpture park unlike any other; a former tree grove that’s been transformed into a wonderland that delights visitors of all ages.

Hidden Gem Hangouts in Michigan

Cabin Creek Coffee The Chipotle Breakfast Sandwich | Photo By Amanda Shaffer
Cabin Creek Coffee | photo by Amanda Shaffer

Cabin Creek Coffee

Alpena

Sometimes the best hidden gems in Michigan are cozy coffee shops perfect for warming up with a hot beverage or catching up with friends. Cabin Cabin Coffee in Alpena is one such hidden gem.

This family-owned and operated shop is located right in the middle of downtown Alpena and serves up freshly made baked goodies, filling soups and sandwiches, and plenty of delicious coffee, hot chocolate, lattes, and more.

Travelers can sit and sip their beverages or get out and explore the downtown area, which includes a movie theater, several unique shops, a seasonal ice cream shop, and more.

Impression 5-Lansing
Impression 5 | photo via exploremichiganmore

Impression 5 Science Center

Lansing

Michigan’s capital city of Lansing is bursting with activity, but the Impression 5 Science Center is the perfect hidden gem for those who prefer to steer clear of busier attractions.

Impression 5 is a great spot for kids who love hands-on learning. Every exhibit features interactive elements, including the POP! A Bubble Experience, the Giant Eye, and the Build Zone. Everything here encourages kids to learn and discover something new around every corner.

Fall At The Barn Theater In Augusta Michigan
The Barn Theater School, Augusta | photo via barntheaterschool

Barn Theater

Augusta

Michigan has many historic theaters, but the historic Barn Theater in Augusta, Michigan is one travelers won’t want to miss.

Located east of Kalamazoo just off I-96, the historic Barn Theater is the oldest summer stock theater in Michigan and one of the oldest such theaters in the nation. Famous performers who spent time at the Barn include Michael Reno, Wayne Lamb, John Newton, Lauren Graham, and Jennifer Garner.

The theater provides training in all aspects of theater, giving its members exposure and experience. Visitors can buy tickets to entertaining shows and patrons consistently rave about the quality of the performances.

Cross In The Woods-Indian River
Cross in the Woods | photo via luluabsmaddie

The National Shrine of Cross in the Woods

Indian River

Northern Michigan visitors of all religious backgrounds can stop and stare in awe at this 55-foot-tall crucifix, one of the many wonderous roadside attractions in Michigan.

The cross here is one of a couple of hidden gems in this location. The cross was carved from a single redwood in the 1950s and Jesus’ likeness was added a few years later. The location is also home to the Nun Doll Museum, which features more than 500 unique dolls, modeling more than 200 different habits.

Gwen Frostic Prints-Benzonia
Gwen Frostic Prints | photo via discoveryournorthernmichigan

Gwen Frostic Prints

Benzonia

This hidden wildlife sanctuary in Northern Michigan has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It stands as a testament to the legacy of Gwen Frostic, a Michigan author, artist, and entrepreneur.

 Travelers can visit the store in Benzonia to find the perfect calendar, holiday cards, bookmarks, ornaments, and other stationery that features Gwen’s art and that friends and relatives will love to receive.

This is the perfect hidden gem to stop at on a day trip along the Lake Michigan shoreline and the perfect spot to find a cool, Michigan-made memento.

Hidden Gem Towns in Michigan

Michigan is well-known for its vibrant big cities and natural beauty, but many charming small towns are hidden gems to visitors looking for authentic experiences.

Norway
Norway | photo via americanatlas

Norway

This quaint Upper Peninsula town of Norway is a worthy addition to any bucket list. This hidden gem is a tranquil community that offers a little bit of everything. Visitors can dig into hearty, stick-to-your-ribs meals, traverse scenic trails, and enjoy one of several fun-filled festivals.

Huron Sunrise Trail-Rogers City
Huron Sunrise Trail, Rogers City | photo via erin.up.north

Rogers City

Tucked right on the shore of Lake Huron between Alpena and Cheboygan is Rogers City, one of the small towns in Northern Michigan worth exploring. The town is known for scenic beaches, a quiet downtown, and plenty of opportunities for fishing in the city known as the “Salmon Capital of Michigan.”

Zeeland, Mi / Usa - February 3, 2020: Zeeland City Sign After Roundabout Construction.
Zeeland | photo via Thomas M. Appel/Shutterstock

Zeeland

This charming West Michigan town is known for its quaint downtown and proud Dutch Heritage. Visitors can relax and explore the town as they visit parks and locally-owned shops and restaurants. Visitors can also visit the city during Pumpkinfest, an annual event that features fun for the whole family.

Curwood Castle-Owosso
Curwood Castle | photo via @michigantravelist

Owosso

A little more than a half hour from Lansing is Owosso, a quaint town in Mid-Michigan with a thriving arts scene and rich history. Visitors to this hidden gem city should make sure to visit the Steam Railroad Institute, which is home to the Pere Marquette 1225 — the Polar Express train.

Visitors can also enjoy shopping downtown, stopping at unique stories and eateries while admiring the beautiful architecture of the Curwood Castle.

Chesaning Michigan
Chesaning | Photo Credit: Ken (Sentrawoods) CC BY-SA 2.0

Chesaning

Right along the Shiawassee River is the hidden gem of Chesaning, a small town that offers plenty to do. Historic structures give the town an authentic feel and the shoreline offers plenty of room to enjoy nature, hike, and bike.

The town also offers dining, shopping, and entertainment options, so there’s something for everyone.

Visit a Michigan Hidden Gem Today

From the farthest reaches of the Upper Peninsula to the southernmost corners of the state, Michigan is packed with hidden gems that are waiting to be explored.

Whether you make plans to check off the places on this list or venture off to discover hidden gems of your own, visiting these places offers the chance to make lasting memories, appreciate the best of Michigan, and keep these discoveries to yourself (or share them, up to you).

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