Just off the shores of the Little Bay de Noc, you will find a small town with a big heart. Escanaba MI is home to just more than 12,000 people, but it’s actually the third-largest community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Boasting the largest freshwater shoreline in the Upper Peninsula — and known as the Walleye Capital of the state — Escanaba is a destination full of natural beauty and adventurous opportunities.
With so many things to do in Escanaba MI, you’ll likely have a hard time paring down your itinerary. Our guide will help you plan an unforgettable trip to this place that the locals call Esky.
Outdoor Things to Do in Escanaba MI
To put it simply, Escanaba is a playground for people of all ages to enjoy. These are some of the best outdoor things to do in Escanaba Michigan.
Go Fishing in the Walleye Capital of the World
The Little Bay de Noc may be called little by name, but it’s a vast bay with more than 30,000 acres of water. Within those waters, more than 400,000 walleye thrive. The bay is a safe harbor for these fish to live, while several rivers nearby are the perfect spawning locations in the spring months.
The result is an abundance of fish, making Escanaba one of the best places in the Upper Peninsula to go fishing. If you are looking to go walleye fishing, consider stopping by the following spots:
- The north end of the Bay de Noc, from Gladstone to Rapid River, is home to many walleye throughout the year.
- The outer bay is where many local fishermen head to in the early weeks of the walleye season because they know it’s a great spot for a catch. Consider heading to Gladstone Beach north of town to cast your reel.
Play a Round of Disc Golf
There are two disc golf courses in Escanaba Michigan, which sets it apart from many other communities in the Upper Peninsula. Disc golfers appreciate that they can not only enjoy unique and challenging courses in Esky but also play a round with a truly spectacular view.
Enjoy Life on the Shores of the Little Bay de Noc
If you are visiting Escanaba during the summer, you simply have to make time to spend a day on the beach. Perhaps the most well-known — and well-loved — beach in Escanaba is Escanaba Municipal Beach.
This community-run beach is known for its soft sandy shoreline and family-friendly atmosphere. With plenty of room for everyone to spread out, you will find lots of people here, but it won’t feel crowded.
It’s only steps from downtown and includes convenient amenities, such as public bathrooms and a public changing area with showers. A lifeguard is on duty during the peak hours, which gives parents and swimmers peace of mind as they dip their toes into the cool waters of the bay.
Visit the Escanaba Farmer’s Market
For more than a century, locals and visitors have been shopping for fresh produce and handmade goods at the Escanaba Farmer’s Market. Now a much-loved annual summer tradition, the farmers market typically opens for the season in early June and runs weekly until mid-October.
It opens twice a week, with an evening market taking place on Wednesdays and a weekend market that’s open on Saturdays. Throughout the season, guests will find fresh produce grown in the local area, warm pastries, and baked goods and artisan products from local entrepreneurs.
It is one of the best places to get a taste of Escanaba Michigan and a feel for this community’s welcoming atmosphere.
Try Out Your Favorite Watersports
The natural protection that the Little Bay de Noc offers makes Escanaba MI one of the safest places to try out watersports. Some of the water activities that you may enjoy during your time in Esky include:
- Kayaking — Few places in the Upper Peninsula let you safely glide along the smooth waters of the coast, which is what makes the Escanaba shoreline so special. The safe, shallow waters of the bay allow for excellent paddling conditions.
- Boating — On any given day, you will see sailboats, speedboats, pontoons, and even yachts on the water. Whether you bring your own vessel or want to rent one for a little while, you can certainly find time to go boating in Escanaba.
Experience the Majesty of the Sand Point Lighthouse
Built in 1867, the Sand Point Lighthouse has long been a symbol of strength, hope, and perseverance in Escanaba. Today, this stately white lighthouse with its bright red signal relies on an electric light to guide boaters in the area.
But, visitors can still see the structure, which was rebuilt after a fire to the exact specifications of the original building. It serves as a local maritime museum, offering insight into life on the water in the Upper Peninsula.
Indoor Things to Do in Escanaba MI
There’s more to Escanaba Michigan than outdoor recreation. If you are looking to spend some time indoors, consider some of these attractions.
Dive Into the Arts & Culture Scene at the Bonifas Art Center
Established in 1974, the Bonifas Art Center has become one of the best arts and cultural facilities in the entire Upper Peninsula.
It is housed in the historic structure that was once home to St. Joseph Parish School, and today, it features a permanent collection of artwork that includes more than 300 pieces created by local and regional artists.
In addition, the art center houses a theater where the local group — Players de Noc — performs on a regular basis. Whether you are heading to the center to view the art or you want to take in the show, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to experience the incredible art scene in this community.
Visit the Delta County Historical Museum
The Delta County Historical Society operates and maintains several sites throughout Escanaba, including the Sand Point Lighthouse. For those who are looking to take a deep dive into the port city’s past, a visit to the Delta County Historical Museum is in order.
It first opened in 1956, and over the course of several decades, it has amassed a collection of artifacts through generous donations from community members.
The museum is constantly changing and evolving, but the exhibits at the museum always aim to tell the story of life in Escanaba throughout the years. You will find detailed information and exhilarating artifacts related to Native American culture, the logging and shipping industries, fishing, military history, and more.
The museum is typically open seasonally between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but the hours can vary, so it’s important to call in advance before you plan your visit.
Additional Attractions Near Escanaba Michigan
One of the best scenic routes in all of Michigan can easily be accessed from Escanaba. Highway 2 — officially known as U.S. Route 2 — winds along the southern stretch of the Upper Peninsula. Some of the top sights to see on your road trip include:
- Manistique — This quiet Michigan town is best known for its boardwalk, historic downtown area, and pristine views.
- St. Ignace — If you take Route 2 until it ends, you will find yourself in the heart of St. Ignace and on the brink of the Straits of Mackinac. Explore St. Ignace, or hop on a ferry for a day trip to Mackinac Island.
Local Restaurants in Escanaba MI to Enjoy
The true flavor of Escanaba shines through at these local restaurants and dining spots.
To fully enjoy the hometown feel of Escanaba, you need to make time to have a meal at The Family Inn. This local diner specializes in homemade meals and is located in Wells, which is conveniently situated between Escanaba and Gladstone.
If you happen to be in town on a Friday, be sure to stop by The Family Inn for its famous fish fry dinner. Fish fries are a tradition in Escanaba, and this restaurant serves some of the tastiest fish around.
Located on historic Ludington Street in a building that is more than 130 years old, Leigh’s Garden Winery brings modern life to a place where conversations have been taking place for more than a century.
This winery is known for its relaxed atmosphere, and it’s a place where local people and visitors congregate to sip great wine and get to know one another. With white, red, and rose varieties available, you are sure to find a wine that you love — and you can even order a cheese board to go with it.
The Stonehouse restaurant and lounge offers the premier fine dining experience in Escanaba MI — but you don’t have to worry about what you wear. Effortlessly blending fine dining with a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, this restaurant wants everyone to feel welcome.
The menu has specialty items that are timeless favorites in the community, but there’s always a daily option that incorporates the freshest ingredients available. For a meal that is full of both flavor and heart, head straight to The Stonehouse.
Another hot spot in downtown Escanaba Michigan is the Swedish Pantry, the only restaurant in town that serves authentic, homemade Swedish cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Locals love it because it feels like home — they walk into the cozy dining room and bask in the smell of fresh-baked bread. Visitors are impressed because they get to enjoy an international flavor during their time in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Hereford & Hops is a classic neighborhood pub, serving craft beer and hearty meals that locals and visitors can enjoy together. In addition to a menu that includes the tasty appetizers and entrees that you would expect at a steakhouse, Hereford & Hops also offers a Mongolian barbecue dining experience.
This create-your-own stir-fry buffet is completely unique from anything else in Escanaba and has quickly become a favorite among residents.
Escanaba Michigan Hotels & Other Lodging
There’s only one way to get the most out of your Escanaba visit — stay for a few days. You will rest easy when you stay at one of these accommodations in Esky.
The Sunset Lodge is an affordable and comfortable motel in Escanaba. When you book a room at this motel, you are situating yourself in the center of everything the city has to offer. You are a short drive from downtown, and you can easily access all of the best parks and recreational areas in the region.
On top of that, this motel is right next to the famed Family Inn, which is known as one of the best restaurants in Escanaba.
If you are the type of person who likes to book a room with a view, then the Terrace Bay Hotel is the best place for you in Escanaba. This hotel is located on the shores of Lake Michigan, and many of its rooms have waterfront views and balconies.
In addition, all the rooms have been recently renovated, offering a contemporary vibe that adds a touch of sophistication to your stay. As a bonus, there is a restaurant on-site that offers those same spectacular views and an extensive menu featuring American cuisine.
Sometimes, the best way to get a feel for the community that you are visiting is to book a stay at a local vacation home. The Swede’s House @ 1603 is one of the unique short-term rental options available in Escanaba.
This charming home is 95 years old and known for its incredible curb appeal. Elegant comfort reigns supreme at this property, which boasts three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a porch, and a balcony area.
When you want to spend your time fishing in the Walleye Capital, then the Bridge House is the perfect place to stay.
This four-bedroom home has recently been renovated and is located near the Ford River, Whitefish River, and Escanaba River. It can sleep up to 12 people, so it’s a great option for larger groups.
More to Know About Escanaba MI
This region has long been known as Escanaba. While many communities in Michigan were renamed after their European settlers, Escanaba was the name that the Ojibwa Tribe gave this village in the early years of the 19th century.
There is some dispute over the meaning of the name, with some feeling that the name translates in Ojibwa to the “land of the red buck,” while others believe that it refers to the flat rock that defines the shorelines in the area.
European settlers descended on the region in the latter half of the 19th century, quickly transforming Escanaba into a port town.
The town played a critical role in the transport of iron and ore, and shipping continues to play a pivotal role in daily life today in Escanaba.
FAQs About Escanaba Michigan
What is Escanaba MI most known for?
Escanaba MI has earned the nickname of the Walleye Capital of Michigan, and fishing has long been a favorite pastime in this community.
In addition, Escanaba has recently become known as the arts and culture hub of the Upper Peninsula. It has a thriving art and theater scene that adds a touch of glamor to the community.
Where is the main shopping and dining area in Escanaba MI?
Ludington Street in downtown Escanaba is considered to be the main commercial district. There, you will find dozens of locally owned boutiques, restaurants, and attractions to enjoy.
Is Escanaba MI a worthwhile Upper Peninsula destination to visit?
Yes, Escanaba MI is one of the best places to enjoy an authentic Upper Peninsula experience. Tourism plays an important role in the local economy, but the community is not defined by its visitors.
It is a place where you will find a vibrant arts and cultural scene, beautiful beaches, and stunning panoramic views of the bay.
Plan Your Visit to Escanaba MI Today
Escanaba Michigan is one of the state’s hidden gems. Tucked away in the Upper Peninsula, it might be easy to overlook this community in favor of larger, more well-known cities, such as Marquette or Manistee.
But if you pass by Esky, you’ll be missing the opportunity to live the authentic Yooper lifestyle.
Here, you can spend your days fishing, swimming, and hiking through the forests to experience the sights and sounds of the natural world. It’s a place where you can get away from it all and reconnect with yourself.
There are things to do in Escanaba MI throughout the entire year, so consider booking a stay at this all-season destination. You won’t regret putting in the time and effort to make the trip to Escanaba Michigan’s Walleye Capital.