This Midwestern Lake Town Is Always Full of Beach-Life Vibes

If you’re curious about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Marquette is what you’re looking for.

You could say a lot of Marquette is defined by Lake Superior. The vast expanse of water that more closely resembles an ocean than a lake shapes the personality of the small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Whether you’re sampling the craft beer that flows like water at a number of local breweries or attending a festival that brings life to the city year-round, the lake glitters all the while in the background, teasing would-be swimmers to dive into its often frigid waters.

You could mountain bike or hike miles of winding, fern-lined trails, many with views of the water. Or you could get right out there on a kayak, exploring the spectacularly rocky coastline from a closer vantage point. Hang out on scoops of curved beaches cradling the lake and admire the craggy, lichen-covered rocks protruding from the cobalt depths. And just a few steps from the ore docks, historic Washington Street beckons passersby with its intoxicating scent of fresh-baked pastries and roasting coffee beans.

Whether you grab your swimsuit and comfiest pair of sun-ready sandals or choose to lace up your boots, there’s plenty of adventure to be had in Marquette. Here’s what to do while you’re in town.

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Dion VanBoekel/Shutterstock

Hit the lake-view trails or the lake itself

If you didn’t plan on hitting the trails in and around Marquette, you didn’t plan very well. Every type of hiker can find their happy place here. Challenge yourself and get rewarded with sparkly Lake Superior views with a hike up popular Sugarloaf Mountain. Alternatively, Hogback Mountain invites you on a strenuous trek, starting on shaded paths that curve through viridescent woods and meadows before heading up rock faces to majestic views.

For a less ambitious ramble, head to Presque Isle Park for a more level, but rocky stroll along the cliffs. You’ll not only get impressive vistas, but if you’re feeling fearless, you can also take the opportunity to leap from the famous Black Rocks into the chilly waters below.

Not sure you want to submerge yourself but still captivated by the siren song of the water? Rent a sea kayak from Marquette Outdoors and hit the surface or go on a paddle tour with Marquette Mountain Resort Guided Adventures.

If cycling is more your speed, Marquette is a hot-spot for two-wheeled activity, too. Around 51 miles of paved and gravel bike paths lead riders all over town, including along the shoreline.

Off-road options, though, are where you can really experience a thrill. The Noquemanon Trail Network features more than 75 miles of looping, winding, exceptional mountain bike trails via The North Trails and South Trails. Rides range from beginner-friendly to expert, and many overlap with the annual Ore to Shore race route, an August event where amateurs and pros alike ride up to 48 miles for fame and glory. If you didn’t bring your own aluminum steed, head to MQT Bike Rentals to rent one.

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Blackrocks Brewery

Sample Marquette’s craft beer and coffee scene

If you love craft beer, you’ll certainly enjoy Marquette. With plenty of local breweries in town, you could spend your whole visit sampling bevies. Downtown, Ore Dock Brewing Co. specializes in more traditional styles, while Blackrocks Brewery serves up IPA’s and cream ales. On the edge of town, cider fans can sip alongside beer lovers at Barrel and Beam.

Prefer your quaffs caffeinated? Not only are there a plethora of cafes at which to grab a quality cup, Marquette and its immediate surroundings are home to more local coffee roasters per capita than Seattle. There are five to choose from: The Crib, which also serves delightful vegan baked goods; Velodrome;Contrast Coffee Co.; the city’s newest roaster and cafe, Provisions MQT; and the oldest, Dead River Coffee Company. Obviously the best way to decide which is best is to try them all.


Find out what pasties are, then stuff your face with them

If there’s one thing Yoopers (as U.P. residents call themselves) love more than coffee, it’s pasties. No, not adornments used to cover nipples, but baked hand pies. Though rest assured the well-loved institution Irontown Pasties, which serves hot and delicious pies, also offers racks of cheeky postcards rife with pasty jokes. Pronounced pass-tee (not pay-stee), these savory baked goods are the perfect on-the-go snack (or full meal, depending on where you procure one).

Another place to get a succulent bite is at Lawry’s Pasty Shop, not far from the center of town. Though typically filled with savory goodness like meat and gravy, you can also find vegetarian and vegan versions around town, stuffed with curried vegetables and spiced tofu.

marquette michigan

Eat and shop your way down Washington Street

When you’re done playing for the day, wander down Marquette’s main shopping and dining street. You’ll find all manner of diversions, including the impressively-curated local bookstore Snowbound Books, just off the main drag; 906 & Company brimming with sustainable and locally-made goods; and Donckers, a chocolate shop where you can indulge in all your childhood fantasies of gorging yourself on truffles and treats. If you’re looking for clever souvenirs, head to Upper Peninsula Supply Co. for quality clothing and U.P. goods.

Come dinner time, grab a table at the movie-themed Delft Bistro, which is upscale yet casual. The restaurant is located inside an old theater and serves up frog legs, sushi, brunch, and cocktails, often with film-themed names, all while a projector plays movies silently on the wall. Though you could dine-in at Babycakes, try their baked good or sandwich selection to go, so you have something to nosh during your next outing. Vegan and vegetarian options are available in addition to quiches and chorizo burritos.

hotels marquette
Landmark Inn

Where to stay in Marquette

Whatever you plan on getting up to in Marquette, skip the nondescript chain hotels and book a more unique local stay. For those who like a side of spooky at all times, the historic Landmark Inn is purportedly haunted. Other than some ghosts, it also has a gastropub and swanky craft cocktail bar on site. For a more modern experience, check out North Coast Place, which offers sleek short-term accommodations and fully furnished longer term rentals (for those eyeing a remote work situation).

Want to be one with the outdoors? Book everything from a campsite to a glamping tent to a luxury cabin at Rippling River Resort. You’ll not only have direct access to trails, you can also end every day with a soak in the outdoor hot tub and s’mores around the fire pit. Chef’s kiss.

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Alisha McDarris is a contributor for Thrillist.