Downtown Marquette, Michigan (Photo Credit: Wikipedia - Tony Webster)
Downtown Marquette, Michigan | Photo Credit: Wikipedia - Tony Webster
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Nestled along the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula lies the bustling city of Marquette. With a population of over 20,000 people, Marquette serves as one of the largest urban hubs in the U.P., acting as an anchor for the central region of the peninsula. Despite its relatively remote location, Marquette offers a surprisingly diverse array of attractions and activities for visitors of any age to enjoy.

Marquette Harbor Light, Marquette, Michigan (Photo Credit: Wikipedia - Rklawton)
Marquette Harbor Light, Marquette, Michigan | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Rklawton

1. Climb to the Top of the Marquette Harbor Light

Perched upon the rocky cliffs overlooking the vast expanse of Lake Superior stands a stately brick lighthouse, its towering silhouette cutting a striking figure against the horizon. This iconic structure has kept vigil over the treacherous waters of the largest freshwater lake in the world for over 170 years. First lit in 1853, the lighthouse was built in response to the growing commercial shipping industry and expanding ore docks on the Great Lakes in the mid-19th century. Shipwrecks were all too common during that perilous era of navigation, and the lighthouse was intended to help guide vessels safely along the lake’s southern shore.

The lighthouse is now open to the public for tours. Visitors can embark on the strenuous climb up the winding staircase within the tower and be rewarded with panoramic views of the rugged beauty that surrounds the lighthouse. Perched over 40 feet above the churning waves, one can gaze out at the vast expanse of the Great Lake and imagine what it was like for early lighthouse keepers. The park offers tours of the tower throughout the day, with knowledgeable guides that provide insights into the history of the lighthouse and tales of daring rescues launched from its precarious cliffs. For those eager to immerse themselves in the region’s nautical past, a stop at this lighthouse is an illuminating experience.

2. Sample Beer at Some Local Craft Breweries

The charming lakeside city of Marquette has emerged as a hidden gem on the Upper Peninsula’s craft beer map. Tucked away on the shores of Lake Superior, this college town boasts a thriving local beer scene fueled by the creativity and passion of its homegrown brew masters. Beer enthusiasts visiting Marquette can embark on an flavorful tour of some of the top local taps by stopping at a few standout breweries.

Ore Dock Brewing Co. should top any beer lover’s list. This brewpub pours an rotating selection of inventive brews like the Reclamation IPA or Bramble on Rose Golden Ale. Just down the road, Blackrocks Brewery is known for pushing boundaries with bold, innovative releases like their refreshing Grand Rabbits Dry Hopped Cream Ale or unique Hiawatha Ale which is an American Wheat Ale with Apricot. No beer tour is complete without a visit to Superior Culture, a passionate craft brewery seeking to highlight Upper Peninsula ingredients. Sip their foraged UP Malted Barley or seasonally flavored Ciders, Mead and Kombucha. Between these imaginative brew masters, Marquette has firmly planted its flag as an unlikely hotspot for memorable craft beer.

Black Rocks, Marquette, Michigan (Photo Credit: Flickr - Dane)
Black Rocks, Marquette, Michigan | Photo Credit: Flickr – Dane

3. See the Famous Black Rocks at Presque Isle Park

Jutting out along the rugged shoreline near Marquette, the aptly named Black Rocks stand as one of the most iconic natural landmarks of the Upper Peninsula. This jagged outcropping of metamorphosed igneous peridotite (ancient magma flow) has been carved and shaped over centuries by the unrelenting power of Lake Superior’s waves. Today, these dramatic black cliffs draw visitors eager to explore and take in the brooding, romantic vistas they create along the coast.

Amble along the Black Rocks for postcard-worthy views of the inky protrusions thrusting out of the lake’s sapphire waters. Listen to the hypnotic roar of the surf crashing into the stubborn rocks while scanning the craggy surfaces for formations left behind by the patient work of erosion. The more adventurous can carefully climb out along the rocks, but beware the deadly power of Lake Superior’s notorious riptides and rogue waves.

Also within the park lies the tranquil Sunset Point, blanketed in native grasses and wildflowers. It provides a front-row seat for dazzling sunsets over the big lake’s limitless horizon. Don’t miss a stop at the Moose Wood Nature Center, where kids and adults alike can learn about the local flora and fauna that call this rugged habitat home through hands-on exhibits. With its mix of dramatic scenery and engaging opportunities for discovery, Presque Isle Park encapsulates the majestic beauty of Marquette’s stunning shoreline.

4. Take the Kids to the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum

The Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum is a vibrant, engaging space where kids’ curiosity and creativity can run wild. This one-of-a-kind museum was designed from the ground up to provide an immersive, hands-on experience for children to actively explore a plethora of exciting exhibits and activities.

One of the museum’s star attractions that draws in kids like a magnet is the massive touch tank featuring an array of the lake’s most fascinating native creatures. Nearby, an enchanting indoor forest comes to life, complete with a gigantic bird nest perched high above. For budding scientists, there are entire sections tailored just for them, like the Human Body exhibit where kids can examine models of organs and bones. No matter their interests, children can let their creativity guide them through hours of discovery in this magical museum that unlocks their innate sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them.

Maritime Museum, Marquette, Michigan (Photo Credit: Wikipedia - rossograph)
Maritime Museum, Marquette, Michigan | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – rossograph

5. Stop by the Marquette Maritime Museum

Marquette has served as a vital maritime hub for the Upper Peninsula for over a century. This rich heritage lives on at the Marquette Maritime Museum, an expansive center dedicated to preserving and showcasing the region’s deep ties to the lake which has long driven its development.

Inside the museum’s halls, guests are transported back through time with exhibits highlighting the many facets of Marquette’s nautical history. Models, artifacts, and miniature-scale ship recreations bring stories of brave lighthouse keepers, sailors and tragic shipwrecks vividly to life. The museum is also home to the most comprehensive collection of Great Lakes lighthouse Fresnel lenses, including rare examples from Michigan’s own history. Visitors can gaze up in awe at the intricate prisms and optics of these engineering marvels that once kept mariners safe. For those eager to understand Marquette’s deep maritime roots, a visit to this repository of Great Lakes lore offers an illuminating voyage through the stories, artifacts and images that reveal the living history of Lake Superior’s inspiring coastal culture.

6. Take a Tour of Northern Michigan University

Tucked away in the rugged wilderness of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula lies Northern Michigan University, one of the few institutes of higher education calling the U.P. home. The university’s striking campus stretches out along the outskirts of Marquette, perfectly positioned to take advantage of the natural splendor of its remote setting. Prospective students can get a taste of life at NMU through campus tours that wind through the school’s halls and grounds.

Knowledgeable guides lead the way, providing insights into the university’s rich history, diverse academic programs, and active student organizations. A stroll across the sprawling lawns reveals stunning views of the surrounding forests and Lake Superior shoreline that inspire learning and reflection. The tour stops at several iconic campus landmarks, like the towering Superior Dome, the largest wooden dome in the world.

Marquette Mountain, Marquette, Michigan (Photo Credit: Wikipedia - Rickdrew)
Marquette Mountain, Marquette, Michigan | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Rickdrew

7. Go Skiing (Or Biking) at Marquette Mountain

Nestled amidst the rolling hills just outside Marquette, Marquette Mountain Resort stands as the premier downhill skiing and snowboarding destination in the Upper Peninsula. When the snow starts falling across Lake Superior, this modest mountain is transformed into a winter playground. The resort’s 29 ski trails runs span over 170 acres of slopes, rising up to a peak elevation of 1,275 feet. From gentle bunny slopes to heart-pumping drops, there are trails suited for all ability levels. Skiers can pick up speed in the open bowls or weave through the glades on tree-lined paths. The mountain’s northern exposure ensures plenty of natural snow while state-of-the-art snowmaking covers any bare spots.

After the snow melts, Marquette Mountain takes on a whole new life as one of the Midwest’s top spots for mountain biking. Come summer, the ski trails give way to thrilling downhill bike runs ranging from beginner to expert. Riders can take advantage of mountain bike rentals and lessons before hitting the bumpy downhill trails. Winding single-track through the dense surrounding forests provide a more peaceful riding experience across the resort’s 330 acres. Zipping down the hills on two wheels, one can take in stunning vistas of Lake Superior’s sapphire waters shimmering in the distance. The mountain bike park truly offers one-of-a-kind biking in the Upper Peninsula. Whether you’re carving fresh powder in the winter or flying down dirt jumps on your bike, Marquette Mountain promises a good time in every season.

8. Visit the Marquette Regional History Center

Immerse yourself in the rich history of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula at the Marquette Regional History Center, an engaging museum chronicling the people and events that shaped this rugged lakefront region. Interactive exhibits and invaluable artifacts transport visitors back through centuries of remarkable local heritage.

The museum sheds light on the Native American cultures that first inhabited the land, with displays revealing how tribes like the Ojibwe flourished as stewards of the area’s abundant natural resources. Glimpse into the lives of early settlers and entrepreneurs who recognized Marquette’s potential for shipping, logging, and mining. See how they carved out an existence and built the foundations of a remote but vibrant community.

Learn intriguing tales of how Superior’s treacherous waters impacted the region, from the rise of maritime trade to the wrecks which lie beneath its waves. Discover how U.P. locals came to embrace the endearing nickname “Yoopers” as a badge of honor reflecting their hardy way of life. Through engaging exhibits and activities for all ages, the Marquette Regional History Center brings to light the resilience, innovation, and spirit of community that allowed this lakeside town to flourish.

9. Get Offshore on a Fishing Charter

The bountiful waters off the coast of Marquette lure anglers from far and wide eager to reel in monster catches from the greatest lake that borders Michigan. Local charter companies offer knowledgeable, experienced guides to maximize the fishing possibilities of Lake Superior for visitors. Offshore enthusiasts can climb aboard charter boats heading into deeper waters, where giant lake trout, salmon, and whitefish roam.

The captains have spent years learning the best spots and techniques for hooking trophy-sized fish, whether trolling from the stern or dropping lines near rocky shoals. They provide all the top-notch gear along with tips to land your own personal best on these full or half-day excursions. Many charters also offer meals prepared right on board from the fresh catch of the day.

For those who prefer wading in pristine rivers, fly fishing guides based out of Marquette can lead you to untouched trout streams winding through the backcountry. Patient instructors will help hone your fly casting and reading the water to carefully place the perfect fly. Wade into bubbling rapids or hike along brushy banks as you lure in feisty trout from these remote waters. Between Superior’s big fish and secluded trout rivers, Marquette is a paradise for passionate anglers who want to experience the best fishing the UP has to offer.

Marquette County Courthouse, Marquette, Michigan (Photo Credit: Wikipedia - Paul R. Burley)
Marquette County Courthouse, Marquette, Michigan | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Paul R. Burley

10. James Stewart was Here! Visit the Film Site of the 1959 Film Anatomy of a Murder

The stately Marquette County Courthouse stands as both an enduring hall of justice and a historic site forever linked to a seminal Hollywood film. Constructed in 1904, the grand Romanesque Revival-style building has been the setting for many high-profile court cases over its century-long history. In 1913, it hosted an explosive libel trial involving former President Theodore Roosevelt filing suit against a local newspaperman who besmirched his character.

Yet the courthouse is best known for its star turn in the classic 1959 courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder, directed by Otto Preminger. The movie put Marquette on the map when its exterior and interior chambers were used as the backdrop for scenes with James Stewart and George C. Scott. Visit the courthouse today and you can still imagine the tense drama and brilliant legal sparring that once graced its heavy wooden doors and ornate courtrooms. Plaques and photos commemorate the building’s unique role in both Marquette’s legal legacy and Hollywood lore. While courtroom debates still occur today within its walls, the Marquette County Courthouse now stands as a historic landmark reminding visitors of its memorable on-screen moment when justice prevailed.

11. Catch a Festival

Throughout the year, the city of Marquette celebrates its lively arts, food, and culture scene with an array of exciting annual festivals. These vibrant community events offer visitors the perfect opportunity to experience the spirit and hospitality of this scenic Lake Superior town.

Music fans flock to the wildly popular Marquette Area Blues Fest each summer. Blues legends and up-and-coming talents alike converge for live shows along the downtown streets and parks.

As the leaves burst into fall color, Marquette toasts its favorite beverage at the Upper Peninsula Fall Beer Festival. Breweries from across the U.P. pour over 150 craft beers, ciders, and meads for attendees who receive a commemorative tasting glass to sample the offerings. Hearty food vendors line the street to fuel the revelry.

Between the crashing waves of Lake Superior and the wilderness of Michigan’s north woods, Marquette’s stunning setting enlivens its wealth of cultural celebrations and gatherings. Visitors can experience the city’s unique character and welcoming spirit by timing their travels around one of Marquette’s spirited annual festivals.

12. Hike Sugarloaf or Hogback Mountains

Rising high above the dense forests flanking Marquette are two of the most scenic peaks in the region, Sugarloaf and Hogback Mountains. These towering landmarks beckon hikers with a network of trails leading through idyllic hardwood forests up to panoramic overlooks.

Sugarloaf Mountain rewards those who tackle its steep hike with jaw-dropping vistas of Lake Superior and the surrounding wilderness from exposed rocky outcroppings. As you climb a 295-foot elevation gain on the your hike towards the summit, the views expand until the vast expanse of Lake Superior fills the horizon. Make sure to pause at one of Sugarloaf’s secluded rocky alcoves, perfect for a peaceful picnic.

Meanwhile, a network of trails weaves across the bald summit of Hogback Mountain, offering non-stop views across lush forests and rocky ridges. One of the most spectacular treks leads to the Top of the World Lookout, perched dramatically above the shimmering waters of Harlow Lake. Gaze out from the sheer cliffs for a boundless panorama stretching across the Upper Peninsula and sometimes even glimpse of nearby Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

With rocky crests towering high above the lakefront, Sugarloaf and Hogback Mountains tempt adventure seekers with the promise of being on top of the world. Brave the muscle-burning climbs through picturesque terrain and your reward will be memories of the most stunning vistas in Marquette.

Pere Marquette Statue, Marquette, Michigan (Photo Credit: Wikipedia - Carptrash)
Pere Marquette Statue, Marquette, Michigan | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Carptrash

13. View the Father Marquette Statue

The City of Marquette is named after Father Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit Missionary from France who visited the area in the 1600s. The statue that stands today was placed in 1897 as a gift from Peter White to the City of Marquette. The statue is made of brass and was originally sculpted in Florence, Italy, an identical statue also stands in Washington D.C. at Statuary Hall. It reportedly weighs over 1-1/2 tons and has been restored and preserved by the local Marquette Beautification and Restoration Committee.

Conclusion

With its scenic location on the shores of Lake Superior, Marquette stands out as one of Michigan’s most beautiful and inviting cities. Its rich maritime heritage, thriving outdoor recreation, and lively cultural scene come together to create an unforgettable travel destination. Wander the historic downtown, where century-old buildings now house cozy cafes, unique boutiques, and charming galleries. Gaze out at the most unspoiled shoreline of the world’s largest freshwater lake. Embark on outdoor adventures surrounded by spectacular vistas, from hiking forested trails to biking rugged mountain paths. The city’s friendly community spirit and wealth of events and festivals make visitors instantly feel at home. From its lighthouses to its breweries, Marquette emerges as the jewel of the Upper Peninsula, a place abundant with natural splendor, cultural charm, and enduring Midwestern warmth. For an enchanting escape amid Lake Superior’s inspiring beauty, Marquette deserves a spot at the top of your must-visit list.

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Ashley Gary
Greetings, fellow adventurers! I'm Ashley, and I'm delighted to share my journeys and knowledge with you. As a passionate travel writer and devoted adventurer, I'm constantly fueled by the excitement of discovering new destinations and uncharted territories. With a heart full of curiosity and a suitcase packed with dreams, I've wandered through bustling marketplaces, hiked mist-covered mountains, and wandered down cobblestone streets in search of stories waiting to be told. Through my travel chronicles, I hope to not only transport you to the farthest corners of the globe but also inspire you to embrace the thrill of stepping into the unknown. Adventure awaits, and I can't wait to share it with you to help you find your adventure!

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