Touring 63 Upper Peninsula Beaches

Some Yooper Beach

Nils Stenvig
Imagine yourself alone, barefoot on a beach. Imagine your toes sinking into its coarse expanse of small colorful pebbles, worn as smooth as glass by the patient persistence of nature. The warm red hue of the beach permeates the very air you breathe and walk amongst and you notice that there’s not a grain of sand in sight. You welcome the cool breeze off the water that moves swiftly over your face and eddies around your neck, leaving you with shivers that radiate from the top of your spine all the way out to your fingertips. That same breeze works invisible magic on the water, creating waves which crash into the beach with a loud, crisp clamor. An interesting whooshing noise occurs between waves as the water and small pebbles cascade down a short embankment into the lake. The water also drains down through the rocks, causing a quiet but distinct sound akin to a bowl of cereal just after pouring in the milk. And giant pine trees stand erect behind you with the majestic fortitude of silent soldiers, gazing with you out toward the northern horizon over a dark blue expanse. Where could you possibly be?

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a spectacular place, indeed. Just ask any Yooper. I wonder, though, how much of the UP an average Yooper is familiar with. I’ve been a Yooper for 23 years and I’ve been blessed with the capability and aspiration to find and explore many of this land’s hidden treasures. Yet it seems there is always a new adventure to undertake or place to see in this great peninsula.

I think it’s great that we have people like Bugsy who put a lot of effort into highlighting the things this land has to offer. Breathtaking and unique opportunities surround us, but they are difficult to pinpoint. Lackluster dirt roads and logging trails veil many of the most spectacular locations; because of this, the UP is teeming with secrets – hidden waterfalls, fishing holes, hiking trails, vistas, homely restaurants, breweries, craft shops… the list goes on. Someone knows about each hidden pearl of adventure, but that knowledge is only helpful for the people who have it. This could be just enough of an introduction to segue into the secrets I’m familiar with, which are the topic of this blog post.

hunters point michigan
Near the end of July 2009, I sat in my grad-student office at Michigan Tech thinking about how it could very well be the last summer I ever spend in the Yoop. I’d been trying to think of some fun things to do with my spare time. Over the summer I’d already been to plenty of hidden waterfalls, taken plenty of road trips, watched many incredible sunsets, and had even visited Michigan’s highest point, Mount Arvon. My thoughts drifted to beaches—and suddenly, I realized how much of the UP shoreline I didn’t know about. What an opportunity!

I did a quick Google search to find the best Lake Superior beaches to visit in the UP, and immediately found all the information I needed. Ahem… Not! In fact I found hardly any useful information at all. To my dismay, no comprehensive listing of beaches existed. So, naturally, I decided to take it upon myself to swim at and document every public beach on the UP – Lake Superior shoreline, and then make all the information available and useful to everyone else. As I said before, what good is knowledge if it is not shared?

Thus, for the latter portion of summer, I made a lot of road trips and had copious amounts of fun while swimming at every public beach on the UP shoreline of Lake Superior. 63 beaches later, I consider myself the youngest Yooper expert of beaches. I can name every public swimming hole between Wisconsin and the Sault, and I can describe valuable information about the area, the beach, camping, etc.

some yooper beach
As I went to each beach, I documented their names on a memento beach ball and had friends take pictures of me and the beach. I’ve also put together a quantitative rating system for the beaches in order to rank their characteristics and try to establish what the “best” beach in the UP is. I haven’t published the results of my calculations just yet, as I am still in the process of writing about the beaches on my blog. When my blog is finished, I will publish my more comprehensive website, which will be the only of its kind. Oh – the red-pebbled beach I mentioned earlier is not just a figment of your imagination… it is Hunter’s Point in Copper Harbor. Great beaches abound this great peninsula, and I hope I’m able to make more people aware of them.

I’ve used the word opportunity several times. An opportunity is something to be pursued. We have one life, and sometimes an opportunity only comes once. Yoopers are very fortunate to live in this opportunistic peninsula. Yet, many of us unknowingly take this blessed place for granted. I may be young and inexperienced, but I feel qualified to inform and empower people to take advantage of their own opportunities – be they in the UP or elsewhere. Truly, road trips in the UP are memorable experiences. I’ve always been puzzled when I have difficulty convincing people to take their first road trip with me. Less surprising to me, I’ve rarely been turned down for a second trip.

This entry and photos have been contributed by Nils Stenvig. Nils, 23, grew up in Pelkie and atteded Baraga High School. Currently he is enrolled at Michigan Tech University where he is working on a masters in electrical engineering and business administration. Spring is coming and it’s never too early to start planning your Upper Peninsula road trip. Nils shares with us his experience of visiting 63 Upper Peninsula beaches. Read more on his Web site at