7 Extra-Instagrammable Spots in Central Michigan and the Thumb

7 Extra-Instagrammable Spots in Central Michigan and the Thumb

Photo courtesy of My America via Facebook

By Lisa Green

September 8, 2023

These days, a lot of people are focused on Instagrammability—or photos that will do well on the ’Gram. There’s no shame in it. The photo-sharing social media site brings out the creative in all of us, and tbh? We could all use a little more creativity in our lives. That’s why you’re going to love these seven spots across the Mitten that’ll kick up your curated feed.

Don’t miss our recs for photogenic places in Southern Michigan and West Michigan, too! 

Remember: These locations are for personal use photography only. If you’re a professional or looking to do a for-profit photoshoot, contact the folks in charge for more information about their photo policy and permissions.

Turnip Rock

Port Austin

Turnip Rock is both one of Michigan’s most beautiful and most unique attractions. This natural rock formation sticking out of Lake Huron is a crowning achievement for any paddler to reach. It’s one of the most recognizable locations in Michigan’s Thumb region. And, yes, it wouldn’t be called Turnip Rock unless it was shaped, at least a little, like a turnip.

Turnip Rock is shaped in its peculiar pattern because it’s made of limestone, a relatively soft stone. The geological formation is called a stack formation, a vertical column of rock near a coastline. The rock itself is thinner toward the bottom and broader as the rock face moves away from the water. Several thousand years of erosion at the hands of Lake Huron’s waves created the unique shape.

Likely, the main reason Turnip Rock is so popular on Instagram is not just because of its beauty but also because of how hard it is to reach. Since Turnip Rock is technically on private land, the only way to experience it is by traversing several miles in a canoe or kayak. Port Austin is the most popular choice for renting a kayak for the voyage.

For-Mar Nature Preserve and Arboretum

2142 N. Genesee Road, Burton

7 Extra-Instagrammable Spots in Central Michigan and the Thumb

Photo courtesy of For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum via Facebook

Everyone’s inner child loves a treehouse. But trying to find an adult-friendly treehouse for your Instagram may be difficult. Luckily, a nature preserve near Flint has perhaps the best example in Michigan.

For-Mar Nature Preserve and Arboretum takes up 380 acres of natural land in Burton. Of those 380 acres, 267 are reserved for the actual nature preserve habitats, with hundreds of native animal and plant species. The other 116 acres make up the arboretum, which houses 157 plant species. Accessibility is important here, with paved paths to the pavilion, a Visitor’s Center, and Ground Water Pond. There are 7 miles of hiking trails and an abundance of gardens, all perfect photo-op locations for those nature photography shots.

The centerpiece of the For-Mar Nature Preserve, and perhaps its most Instagrammable subject, is the treehouse. The treehouse was custom-built by Pete Nelson, treehouse-building expert and star of the Animal Planet reality series Treehouse Masters. The For-Mar treehouse was even featured on a January 2017 episode. The treehouse rises 30 feet above the Kearsley Creek riverbed and offers scenic views of the forest surrounding it. The treehouse is also barrier-free, meaning it’s wheelchair accessible. For-Mar staff advises would-be visitors to call ahead if interested in the treehouse, since this structure sometimes closes to the public due to special events.

Dow Gardens and Alden B. Dow Home and Studio

1809 Eastman Ave., Midland
315 Post St., Midland

7 Extra-Instagrammable Spots in Central Michigan and the Thumb

Photo courtesy of Dow Gardens via Facebook

When you’re talking about Midland, the Dow family name is perhaps the most well-known family legacy in the area. And oddly enough, most things with the Dow name attached just so happen to be pretty enough for Instagram.

In the late-nineteenth century, chemist Herbert Henry Dow invented a new method of extracting bromine from underground brine in Midland. From there, Dow created the Dow Chemical Company, which mostly sold bleach at the time. Today, Dow Inc. is among the three largest chemical producers in the world, with a presence in 160 countries. Curiously, one of Herbert Dow’s seven children also went on to become a successful architect. Alden B. Dow, Herbert’s son, made the Dow name famous for a different reason—by studying under Frank Lloyd Wright and creating his own Modernist architecture designs.

One of the Dow family’s projects is Dow Gardens, a botanical garden spanning 110 acres. The property started as the Dow family home, but after Herbert Dow’s passing, his widow Grace donated the property to share it with the people of Midland. Today, you can still see the Dow family homestead in their historic Pines home. Among its beautiful botanicals and educational content, Dow Gardens also has the longest canopy walk in the country. The Canopy Walk in Whiting Forest is 40 feet above the ground and 1,400 feet long. You can take a virtual tour of the Canopy Walk, but it’s much better to see (and shoot) in person. One of the most popular photo subjects in Dow Gardens is the Red Bridge, designed by Alden Dow in 1977. 

Very close to Dow Gardens is also the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio, a picture-perfect example of mid-century architecture. Only exterior photography is allowed, but you can take a tour of the interior for a fee.

Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad

6140 N. Bray Road, Flint

7 Extra-Instagrammable Spots in Central Michigan and the Thumb

Photo courtesy of Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad via Facebook

Do you love aesthetic photos of old-fashioned trains? How about getting that vintage feel at a historic train station or a charming historic village? You can get all of that for your Instagram at Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad.

The Huckleberry Railroad’s history goes back to 1857 when it was part of the Flint Pere Marquette Railroad Company. It was named the Huckleberry Railroad because it ran so slow, someone could jump off the train to pick huckleberries then jump back on the train. Crossroads Village opened as a historical village in 1976 with 34 buildings, many restored from nineteenth-century architecture. Today, not only can you explore the historical village, you can take a round trip ride on the Huckleberry Railroad through Flint.

Though the Crossroads Village has most of its programming in the summer, it’s also popular later in the year, especially during Halloween and the winter holiday season. The holiday lights at Crossroads Village in the winter are especially Instagrammable.

Beaumont Tower and W.J. Beal Botanical Garden

  1. Circle Drive, East Lansing
7 Extra-Instagrammable Spots in Central Michigan and the Thumb

Photo courtesy of Michigan State University via Facebook

Michigan State University (MSU) is not only one of Michigan’s top universities, it’s also an old campus with a lot of aesthetic beauty. And young people tend to get bored of things they see every day, but some MSU campus attractions remain quite popular on Instagram among students, just as they do with Michigan residents and out-of-towners.

The John W. Beaumont Memorial Tower, or Beaumont Tower for short, is an iconic part of the MSU campus. The collegiate gothic-style tower was built in 1928 and named after the alumnus who dreamed it up. Where the Beaumont Tower is now was formerly the northeast corner of a structure called College Hall, the first instructional building on the MSU campus. Two walls of College Hall collapsed in 1918. After renovation was considered and ultimately decided against due to structural issues, John W. Beaumont wanted to preserve the area as a “sacred space” and campaigned to keep a structure. The result was the current Memorial Tower, which today has 49 bells in the computer-operated carillon. The bells can be heard on campus every 15 minutes. As one of the most iconic sites of MSU, it’s also quite popular on Instagram.

Within walking distance of the tower on the same street is the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden. Though this garden is small at only 5 acres, it has existed as an educational green space on campus for 150 years. It was named after Professor William Beal, the primary founder of the gardens and a professor of botany and horticulture who started at MSU in 1870. Some of the most popular parts of the garden today are the rock garden and pollinator garden. The garden is completely free to visit.

If you’re visiting in person, you can also check out the Michigan State University Museum nearby. 

Thomas Edison Parkway Boardwalk

Port Huron

7 Extra-Instagrammable Spots in Central Michigan and the Thumb

Photo courtesy of 7 Extra-Instagrammable Spots in Central Michigan and the Thumb via Facebook

When it comes to the bridges to Canada, Michiganders are often aware of at least one international crossing to our Ontario neighbors. Detroiters are quite familiar with the Detroit Windsor Tunnel and the Ambassador Bridge. Yoopers and others will know the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge. But a fourth bridge carries a lot of the international traffic. The Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, just north of the Detroit area, has top-notch Instagrammability for residents and visitors to the area.

The Blue Water Bridge is located between the southern end of Lake Huron and the St. Clair River. It was first opened in 1938 but has received renovations and additions several times since. The bridge has won several awards, including Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Perhaps the best place to drink in the beauty of the Blue Water Bridge, at least on the Michigan side of things, is the Thomas Edison Riverwalk. This boardwalk encompasses a mile of coastline along the St. Clair River, with gorgeous views of the Blue Water Bridge. The boardwalk is incredibly popular for walking, jogging, and fishing. The riverwalk also has multiple other attractions, like sculpture art, gazebos, picnic areas, and playground equipment. The nearby Blue Water Area Convention and Visitor Bureau hosts a variety of events such as Blue Water Comic Con. Two other museums are also adjacent to the riverwalk: Thomas Edison Depot Museum and Huron Lightship Museum.

Mill Creek Trestle Bridge

Avoca

7 Extra-Instagrammable Spots in Central Michigan and the Thumb

Photo courtesy of St. Clair County Parks and Recreation Commission via Facebook

The Blue Water Bridge may be the crown jewel of the Blue Water area, but there’s a lesser-known bridge in the area that has a claim to fame. And not only is it perfectly Instagrammable by itself, it offers amazing views of the forest around it.

The Mill Creek Trestle Bridge extends 60 feet above Mill Creek on the Wadhams to Avoca Trail. A trestle bridge is a bridge with multiple short spans with closely-spaced frames. And in Michigan, the Mill Creek Trestle Bridge is the largest of its kind at 640 feet long.

The trestle bridge was originally built for the Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad around 1889, though the exact date is unknown. The Detroit Bridge and Iron Company built the bridge and placed a trademark placard on the bridge with the date, but that placard was damaged long ago. You can still see the remains of the plaque on the bridge. Its time as part of the railroad was short-lived, though, and it was converted into a pedestrian bridge. Today, it’s a beloved part of the park, with four overlook areas for visitors.

 

READ MORE: Michigan’s Best-Kept Secret: Indulge in 8 Black-Owned Michigan Restaurants for a Soulful Experience

 

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