Where are Instagram users tagging their #PureMichigan posts? What places have peak Instagrammability that you need to check out? We’ve assembled a list of extra-extra sites in Northern Michigan that are perfect for your next pose-fest.
Don’t miss our recs for photogenic places in Southern Michigan, West Michigan, and Central 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.
Old Mission Peninsula
The Traverse City area is blessed to have not one, but two neighboring peninsulas serving as northern Michigan’s wine country. True wine enthusiasts can find a wealth of wineries to tour on the Leelanau Peninsula, but those who are interested in aesthetic beauty (and that perfect Instagram shot) may prefer the Old Mission Peninsula.
Old Mission Peninsula is about 17 miles long and situated in the Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan. The peninsula is named Old Mission because of the first European settlement in the Grand Traverse Bay region. Old Mission was first founded as Grand Traverse in 1839, with a Presbyterian mission at the present-day Old Mission Harbor serving as the anchor of the settlement. Though the settlement grew, it was renamed “Old Mission ” after founder Rev. Peter Dougherty trekked to the Leelanau Peninsula to establish a mission at an existing Indigenous settlement in modern-day Omena.
This new settlement became “New Mission,” while the existing settlement became “Old Mission.” The latter became a popular site for recreation after the Rushmore family bought the Peter Dougherty House and turned it into a resort. This also brought a farming community of plums, apples, grapes, and, of course, trademark Traverse City cherries.
Though wineries have popped up on Old Mission, development programs keep the peninsula rural and full of natural beauty. One of the most Instagrammable vineyards in the world is Mari Vineyards, which The Thinking Traveler named on its list of the USA’s Most Instagrammed Vineyards. You can also check out the views at Hawthorne Vineyards or Brys Estate Vineyard. If you feel called to flower fields over wine orchards, head over to Harbor View Nursery and Lavender Farm and frolic in fields of purple. For that historical architectural shot, you’ll want to check out the Mission Point Lighthouse. And if you’re more into #foodstagram, you’ll find delicious and aesthetically pleasing meals at award-winning restaurants like the Boathouse Restaurant.
Sleeping Bear Dunes
The Sleeping Bear Dunes are a National Lakeshore located in Benzie and Leelanau counties that is so gorgeous and photogenic, ABC’s Good Morning America voted it Most Beautiful Place in America in 2011. That means its Instagrammability is off the charts.
The dunes themselves have impressive height, rising up as far as 450 feet above sea level. Over 1 million annual visitors explore the Sleeping Bear Dunes’ 70,000 acres and 35 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. Generations upon generations of humanity have been attracted to the natural beauty and splendor of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Indigenous tribes used the area for hunting and fishing since as early as 11,000 BCE. In fact, the Legend of the Sleeping Bear Dunes is derived from Anishinaabe oral tradition.
The immense size of the Sleeping Bear Dunes gives you plenty of places to explore to find that perfect shot, but there are a few favorites. You can try Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive with its impressive Overlook 9; the Pyramid Point Trail, which includes its own overlook; the Empire Bluff Trail near the village of Empire; or the Glen Lake Overlook.
Tunnel of Trees
The Tunnel of Trees is a historic scenic route that spans 20 miles along M-119. The entire route winds and weaves along the Lake Michigan coast. The overarching tree canopies are especially gorgeous when fall colors are at their peak. But it makes for a gorgeous photo op regardless of the season.
The southern endpoint for the Tunnel of Trees is Harbor Springs, which is north of Petoskey. The route winds around Little Traverse Bay and up to Sturgeon Bay, with the other endpoint in Cross Village. If you drive the speed limit without stopping, it only takes about 40 minutes to traverse the entire length. But, of course, there are plenty of stops along the way worth checking out, including Legs Inn, which MLive named the second most iconic restaurant in Michigan.
Looking for a place to hunt Petoskey stones? How about its lesser-known cousin, the Charlevoix stone? You might just find the perfect Michigan stones for your Instagram at Lake Charlevoix. And if that doesn’t work, you’ll get gorgeous coastal views out of it regardless.
Lake Charlevoix is the third largest inland lake in Michigan in terms of surface area. But its shoreline is longer than any other inland lake in Michigan, thanks to its unusual shape and the South Arm. There’s plenty of water to take that Instagram selfie while out on your boat, kayaking, or just taking a swim. Swim beaches include Depot Beach, Ferry Beach, and Young State Park. Also check out the photogenic capabilities of the South Pier Lighthouse. Other nearby lakes to check out for gorgeous pictures include Torch Lake, Walloon Lake, and Round Lake.
Point Betsie Lighthouse
3701 Point Betsie Rd, Frankfort, MI 49635
The Point Betsie Lighthouse is the most visited attraction in Benzie County. It’s also one of Michigan’s most photographed lighthouses. Considering Michigan has more than 100 lighthouses, that’s saying something.
The Point Betsie Lighthouse is the oldest standing structure in Benzie County, having continually operated since 1858. The name actually comes from multiple translations, from Indigenous word “Ug-Zig-A-Zee-Bee” to French “Pointe Aux Bec Scies” to English “Point Betsie.” Out of all the lighthouses in Michigan, Point Betsie was the last one to be completely automated. Visitors can tour the lighthouse, but they can also stay overnight in the lighthouse. See more images of the lighthouse by taking the virtual tour.
Rockport State Recreation Area
This state park on Lake Huron is one of the only places that’s great for both finding fossils and stargazing. Which means the photo potential is huge.
Why fossils? Because Rockport State Recreation Area is in a unique location that in prehistoric times was underwater and, more recently, served as a limestone quarry. Before the age of the dinosaurs, in the Devonian Period, the present-day Alpena area was host to ancient corals and filter-feeding fish. Today, you can find fossilized versions of these ancient water dwellers and even take them home. But they’d also make great guest stars on your Instagram page.
Rockport State Recreation Area is also a certified International Dark Sky Place, making it a perfect place to stargaze or get those exposure photos. Light pollution is minimized in dark sky preserves, meaning you’ll see all the stars you never see in the city. And if you’re interested in chasing the elusive Northern Lights, this might be a great area to see them. You can attempt to predict when the Northern Lights will appear by following the Kp-Index.
Iargo Springs and Lumberman’s Monument
5401 Monument Road, Oscoda
The history of Michigan’s lumber industry and the beauty of the Au Sable River are often niche topics among Michiganders, but there’s plenty of Instagram-ready visual treasure for any Michigander who decides to delve into them.
Both Iargo Springs and Lumberman’s Monument are located within the massive Huron-Manistee National Forest. Iargo Springs is a location on the Au Sable River that was used as a drinking water source since pre-settlement times. By the turn of the century, early loggers for Michigan’s lumber industry constructed dams on the springs, which helped divert water to nearby logging camps. Later, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a government work relief program that was part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, constructed a trail for recreational purposes. Today, you can visit these gorgeous springs using a wooden boardwalk that stretches over 1,000 feet.
The Lumberman’s Monument is a 14-foot statue on the banks of the Au Sable River. It stands in commemoration of the workers in the early logging industry. You can read the names of the logging families who dedicated themselves to the logging industry in the area. Nearby the statue is also a visitor center and a dune observation deck offering gorgeous views of the Au Sable River Valley. You can reach both the Iargo Springs and Lumberman’s Monument through the River Road Scenic Byway or through a 4-mile hike along the Highbanks River Trail that visiting hikers report as incredibly scenic.
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