Michigan is a pretty unique northern state. Not only does it boast more shoreline than any other state except Alaska, but it's also a state full of history and amazing destinations that you won't find anywhere else.
Whether you're new to the state, just visiting, or a long time resident, chances are you haven't even begun to scratch the surface of checking out Michigan's noteworthy small towns. Lucky for you, we did all the hard work of researching - so let's get straight to the point and provide you this list of Michigan's adorable small towns that you need to add to your travel bucket list.
Driving distance from Detroit: 2 hours 16 minutes
Bask in the simplicity of an Amish town. Clare is home to nearly 500 Amish individuals and a number of Amish businesses. They host many well-attended auctions throughout the year, bringing in a lot of tourism for the town. According to Amish America, the Yoder's Amish Auctions are held at a local Amish farm, in the spring (on the third Friday and Saturday in May) and late summer (on the Friday and Saturday of Labor Day weekend), with up to 500 vendors. Some of the items they often auction are quilts, crafts, furniture, tools, horse equipment and more - all Amish made, of course.
Driving distance from Detroit: 2 hours and 31 minutes
If you enjoy natural picturesque beauty, Port Austin will not disappoint. The go-to spot to visit here is undoubtedly the lone island in the lake, known as Turnip Rock, towering far out of reach of anyone interested in conquering it. Of course don't just stop there, the town is full of shops, restaurants, and a fantastic farmer's market - to name only a short few things.
And then there's this...
Driving distance from Detroit: 1 hour and 29 minutes
Often referred to as "Michigan's Little Bavaria," this heavily German-rooted community knows how to have a good time. I mean seriously, they even have a hotline, 1-800-FUN-TOWN, dedicated to providing all the information you need on the exciting things to do here. In addition to the fun, Frankenmuth has been known for chicken dinners and Christmas - as they boast the world’s largest Christmas store, and two of the largest independently owned restaurants in the country, the Bavarian Inn and Zehnder’s, that serve world famous chicken dinners. With all the German beer and food, by the end of the day you won't even remember you're not actually in Germany.
Driving distance from Detroit: 2 hours and 55 minutes
St. Joseph is a port town keen on their beach-resort atmosphere. Complete with beaches, a boardwalk, a lighthouse, the Silver Beach Carousel, and restaurants serving up fresh seafood on the coast, in "The Riviera of the Midwest," you'll totally forget you're not actually in a tropical vacation spot.
Driving distance from Detroit: 2 hours 20 minutes
What really makes Colon a novelty (besides the name), is that this small town of fewer than 2,000 residents is known as Magic Capital of the World. What exactly does that mean you ask - well, the local manufacturer, Abbot's Magic Manufacturing Company, is the largest manufacturer of magical implements in the world. The town has happily taken to the name and features a magic museum and plenty of magic shows. There's something oddly magical about this place, or maybe it's just the Amish Uber man who was recently featured on BBC.
Driving distance from Detroit: 1 hour and 11 minutes
Only a short drive to Michigan's major cities, Tecumseh is definitely one of those small towns you drive through and never think to stop in. Fortunately, now you will know you need to check this fantastic historic town out. It was one of the three very first settlements in the state, and the residents remain proud of the history. The town has a great downtown area full of mom&pop shops and plenty of attractions. If I'm not convincing enough, maybe knowing that the town was listed in a USA Today Top 10 Destination article will do it for ya.
Driving distance from Detroit: 4 hours and 22 minutes
Talk about small - the Suttons Bay population was 618 at the 2010 census. This really tiny village is full of personality and outstanding architecture. Suttons Bay is a walkable waterfront town in the heart of wine country. Some of the notable things to do here besides awwing at the brightly colored buildings include golfing on the rolling acres of land, visiting the shops, spending a day at the quiet beaches, and just enjoying the small town lifestyle.
Driving distance from Detroit: 4 hours and 4 minutes
As one of Michigan's Great Lake coastal towns, Petoskey manages to stand out from the rest. Not only does it offer a large array of things to do, sure to provide plenty of entertainment for all of those outgoing travelers out there, but the townspeople are also known for their friendly upbeat attitudes. So if you're looking for a spot to mingle in with the locals, make it Petoskey.
Sault Ste. Marie
Driving distance from Detroit: 5 hours and 3 minutes
Sault Ste. Marie, more popularly known as The Soo, or The Soo Area, thanks to the world-famous Soo Locks, is a town often considered The Place Where Michigan was Born. As I'm sure you can imagine, The Soo lives up to the rumors, providing tourists with plenty of history to learn about - 350 years worth (as of 2018) to be exact. Whether you choose to learn about the history via an exciting boat tour, or simply by self-guiding yourself to each destination, you will be glad to experience this waterfront village first hand. Check out this list of things to do here.
Driving distance from Detroit: 2 hours and 52 minutes
The Art Coast of Michigan lies right here in this quaint village. If you enjoy the creative side of life, you will be able to appreciate the brilliance of Saugatuck to its full extent. Filled with art galleries, fancy diners, romantic getaways and of course, lots of culture, Saugatuck easily manages to have a special place in many visitor's hearts.
Driving distance from Detroit: 5 hours 12 minutes
Newberry is an exciting small town known for being pristine, touristy and affordable. While there are many things to see and do in the local area, let's take a moment to appreciate the Tahquamenon Falls State Park, located only a short drive from the town center. Their other featured attractions are Oswald’s Bear Ranch, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, Whitefish Point Lighthouse, Tahquamenon Falls Wilderness Excursion & Toonerville Trolley Wilderness Train Ride, Tahquamenon Logging Museum, and Crisp Point Lighthouse.
Driving distance from Detroit: 4 hours and 19 minutes
If you love turquoise water and history, St. Ignace should be a top destination on your list. What really makes this town stand out from the rest is the 300-year-old history and Mackinac Bridge. This town is the third oldest continuously occupied community in the United States, and they're darn proud of their history, holding their annual Native American Festival, Heritage Days and Rendezvous Pow Wow to celebrate the past.
Driving distance from Detroit: 9 hours and 56 minutes
Where the road ends and the adventure begins. Copper Harbor coined the slogan because there are a ton of recreational activities to do here, some of which are completely inaccessible by car - hence where the road ends. This is the place to go when you want to watch the Aurora dancing in the night sky, or ice fishing, or snowmobiling, or just hanging out in the town. Basically, Copper Harbor is more than just a beach town, it's great all year around.
Driving distance from Detriot: 2 hours and 55 minutes
This bustling waterfront town is a beach-lovers paradise. The beaches are armed with volleyball nets, waves for boogie boarding, and acres of soft sand. There is a boardwalk 2.5 miles long filled with shops, eateries, attractions, marinas and more. The boardwalk continues along The Grand River and travels out to Lake Michigan where you can walk the pier and take photos of the Grand Haven Lighthouse.
Driving distance from Detroit: 2 hours and 55 minutes
Not to be confused with New Haven, South Haven has literally everything you could ever want to do while visiting a small Michigan town. Sugar sand beaches, nightlife and festivals, maritime marvels, a lighthouse, art, markets, breweries, trails, and so much more. But don't just take my word for it, go there and experience it all for yourself.
Driving distance from Detroit: 6 hours and 44 minutes
Sometimes all you need is a relaxing, quiet weekend by the water. Not only is Escanaba quiet and relaxed, but it also has beautiful blue waters, lighthouses, miles of trails, and some of the most beautiful beaches around.
Driving distance from Detroit: 2 hours and 49 minutes
With a population less than 3,000, East Tawas really retains an authentic small-town vibe that you won't find anywhere else. With unmatched scenery and one-of-a-kind events, despite the slow-growing population, this town has no trouble bringing in eager tourists ready to explore the state's smaller destinations.