While we were in the Mackinac area, we stayed at Straits State Park. We stayed there four nights, which was the most we stayed in any one place. We had made all our reservations beforehand, based on what we wanted to see in the area. Mackinac Island was a big item on our list, and we weren’t sure if we wanted to go there one day or two. So we added an extra night at Straits State Park to make sure we had enough time to see everything we wanted to see.
Straits State Park is located on the north side of the Mackinac Bridge. It is the first exit of I-75 once you hit the Upper Peninsula. It was a perfect location and we loved staying there. Our campsites were only a few yards from the Straits of Mackinac and a great view of the bridge. We could walk to the grocery store at the top of the hill and into the town of St. Ignace. It was also very convenient to the ferry for Mackinac Island.
Straits State Park is very large with 270 campsites on three loops. The interior loop was closed after Labor Day and was undergoing some renovations. The two exterior loops, next to the Straits of Mackinac, were full every night we stayed. Our campsite was next to the Shaws and within easy walking distance of the lakeshore. We walked on the shore for several sunsets and one great late evening of bridge watching. The Mackinac Bridge, impressive during the day at over five miles long, is even more spectacular at night.
The campground at Straits State Park is open April 25 through November 7. Most of the sites have electric hook-ups. In addition to the campground, there are miles of hiking trails. The North Country Trail goes through the heart of the park and we traveled that path several times. There are also two overlooks on top of hills with great views of the Mackinac Bridge. Of course, a Michigan State Parks recreation passport is required for entry into the park.
Straits State Park also has a section on the west side of I-75. This part of the park has few visitors because you can’t get there from here. If you want to go to the section on the other side of I-75, you have to drive. Tom, Sandy, and I explored this area a little on a day we wanted to do some hiking. We found the Father Marquette National Memorial tucked into the middle of this section of the state park. Once we found it, I knew it was a National Park Site and had to have a stamp. When we got back to the main part of the park, I asked at the camp office and they did, indeed, have a NPS stamp for the memorial. Score!
Father Jacques Marquette, also known as Père Marquette was a French Jesuit missionary who founded Michigan’s first European settlement, Sault Sainte Marie. He later founded Saint Ignace. In 1673, Marquette was the first European to explore and map the northern portion of the Mississippi River Valley. He died in 1675, at the age of 37, and is buried in St. Ignace. The city of Marquette, Michigan, is named after him.
The Father Marquette National Memorial tells the story of Father Marquette. Visitors can learn more about Marquette by viewing the memorial and walking an outdoor trail that includes signs with information about the life of this great French explorer. He is also remembered for his love of the Odawa and Ojibwa people he served.
Our last night at Straits State Park we had a campfire. We only had campfires twice while we were in Michigan. Because you aren’t allowed to transport wood across state lines, we had to buy the wood for our campfire. It wasn’t expensive, but it required planning. We roasted hot dogs and toasted marshmallows.
Sandy had all the ingredients for smores, but she and I prefer eating the toasted marshmallows without the graham crackers and chocolate. The variable wind made it difficult to toast the marshmallows. Just about the time the marshmallow was perfect, a gust of wind would come along, sending a blast into the fire and making our marshmallows catch on fire. I liked toasted, not charred marshmallows. But it was fun to try to get the perfect marshmallow and Sandy and I laughed a lot as we tried, and failed, for perfection.
We loved staying at and exploring Straits State Park. It was a perfect location for us. We loved the views, the trails, and the location. Everything was close by and very accessible and the nights were peaceful and serene beside the lake.