To appreciate the Great Lakes is to appreciate some of the most beautiful, and significant, bodies of water in the entire country. Each one is special in its own way with unique geological systems that are tailored to the environment - and the tone - the lake sets. Each one is connected to or borders several states, uniting a total of seven states spread over five lakes, along with parts of Canada. The lakes themselves are so big that they can even be seen from space, so you can imagine what their presence is like as you're standing at the edge of one.
There are perhaps no more beautiful places in the U.S. than those which border the lakes, as well, with many towns to escape to that touch their shores. While the more popular destinations are often crowded during the summer months, there are some that fly under the radar and don't attract as much of a crowd - but it doesn't mean they're any less stunning. If the Great Lakes are on your bucket list (and they should be) then these are the places to spend those hot summer days.
Lake Superior: Isle Royale
The most amazing thing about the Great Lakes is that every island and seaside town or city has its own environment. These differ from one lake to the next and can even differ from one end of the lake to another or, in the case of Isle Royale, what's in the middle of the lake can differ greatly from what resides at its shoreline. This not-so-small piece of lakeside heaven takes up about 45 miles in the middle of Lake Superior, and it's also a designated national park, therefore, its protected land, making it a major piece of Lake Superior's natural environment.
This island is a popular destination for a slew of activities with one of the most popular being hiking. Numerous trails trace the terrain on this island leading to tranquil lakeside views and hidden groves, making each one more exciting than the next. Camping is another way people love to commune with this island's natural habitat and, if you're lucky (and extremely quiet) you might get a visit from a moose or one of the island's wolf populations. Both of these make up one of the most fascinating predator-prey relationships in the region, and it's been studied for years.
Lake Erie: Kelleys Island
Not everyone is keen on that much wildlife, however, in which case, Kelleys Island is the perfect compromise. This small island has plenty to offer with its own small community, and you're likely to feel more like you're staying on the shores of Delaware or Maryland than on a secluded island in Lake Erie. This island is not far from Ohio's coast and is full of cozy bed and breakfasts, small hotels, and plenty of rental options for those seeking a house or a beachside cottage.
While this, alone, would be enough to evoke a romantic and intimate visual, Kelleys Island has much more in store than just sweet vacation rentals. Dotted along the island are boutique shops and small eateries and cafes, any of which would be perfect for soaking up the sunshine and relaxing lakeside. This is also a great destination to take in the sights from the water since kayaking, canoeing, and boat rentals are all part of daily summer life. Kelleys Island State Park gives way to land that was once formed by melting glaciers, resulting in unique rock formations and the visual, geological history of the island itself.
Lake Michigan: Sheboygan, Wisconsin
The World Travel Blog refers to Sheboygan as the 'Malibu' of the Midwest, and once newcomers get there, it's easy to see why. The shores of Sheboygan are unlike any other that touch the Great Lakes, and feature beautiful sandy beaches and yet another surprise: surfable waves. That's right, this destination, in particular, is a popular surf spot for those in the Midwest. The great thing about surfing in Lake Michigan is the lack of natural predators, however, the rip currents and strong waves should not be taken lightly - they can get just as rough as any ocean currents.
The entire coastline of Sheboygan offers a vibe that feels very nautical, more akin to vacationing at a beachside resort destination rather than what you'd expect on Lake Michigan. The resorts here offer top-notch accommodations, with easily walkable routes to the beach for those days when all you want to do is lounge around and soak up the sun.