Great Lakes Road Trip 2017

We like to take a road trip in the fall. The kids are back in school so there are fewer tourists competing for views, roads, hotels, etc. The weather is usually pleasant. We try to plan our trip around our anniversary in September but we also have to work around home football games at Iowa State where we’ve held season tickets for over 30 years. We had planned to circle the Great Lakes in late September 2016 but when a good deal on a river cruise in France came up, we canceled the Great Lakes trip. We rescheduled the Great Lakes for 2017 when we had a 2-week window of opportunity in September.

I’m normally a careful trip planner but frankly, very little advance planning went into this trip. Here’s what we knew: we would begin by heading north to Duluth; we wanted to see all five Great Lakes; we wanted to drive along the lakes whenever possible; we wanted to stop at Jim’s former fishing spot in Canada and visit Niagra Falls and Mackinac Island; we wanted to avoid Toronto having read about the traffic; we also wanted to avoid Chicago traffic. Beyond those parameters, we had no plan. We weren’t sure how far we would travel each day or how many stops we’d make so we didn’t want to reserve lodging ahead and we had not even plotted the route.

With maps, AAA Tour Books, and my smartphone, we planned as we went. We didn’t use my phone for the internet while driving in Canada, however, because data charges through my provider are high. (We did have wifi in hotels at night.) While Jim drove, we watched signs and I studied the AAA books or internet to find places of interest and we stopped at anything that struck our fancy. When we were tired or just felt like stopping, we found a hotel for the night.

How did it turn out? We visited the places on our list, we discovered some amazing places, and we missed a few due to lack of advance planning. We saw all five Great Lakes, we have a new appreciation for them, and we definitely want to return to some areas for further exploration. We got off the beaten path and drove a lot of two-lane roads with little traffic, beautiful views, and road construction. One night we did have a problem finding lodging but we’d brought an air mattress and sleeping bag in case we had to sleep in the car and didn’t use them in the end. Not having internet access in the car while in Canada was a mistake I’ll not repeat. We have these and many more stories to tell about our experience so watch this space.

Would we do it again? Absolutely! The sense of adventure and freedom it gave us was priceless.



Embarking on our road trip


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Our route




Based on events from September 2017.



Categories: Canada, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Great Lakes Road Trip 2017

  1. Bob and Bonnie

    Intriguing trip which we are thinking of doing in 2018. Looking forward to other posts from you. Found your blog site quite by accident as the result of a typo. Wonderful break for us.

  2. Pam

    HI Laura. I would love to know the cities associated with the letters on the map. This looks like a great trip.

    • Sorry, Pam, this took me so long to respond. The letters on the map don’t necessarily have significance for our trip but they are cities we went through. To get google maps to show our route, I had to enter towns along the way even if they weren’t significant. If you look at each post, you’ll see where we stayed and which sights were noteworthy. Each post will show a larger map for that day’s drive.

  3. Harrison Ottens

    Do you have a list of what cities you stayed in and how long was this trip?

    • We stayed in the following cities/towns:
      Silver Bay, MN @ Americinn
      Schreiber, Ontario @ Bianca Villa (purely by accident because of road construction with no reservation)
      Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario 2 nights @ Holiday Inn Express
      Huntsville, Ontario @ Comfort Inn
      Kingston, Ontario @ Comfort Inn
      Niagara Falls, NY @ Comfort Inn
      Birch Run, MI @ Comfort Inn
      Mackinaw City, MI @ Best Western
      Wausau, WI with family
      The entire trip was 11 days, 10 nights. There are a total of 12 blog posts describing what we did each day. Although we covered a lot of territory, we really took a leisurely pace.

  4. Bonnie

    Thank you! Finding your post was truly valuable for us as we try to plan this trip.

    • Thank you, Bonnie. I’m glad it helped you. I’d love to hear back from you after your trip, too.

  5. Hello Bonnie,

    I enjoyed your blog about your road trip as it was full of good nuggets of information. We hope to do one also in the near future.

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