For road trippers and scenic drive enthusiasts, a trip around Lake Michigan is a quintessential Great Lakes experience. Circling almost 1,000 miles along the shores of Lake Michigan through Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, a Lake Michigan circle tour promises stunning vistas along Lake Michigan’s sandy beaches, soaring sand dunes, charming lakeside towns, lighthouses, wineries, orchards, state parks and more.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: the Lake Michigan circle tour route follows highways along the coastline of Lake Michigan for around 1,000 miles through the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

In this comprehensive 3000 word guide, we will provide everything you need to plan the ultimate Lake Michigan circle tour. We’ll suggest the best route and top stops, detail mile-by-mile highlights and things to see, recommend where to stay, and share tips for making the most of your Lake Michigan road trip.

Planning Your Lake Michigan Circle Tour Route

Choosing the Best Direction

When planning your Lake Michigan Circle Tour, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is which direction to travel. While there is no right or wrong answer, many travelers prefer to go clockwise, starting in Chicago and heading north.

This allows you to drive on the right side of the road, making it easier to pull off and enjoy the numerous scenic viewpoints along the way. However, some people prefer to go counterclockwise, starting in Michigan and moving south.

Ultimately, the choice is yours and will depend on your personal preferences and travel plans.

Recommended Route and Length

The Lake Michigan Circle Tour is approximately 1,100 miles long, and it typically takes around a week to complete the entire loop. However, you can customize your route and duration based on your interests and time constraints.

The most popular route takes you through four states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to visit charming coastal towns, beautiful beaches, lighthouses, and scenic overlooks.

Be sure to plan some extra time for exploring attractions and enjoying outdoor activities.

When to Go

The best time to embark on your Lake Michigan Circle Tour will depend on your preferences and what you want to experience during your journey. Summer is the peak tourist season, with warm weather and vibrant festivals happening in many of the towns along the route.

This is a great time to enjoy swimming, boating, and other water sports. If you prefer fewer crowds and lower hotel rates, consider visiting in the spring or fall. The autumn foliage is particularly stunning in Michigan and Wisconsin, making it a popular choice for nature enthusiasts and photographers.

Driving Conditions

The roads along the Lake Michigan Circle Tour are generally well-maintained and offer scenic views throughout the journey. However, it’s important to be aware of potential traffic congestion in some areas, especially during peak travel times.

Keep in mind that the route passes through several urban areas, so plan accordingly for city traffic. Additionally, be prepared for varying weather conditions, as Lake Michigan can create microclimates that can change rapidly.

Check the local weather forecasts and road conditions before you embark on your journey to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

For more information and detailed maps, you can visit the official Lake Michigan Circle Tour website at

State-by-State Guide to the Lake Michigan Circle Tour

Lake Michigan Circle Tour Road Trip Highlights in Michigan

Michigan is a must-visit state along the Lake Michigan Circle Tour. From the bustling city of Detroit to the serene beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan offers a diverse range of attractions for road trip enthusiasts.

Don’t miss the chance to explore the picturesque Mackinac Island, where cars are banned and horse-drawn carriages are the primary mode of transportation. For nature lovers, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a must-see, with its towering cliffs and stunning waterfalls.

And of course, no trip to Michigan would be complete without a visit to the iconic “Motor City” and its famous Henry Ford Museum.

For more information about Michigan’s attractions and travel tips, check out

Lake Michigan Circle Tour Road Trip Highlights in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is another fantastic state to explore on the Lake Michigan Circle Tour. Start your journey in Milwaukee, where you can visit the Harley-Davidson Museum or enjoy a brewery tour. From there, head to Door County, known for its charming coastal towns and beautiful lighthouses.

Don’t forget to try some delicious cheese while you’re in Wisconsin – the state is famous for its dairy products! For outdoor enthusiasts, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore offers opportunities for kayaking, hiking, and camping.

For more information about Wisconsin’s attractions and travel tips, visit

Lake Michigan Circle Tour Road Trip Highlights in Illinois

Illinois, home to the vibrant city of Chicago, is a must-visit destination on the Lake Michigan Circle Tour. Explore the iconic attractions of the Windy City, such as Millennium Park, Navy Pier, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

If you’re a history buff, don’t miss the chance to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. For a change of pace, head to Starved Rock State Park, where you can hike through canyons and enjoy breathtaking views of the Illinois River.

For more information about Illinois’ attractions and travel tips, visit

Lake Michigan Circle Tour Road Trip Highlights in Indiana

Indiana may be a smaller state, but it still offers plenty of attractions for those embarking on the Lake Michigan Circle Tour. Start your journey in the city of Gary, where you can visit the Indiana Dunes National Park and enjoy miles of sandy beaches.

As you make your way south, stop by the charming town of Michigan City and explore the historic lighthouse and outlet mall. For a taste of Indiana’s rural beauty, visit the Amish community in Shipshewana and experience their traditional way of life.

For more information about Indiana’s attractions and travel tips, visit

Top Stops and Attractions Around Lake Michigan

Embarking on the Lake Michigan Circle Tour is an exciting adventure that will take you through four states and showcase the stunning beauty of the Great Lakes region. Along the way, you’ll encounter an array of top stops and attractions that offer something for everyone.

From scenic parks to historic towns, here are some must-visit destinations on your Lake Michigan journey:

Scenic Parks

One of the highlights of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour is the opportunity to explore a variety of scenic parks. From the towering sand dunes of Indiana Dunes National Park to the rugged beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, these parks offer breathtaking views, hiking trails, and opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Don’t miss the chance to witness the stunning sunsets at Peninsula State Park in Wisconsin or the tranquil beauty of Ludington State Park in Michigan.


With over 1,600 miles of shoreline, Lake Michigan is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Whether you prefer the sandy shores of Indiana’s Indiana Dunes State Park or the rocky beaches of Door County in Wisconsin, there’s a beach for everyone.

Visit the pristine beaches of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or relax on the sandy shores of Oval Beach in Saugatuck, Michigan. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Wineries and Orchards

Indulge in the flavors of the region by visiting the wineries and orchards around Lake Michigan. Traverse City in Michigan is known for its thriving wine industry, with numerous wineries offering tastings and tours.

In Wisconsin, head to the Door County Wine Trail to sample award-winning wines made from locally grown grapes. Don’t miss the opportunity to pick your own apples at one of the many orchards in the area, such as Crane Orchards in Fennville, Michigan.


As you make your way around Lake Michigan, be sure to stop and admire the historic lighthouses that dot the shoreline. From the iconic Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington, Michigan to the picturesque St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouse in St. Joseph, Michigan, these structures offer a glimpse into the maritime history of the region.

Visit the website of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association for a comprehensive list of lighthouses to explore.

Historic and Quaint Towns

No trip around Lake Michigan is complete without a visit to the charming historic towns that line its shores. From the Victorian-era charm of Mackinac Island in Michigan to the quaint streets of Saugatuck, Michigan, these towns offer a glimpse into the region’s rich history and unique culture.

Explore the shops, art galleries, and restaurants in towns like Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin or Frankfort in Michigan.

Museums and Tours

Learn more about the history and culture of the Lake Michigan region by visiting its numerous museums and taking guided tours. In Chicago, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the iconic Art Institute of Chicago or take an architecture boat tour along the Chicago River.

Visit the Milwaukee Art Museum in Wisconsin or the Holland Museum in Michigan to discover more about the area’s heritage. The Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee is a must-visit for motorcycle enthusiasts.

Outdoor Activities

For those seeking adventure, Lake Michigan offers a wide range of outdoor activities. Go fishing or boating on the lake, hike through the forests of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, or explore the scenic trails of Door County in Wisconsin.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at sandboarding on the dunes of Silver Lake State Park in Michigan or go kayaking along the picturesque Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

With so much to see and do, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour is an unforgettable experience that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or simply looking for a scenic road trip, the stops and attractions around Lake Michigan are sure to impress.

Where to Stay on a Lake Michigan Road Trip

Embarking on a Lake Michigan road trip offers travelers a chance to explore the stunning beauty of the Great Lakes region. As you plan your adventure, finding the right accommodations along the way is essential. Here are some options for where to stay during your Lake Michigan Circle Tour:

Hotels and Resorts

If you prefer the convenience and amenities of a hotel or resort, there are numerous options available along the Lake Michigan shoreline. From luxurious beachfront resorts to cozy boutique hotels, you’ll find something to suit every taste and budget.

Many of these establishments offer breathtaking views of the lake, spa services, and on-site dining options. Some popular choices include the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, the InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, and the The Homestead in Glen Arbor.

Camping and RV Parks

For those who enjoy the great outdoors, camping or staying at an RV park can be an excellent option. Lake Michigan boasts numerous campgrounds that offer a range of amenities, from basic tent sites to full hook-up RV sites.

Some popular camping destinations include Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan, Kohler-Andrae State Park in Wisconsin, and Indiana Dunes State Park in Indiana. These parks provide opportunities for hiking, fishing, and enjoying the natural beauty of the area.

Bed and Breakfasts

If you’re looking for a more intimate and charming experience, consider staying at a bed and breakfast along your Lake Michigan journey. These cozy accommodations often offer personalized service, home-cooked breakfasts, and a unique ambiance.

Some notable bed and breakfasts include the Lake Bluff Inn and Suites in South Haven, Michigan, the White Lilac Inn in St. Joseph, Michigan, and the The Kirby House in Grand Haven, Michigan.

Before making your reservations, it’s a good idea to check for availability and book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. Additionally, consider the location of your chosen accommodation and how it fits into your overall itinerary.

Whether you prefer a luxurious resort, a rustic camping experience, or a cozy bed and breakfast, there are plenty of options to make your Lake Michigan road trip one to remember.

Tips for an Epic Lake Michigan Circle Tour Road Trip

Embarking on a road trip around Lake Michigan is an adventure of a lifetime. With stunning landscapes, charming towns, and endless opportunities for outdoor activities, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour offers something for every traveler. To make the most of your journey, here are some essential tips:

Allow Enough Time

The Lake Michigan Circle Tour covers approximately 1,100 miles, circling the entire lake. To fully experience all the attractions and make memorable stops along the way, it’s crucial to allocate enough time for the trip.

Planning for at least a week is recommended, although two weeks or more would allow for a more leisurely exploration.

Be Flexible

While it’s essential to have a rough itinerary, being flexible is key to enjoying your Lake Michigan Circle Tour. Unexpected detours, hidden gems, and spontaneous adventures are part of the charm of a road trip.

Embrace the flexibility to deviate from your plan and explore off-the-beaten-path attractions that may not be listed in guidebooks.

Pack Appropriately

When packing for your Lake Michigan Circle Tour, consider the diverse weather conditions you may encounter along the way. Pack layers of clothing, including warm jackets for chilly evenings and lightweight attire for sunny days.

Don’t forget comfortable walking shoes, swimwear for beach visits, and binoculars for birdwatching opportunities.

Fill Up on Gas

While there are plenty of gas stations along the route, some stretches of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour may have limited options. To avoid any inconveniences, make sure to fill up your gas tank whenever you come across a gas station. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Grab Snacks

Snacks are essential for any road trip, and the Lake Michigan Circle Tour is no exception. Stock up on your favorite snacks and drinks before hitting the road, as it may be challenging to find convenience stores or food stops in remote areas.

Additionally, having snacks readily available will save you time and money during your journey.

Take Scenic Detours

While the main Lake Michigan Circle Tour route is breathtaking, don’t hesitate to take scenic detours along the way. Explore state parks, visit charming lakeside towns, or venture into the wilderness for a hike.

These detours will add a touch of uniqueness to your road trip and create unforgettable memories.

Consider a Car Ferry

If you want to spice up your Lake Michigan Circle Tour, consider taking a car ferry. This allows you to experience the lake from a different perspective and adds an element of adventure to your journey.

Check out the schedules and routes of car ferries operating on Lake Michigan, and plan your itinerary accordingly.

By following these tips, your Lake Michigan Circle Tour will be an epic adventure filled with awe-inspiring landscapes, hidden gems, and unforgettable experiences. So buckle up, hit the road, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime!


With over 1,000 miles of stunning Lake Michigan shoreline scenery, quaint towns, beaches, wineries, orchards, state parks and more, a Lake Michigan circle tour road trip promises an unforgettable Great Lakes experience.

Follow this guide to plan your route, top stops and logistics for an epic road trip around Lake Michigan. Pack your bags, fill up the gas tank, and get ready for an incredible adventure on the ultimate Lake Michigan circle tour.

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