Scenic America: The Great Lakes Circle Tour

Summer is a fantastic time to enjoy the upper Midwest, the few months where temperatures are warm enough to wear shorts, roll down the windows and even maybe (gasp) go for a swim. And there’s no better way to explore the region than on The Great Lakes Circle Tours, a series of lovely drives around the massive inland lakes, visiting coastal towns, drinking in the charming culture and enjoying the bucolic landscape.

Lake Michigan’s is among the finest. The coastal towns in southwest Michigan (recently covered by Intelligent Travel) are flush with deciduous forests, rolling sand dunes and friendly small towns, while the northern Lower Peninsula has gems such as Petoskey, Sleeping Bear Dunes and Traverse City, host of the outstanding, annual Cherry Fest.

Passing into the Upper Peninsula brings wide open roads, rolling coniferous hills and sense of dual seclusion and warmth, with a host of friendly yooper towns and enough black flies to populate a small planet.If you’ve got tome, you can also make it up to the Pictured Rocks National Lake shore, (pictured), that’s a bit further away.

On the west side of Lake Michigan, drive through cheese town in Green Bay and beer town in Milwaukee before you dip into Illinois and the cosmopolitan metropolis of Chicago. The full spectrum from beach town to upper peninsula to Chicago will take you about three days if you’re in a hurry.