The view from our front window early one morning in Sault Ste. Marie.
Two 1000+ foot freighters pass each other on the St. Mary’s River.
We LOVED our stay in Sault Ste. Marie: good weather (mostly), good neighbors, good walking, fabulous view, and a great dinner of fresh Lake Superior Whitefish at the Elks Lodge for the traditional Friday night Fish Fry. Then one of our neighbors clued us in: for the best Whitefish, visit Brown’s Fish House in Paradise, MI.
It just so happened that our next stop, at Clementz’s Northcountry Campground in Newberry (click here to read our review) was planned around a sightseeing loop that would pass through Paradise. Mmmmm… our mouths were watering.
Newberry is nothing special, a small town along the main east/west route through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is a convenient stop, though, for two of the U.P.’s attractions: Tahquamenon (rhymes in phenomenon) Falls (and state park), and Whitefish Point, site of many a shipwreck on Lake Superior, including the legendary Edmund Fitzgerald.
We set off early on Tuesday morning to take in the sights. First stop: the North Star Bakery, housed in what used to be a small motel, completely off the grid. Electricity is provided by a generator; all the bread (several different kinds of sourdough) is baked in a wood-fired oven. With a loaf of rosemary/garlic focaccia (to accompany the Chicken and Wild Rice Soup I had put in the Crockpot before we left) and another of apple/oat bread stashed on the back seat, we continued on to view the falls.
Described as falling 50 feet and stretching 200 feet, you can hear the falls well before you see them (the brown color of the water is comes from the cedar swamps upriver). We walked the easy paved trail to the viewing platform, then headed a couple miles downriver on the more primitive dirt path. You can hike 4 miles downstream to the lower falls and – wish we had known this before – can then catch a shuttle back to the upper falls parking lot. The smart thing: start at the lower falls, hike 4 miles to the upper falls, grab lunch at the brewery/restaurant at the upper falls parking lot, then take the shuttle back to the lower falls. Live and learn…
Our lunch stop, though, was pre-determined: Brown’s Fish House. Not only had it been recommended by our neighbor (“Brown’s in Paradise has the best Whitefish in the U.P.”), but I found it recommended in our Michigan travel guidebook (Backroads and Byways of Michigan) AND on our annotated Hunt’s Guide to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (highly recommend by me). After our hike at the falls, we were READY for lunch.
Brown is the name of the owner, a fisherman who only opens the restaurant when he has fresh fish to serve. Modest and unassuming inside and out. Efficient, attentive service. Fair prices. GREAT food. Our waitress handed us menus and pointed out the Whitefish dinner, “ordered by 99% of my customers”. Who could say no to that?? Odel ordered the 3 piece dinner, fried; I ordered the 2 piece dinner, broiled. It was the best fish meal we have had since leaving the Gulf Coast this winter (other than Odel’s delicious grilled salmon and steelhead) and probably was the best Whitefish we will ever eat.
Suitably fortified, we headed on to Whitefish Point, a nub of land sticking out into Lake Superior, crowned by a lighthouse. The Point is known as “The Graveyard of Ships” – more vessels have been lost here than in any other part of Lake Superior – and the lighthouse is the oldest operating on Lake Superior.
It is a beautiful spot on a sunny summer day. Ships traversing the locks at Sault Ste. Marie all travel through here, and we saw one of the big freighters round the point heading west (click on the photo to enlarge it). One of the old Coast Guard buildings is now The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, housing the bell of the most recent ship to succumb to heavy weather on Lake Superior, the Edmund Fitzgerald.
This is a beautiful, wild, sparsely populated part of Michigan. The towns are small, the roads straight and lined with trees. The lake is awe-inspiring – the unimaginable size, the fabulous colors. In summer time, it is green, warm, welcoming. I can’t even begin to imagine winter!!