The Great Lakes Are For RV Lovers
The Great Lakes Circle Tour, which is comprised of over 6,500 scenic miles connecting the five Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, makes for a beautiful, interesting, and RV-friendly adventure (or several).
On the lakes, you’ll find exciting sites like the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere, working lighthouses, quaint museums and restaurants, lots of family- and pet-friendly campgrounds, and a diverse array of flora and fauna—and that’s hardly scratching the surface.It is important to note that there are a few documents you will need to have readily available when driving through the Canadian territories. Drivers should be sure to have an updated passport, proof of vehicle insurance, and a Non-resident Inter-Provincial Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card. This indicates that you are covered with the minimum legal insurance requirements throughout Canada.
During your 1,059-mile trip around Lake Huron, you’ll pass through both Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario, so prepare to have proof of insurance available while driving through. Before crossing the border into Canada, it may be a good idea to reference border-check wait times. This preparation may help you compare which border entrance to take, and will help save on travel time.
Barrie, OntarioAlong that 1,059-mile trek, you’ll pass through scenic and historic Barrie, Ontario. Actually, forget “passing through” and plan to stop and stay a day or two. Barrie is home to white sand beaches and a lovely, picturesque downtown filled with shops and cafés. Outside Barrie is the Barrie KOA campground, which is family, pet, and older-adult friendly all the way.
Bruce Peninsula National ParkIf you prefer things a bit more roughhewn and less “civilized,” be sure to check out Bruce Peninsula National Park, also on the Canadian side of the lake on Georgian Bay. It is home to massive, rugged cliffs and thousand-year-old cedar trees. There is a great diversity of habitats in the park, from the dense forest to the rare limestone barrens.
Port Huron, MIPort Huron, MI, features the state’s oldest lighthouse, the Great Lakes’ only working lightship, and its lovely waterfront. It has the Vantage Point Maritime Center, the Port Huron Museum, and the Ice Museum (all about the ice industry that once flourished along the shores of Lake Huron). And that’s along with 2 beaches, quiet parks, and coffee houses, shops, and restaurants to please nearly every taste and budget. Don’t forget the thriving art galleries, too. All in all, Port Huron is a small city with a lot of what the big cities have to offer. There are four campgrounds in the Port Huron area, including the Port Huron KOA and the Port Huron Township RV Park. Stop and enjoy all this great destination has to offer, or use it as your “home base” before and after your Port Huron Circle Tour.
Lake OntarioThe Lake Ontario Circle Tour is only 900 miles long, and much of that passes through the more-urban areas of Toronto and Kingston, Ontario, as well as Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York. If you are entering through the Canadian borders, temporary visitors are advised to prepare two copies of a list of all items to be imported temporarily, with indicators to the approximate value where applicable. Having this recorded ahead of time can help cut down on travel time and waiting.
Old Fort NiagaraOld Fort Niagara on the southern end of the lake is a must-stop for history buffs, with its reconstructed buildings, costumed re-enactors, and living history exhibitions. Settled in 1679, and vital to defense and trade through the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812, the Fort’s history lives on.
One of the shorter circle tours, the Lake Ontario tour can be perfect for those short on time, or looking for a side trip while on a longer trek through New York, Ontario, or New England in general.
Lake MichiganThe only circle tour that is completely in the U.S., the 1,100-mile-long Lake Michigan Circle Tour is one of great contrasts. A Mix of Nature and Urban Jungle
You’ll pass through some beautiful natural surroundings like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, where you can stay at the highly rated campgrounds. You’ll also travel through such small towns as Chicago, Milwaukee, and Green Bay. This tour also gives you another chance to cross Mackinac Bridge (if you didn’t do so on the Lake Huron tour). All in all, it offers a nice chance to enjoy the contrast between the natural and urban worlds.
Manistique, MIDon’t miss lovely Manistique, MI, with a boardwalk, lighthouse, and Palms Book State Park. In fact, there are several state parks and forests in the area, offering a wide choice of camping facilities.
Lake ErieThe smallest of the lakes, Erie offers the RV lover a great tour anyway. This tour is the shortest, and can be completed in just a few days, but with all there is to see and do, you could easily turn it into a week or more of vacation enjoyment. Fun for the Young and Young at Heart
With destinations like Niagara Falls, Cleveland, and Sandusky (home of Cedar Point Amusement Park and all its attractions), and with crowd-pleasing attractions like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this tour is perfect if you’ve got teens or young adults in tow—or if you are just a kid at heart.
Folly’s End CampgroundLake Erie offers lots of small towns and shell-filled beaches, too, for the more laid back and relaxed RVer. Folly’s End Campground near Erie, PA, comes highly recommended, with lovely waterfalls and full family-friendly amenities.
Lake SuperiorThe largest of the Great Lakes and the largest freshwater lake in the world by area, Lake Superior is an inland sea all unto itself.
Sault Ste. Marie (Times Two)As with every well-traveled “sea” route, Lake Superior is the resting place of many a ship and boat. Many of these from Superior and the other four lakes are immortalized at Michigan’s Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, a must-stop for every traveler to the city of Sault Ste. Marie. While there, check out the lighthouses and port, too. Sault Ste. Marie is the oldest city in Michigan and the third-oldest in the U.S. Cross International Bridge into Ontario to visit the Canadian city of Sault Ste. Marie—a much larger and bustling urban center.
Thunder BayDon’t miss out on Thunder Bay and its surroundings. Kakabeka Falls takes its 12-story plunge into the gorge near Thunder Bay, while Fort Williams Historical Park gives visitors an insight into Ontario’s past.
Pukaskwa National ParkOntario’s only wilderness park, and its largest national park, Pukaskwa National Park, will have you thinking you’ve left the Great Lakes behind and headed up into the mountains. The perpetually cooler air from the world’s largest freshwater lake means the park is home to more spruce and pine than maple and oak. You can even find rare arctic-alpine plants in the northern reaches of the park. Boggy areas grow wild blueberries and Labrador tea. Loons, black bears, beavers, and even a small protected herd of caribou call the park home. For the outdoor lover, or for those who just like unique and wonderful experiences, Pukaskwa National Park along the Lake Superior Circle Tour is a must-stop destination.
Whether you travel all five lakes or choose just one, you’ll find plenty to see, do, and experience along the way. Bon voyage!