Welcome to Big Bay


For most UP residents, county road 550 goes as far as Sugarloaf Mountain, a short hike which offers a great view of Marquette. But other than a quick stop at Phil’s 550 Store for a souvenir, most never get to experience one of the true travel destinations of the UP – a small town 25 miles north of Marquette named Big Bay.

Despite its small size, there’s plenty to see and do in Big Bay, so much that it can be a bit overwhelming for those who’ve never been to the area. Below is a short list of just some of the activities you can do in one of the hidden gems of the UP.

To really get the true Big Bay experience, it helps to check out some of the areas historical attractions, such as the Big Bay Point Lighthouse. Perched above steep cliffs which overlook Lake Superior, the lighthouse offers visitors a unique look at the history of Big Bay in the form of a lighthouse tour.

Linda Gamble, owner of the lighthouse, says the tour, which lasts approximately 45 minutes, does more than simply show off the lighthouse.

“You get a whole history of the light house,” Gamble said, adding that the whole 30 acre grounds are just as much a part of its history as the lighthouse is.

Tours are available every Wednesday and Sunday beginning June 1st through October 1st and cost $3 per person. The lighthouse grounds are free to tour and are open from 10 am to 4 pm.

With so much to do, it might be easier to take it all in by making Big Bay an overnight trip. Perkins Park, located right on the shores of Lake Independence, offers plenty of campsites and is conveniently located right in the middle of town.

Park manager Kim Bourgeois says that, because of their location, Perkins Park attracts plenty of fishers and boaters.

“Fishing and boating are a big thing,” Bourgeois said, adding that the campground is often host to many fishing events throughout the summer.

Even if fishing isn’t your thing, Perkins Park is still a great place to kick back, relax and go swimming. They have all types of campsites, ranging from basic sites with no utilities, which cost $13 per night, to sites with just power at $18 a night. And if you happen to own your own camper, sites with all utilities cost $23 per night.

But even though they have plenty of sites, Perkins Park is a busy place, and Bourgeois recommends calling ahead of time to make sure there are spots open.

“If they’re coming anywhere near a holiday, they need to call and make reservations,” she said.

Big Bay is home to some of the most picturesque country in Michigan, but many of the areas hiking trails and waterfalls are off the beaten path. That’s where local business Big Bay Outfitters comes into the picture. Co-owned by former NMU graduate Bill Kinjorski, Big Bay Outfitters offers everything from camping gear to rentals and even tours of the local wilderness, allowing visitors to truly explore the great outdoors.

“Once you’re here, there’s a little bit of everything to do,” Kinjorski said.

One of their most popular attractions is the Waterfall Mountaintop Tour. The tour, which goes from 1 pm to roughly 5 pm, takes visitors to a series of hard to reach waterfalls, such as Pinnacle Falls and Big Pup Falls. Along with providing a guide, the tour also provides transportation and food. The tour costs $40 per person.

If you’d rather go and explore yourself, they also offer rentals on things such as mountain bikes, canoes and kayaks. Bikes cost $30 per day, kayaks cost $25 for four hours and canoes are $30 for four hours. They even offer a pontoon boat, which is always kept on nearby Lake Independence.

Big Bay offers so much that it’ll take you more than just one trip to see it all. And every time you make the venture up north, you are sure to discover something new, and that’s what makes Big Bay so special.