The Great Lakes area is a geological wonder as well as a vacation wonderland. The world's largest collection of fresh water lakes provides a scenic backdrop for outdoor adventure, including cruises and sailing, in all of the Great Lakes states as well as the Canadian province of Ontario.
If you were to embark on the Great Lakes Circle tour, you'd travel more than 6,500 miles along all 5 Great Lakes, passing through some of the biggest cities in North America along the way. You'd also have the chance to step off the beaten path to experience a getaway far from the hustle and bustle. There's truly something for everybody on and off the shore of these inland seas, whether you're planning on visiting Lake Erie in Ohio, for instance, or any of the other nearby states.
Beginning at the Saint Lawrence Seaway in the east, the Great Lakes were carved by time and glaciers in the distant past when the last ice age ended. Even so, these lakes are some of newest landscape features in North America when speaking in geologic time. Thanks to these ancient forces, we can enjoy a vacation to Niagara Falls on both sides of the US/Canadian border, set sail on the deep blue waters of Lake Superior in Minnesota, or enjoy any of the other maritime adventures that strike our fancy in any of the Great Lakes states and Canada.
If you're having trouble trouble remembering the names of the Great Lakes, just think HOMES (it's more like OEHMS if you were to put them order). From east to west, Lake Ontario is bordered by the northern shores of New York. Across the lake, you'll find the biggest city in Canada along the shores of big lake. Toronto is one of the top destinations anywhere for live theater, in addition to being one of the diverse cities in the world.
The next lake you come to when moving west is Lake Erie. The smallest of the Great Lakes by far stretches from Buffalo, New York, along the northern coasts of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Many of the islands off the shores of Lake Erie have been vacation favorites for generations, especially in the summer. Over the last decades, concerned citizens in all of these industrial states have worked hard to restore the precious resource of Lake Erie, which is now experiencing an environmental renaissance.
The third of the 5 Great Lakes is Lake Huron, which connects the eastern shore of Michigan with islands of Northern Ontario. The Straits of Mackinac separate this lake from its neighbor, Lake Michigan. The only one of the Great Lakes entirely in the United States is bordered by the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, as well as bit of Indiana and Illinois, and there's a lot of shoreline along Lake Michigan in Wisconsin.
The westernmost lake, Lake Superior, is the biggest of the Great Lakes and the largest freshwater lake on earth. The vast, deep waters of this mighty lake are bordered by the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the north woods of Wisconsin, and some of the Minnesota border. Across the lake, you'll find Thunder Bay, Ontario, and other scenic communities in northwestern Ontario.
While most people will not visit all 5 Great Lakes on their vacations, many of the activities will be the same, whether you're into fishing or you want to feel the sand beneath your toes, the Great Lakes destinations will provide something for you. Great Lakes fishing is often regarded as some of the best in the world. Opportunities for boating are extensive along the relatively calm waters off the shores of the all of Great Lakes states and Ontario.
Whichever of the 5 Great Lakes you choose to visit, you will find some amazing scenery when you arrive. While it's hard to find bigger opposites than Chicago and a small town like Port Clinton, Ohio, those two communities share a great heritage shaped by some of the most scenic lakes in the entire world. North America has been blessed with amazing and diverse scenery, and there's no denying that the Great Lakes are part of what makes these places so special.
Top image: Jim Sorbie (flickr)