Great Lakes Circle Tour

The Great Lakes Circle Tour is one of the best options to take the scenic route in this region. Stretching from the Saint Lawrence Seaway in eastern New York State and Quebec all the way to Minnesota, this collection of highways and byways follows the shores of all of the Great Lakes. If you were to follow the route from east to west, you'd travel through two countries, through major cities and charming villages. Even if you're not planning to drive the thousands of miles around the lakes, you could make a trip out of just one of the states. A Lake Michigan Circle Tour won't take as long, for instance, but it would give miles and miles of adventure and scenery to enjoy.

The official route of the Great Lakes Circle Tour is a project of the Great Lakes Commission, working in cooperation with the province of Ontario and the eight states along the lakes. This 6,500-mile route is designated by official signs, guiding alongside of dunes, rocky coasts, and so many other scenic views. While most of the route is on land, some spur routes, including the Lake Michigan ferry, will take you right across the lake to enjoy more of your Great Lakes vacations.

The five routes along the way, from Lake Ontario in the east to the Lake Superior Circle Tour in the west, are chock full of things to enjoy along the way. Of course, you'll find no shortage of watery adventures, including Great Lakes cruises, swimming, and boating, to enjoy when the weather is warm. There are lighthouses, beachfront cabins, and miles and miles of sandy shores to catch your attention. Beyond the beach, there are museums, cultural events, and many other things to do. You'll also have a chance to join in a festival on a Lake Superior Circle Tour, stay in cabins along the shores of Lake Erie, or pack whatever you want into your vacation.

The easternmost route, the Lake Ontario Circle tour, begins in the Thousand Islands Region of New York and Ontario. This province is such a large piece of land, you'll find it included on all of the circle tours with the exception of Lake Michigan, which is entirely in the US. The Canadian province shares a border with US states from Minnesota to New York. The biggest city in all of Canada is located along the shores of Lake Ontario-Toronto. Besides world-class museums and attractions, Toronto is home to a wide array of places to enjoy the lake, including beaches and cruises. The Lake Erie Circle Tour, the next route to the east, stretches from Niagara Falls to the Michigan border, passing through Pennsylvania and Ohio along the way. The Great Lakes Seaway Trail also meanders through New York and Pennsylvania past some gorgeous scenery, and much of it follows the same route as the Lake Erie scenic byway.

Three different circle tours meander through the state of Michigan. To the east, there's the Lake Huron Circle Tour, while the Lake Michigan Circle Tour is found along the west coast of the mitten-shaped Lower Peninsula. A trip on the Lake Superior Circle Tour will bring you to the north country of the Upper Peninsula and eastern Minnesota, near Duluth, south of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Neighboring Lake Huron is home to many of the province's islands as well as Georgian Bay, big enough to earn the nickname as the sixth Great Lake.

Back in the States, a Lake Michigan Circle Tour will bring you to Chicago, the biggest city in the Midwest. The city planners have worked hard for generations to make sure the shoreline remains open for visitors' enjoyment. A drive along Lake Shore Drive—one small part of the official Great Lakes Circle Tour route—is often included on the list of tops things to do in the Windy City.

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