Going U.P. | Living on Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Munising, Michigan, offers coastal living in the heart of the Midwest.

View of the Great Lakes from the deck of the log home

Surrounded by three Great Lakes, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, or U.P., provides home owners with a virtually untouched wilderness in which to live the log home dream.

What's It Like to Live Here?

"An old Native American legend states, 'If you wear out one pair of moccasins in the great forest of Hiawatha, you'll never leave,' " says JoAnn Carlson of Big C Realty. "I believe this, because I know of no other place on Earth that offers quiet, easy living in a modern way." With a population just under 3,000, Munising is a quintessential small town with a twist. Kids can walk everywhere and play around town without concern (Munising's crime rate is one of the lowest in the nation), and all of the amenities you'd find in larger cities are located nearby.

How's the Weather?

It's cold in the Upper Peninsula, no doubt about it. January is by far the frostiest month, with average temperatures reaching only into the teens and 20s and lows dangerously close to negative digits. And it's snowy. Real snowy. Munising regularly reports more than 200 inches of lake-effect snow each year--and it lasts upwards of five months. But Munising summers are refreshingly pleasant, with lows in the 50s and highs in the 70s. Lake Superior, however, remains chilly year-round with a constant water temperature of about 40 degrees.

A Little History

The village of Munising (meaning "Place of the Great Island" in Chippewa) was founded along the banks of Munising Bay in 1850. Once incorporated in 1896, the town's population boomed until the Great Depression. While the mining industry declined during this period, the Upper Peninsula actually saw an influx of former residents wanting to return to their roots. After World War II, the mining industry made a comeback with the development of taconite. Today, tourism is a major industry for the entire area, thanks to its pristine lakes and acres of forestland.

What to Do, What to Do

The biggest draw to the Upper Peninsula happens to have its western entrance in Munising: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Covering more than 70,000 acres along Lake Superior, the park is made up of sculptured sandstone cliffs that have been shaped by years of wind, ice and waves. The cliffs get their name from the shades of brown, tan and green that developed due to the strong mineral content of the water. The Lakeshore can be explored on foot, by boat or by air on any number of hikes and tours designed to highlight the more impressive formations, including the shore's most famous, Miner's Castle.

Dining Out

To get a true taste of the U.P., you need to eat like the Yoopers (those living on or hailing from the area). And the best way to do that is to settle in with a piping-hot pasty (pronounced pass-tee). Introduced by Cornish miners who came to work in the copper and iron mines in the 1800s, the hand-held pastry is filled with meat and/or vegetables and was a nutritious and easy meal-on-the-go. Today, pasties can be found in Munising at local shops.

Location, Location, Location

If you're looking for an existing log home, you're in luck. "Many of the inland lakes, as well as Lake Superior, are dotted with log homes," says Brenda Kelley of Kelley Marketing. "From handcrafted homes built many years ago to more modern milled homes, log homes are here to stay in Munising." But you'd better act quickly; log homes tend to spend little time on the market. Jesse Ake of Big C Realty adds, "Log homes are a hot item. They've proven to be a very safe investment over the past few years, and their value is on the rise." JUST THE FACTS: Munising, Michigan Population: 2,806 Residential property tax rate: 4.305% Second home, rental or business property tax rate: 6.105% Price and size of a recent, typical sale of vacant land: $500 to $3,000 per square foot Price and size of a recent, typical sale of an existing log home: $115,000 to $325,000 Closest airport: Hanley Field; jet service at Sawyer International in Marquette Closest medical service: Munising Memorial Hospital Educational facilities: One elementary, one middle and one public high school in Munising; Northern Michigan University in Marquette and Bay de Noc Community College in Escanaba; Munising School Public Library Joanne Poesch is a freelance travel writer from Ashburn, Virginia. While her specialty has been international locales, she is thrilled to discover all the "Great Places" North America has to offer.