Escanaba: Life in the fun lane
Boaters arriving in Escanaba, Mich. (M-101) will appreciate the cozy, sheltered municipal marina with fuel, pump-out and great facilities. Once you’ve got the necessities taken care of, you can begin to explore the town. Escanaba is the host community for this year’s GLCC Rendezvous, July 14-18. Check the website for Rendezvous details.
Escanaba is not a ‘touristy’ destination in the way Wisconsin’s Door County is, but the attractions reveal themselves gradually. Here is a bit of a head start in exploring Escanaba.
If you have a bike or scooter on board, you’ve got a great way to see Escanaba. A limited number of “yellow bikes” are available to borrow from the harbormaster. Escanaba’s relatively flat terrain, miles of hiking/biking paths and quiet side streets mean you can reach a lot of places without crossing a main thoroughfare.
Escanaba’s municipal marina anchors one end of the mile-long lakefront Ludington Park. Hop on the wide paved path and head around the yacht basin to the public beach. Shallow and sandy, it’s a great place to cool off in the water or just sit and enjoy the sun. Beyond the beach is Aronson Island which features a boat launch and accessible fishing pier, not to mention great views of the marina. The island also boasts some great bird habitat, so birders, bring your binoculars
After Aronson Island, head further south to explore the rest of Ludington Park to find disc golf, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts. At the south end is the Karas Band Shell, a popular outdoor venue, which hosts free live music on Monday and Wednesday evenings.
The Delta County HIstorical Society Museum and Sand Point LIghthouse and Life Saving Station are located directly across Beaumier Way from the marina. The buildings are open on weekdays. Learn about Escanba’s important roles in the timber and mining industries. Any day of the week you can check out the historic plaques on the lake side of the museum. And don’t miss the rudder of the steamer Nahant, salvaged from the wreck that lies just off the site of the lighthouse.
The Public Library, co-housed with City Hall, is a great place to start. You can enter off Ludington Street but the real entrance is in back. Boaters will want to have a look at the HUGE collection of nautical charts near the circulation desk. Back out on Ludington Street, be sure to take note of the scale model of the solar system – it goes for blocks.
You’ll find many of Escanaba’s restaurants and shops on Ludington Street. House of Ludington has a cozy turn-of-the-20th-century bar and restaurant. Hereford and Hops has an extensive menu with an emphasis on barbecue and beer. Swedish Pantry dishes out meatballs and other specialties from the old country for breakfast and lunch. Don’t miss The Stonehouse for excellent fish and meat entrees.
Shops include clothing from T-shirts to formal wear. Mr. Bike is the place for bike accessories and/or repairs. It’s quite a few blocks down the street but Sayklly’s Candy store is worth the trip for locally made chocolate and gifts. Tebear’s quilt shop is a couple blocks off Ludington.
Elmer’s County Market is a full-service grocery store. Meijer, Walmart and Aldi’s are also in Escanaba but they are on the west side of US-2 so it’s a little challenging to get there on a bike. There is also a farmers’ market on Ludington Street on Wednesday and Saturday.
Local Wine and Beer
Leigh’s Garden Winery and Hereford and Hops are a few blocks from the marina. The Upper Hand brewery located at the airport, has a lovely beer garden and tasting room. If you’re biking it’s a 15-minute ride but you’ll have to navigate a very short stretch of highway.
Ludington Park hosts the only remaining purple martin colony in the UP. You don’t have to look too hard for them, they’ll be overhead on your morning walk. In addition to Aronson Island, Portage Marsh south of town and the boat launch on the Escanaba River are good places to spot many species of birds. Both are reachable by bike but far enough that most folks might want to drive.
UP State Fairgrounds
On top of all that, Escanaba is the home of the UP State Fair in August (the only state fair since the one downstate folded in 2009.) If you visit the fairgrounds, you can check out the DNR’s Pocket Park with activities for kids of all ages. Auto racing fans can catch the stock car races on many Saturday nights throughout the summer.
That’s the short list. If you’re looking for a laid-back place to hang out for a few days Escanaba might be just your speed.