Lake Michigan Road Trip Itinerary
One of the largest freshwater bodies of water in the world, Lake Michigan borders 4 different states, and offers miles and miles of recreation including camping, fishing, boating and beaches.
Start your tour out of the Chicago rental location and spend the day in Chicago exploring one of the biggest cities in the world. Get your taste of the local food: deep dish pizza, Chicago hot dogs and Italian beef! Spend your first night in Illinois Beach State Park, only 1 hour outside Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan. Or, you can head straight up to Door County Wisconsin, and Potawatomi State Park.
Parking in Chicago
Parking in any big city can be a challenge. Luckily, all of our campervans fit in a standard parking spot (but spots labeled for trucks or SUVs are easier to park in!). Parking garages and underground parking tend to be more affordable in downtown Chicago. Keep in mind that a Mavericks has 7 ft 9 in of clearance without a rooftop sleeper. With a rooftop sleeper, the van clearance is approximately 9 ft.
Door County, Wisconsin
Door County is a recreation destination in the Midwest, often called the “Cape Cod of the Midwest”. It’s home to over 300 miles of shoreline, 5 state parks, 11 lighthouses. Plan for some morning coffee and evening cocktails, because you can see a beautiful sunrise and sunset without ever leaving the area.
This area is full of gorgeous campgrounds – you really can’t go wrong with any of them. Choose your camping spot based on availability, amenities, price, and proximity to attractions. Here is an interactive list of the campgrounds in the county to make your search easier.
Upper Peninsula of Michigan
The next stop around the lake is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Hiawatha National Forest offers a lot of great dispersed camping, as well as campgrounds, on Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Visit some of the cute small towns like Gladstone and Manistique and enjoy some local hikes, swimming beaches, boating and fishing, head up to Grand Island on Lake Superior. Stop by one of the local taverns for a juicy burger! And finally, spend the night at Little Bay de Noc Campground.
Once the nation’s second National Park after Yellowstone, about 80% of Mackinac Island is now Mackinac Island State Park. Hop on the ferry and explore this historic island by bike or horse drawn carriage. There are no cars allowed on the island! Enjoy some delicious food at the historic Grand Hotel and hike to Arch Rock. After the day exploring the island head to Wilderness State Park for 26 miles of shoreline with multiple camping opportunities.
Eastern Coast of Lake Michigan
The eastern coast of Lake Michigan contains the largest freshwater dune system in the world. Large dunes rising 100-200 feet above the water can been all along this shoreline in many of the parks in Michigan and Indiana. Spend the night at Orchard Beach State Park or Ludington State Park. Be sure to visit Sleeping Dunes National Lakeshore on your way down.
Keep driving down the coast, stopping at the many dunes and end up at Warren Dunes State Park. One of the most popular parks in Michigan, there are beaches, hiking trails, hang gliding and sandboarding.
On the drive back to Chicago, don’t forget to stop at Indiana Dunes National Park. Previously a National Lakeshore, it was redesignated as the nation’s 61st national park on February 15, 2019. On your way back through Chicago, take a drive through Chicago on Lake Shore Drive, visit the multitude of parks on the shore, and take in the famous museums and architecture of this city on the water.