Arriving at Copper Harbor on US-41 is truly arriving at the end of the road, as the Miami to Michigan road quite literally ends at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula—in one of Michigan’s most remote and sparsely populated areas.
Keweenaw County is well-known as a snowy and isolated place during the winter, and trees begin to show a light kiss of autumn color as early as late August. Temperate summer weather, beautiful scenery along the rugged Lake Superior shore and a wealth of opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities like canoeing, hiking and photographing lighthouses make it a favorite destination for us.
But summer days are long in Copper Harbor as sunset can come as late as 10 p.m., so summer finds the town busy, but not overcrowded, with seasonal residents and tourists.
Copper Harbor has a few restaurants and older 1950s or earlier style motels and cabin resorts, so you don’t have to deal with over-priced and trendy food or accommodations.
We’ve stayed in Copper Harbor several times over the years—always at the Bella Vista Motel. Prices are very reasonable, and the motel is centrally located in this very walkable town. Make sure you book early and request a lake view room in the motel units. The Bella Vista fully lives up to its name, as you can see from this sunrise photo I literally shot from the back door wall of our motel room.
We also always walk down to the Harbor Haus Restaurant for our “fancy” dinner in Copper Harbor. The menu includes a lot of German specialties, with the décor and wait staff uniforms echoing the German theme of the restaurant. The Harbor Haus also has a beautiful Lake Superior view and the wait staff goes out to the patio each evening around 6:00 or 6:30 to perform a little traditional German dance to greet the Isle Royale Queen on its evening return from the even more remote Isle Royale National Park.
Copper Harbor owes its name to the region’s history as a copper mining area. Copper mines and ghost towns still exist near the area, but the town’s day as a bustling copper port are long gone.
The copper boom started in the 1840s and really grew through the years as demand for copper plumbing pipes and electrical wiring increased. Copper Harbor began its decline by the mid-1870s as the town’s economy became more fishing-centered, and then more tourist-centered as driving trips became more popular in the 1930s.
Today, Copper Harbor is a launching place for Isle Royale trips (we stayed here before and after taking the Isle Royale Queen out to the park for a several-day stay). The town offers easy access to attractions like the Brockway Mountain Drive, lighthouses (come back Thursday for a story about the Copper Harbor lighthouse), water sports, bicycle riding and hiking.
The Copper Harbor attraction I may enjoy most, though, is sitting out on the deck at the Bella Vista at the end of a long summer day to enjoy the serenity and quiet as the sun slowly slips below the horizon out on Lake Superior.
© Dominique King 2009 All rights reserved