The Most Complete Guide to Houghton MI, Upper Michigan

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Planning a trip to Houghton MI and have no idea where to start? Houghton is a very small town and might not be on every tourist’s radar. Whether you’re planning a trip to Houghton or need some ideas where to go in Michigan’s upper peninsula this post will help your research.

The Most Complete Guide to Houghton MI, Upper Michigan article cover image

We came up with a complete guide to Houghton and its neighboring town Hancock that tells you all you need to know before you go. Learn about Houghton’s history, when the best time is to go and why this small town is worth visiting. No Upper Michigan itinerary is complete without a visit to Houghton.

Complete Guide to Houghton MI, Upper Michigan

Houghton History and Facts

With a population of just over 7700, Houghton is the 5th most populous city in Upper Michigan. Native Americans began mining copper in the area where Houghton sits today thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers. The Keweenaw Peninsula soon became known as “Copper Island” as immigrants began constructing multiple mines in the area.

Photo credit: Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau

Houghton was officially settled in 1851 and named after the geologist Douglass Houghton. Shortly after that rich copper lodes were discovered nearby which brought great prosperity to the city. In 1873 the Keweenaw Waterway was opened which established Houghton as a local port for the import and export of goods. You can check out the Quincy Steam Hoist, Shafthouse & Underground Mine Tour.

Houghton considers itself the birthplace of professional ice hockey in the United States. In December of 1902, it hosted the first professional ice hockey game in the US. The Dee Stadium is Houghton’s most famous ice rink and can be visited by tourists. The building is close to one hundred years old and was declared a historic site in 2006.

Today Houghton is a popular tourist summer destination and a great fishing spot.

Where is Houghton MI?

Houghton is located within the Keweenaw Peninsula in Upper Michigan. It lies on Portage Lake which borders the much larger Lake Superior. The Keweenaw Waterway separates Houghton from its neighboring town of Hancock. From Wisconsin, it takes around 1,5 hours to reach Houghton. The closest larger towns near Houghton are Copper Harbor, Marquette, and Mass City.

Why you need to visit Houghton

There are plenty of things to do in Houghton. The city’s unique location on a “lake within a lake” makes it the perfect place to go for boat tours, hiking trails, and water sports. While you’re in Houghton you should cross the Keweenaw Waterway and visit Hancock. There are several museums in the area that are worth a visit such as the Mineral Museum and the Carnegie Museum.

Keweenaw Brewing Company is in Houghton and is an incredible place to check out if you are into micro-brews!

Make the most of the incredible nature and visit the Nara Nature Park and the North Canal Township Park. Just an hour’s drive from Houghton is Copper Harbor and its famous lighthouse which is the perfect day-trip to explore the coastline of Lake Superior.

Houghton may be small but it shouldn’t be missed if you’re planning a trip to Upper Michigan. The town has a lot to offer for tourists and is a great place to stay if you’re exploring the Keweenaw Peninsula.

How to get to Houghton MI

The closest airport to Houghton is Houghton County Memorial Airport which offers a limited selection of regional flights. There is also Sawyer International Airport which is located a 2-hour drive from Houghton but gives you a much larger variety of flight destinations.

Depending on where you’re coming from the most efficient way to get to Houghton might be by car. It takes around 1,5 hours to reach the city from the Wisconsin border and just under 4,5 hours to get to Lower Michigan. Driving has the main benefit that you’ll be able to get around easily once you arrive. Seeing the area around Houghton and its attractions without a car will be a challenge so if you’re coming from a state close by we highly recommend driving.

The cheapest way to get to Houghton will most likely by bus. Greyhound has multiple connecting routes to Houghton so if you’re traveling on a budget this could be a great option. 

Houghton Travel Challenge

There are a lot of fun things to see and do in Houghton – so we created a travel challenge for you! It has 6 of our absolute favorites on it – so you don’t forget anything!

What to see in Houghton Michigan

How to get around Houghton

The best way to get around Houghton and the surrounding area is by car. The city has a very limited public bus system which you shouldn’t rely on to see the main tourist attractions. There is an on-demand pickup shuttle service available but again this is mainly focused on the city and will not take you to tourist sights further away. Definitely consider either renting a car on arrival or bringing your own when you’re visiting Houghton.

When is the best time to visit Houghton?

The best time to visit Houghton and Upper Michigan, in general, is the summer. From June to August, you’ll be most likely to have dry and sunny weather. This is the most popular visiting time so accommodation prices might be higher than usual. Another great time to visit could be the shoulder season of May and September or even October. Temperatures will be slightly cooler with a higher probability of rain but you’ll enjoy fewer tourist crowds and cheaper prices.

Houghton MI Upper Michigan in the winter

The winters in Upper Michigan are cold and harsh. There is considerable snowfall and many tourist attractions are closed during the winter months. You can still enjoy the local area if you’re interested in winter sports such as skiing or snowshoeing. 

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