The Great Lakes

  • Illinois
  • Self Drive Ideas
  • 15
from  £1,335pp
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The Great Lakes are impressive enough taken singly. Taken as a whole, the Great Lakes form the largest body of fresh water on Earth. From the magnificent spectacle of Niagara Falls and Mackinac Island’s Victorian charm, to rolling dunes, miles of white sand beaches, emerald green forests, blazing sunsets, and thousands of interesting places, this route leads to unmatched Great Lakes scenery.

A Free Personalised Road Book is included as standard with our Self Drive itineraries. 


Please note: – This is a suggested itinerary only and is intended to give an overview of what is possible. All of our holiday itineraries are fully customisable and can be tailor-made to suit your own individual requirements.  If you would like to start in a different destination, use specific hotel accommodation, include an extra night here, a side-trip there and/or include tickets to an event please let your Discover North America travel specialist know. They’ll also book you the best value flights to ensure a seamless holiday experience.


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Day 1 Chicago

Welcome to Chicago. Among one of the largest cities in the U.S., Chicago’s unique blend of stunning architecture, attractions and local charm makes it an unforgettable destina- tion. Upon arrival, transfer independently to your hotel.

Day 2 Chicago

Step outside today and experience mile after magnificent mile of the Windy City. Stroll the Lakefront. Take an architectural boat tour. Visit the second tallest building in North America, Willis Tower. Check out incredible panoramas from 360 CHICAGO. See mind-bending reflections of the city skyline at “the “Bean” (Cloud Gate). Enjoy Buckingham Fountain’s colorful light and music display as it glows against the skyline and lakefront, or indulge in some cheesy goodness at one of Chicago’s famous pizzerias. Whatever you choose, the Windy City will blow you away with the sheer number of things to see and do.

Day 3 Chicago - Milwaukee (93mi/150km)

This morning, pick up your rental car and head north to Wisconsin’s largest city, Milwaukee. Just 90 miles from Chicago, this friendly Midwestern city is a combination of cher- ished tradition and modern attitude. Built along the lakefront of Lake Michigan with the Milwaukee River weaving through downtown, excursion boats and kayaks beckon one to get out on the water. Experi- ence the city’s brewing heritage with a brewery tour, or explore one-of-a-kind attractions like the Milwau- kee Art Museum, Miller Park and the world’s only Harley-Davidson Museum.

Day 4 Milwaukee - Green Bay (119mi/192km)

Today it’s on to Green Bay, Wisconsin’s oldest community. With Lake Michigan serving as the city’s north border, Green Bay is defined by its natural surroundings. Explore nature while learning the importance of preserving natural landscapes with a visit to Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. Railway buffs will be in seventh heaven when visiting the National Railroad Museum, one of the oldest and largest museums dedicated to the country’s rich railroad heritage. And for those with a passion for NFL football, a visit to the Green Bay Packer’s Hall of Fame at Lambeau Field is a must.

Day 5 Green Bay - Hiawatha National Forest - St. Ignace (251mi/404km)

Offering stunning views of the shoreline, today’s scenic drive along the northwestern coast of Lake Michigan takes you through Hiawatha National Forest and Manistique en route to St. Ignace. Known as the “Gateway to the Upper Pen- insula”, St. Ignace is where the great waters of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet. Enjoy a stroll along the Huron Boardwalk for a taste of pure Michigan, and savor a slower, simpler lifestyle in this area filled with blue waters, green forests and incredible places of discovery.

Day 6 St. Ignace - Mackinac - St. Ignace

Take a ferry to the timeless resort island of Mackinac - the jewel of the Great Lakes - where cars are prohibited, and bicycles and horse- drawn carriages rule the roads. Visit Fort Mackinac, located on a bluff overlooking the entrancing Straits of Mackinac, and enjoy the view from the porch of the Grand Hotel. Drive your own buggy along the shoreline, or rent a bike and explore over 70 miles of natural and paved trails. Whatever you choose, the beauty and history of Mackinac will captivate you. Return to St. Ignace in the late afternoon.

Day 7 St. Ignace - Traverse City - Detroit (296mi/477km)

Crossing the Mackinac Bridge that connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsula over the Straits of Mackinac, make your way south through Petoskey, one of the most beautiful regions in the state, and Charlevoix, to the Cherry Capital of the U.S - Traverse City. From here it’s on to the “Motor City.” Once known as the “Paris of the West,” Detroit acquired the nickname “Motor City” as a result of its longstanding recognition as the historic heart of the American automotive industry.

Day 8 Detroit

Whether you want to spend your day inside at a museum or play all day on the lake, there’s plenty of things to do in Detroit. At the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, visitors have the opportunity to take a step back in time and gain a first-hand look at the birthplace of the 1909 Model T automobile. At The Henry Ford, you’ll discover America - its culture, inventions, people and can-do spirit. There’s also a Riverwalk, awesome art galleries, Motown’s first recording studio, beauti- ful beaches, shopping meccas and dining to die for.

Day 9 Detroit - Toronto (244mi/393km)

Today, crossing the U.S./Canada border into Ontario, your destination is Toronto. The capital of Ontario and the country’s largest city, Toronto sits at the tip of Lake Ontario, the most eastern of the Great Lakes. Home to a dynamic mix of attractions - from museums and galleries to the world famous CN Tower and, just off shore, Toronto Islands - Toronto has everything you would expect from a world class city.

Day 10 Toronto

Spend the day exploring Toronto’s top attractions. Enjoy spectacular views from the top of the CN Tower. Delve into the depths of The Royal Ontario Museum, the biggest museum of world cultures and natural history in Can- ada, or stroll through The Distillery Historic District. Step back in time to a period of European elegance and splendor with a visit to Casa Loma, or, hop on a ferry and embark on a journey to the Toronto Islands where along the water you’ll find awesome beaches, summer cottages from the 1920s, a maze to test your wits, a haunted lighthouse that tests your cour- age, and much more.

Day 11 Toronto - Niagara Falls (129mi/208km)

Just an hour-and-a half drive from Toronto one of the Seven Wonders of the World awaits. Packed with attractions, dining and adventure, Niagara Falls offers a vast array of activities. Zip to the top of Skylon Tower for the best view around, and in the evening get a different view of the Falls with the nightly illumination and seasonal fireworks.

Day 12 Niagara Falls

Today, spend a full day experiencing the mighty Falls themselves. See the American and Horseshoe Falls from the sidelines, or get up close with a boat ride to the foot of the Falls for a wet and wild view from below. For a completely different sensation, journey behind the Falls where you’ll hear sounds like thunder as you descend to observation decks literally behind the Falls. The sheer array of adventures that await makes any visit to Niagara a memorable one.

Day 13 Niagara Falls - Cleveland (216mi/348km)

If you a want little beach while en route to Cleveland, we recommend stopping at Presque Isle State Park. As Pennsylvania’s only “seashore,” this 3,200-acre sandy peninsula offers beautiful coastline views and nearly 14 miles of scenic trail along Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie. A culturally diverse city on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland has all the attractions and excitement needed for a fun-filled adventure. Rock and Roll with legends of music, allow your imagination to flourish at the Great Lakes Science Center, and enjoy the culi- nary delicacies of cultures from around the world at one of the city’s amazing restaurants.

Day 14 Cleveland - Chicago (344mi/554km)

Leaving Cleveland, you can choose to add a few hours to your day by driving along two different Great Lake shores, stopping at Marblehead Lighthouse along the Lake Erie Coastal Trail and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan, or you can drive straight through miles of cornfield back to Chicago. The choice is yours, but we recommend taking the scenic route. Upon arrival in Chicago, head to Navy Pier for an evening of din- ing and entertainment. This is the perfect spot to spend your last evening overlooking Lake Michigan.

Day 15 Chicago

Return your rental car at the airport prior to your departure.