The Great Lakes are home to more than one in five Americans – and a fifth of the entire world's freshwater. Truly part of the American heartland, and straddling the border between the US and Canada, these vast lakes are framed by iconic cities like Toronto, Chicago and Detroit. Of course, this vast region also offers excellent surf beaches, windswept lighthouses and characterful islands – making it the perfect place for a unique getaway.
Five Great Lakes
Remnants of the Ice Age, the Great Lakes are a true geographic wonder. Comprising Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario, they cover an area that spans eight states; Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as well as the Canadian province of Ontario. Carved by ancient glaciers, they offer spectacularly diverse topography and beautiful scenery across all five lakes.
Lake Superior, Minnesota
This region is ideal for boat trips – particularly scenic are Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, all rugged sandy shores and jutting rocks, while big-name Lake Ontario is, of course, home to the famous Niagara Falls – a must in any Great Lake itinerary. Lesser known are the charming islands of Manitoulin, home to the largest population of First Nations people in continental North America and perfect for a little lakeside R&R. Among the many unspoilt national parks, a visit to the 50ft Tahquamenon Falls is a highlight, as well as Palms Book, where you can travel across mirrored waters on a glass-bottomed cable raft.
Niagara Falls, New York State
Cities on the Lakes
Lakeside cities here offer everything from centuries-old canals, historic city landmarks and charming 19th-century architecture. Chicago makes the perfect starting point for a self-drive around three of the five lakes – Michigan, Superior and Huron. Detroit is another bustling big city, with plenty to entertain the cosmopolitan crowd, from its excellent cuisine to lively music and theatre scene. And, the smaller towns are just as attractive – like Mackinac, all weatherboard houses and quaint churches.