Located at the very tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula in Emmet County lies 600 acres of woodland that sits beside over 2 miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline. This land harbors bald eagles, ospreys, coyotes, white-tailed deer, black bears and bountiful flora. Known as the Headlands, this park in Mackinaw City possesses this very image of Michigan’s flawless natural beauty.
It was in 2011 that this old growth forest and unkept shoreline became one of the first 10 International Dark Sky Parks in the world. Boasting exceptional starry nights, Headlands International Dark Sky Park has been designated as one of the best places on Earth to view pristine star-studded skies in every season.
See the rich Milky Way stretch across the sky in summer. Later in the season, meteor showers begin to dash across the Northern Hemisphere, from the Perseids in mid-August to the Geminids in late December. Even the elusive Northern Lights appear from time to time. All of these natural phenomena are enjoyed at Headlands and transfer gazers into another world.
Even during the day, Headlands sheds light onto astronomy with the Dark Sky Discovery Trail, a 1-mile paved path featuring display boards, photography and indigenous artwork highlighting humankind’s past and present relationship with the night sky.
Each Discovery Station represents one of the planets, as well as Pluto, the Sun and the Moon. “Cultural docents” are featured at each station, connecting internationally-known figures with local ones to tell the story of the stars and planets.
The Mercury Station features Mercury — the Messenger God from Greek mythology — as the cultural docent. Parallels are drawn between this god and the famous local explorer Jean Nicolet. An Anishinaabek warrior stands beside the Mars station, helping enhance the interpretation of Mars as a hero and protector, rather than an aggressor and god of war.
All these Discovery Stations lead way to the Dark Sky Viewing Area, providing insights, stories and legends that have shaped humanity’s interpretation of the cosmos.
Headlands offers an intellectual and imaginative adventure, something a bit different from kayaking down a river or hiking up a dune.
While sitting perfectly still, your mind will be stirring with the beautiful immensity of the universe, which can be fully celebrated on the coast of Lake Michigan.