We went camping over this past weekend to the Straits State Park Campground. Although I am just getting started on the whole state park camping thing I am going to try and rate the campgrounds we visit on the 1-5 scale. 1 being horrible and 5 being the best based on their family friendliness.
One thing I will point out that this is not a short trek from my home town of Grand Rapids. Now this is not like driving across country to visit the Grand Canyon but with two toddler age children in tow it sometimes seems just as long. Thank goodness for car DVD players. So like I was writing, the trip is about 4-5 hours long and ends just over the bridge. I probably won’t return for at least a few year based on the trek alone. The trek gets a 1.
The Straits campground did promise a private beach on the straits of Michigan but the beach was covered in mostly rock with sand and some beach grass here and there. Not suitable for swimming for adults or small children but it does offer an amazing view of the Mackinaw bridge. I give the beach area a 1 swimming and recreation for kids but 4 for site seeing of the bridge during the day and at night.
Our site was not near a playground and I think when we drove by it at one point it was pretty outdated. With small children it is nice to have some area for kids to play. My kids did amuse themselves with rock throwing, leaf pulling, and stick finding and fighting. There were lots of no’s from adults, too many for a relaxing time at a campground. Based on this I would give the play factor for kids a 1.
The bathrooms have not been updated yet. The State of Michigan is supposed to be working on the bathrooms at all state campgrounds but perhaps they have not yet made it across the bridge. I think the men’s bathroom must have been worse then the women’s as my hubby claimed it was pretty gross and in his profession he has seen some pretty gross bathrooms. The women’s bathroom was nothing spectacular but clean. The faucets do not stay on but for a second and it was pretty hot during the day. The showers were overcrowded and I think I finally snuck one in around 1am. It was roomy and hot water but clothes did not have a chance at staying dry due to lack of hooks or areas to hang clothing. The showers get a 3.5 and the bathrooms a 2 based on hubby’s review.
We spent a day at the Lake Michigan beaches on US2 and that was great. Clear, sandy and perfect swimming temperature for the kids and even adults to swim. I would not suggest going to stop at the National Forest recreation site because you have to pay another $6 per day to be there and then the trek to the beach is quite far down a sand dune. Not bad going down but being 3 months pregnant or not it is not a fun hike coming up. You are better off parking on the side of the road on US2 and just walking a few feet to the unowned beach all along the road. Beaches on Lake Michigan on US2 gets a 5.
We also visited a small zoo on US2 The Garlyn Zoo. The zoo is made up of mostly Michigan animals like deer, bear, otter, buffalo, alligators & lemurs? Ok, so not all the animals are from Michigan but it was a fun way to spend an hour. We even got a group discount for having a party of greater than 6 for $32. Pretty good deal. We also got a chance to talk with the owner and learn about the zoo and its animals. I give this little zoo a 4.
We spent Saturday evening in downtown Mackinaw City. It was pretty busy but we found a spot to park on the main tourist street. Finding food was another matter. We wanted a sit down meal and something that sounded good to 7 people, well at least the adults. We wanted to go to one of the newer restraunts but it was over an hour wait and for 3 hungry kids this was not going to cut it. We ended up at the Pancake Chef. It was part buffet and part restraunt, a past memory of the Sweden House came rushing to mind. The food was large portions but not so great. I had the reuben sandwich, hubby had the hot turkey sandwich which I should have ordered, J had spaghetti that hubby said was not great, and their taco salad our friends had was nothing I had ever seen. Well it was food and we left stuffed. Too stuffed for homemade waffle cones and ice cream but no one can leave without some fudge. I found a new favorite flavor, Raspberry Truffle. It is amazing!!!! So Pancake Chef 2 and fudge 5.
So to leave my readers with a funny story I will share how my evening ended after my 1 am shower. I heard something getting into our stuff outside the camper after hubby and I turned it for the night. I thought for sure it was getting into something I left out. Finally after some coaxing hubby and I went outside to get the lantern to find our potential theif. We had forgotten to bring flashlights. Note to self, always bring flashlights, especially in the UP. So we light the lantern and hubby has marshmallow cooker in hand, my hero. We find nothing. So back inside we go and wait. Then we hear it on top of the camper. Now I am freaking out. It seems to be moving all over the top. Then I hear scratching right along side where we are sleeping. I now that I am not going to get a good nights sleep. It finally went away or I passed out from exhaustion. In the morning it thunder stormed and we had to pack up and get going. While putting the camper down out came flying a bat! At me no less. So the mystery creature in the night was a bat trying to make a home under the top part of the camper. The bat did not leave willingly. It flew around and around looking to get back in its new cozy home. As I looked around many bats heard this bats cries and came from their home to investigate and landed on many other of the campers around the campground. I rate the bats a 1.