When you think about the Midwest, water isn't really the first thing that comes to mind. If you hold up your right hand, palm facing inward, you can get a rough idea of the brunt of Michigan's bi-peninsular layout. And all that air around your palm? That would be water. Four Great Lakes, to be specific: Huron, Erie, Michigan and Superior. The Upper Peninsula connects to the "Mitten" (as the Lower Peninsula is sometimes called) via the 5-mile suspension Mackinac Bridge between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and is the third largest of its kind in the world. In fact, as the local tourism board likes to boast, no matter where you stand in the 26th state in the Union, you're never more than 6 miles away from a body of water (11,000 of them lakes), and 85 miles from a Great Lake. Next to Alaska, Michigan has the second-longest continuous coastline of any of the states, giving it the well-deserved slogan "Water Wonderland."
Still, quenched or not, Michigan might be more famous for cars than boats (or possibly, for the musically inclined, the birth of Motown). In 1908, Henry Ford's first Model T rolled off an assembly line in Detroit, starting an auto industry boom that made and -- years later, when many plants began shutting their doors and heading overseas -- nearly destroyed the Motor City. But recently, the wheels of progress appear to be rolling again. The state has poured millions into revitalizing Detroit, the largest city in the state (Lansing is actually the capital). With the impetus of playing host to the 2006 Super Bowl fanning the fires of commerce, Detroit embarked on a multi-billion-dollar development project that included the new $500 million Ford Field football stadium; an overhaul of the Detroit Institute of the Arts, the fifth-largest fine arts museum in the country; dozens of new restaurants, like chef Paul Grosz's innovative Cuisine at 670 Lothrop, near the theater district (tel. 313/872-5110; www.cuisinedetroit.com), which attracts superstar winemakers from around the country with its wine-and-food-pairing dinners; and the refurbished 1,800-passenger Louisiana riverboat, Detroit Princess, which began its churn across the Detroit River in June 2005.
Still, whether you prefer to gaze at a lakeside sunset wearing heels and drinking champagne, or with a cooler on the shore and sand between your toes, Michigan's utterly diverse coastline has something for everyone: the 130-foot-high Sleeping Bear Dunes on the northwest corner of Lake Michigan that you can scramble up and down like Indiana Jones; the slicing curve of the Pictured Rocks along Lake Superior, resembling the golden, layered texture of a puff pastry; the docks, bungalows, and lighthouses along the Grand Traverse Bay; and an elegant afternoon watching the yachts sail along the Detroit River. It's an easy place to find your own version of a seaside paradise, without the high prices of other East and West Coast spots more well-known for similar coastal charms.