Western Michigan to Cape Cod National Seashore to Northwest Indiana: a Vacation Travel Itinerary
Updated: Jan 22, 2021
This trip lasted 11 days during the summer of 2019 and, as a bonus, took us to 3 of the 5 Great Lakes. Camping near metropolitan areas, like Boston, is a challenge. Here is what worked well for us.
Day 1:Drive Muskegon, Michigan to Smithville, Ontario
We left the shore of Lake Michigan in Muskegon and drove into Canada, where we then stopped along the shore of Lake Huron. Two Great Lakes in one day. A total of about 6 hours of driving brought us to Smithville, Ontario where we dry camped on private property using the website Boondockers Welcome. We were guests of "beesonthe20" which was a quiet country setting, yet conveniently located down the road from a camping supply store.
Day 2: Drive Smithville, Ontario to Cayuga Lake State Park;Visit Niagra Falls State Park
Before leaving Smithville we visited the shore of Lake Ontario. That brought us up to 3 Great Lakes within 24 hours. After spending most of the day visiting Niagra Falls, that evening we camped at Cayuga Lake State Park. This park does have amenities, but we reserved our site too late and ended up dry camping. This is a wonderful lakeside campground with an Adirondack feel about it, a beach, pirate playground, and boat ramp. We could've spent more time relaxing and enjoying this park, but had other plans and had to get moving.
Thoughts about visiting Niagra Falls:
If this was our only destination, we would've been disappointed. This attraction is one that only requires a quick visit, in my opinion. I had always heard people say how unwelcoming the American side of the falls is and how much better the Canadian side is. After visiting, I would disagree. The Canadian side is developed and commercial. It is an example of what can happen to all of our natural areas when not protected and carefully preserved for public enjoyment. The American side is a state park property, so while it doesn't have as good of a view of the falls as the Canadian side, we found it to be much more enjoyable. When we visited the park was clean and safe, another of the common complaints I had heard prior to visiting. The RV parking on the American side was quite a distance from the actual falls, so I would definitely recommend hoping on your bicycles to quickly make your way around the park. It was a huge time saver.
Views from the Canadian side:
Views from the New York side:
Day 3: Drive Cayuga Lake State Park to Bennington, Vermont;Visit Utica Public Library & Saratoga National Historic Park
I like to visit old public libraries when I travel and a few years ago I stumbled upon a gem in Utica, NY. The library has glass floors. It is an incredibly interesting building and definitely worth the few minutes it takes to stop and explore it. There is also a fantastic art museum in Utica, but no time for that on this trip. I couldn't pass through Utica without stopping to show the library to my kids though. It's a unique place and a must see for anyone that likes books and/or architecture.
We also visited Saratoga National Historic Park along this route. Lots of history here, but what I enjoyed most was the bucolic view of Vermont's Green Mountains across the Hudson River. Our kids enjoyed the Phillip Schuyler House, also known as the place Alexander Hamilton's wife sings about taking him in the song "Take a Break." The battlefield and Victory Woods takes some time, but with the self guided tour available you can go at your own speed. There is also a national cemetery here.
Our campsite for this stay was booked through Boondockers Welcome. However, the host pulled his location off the site within just a few hours of our arrival. So, we had to find something last minute. Luckily, the Wal-Mart in Bennington, Vermont was on our route. It was probably the nicest parking lot camping experience we will ever have. Surrounded by trees, this store had a nice wide sidewalk around it that we utilized as a bike path. It took us past a small pond and lots of rabbits. There was a strip mall attached to the Wal-Mart where we were able to order pizza for dinner. With this being our first time ever camping in a parking lot, we surprisingly found it quite accommodating.
Day 4: Drive Bennington, Vermont to Wompatuck State Park; Visit Minute Man National Historic Park
We opted to drive an extra 10 minutes so that we could go into New Hampshire along this route. Just to add another state to the list. The total drive time for the day was only 3.5 hours, but we spent the majority of the day at Minute Man National Historical Park. After visiting the visitor center, we rode our bikes from Lexington to Concord along the pedestrian trail. The trail ends when you reach Concord, but you can bike along the roads to reach the North Bridge Visitor Center. Concord is full of history, shops, and restaurants. If you aren't up for the bike ride, or short on time, you can access most of the sites by car as well.
Wompatuck State Park was a convenient location for camping if you plan to visit Boston. We spent 3 nights here total, and had water and electric hookups. It is in a residential, suburban area that felt very safe. The staff at the gate were a great help to us as we figured out how to navigate the public transportation system into and around Boston. There was also a fun little bike course in the woods that the kids had to try out before we left the park.
Day 5 & 6: Visit Boston
We drove to the Braintree train station and bought Charlie Tickets for public transportation. We walked most of the Freedom Trail, but used public transportation whenever we could. It allowed us to get into and out of the city easily, add in a visit to Harvard, and not have to worry about finding parking spaces. We also used it to take the ferry over to the USS Constitution. It was super convenient and not at all difficult to figure out. Definitely worth the $22.
Besides walking the Freedom Trail sites, we swam in the Frog Pond at the Boston Common, played in a park and watched the boats at the Esplanade on the Charles River, and ate cannoli from Bova Bakery and Boston Cream Pie from Mike's. We opted not to visit Bunker Hill due to time and distance.
Day 7: Drive Wompatuck State Park to Eastham, Massachusetts
We stayed at a Boondockers Welcome site called "Sparky's Host Location" that was a great home base for visiting all of the cape. It was a very private site with electric hookup and access to their outdoor shower. They were wonderful hosts that offered lots of local advice.
Day 8: Visit Cape Cod
If I changed anything about this road trip, it would be to spend more time in Cape Cod. We only spent 2 nights. I would extend this part of your trip as long as you can, as this is the most relaxing destination of the whole road trip. There is so much to do in the Cape Cod area. We did a whale watching tour that was a highlight of the entire vacation. We paid a lot for seafood that we then ate on picnic tables, because that's the way you do it on the cape apparently. We visited the National Seashore, rode our bikes, visited beaches, and swam in a kettle pond. If I had another day, I would rent kayaks and paddle some of the water in the Salt Pond Bay.
Day 9: Drive Cape Cod to Milford, Connecticut
This was a driving day, as we were trying to cover as many miles as we could. Pulled into the Cracker Barrel in Milford, Connecticut for a not-so-great night's sleep and then were back on the road in the morning.
Day 10: Drive Milford, Connecticut to Aurora, Ohio
For this overnight we stayed at the "Rutkowski Ranch" Boondockers Welcome site. It was in a quiet rural area and the gentleman was so hospitable. He drove us in his restored VW van out to get ice cream at a local place.
Day 11: Drive Aurora, Ohio to Northwest Indiana
This was the last leg of the journey to home sweet home. We prefer to keep the site seeing to the beginning of our road trips. Eventually we hit a turning point and just want to make a beeline for home.
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