Water. It's the reason European explorers and fur traders arrived in Michigan long before they got to many other parts of the Midwest. With shoreline on four of the five Great Lakes, Michigan was directly on the canoe routes that were the superhighways of the 1600s.

Water is also the primary reason travelers go to Michigan today. The state has vast forests, stretches of farmland, large cities and small towns, but it is water that separates Michigan from the other states—both physically and in terms of vacation opportunities. In addition to being surrounded by the small "seas" of the Great Lakes, Michigan has 11,000 inland lakes. You'll have to travel to the Atlantic or Pacific oceans to find better conditions for boating, fishing, swimming or simply taking in the shoreline scenery. Even then, Michigan can hold its own: It has far more land along the big water than most states on the East or West Coast. We think some of its coastal areas (Grand Traverse Bay, Pictured Rocks, Sleeping Bear Dunes) rank among the most beautiful in the U.S.

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