75 degrees, cool breeze, bright blue water, sandy beach. Sounds like the makings of a pretty perfect summer day doesn’t it? That is what you find all over the Leelanau Peninsula. Picture perfect summer days. (And honestly, it’s picture perfect just about any season.)
The Leelanau Peninsula is hands down, my favorite place in all of Michigan. I’m happy to leave the cities behind me and head to the top of Michigan’s pinky. Here you will find small town after small town, and Mother Nature at her best. I find myself on M22 road trips at least 3 times every summer, stopping and exploring new places. While there are so many great things off the beaten path, in this post, I’m going to choose to tell you about the “classics”. The things that (in my book) can’t be missed on your trip to this amazing place!
Getting Here: The best way to explore the Leelanau Peninsula is with a drive on M22. I talked about it here last week. You’ll travel up the lakeshore and have some killer views as you get closer and closer to Leelanau county!
Where to Stay and What to Do: Lucky for you, it doesn’t matter where you stay on the Leelanau Peninsula. I promise, you will love it. Just do a little bit of research and decide what you are looking for out of your vacation. No matter where you stay, you will be in driving distance of the other towns. So it truly only matters what you are looking to get out of your vacation.
Feel like spending your time playing on the sand dunes? Consider staying in Empire. Empire is a small village (like 400 people small) that is known as the gateway to the Sleeping Bear Dunes. You can easily access everything in the National Park, Lake Michigan and asparagus. (This tiny town has a MASSIVE asparagus festival every year. Like with an asparagus queen and everything!) For more about things to do in Empire, check out my post on the Sleeping Bear Dunes!
Would you rather spend your time on the water? Try Glen Arbor, where you will find three different lakes to choose from. (Lake Michigan, Big Glen Lake and Little Glen Lake) This is truly a water lovers dream. Brining your own boat? There are plenty of marinas in the area. Need to rent one? Check out On The Narrows for all your boating needs. More in to SUPing or Canoeing? Crystal River Outfitters is the place to go. After a long day on the water, you just might want to head into town. There are tons of adorable shops, and some great places to eat. My favorites? Bear Paw Pizza, Art’s Tavern and Boonedocks. You also can’t miss my favorite part of Glen Arbor… Cherry Republic’s flagship store!
Avid fisherman? Leland is the place for you. From historic Fishtown to Fishing Charters, you’ll love it here. Leland is also the home to a ferry that will take you to the Manitou Islands. Leland has beautiful beaches and an awesome Wine and Food Festival every June. My favorite place to eat in Leland would have to be The Village Cheese Shanty. Be prepared to wait in line… but it is worth every minute. I promise! Another favorite is The Cove home of The Chubby Mary. While I personally can’t stomach this (Bloody Mary’s of any sort just aren’t my thing)… most people love it!
Looking for peace and quiet? You’ll find it at the tip top of the Leelanau Peninsula, in Northport. It’s much quieter here than the previously mentioned towns, even in the summer time. Northport boasts a lighthouse museum and Leelanau State Park. If you’re anything like me, you love a good craft brew. You’ll find some great ones here, at Northport Brewing.
Do you like to shop? Sutton’s Bay just might be the place for you. Rounding out the peninsula, heading south on M22, you’ll find one of the cutest downtowns ever. It honestly looks like it was plucked from the shores of Maine. You’ll love the shops you can wander through, and the restaurants you can choose from. Another great thing about Suttons Bay is that while it feels a world away from everything else, it really is only a 15 minute drive to Traverse City. Bonus!
And just a small side note… the entire peninsula is freckled with vineyards too. I highly recommend the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail for all you wine lovers. I mean, does it get any better than beaches and wine? No. No it does not.
No matter which town you choose as your base for exploring the Leelanau Peninsula, I can promise you, you will fall in love with Northern Michigan here. You may even find yourself staying longer and longer each stay, until you eventually buy a house here. (Like the very well loved Mario Batali.)
Take his word for it, or mine. Summertime on the Leelanau Peninsula is definitely not something you want to miss.