It's perhaps the most beautiful region of Michigan, where thousands from around the country come to vacation. Northwest Michigan, for our purposes, includes the counties of Grand Traverse, Leelanau, and Benzie.
Crystal Lake is the most prominent physical feature of the area which also has two rivers, the Platte River and the Betsie River, well-known for their fishing. Communities include Frankfort
, Beulah and Benzonia. Several festivals are held throughout the year. The area abounds in outdoor opportunities including hunting, golf, skiing and other forms of recreation. The old rail system has been transformed into the Betsie Valley Trail for hiking, skiing and biking. Be sure to visit both Port Betsie Lighthouse and Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse for great views of Lake Michigan and try your hand at fishing.
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Grand Traverse County is comprised of Traverse City
, the Old Mission Peninsula, and several smaller communities in the Grand Traverse Bay area. Not only will the scenery amaze you, but there is so much to see and do in this area of Northwest Michigan. Summertime activities include swimming, boating, golfing, or attending a local festival
. Autumn is perfect for visiting a winery—with over 35 in close proximity, you can make a day of it! It's a winter wonderland in the Grand Traverse area, where you can snowshoe, ski, snowmobile, and ice skate.
Traverse City has ranked high on various lists--#2 small town travel destination in the U.S., top 10 places to retire in the U.S. and among the top 10 winter vacation destinations in the country. This northern gem has been discovered by travel writers everywhere, but you can benefit by planning a trip to the region and enjoying all Traverse City has to offer. A top producer of tart cherries has made Traverse City "The Cherry Capital." Their eight day National Cherry Festival
in early July is one of Michigan's premier attractions. Later in July, the Traverse City Film Festival
takes place at the downtown State Theater. Founded by filmmaker Michael Moore, it's your chance to catch a documentary, foreign, or short film. Or catch a Traverse City Beach Bums baseball game at Wuerfel Park. It's a great summertime family activity.
Old Mission Peninsula
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The Old Mission Peninsula is perhaps best known for its spectacular scenery and wineries. The Old Mission Peninsula extends northward from Traverse City into the Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan, ending at Old Mission Point. The peninsula is 19 miles long and three miles wide at its widest point. The climate on the peninsula is moderated by the surrounding waters, helping to prevent frost during the growing season. Grape varietals suitable to cool climates, such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot gris, Pinot noir, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot do best in the Old Mission Peninsula climate. The peninsula has extensive cherry orchards and vineyards. There are seven vineyards, but only five have tasting rooms. Because of the remoteness of the peninsula, wine tours take some planning. The Old Mission Peninsula was settled in 1842 by a Presbyterian minister. During the Civil War period, the area saw an influx in population with many families today able to trace their ties to the area back to this period. Located along the 45th parallel north, and moderated by Lake Michigan and the deep Grand Traverse Bay, the region soon showed that it had macroclimate to produce a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Early agriculture in the area subsisted on apples, cherries and potatoes. In 1870, George Parmalee, of the Michigan State Horticultural Society, encouraged farmers of Old Mission Peninsula to branch out to different plantings but it would be another 100 years before wine grape varieties really took hold in the area. Today the wine industry in the Old Mission Peninsula has expanded to include seven wineries and a thriving wine tourism industry.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Once viewers of Good Morning America designated Sleeping Bear Dunes the most beautiful place in the United States, this national park experienced a high influx of visitors. Begin at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire
for maps and displays. Only the most ambitious and energetic can attempt to climb the dunes—others can simply choose a lookout point and enjoy breathtaking views. Located in the westerly section of the Grand Traverse area, you can take the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, which starts north of the Visitors Center and is off M 109. Along the seven-mile drive, you will be treated to some of the most beautiful sights one can imagine, including stunning views of Lake Michigan. This is a perfect place for experienced bikers to travel the paths, but it can be a climb at times!
Leland - "Fishtown"
Leland takes you back in history...especially when you arrive in Fishtown. Rustic shanties that are now home to various shops have stood the test of time and give you a feel on how life was 100 years ago in the commercial fishing business. Leland is where you can catch a ferry to the Manitou Islands. North Manitou Island is the larger of the two, lies 12 miles from Leland and does not allow motorized vehicles. You can enjoy wildlife and plants in their natural habitat while you sit in quiet solitude. South Manitou Island is 16 miles west of Leland and is a bit more active. Visit a shipwreck, lighthouse, and Coast Guard Station. The beaches and parks are both beautiful and numerous in Leland, and try to take in one of their big events, like the Wine & Food Festival, held annually the second Saturday in June.
More Leelanau County Travel Info
When making your vacation plans, choose Grand Traverse, Benzie, or Leelanau Counties in Northwest Michigan.
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