With the RV-Dreams Fall Rally happening just down the road from us in October, we thought we would publish a list of some of our favorite places on the Leelanau Peninsula. Note that these are our favorites, and if a place isn’t listed, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth visiting. We have yet to find any place we would recommend avoiding. Anyone else traveling up this way in the future may want to bookmark this list also. Enjoy!
We have two favorites in this category: Black Star Farms and Shady Lane Cellars. Both are outstanding. Black Star also boasts a beautiful inn. If you can get in and can afford it, it’s pretty darn nice. We’ve stayed there several times. Shady Lane has a beautiful setting and an awesome patio. As far as the wineries on the peninsula, they are all good. If you possibly can, try to to get to these two. A complete list of the area wineries can be found at the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail website.
The best attraction, by far, is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Within the park boundaries, don’t miss the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. When on the drive, make sure to stop at the Lake Michigan Overlook. Special note this year: the drive will be closed for repaving from September 29 through October 5, and the weather could push that back. Go to http://www.nps.gov/slbe/planyourvisit for updates.
To the north of the scenic drive, if you are up to it, climb the Dune Climb. Just make sure you bring plenty of water, if you decide to go all the way to Lake Michigan…a two to four hour trip!
Another attraction is the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, on the northern tip of the peninsula. It is within the boundaries of a Michigan State Park, so there is a daily entrance fee for visitors, on top of the lighthouse admission. If you like lighthouses, this one is very nice.
Kilcherman Orchards is a special treat, if they happen to be open. It is located just off of County Road 640 on Kilcherman Road. They have multiple varieties of antique apples….the kind your grandma used to have. And the grower also has an amazing pop bottle collection. We are talking thousands of bottles, all in alphabetical order. He will ask you your name and, in most cases, will show you a bottle with it on it. 🙂
Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor sort of falls into the shopping/ winery/restaurant categories, but it is an attraction in itself. It is hard to describe and delightfully good.
There are four towns we would recommend for shopping: Suttons Bay, Leland, Northport and Glen Arbor. All have unique shops. For groceries, we like Hansen Foods in Suttons Bay the best. There is also NJ’s Grocery in Lake Leelanau, and the Leland Mercantile in Leland. The IGA in Glen Arbor is a ways away from where we are at, so we’ve never been in it.
This one is a clear cut winner: Suttons Bay Laundromat. Clean as a whistle, and reasonably priced. I challenge you to find a cleaner restroom in a laundromat. 🙂 Located in the same plaza as Hansen Foods, on the south end of Suttons Bay.
Well, I have to throw this one in here: Wild Cherry RV Resort. I know the rally is being held at Lake Leelanau RV Park, but we have a driving range at our place that is perched way up on a hill. The view is fantastic. Stop by anytime. A bucket of balls is $5. And check out our RV park for future reference. It is very nice!
For a burger, we recommend either Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor, or Dick’s Pour House in Lake Leelanau. Both have good menus, with Art’s being a little more extensive. For something a step up from that, we recommend Hearth and Vine at Black Star Farms. It is Mario Batali’s favorite restaurant when he summers on the peninsula. It is outstanding. Even a little more upscale, Martha’s Leelanau Table in Suttons Bay is very nice. In the town of Omena, Knot Just a Bar has delicious lake perch and an outstanding view of Grand Traverse Bay. With that being said, the other restaurants in the area are all very good. People up here take their food seriously.
There are two bike trails on the peninsula. The Leelanau Trail runs south out of Suttons Bay and connects up to the TART trail, once it gets to Traverse City. The other trail on the peninsula is the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. Parts of this trail are still under construction, but the section between the Dune Climb and Glen Arbor is of special interest this year. The area suffered tremendous straight line winds on August 2, and we understand that section of the trail really shows off just how much timber came down. We have yet to ride it, but we are told that it is amazing.
The best bang for your buck is the Pyramid Point trail. The hike to the overlook and back is 1.2 miles of moderate hiking on a gravel trail. There is a tremendous view of the Manitou Passage from the overlook.
The beach on the north end of Bohemian Road is really nice. There is a dog friendly beach at the north end of Good Harbor Road also. Both of these beaches are within the National Park boundaries. The waters of northern Lake Michigan are crystal clear, and some of the beaches are perfect for rock hunting. A good listing of all the area beaches can be found here.
If you like river paddling, we recommend the Lower Platte River. Riverside Canoe Trips will set you up, if you don’t have your own equipment. They rent kayaks, canoes, tubes, rafts and stand-up paddle boards. For a nice secluded lake paddle, we recommend School Lake. It is within the National Park boundaries, so you will need a park pass. You also will have the western shore of Lake Leelanau (the calm side) right at Lake Leelanau RV Park.
Most national chains are located in Traverse City. With that being said, the town is extremely busy. We try to avoid going there unless we absolutely have to, as it is not what we consider ‘relaxing’. But there are times that we need to venture into town, and they always seem to have everything we need. Traverse City also has unique shops downtown, along with several craft breweries.
A note about the weather
Early October weather on the Leelanau Peninsula is quite often different than what is found inland. This is due to the moderating effects of Lake Michigan. Frosts and freezes tend to come later here. As a result, the trees change color a little later than they do inland. That being said, come prepared for crisp, cool nights. Layering is recommended, as is rain gear….not so much for the rain, but for the wind. More often than not, there is a fresh breeze blowing up here.
We hope this list is helpful to those of you coming to this area for your first visit. Once you are north of Traverse City, slow your pace down and take it all in. Above all, have a wonderful time. The fall colors should be tremendous! In our opinion, Leelanau is a pretty great place to be. 🙂