Visit the Leelanau Peninsula
Sparkling wines, stunning Lake Michigan vistas, hiking trails with the heady scent of lavender and famers markets all come together in the charming Leelanau Peninsula, a top northwest Michigan travel destination. You’ll find loads of pure Michigan natural beauty mixed with outdoor activities galore; fishing charters wine tours…along with the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula is home to some of Michigan’s most beautiful areas, and our Michigan guide will help you plan your visit to one of Michigan’s top travel destinations.
Explore Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula
On the outer ridge of the northern Michigan “pinky”, Leelanau Peninsula juts out into the deep blues of Lake Michigan. Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula includes parts of Benzie County, Grand Traverse County and Leelanau County Michigan. The Manitou Islands, North Manitou and South Manitou, are just off the coast of the peninsula in Lake Michigan.
Part of the Lake Michigan circle tour and located just minutes from Traverse City, MI, this area has much to offer visitors throughout every season. From the rustic shanties of Leland’s Fishtown to the sweet elixir of Suttons Bay Ciders to the stunning vistas of the coast, Leelanau Peninsula is quite the travel hotspot.
Read on to discover these don’t-miss spots on the Leelanau Peninsula.
Explore Leland, MI and Fishtown
Within Leelanau County is the tiny town of Leland. The two main features of Leland are Fishtown MI and the harbor. While the harbor offers charter fishing and boat docks, Fishtown Leland is the true feature of the town. Fishtown is a source of history, unique gift shops, and genuine recreation of older days. It’s built around one of the only real fishing villages in the country, where you can watch a variety of fish being transported and prepared for market.
You can’t visit the peninsula without taking a trip to Lake Leelanau. The lake is perfect for boating, jet skiing, tubing, and epic views just a few miles from Lake Michigan. You can rent anything you’ll need on the water at Leelanau Water Sports.
While in the area, you must try out these seasonal Leland MI restaurants.
Riverside Inn: This beautiful inn provides a view of the Leland River, a perfect place to stay the night, and a taste of the fine-dining of Leland.
Bluebird Restaurant and Tavern: Perched on the banks of the Leland River with vivid flower overhangs and blue umbrellas, this restaurant has a quaint dining room and 100-seat tavern. The menu ranges from well-loved pizza to fish, meat, and a delicious bakery!
Village Cheese Shanty: With world-famous pretzel bread in one hand and a platter of creamy cheeses in another, you won’t regret visiting this cheese shop in Fishtown.
Explore Suttons Bay
The next location on your Leelanau Peninsula trip is Suttons Bay. Your can read more about Suttons Bay in our complete guide here. The small village offers big opportunities for fun, food, and relaxation!
What to Do in Suttons Bay
The Bahle Park Warming Hut is something you don’t want to miss if you’re visiting in the winter. After sledding or skiing down the hill of Bahle Park, make your way to the rental warming hut where you’ll find a beaming fireplace fire and maybe make some new friends. Bahle Park also has great trails for walking and hiking in the warmer months!
Eyaawing Museum and Cultural Center was created by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Here, you’ll learn the history of Anishinaabek Indians, browse the work of local and tribal artists, and maybe even attend a special crafting event.
Visit Suttons Bay Ciders and other breweries in Suttons Bay for handcrafted hard ciders, epic views of Michigan, and a tour of some excellent tasting rooms.
Suttons Bay restaurants to try out:
Martha’s Leelanau Table: A personal and charming farm-to-table restaurant in Leelanau county with a classy menu of fresh delicacies.
Village Inn Grill: A perfect restaurant for family dining, visiting the tavern, and celebrating special occasions. The VI Grill is the oldest operating restaurant in the entire county.
45th Parallel Cafe: Known as “the latitude of unparalleled cuisine”, this sweet cafe is halfway between the equator and the north pole. The menu consists of unique omelets, breakfast specialties, and lunch grillers.
Northport sits on the northernmost point of the peninsula. Surrounded by rolling hills, apple and cherry orchards, and the deep blue waves of Lake Michigan, Northport is unmissable in a trip to Leelanau. When you go to Northport, you must take your Leelanau Peninsula bucket list with you so that you don’t leave out any of these vacation experiences:
Take a tour of Grand Traverse Lighthouse and climb the tower for a stunning view of the lake.
Venture out on a sailing yacht day tour where you can enjoy a private tour on Grand Traverse Bay.
You can’t visit Northport without spending time at Leelanau State Park. Within the park is Grand Traverse Lighthouse, camping grounds and mini cabins, and wooded trails for hiking and exploring. This is the perfect stop for kids to play on the playground, families to enjoy authentic camping, and couples to relax on the beach.
The art galleries of Northport are a perfect way to slow down a little and take some time to appreciate the local art scene of Leelanau. Wright Gallery, Borealis Gallery, and Joppich’s Bay Street Gallery are great places to start!
Check out Christmas Cove Beach
Explore Omena, MI
Omena is a small village just south of Northport that boasts of organic farming, the western side of Grand Traverse Bay, and exciting opportunities for tourists. When travelling in Omena, make sure to check out these locations:
Wildwood Rush Canopy Tours is for you if you like ziplining, trekking across suspended sky bridges, and a thrilling, scenic experience.
At Grand Traverse Bike Tours, you can rent a bike or go on a winery bike tour through Traverse City, Leelanau County, or Omena.
Bear and Buck Outdoor Adventures is a guided hunting or fishing experience, ready to whisk you away into the wild parts of Omena.
The last stop on our journey is Glen Arbor. Sleeping Bear Bay, Glen Lake, and a plethora of small lakes on the coast make Glen Arbor a playground for beach-lovers. To plan your trip to Glen Arbor, you’ll need to include the essentials:
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is home to buttery soft sand dunes sloping up above the shock of crystal blue water, wooded camping grounds, and days full of fun and adventure. Climb the dunes and splash through Lake Michigan at this national park.
While you’re at Sleeping Bear Dunes, take a turn down Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. It’s right off M-109 between the towns of Empire and Glen Arbor. As you make your way through, you’ll drive over a covered bridge, catch awe-striking views of Glen Lake, and find yourself surrounded by vibrant green trees. Make sure you stop at all the scenic overlooks, as well as Picnic Mountain for your picnic lunch!
Glen Lake is renowned for its beautiful, pure shades of bright blue. After enjoying the beaches of Glen Lake, take a four-minute drive into Glen Arbor, where you’ll find downtown shops, local art, and a wide variety of outstanding food to try.
About the Author
Kyrsten Newlon is a content writing and editing intern for mymichiganbeach.com. Growing up in Kalamazoo, she wrote and read everything she could. Now, she is a student at Grace College with Journalism and Communications majors and an English minor. She has been published by Grace College, the Winona Lake Newsletter, Input Fort Wayne, and various online blogs. Kyrsten loves raising puppies to be service dogs, spending time in coffee shops, and adventuring through Michigan.