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30 BEST Small Towns in Michigan Worth Visiting in 2023 (MAP)

downtown st. joseph Michigan

By Molly Grossman

30 Charming Small Towns to Visit in Michigan

Take a look at this list of 30 charming small towns in Michigan, each filled with something unique to their area worthy of exploring on your next trip.

Michigan’s small towns make up the heart and soul of what most travelers think of when visiting the state. From the Upper Peninsula to the Lower Peninsula, you’ll find picturesque lakeshore views, cute shops and restaurants, festivals filled with friendly folks, and hundreds of miles of nature to explore. It’s no wonder that Michigan travelers are attracted to these charming small towns.

We’ve composed this list of our 30 favorite small towns in Michigan worth visiting, so you have a starting point to plan your adventures through Michigan. Strap in and learn about the different experiences each town has to offer, from awe inspiring art exhibits to enriching museums and historical monuments.

We’ve also included an interactive map to help explore the best small towns in Michigan to visit.

Best Small Towns in Michigan

30 best michigan small towns

Charming Small Towns to Visit in the Upper Peninsula

sault ste marie
Sault Ste. Marie

Sault Ste. Marie

This small town sits way up north in the Upper Peninsula, neighboring another town in Ontario, Canada with the same name. Come appreciate their dedication to the surrounding lakes Superior and Huron by visiting the Soo Locks, one of the busiest ports for shipping vessels in the United States.

Watch a ship pull in, go on a boat tour of the area, or even go for a hike in the surrounding area. You also may want to check out the Alberta House, a showcase for local artists and craftsmen as well as a historical monument. Then, grab your passports and climb aboard the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, a one-day excursion touring through the Agawa Canyon deep into Ontario’s wilderness.

St. Ignace

Home to Straits State Park, this small town located near Lake Huron is known for its outdoor dining culture, ferry services to Mackinac Island, and plenty of lakeshore fun. For the history nuts out there, stop by the Straits Cultural Center and look at their impressive gallery of 3,500+ relics from 18th and 19th century Ignace. For some fun live music, head to American Legion Park and check out the Music by The Bay Summer Series, every night from 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM during July and August.

Be sure to check out the St. Ignace Mission, a national historic landmark dating back to 1671. You have to try Original Lehto’s Pasties,1983 W US-2, St. Ignace, MI 49781, who serve up some the best pasties in the Upper Peninsula.

PRO-TIP: Take a side trip north to see Tahquamenon Falls, a set of waterfalls that are largest falls east of the Mississippi.

St. Ignace and the Mackinac Bridge

Munising MI

Located on the coast of Michigan’s Lake Superior, Munising is a hub for year-round outdoor fun. Located near the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, you’ll find sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, and deep forests for visitors to explore and take in the sights. It’s surrounded by the Hiawatha National Forest, providing miles of hiking trails.

It wouldn’t be an article talking about small-town Michigan without mentioning some lighthouses. Munising has plenty to explore, from the Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse to the Au Sable Light Station. For more lighthouse fun, be sure to visit the Lightkeepers House Museum.

Houghton MI

Home to Michigan Technological University, there’s something to do during every season in Houghton. Known as the gateway to the Keweenaw Peninsula, Houghton is home to a picturesque lift bridge connecting Houghton to Hancock. Shop and dine in the historic downtown and you’ll be transported back to a time when Copper was king.

When there’s snow on the ground, consider going snowmobiling along the Keweenaw Trail. There are several snowmobile outfitters around the county for you to rent a vehicle from or bring your own. Remember to check trail conditions and difficulty levels to ensure safety and enjoyment during your trip.

PRO-TIP: During the warmer months (they are fleeting in the Upper Peninsula), take a trip to Isle Royale National Park. Spend your day travelling on the RANGER III, visit historical fisheries and mines, or plan a camping trip.

the Houghton Lift Bridge, connecting Houghton and Hanocck, MI
The Houghton Lift Bridge, connecting Houghton and Hanocck, MI

Hancock MI

Farmers markets are a small town staple no matter where you go, and Hancock is sure to provide. You’re sure to find anything you need at the Hancock Tori and Farmers Market, where farm fresh produce, honey, and maple syrup can all be found. Don’t miss the chance to tour the historic Quincy Mine, part of Keweenaw National Historic Park. This extensive set of mines operated for over 100 years before closing in the 1970’s.

Repeating every Thursday, the market is certain to fill anyone’s pantry with all their essentials. After stocking up, take a visit to the Portage Canal, which connects Hancock to the nearby town of Houghton.

copper harbor small towns

Copper Harbor

Lined with mountainous regions and scenic drives, Copper Harbor is the ideal destination for nature’s appreciators. Just a mile away from Fort Wilkins State Park, visitors can experience the park with their furry friends while hiking miles of trails for free (not including vehicle entry, which is $13/vehicle.)

Sitting along Lake Superior, this small town offers magnificent views of sunsets and weather-related wonders for everyone to witness. To get a fill of history, take a mine tour through the Delaware Copper Mine, where eight million pounds of copper were once removed from the system.

point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort mi
Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort Michigan

Best Small Towns to Visit in Northern Michigan


Charming downtown Frankfort is one of Michgan’s top small towns. Located near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Frankfort is an ideal vacation home base for lovers of the outdoors.

It sits along Betsie Lake, an extension of Lake Michigan, the town offers several boating amenities and other points of water access, making it one of Michigan’s top beach towns, too. Stroll the downtown area to Stormcloud Brewing, a top Michigan brewery, and duck into the cute boutiques and cafes as you make your way to the Lake Michigan beach.

For more fun along the water, you can take a trip to Point Betsie Lighthouse, complete with a historical tour of the site and a gift shop. Interterlochen Center for the Arts is about 30 minutes east of Frankfort.

PRO-TIP: Traverse City, a once-small town turned into a bustling city on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay, is fun to explore, too.

guide to empire michigan


If you’re looking for the best small town to catch a Lake Michigan sunset, this is it. Nestled in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, charming Empire is the perfect destination for exploring the stunning national lakeshore. Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, located along iconic M-22, is seven miles of overlooks including the famed Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook. You’ll find many more hiking trails and scenic spots to explore here, too.

With a walkable downtown area with a few eclectic shops, restaurants, and local art, you can easily transfer from the sandy beaches lining this town’s coast to a relaxing evening fill of friendly people and lively bars.

Suttons bay best small towns
Downtown Suttons Bay

Suttons Bay

Made up of beaches, nature trails, galleries, and a strong sense of community, Suttons Bay sits on the coast of the Grand Traverse Bay. Several breweries and wineries sit within and around the town, each with a gorgeous natural view.

The town also hosts many galleries, one of which being the Brenda J. Clark Gallery, showcasing the local artist’s expressionist pieces. This community always has a new event each week, including but not limited to a summer music series, sidewalk sales, and an art festival.

Boyne City

Sitting along Lake Charlevoix, Boyne City is the perfect town for those always looking for something exciting to do. Ski enthusiasts will want to check out Boyne Mountain Resort, featuring over 400 skiable acres, 63 trails, and 11 lifts.

This ski resort has lots to do year-round, including Avalanche Bay indoor waterpark and the SkyBridge, the longest timber-towered bridge in the world! When you’re not thrill seeking, check out Kiwidinok Farm, a petting farm home to dozens of charming yaks.

charlevoix one of michigan


Names “Charlevoix the Beautiful” for its Noted for their infamous mushroom houses, there’s much more to do in this colorful small town. If you’ve ever considered sky diving, then consider doing so with Skydive Charlevoix, who specializes in first time jumpers.

Looking for something less adrenaline raising? Spend some time on the beaches of Lake Charlevoix or dine and shop in their charming downtown area. You can also take the ferry to Beaver Island, where you’ll find amazing opportunities for outdoor activities and many chances to experience the natural beauty of Michigan in a special island setting.

PRO-TIP: Head east along Little Traverse Bay to Petoskey and check out the historic Gaslight District, one of my favorite spots to visit in Michigan. Said to be a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway when he was in the area, you’ll find brick-paved streets, cute shops and cafes, too.

Harbor Springs

Sitting just north of Little Traverse Bay, Harbor Springs is a small town offering everything from natural beauty to culinary delights. This upscale resort community is home to art galleries, boutiques and cafes in the downtown area. Take a trip to the Zoll Park and have a fun beach day during the summer or Nub’s Nob ski area and resort during the winter.

For any bicycling enthusiasts, take a ride along U.S. Bicycle Route 35, otherwise known as the Little Traverse Wheelway.

PRO-TIP: Harbor Springs is also the jumping off point for Michigan’s famed Tunnel of Trees.

tunnel of trees

Cross Village

Drive on the M-119, more famously known as the Tunnel of Trees, while visiting Cross Village. Obviously known for its scenic routes and its view overlooking Lake Michigan, this small town holds other notable attractions and sites.

The Offield Family Viewlands contain almost 300 acres of meadows threaded with trails, perfect for an easy-going afternoon hike. For a tasty Polish meal, stop by Legs Inn, complete with rustic charm and a lake view.

best small towns in michigan

Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island was once known for its fur trade, but nowadays it’s more world renowned for its fudge making. Visit JoAnn’s Fudge on Main Street to take a taste of 21 different flavors offered. Afterwards, stop by Benjamin Blacksmith Shop and watch a live demonstration of traditional blacksmithing techniques.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Mackinac without taking a carriage ride around the island, shopping the bustling downtown or visiting iconic landmarks like Arch Rock and Skull Cave.

Mackinaw City

Mackinaw City is more than just the place to catch the ferry for Mackinac Island. It’s also a bustling little tourist destination on the shores of Lake Huron. Yes, you’ll find tons of fudge, souvenir and gift shops. You’ll also find a whole lot more.

Mackinaw City is home to an international Dark Sky Park, Headlands, which is the perfect spot for catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

Another location ideal for those interested in maritime history, or anyone wanting to explore the Great Lakes. Whether you’re taking a visit to the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum, hopping aboard a Soo Lock Boat Tour and exploring the Sault St. Marie, or sailing to the nearby Mackinaw Island via a ferry, Mackinaw City will be sure to delight you. For those who prefer staying on dry land, considering visiting the Garlyn Zoo or visiting one of the town’s several annual events, including but not limited to a Mustang car show and an Art Fair.

mr. moustache in rogers city, one of michigans best small towns
Rogers City MI

Rogers City

Several parks reside within or near this small park, including but not limited to Hoeft State Park, Lakeside Park, South Shore Park, and Harbor View Park. Because of its location along the norther point of Lake Huron, beautiful beach views are found in abundance.

For more lake-themed fun, the Great Lakes Lore Maritime Museum can be found within this town’s limits. Visiting this location gives you access to Great Lakes shipping artifacts and stories about the iconic bodies of water.

downtown east tawas, one of the best small towns in michigan
Downtown East Tawas MI

East Tawas & Tawas City

This Northeastern Michigan town leads into Lake Huron and has many sandy landscapes to appreciate. Birdwatchers and maritime enthusiasts alike would be interested in Tawas Point Lighthouse, a recently retired lighthouse located in Tawas Point State Park. In early August, take a day and go to Czaika’s Blueberry Farm, a U-PICK farm where you can pick as many berries as your basket can fit.

Charming Small Towns in West Michigan

Grand Haven

This coastal small town sitting alongside Lake Michigan describes itself as a year-round vacation destination. Whether you are visiting for just a day or an entire week, Grand Haven has plenty of restaurants, beaches, shops, sights, and other recreational activities to fill your time with. Take a trip on the lakeshore trolley (for free!) to get a full tour of this vibrant small town. At night, visit the spectacular light and sound show that is the Grand Haven Musical Fountain.


A city rooted in Dutch heritage, Holland is filled with matching shops, eateries, and attractions. Veldheer Tulip Farm is one of these places, with its flowers blossoming in May and bulbs becoming available for purchase in August. The Holland Museum provides a crash-course in the towns history and is filling with historical artifacts and Dutch paintings.

New Buffalo MIchigan downtown
New Buffalo MI

Small Towns in Southwest Michigan

New Buffalo

Sitting northward of the Indiana border, New Buffalo is ranked as one of the best small towns in America. It’s located at the mouth of the Gailen River in Michigan’s Harbor Country, and hosts an around-the-clock public boat launch.

The town itself is filled with several charming shops and hosts a vibrant nightlife scene, with the Four Winds Casino Resort open for gambling and the Silver Creek Event Center always prepared for live concerts and other events. Get a taste of local history by visiting the New Buffalo Railroad Museum, which highlights the town’s history and its role in railroad development.

PRO-TIP: St. Joseph, just a 20 minute drive north along the Lake Michigan coast, is also fun to explore, with a cute, brick-paved downtown shopping and dining area.

Three oaks, one of the best Michigan small towns
Downtown Three Oaks MI

Three Oaks

With US-12 making its way straight through this town, Harbor Country’s Three Oaks is the ideal small town to make a pitstop at during your next trip through Michigan.

In the mood for some live entertainment? Stop by The Acorn Center for the Performing Arts, a nonprofit performing arts center dedicated to bringing culture and education to their community. Or, if you’re in the mood for a outdoor adventure, take a hike through Warren Woods State Park or Galien River County Park.

downtown south haven mi
Downtown South Haven MI

South Haven

Along the shore of Lake Michigan sits South Haven, a quaint town made up of boutiques and charming lakeside fun. Unique shops, art, restaurants, live music, and maritime history litter this city’s streets.

The Michigan Maritime Museum is a must-see place for lovers of Michigan, specifically those who appreciate Great Lakes culture and history. For more lake fun, be sure to visit one of the several beaches lining this town’s coast.

PRO-TIP: West Michigan is full of charming small towns to visit, as well as fun tourist attractions. Head north along the Blue Star Highway to Saugatuck Dunes State Park, a west Michigan must-visit.

downtown saugatuck michigan
Downtown Saugatuck Michigan


Saugatuck and neighboring Douglas are friendly spots, and the beautiful settings in these west Michigan beach towns seem to keep everyone in a perpetually good mood.

Whether it’s the amazing art scene, the award-winning beaches, or the endless opportunities for outdoor activities, Saugatuck puts a smile on our face every time you visit. Spend some time in the town’s “Social District,” where you can find cute cafes, bars and shops to wander mixed in with the art galleries.

Be sure to visit famous Oval Beach, once voted the most beuatiful beach in the world by Conde Nast Traveler magazine.


Visit this small town during the Fall when you can run through the corn maze at Crane Orchards. This u-pick apple farm encompasses the cozy Fall-vibes everyone seeks out during the chillier months of the year.

For summer visitors, however, consider visiting the Summerhouse Lavender Farm. Tour gardens, rent out the venue for your next event, or simply peruse through their aromatherapy shop for all your floral-scented needs. The city of Fennville is full of things for vacation goers young and old to do. Want to keep the little ones engaged? Stop by the Forever Curious Children’s Museum, a safe space for children to experience hands-on learning activities.

best things to do in marshall mi


Situated around the North Branch Kalamazoo River, Marshall is a vibrant small town with plenty to offer for its visitors. Indulge in the town’s history by taking a museum trolley tour, where riders will take pit stops at three different museums.

For a whimsical museum trip, visit the American Museum of Magic. There visitors will learn about famous magicians, techniques, history, and decades of archives dedicated to the art of magic.

Adventure seekers will want to visit the Wilder Creek Conservation Club, a conservation district offering hiking, bird watching, fishing, and more. You’ll love all of the beautiful historical buildings lining the main street.

ann arbor michigan
Ann Arbor Michigan

Small Towns in Southeast Michigan

Ann Arbor

Home to the University of Michigan, you’ll want to take a tour of the campus and explore its various museums and gardens, as well as the fun downtown shopping area. You’ll find eclectic shops, cool boutiques and unique restaurants, too.

However, once you’ve had your fill of college life, consider hopping in a kayak and taking a trip down the Huron River Water Trail. If that’s not so much your style, then select one of Ann Arbors many breweries and schedule a tasting tour.

15 best things to do in plymouth michigan


Sitting as one of the rare landlocked locations on this list, Plymouth is still full of interesting attractions sure to excite any visitors. This includes taking a drive down the Historic Hines Drive, a 17-mile-long road lined with hiking and biking paths, fishing docks, and picnic areas. Don’t miss the charming downtown area with boutiques, bakeries, restaurants and more.

While in Plymouth, head out to the farmers market every Saturday morning from 8am-12:30pm to buy some fresh Michigan produce. Several golf courses call this small-town home, including the Saint John’s Resort, home to a championship 18 hole Par 72, a Par 3 course and a natural grass putting course. The Plymouth Historical Museum exhibits showcase the downtown circa early 1900’s, and it worth checking out, too.


Home to Hillsdale College, a private liberal arts institution, Hillsdale is a small town with lots of charm. Explore campus by visiting the Slayton Arboretum, a 48-acre natural area where all are welcome to step into nature.

If you’re looking for something a bit more hands on, then K’s Acres Orchard may be what you’re looking for. They grow a variety of fruit and berries fresh for picking. For an extra treat, stop by their on-farm market to buy maple and other fruit flavored syrups.

lexington, one of the top michigan small towns
Downtown Lexington MI

Charming Small Towns in Michigan’s Thumb Region


Located on the shores of Lake Huron about 30 minutes norrth of Port Huron, Lexington is one of Michigan’s best kept secrets. Home to a busy harbor, long ADA-accessible walking pier and sprawling soft-sand beach, you’ll find a lot to do here.

Stroll the old-fashioned downtown and stop into the Lexington General Store, and then take a walk though the well-manicured park overlooking the harbor, complete with a butterfly garden. Don’t miss the Windjammer Bar and Grill or the historic Cadillac House Inn and Tavern.

downtown frankenmuth, one of michigan's top small towns
Frankenmuth Michigan

Best Small Towns in Mid Michigan


Home to two of Michigan’s top indoor waterparks (Zehnder’s Splash Village and Bavarian Inn Lodge Waterpark and Family Fun Center), Frankenmuth provides a little taste of Germany in the Midwest. In fact, Frankenmuth is called Michigan’s own “Little Bavaria.”

Filled to the brim with family-friendly activities, this is a small town that the kids are sure to love. Ziplining at the Frankenmuth Aerial Park is sure to provide a one-of-a-kind experience like no other for kids and adults alike. Be sure to stop by Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, billed as the world’s largest Christmas store.

PRO-TIP: If you’re looking to do a grown-up only trip, consider visiting the Frankenmuth Brewery or taking a ride on the PedAle Trolley, a fun, peddle-powered bar crawling experience.

Want More Cute Towns in Michigan?

There are even more charming towns in Michigan to worth checking out.

Some are tourist destinations, some are an outdoor paradise with miles of hiking trails perfect for nature lovers, and some are rich with history. Take a scenic drive or road trip and see for yourself!

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About the Author-
Molly Grossman is a content writer and researcher with an interest in arts and nature. She is currently attending university, where she’s studying English with a minor in business. Working part-time backstage at a local performing arts center as a show supervisor, she fills her free time with hiking at local parks and reading. Though not a Michigan native, Molly adores the state’s natural wonders and indulges in its backpacking opportunities.