Skip to Content

20 Best Things to Do in Manistee, Michigan: Guide to Must-See Attractions (MAP)

manistee lighthouse- one of the best things to do in manistee michigan

Are you looking for the best things to do in Manistee Michigan, a hidden gem nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan?

This picturesque town in west Michigan offers a delightful blend of natural beauty, rich history, and endless recreational opportunities for outdoor adventure. It is the perfect destintaion for a famiily vacation, romantic getaway or weekend adventure.

In fact, it’s the perfect trip idea for some pure Michigan fun all four seasons!

With miles of unspoiled Lake Michigan beach, three harbors, a charming downtown shopping and dining area, historic sites to explore, lakes and rivers for fishing and boating, and acres of pristine forest for hiking, biking and camping, you’ll want to add visiting Manistee to the top of your Michigan bucket list now.

In this travel guide, we’ll take you through the best things to do in Manistee. We’re also including a map to help you plan your visit to Manistee!

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or simply seeking a peaceful getaway, Manistee has something for everyone.

guide to M22 Michigan scenic Highway

About the City of Manistee MI

Located in northwest Michigan’s Manistee County, the city of Manistee seamlessly blends natural beauty with rich historical heritage.

Known for its breathtaking beaches and stunning sunsets, Manistee attracts visitors with its picturesque landscapes and outdoor recreational opportunities. Located just south of natural wonders of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the beaches here are spectacular.

The city’s vibrant downtown area boasts a delightful mix of quaint shops, cozy restaurants, and beautifully preserved Victorian-era architecture, offering a nostalgic charm to residents and tourists alike.

The Manistee River, winding through the heart of the city, provides a serene backdrop for various water activities, including kayaking and fishing.

History enthusiasts can explore the Manistee North Pierhead Lighthouse or delve into the past at the Historic Ramsdell Theatre.

With its captivating scenery, small-town atmosphere, and thriving arts scene, Manistee offers a captivating experience if you’re traveling in the Great Lakes region.

The many unique attractions in Manistee make the area a perfect spot for a Michigan road trip, quick getaway or long vacation year-round.

map of the best things to do in manistee Michigan

Top Things to Do in Manistee Michigan

Unwind on Manistee’s Beautiful Beaches

Manistee’s pristine sandy beaches along Lake Michigan provide a tranquil escape. Whether you’re sunbathing, swimming, or building sandcastles, the breathtaking views and soothing sounds of the lake will leave you refreshed.

First Street Beach and Douglas Park – 1st St, Manistee, MI 49660

This popular beach in downtown Manistee offers a wide, sandy beach and is ADA-Accessible. It’s dog-friendly, too: you’ll find a dog run, pavilions, picnic areas, a playground, concession stand, basketball court, volleyball, grills, outdoor seating and a boat launch.

5th Avenue Beach – 108 N Lakeshore Dr, Manistee, Michigan

Known as one of the most stunning beaches in Manistee, this Fifth Avenue Beach is perfect for those who want to take a leisurely stroll along the picturesque North Pier.

The Manistee North Pierhead Lighthouse can also be found at the end of the pier, adding to the area’s charm. The bathhouse has been recently renovated and offers convenient amenities such as a fantastic food vendor and shower facility. Families visiting the beach will be pleased to discover a fantastic playground for the kids and tennis courts for parents to enjoy.

Orchard Beach State Park – 2064 Lakeshore Rd, Manistee, MI 49660

Located three miles north of Manistee, this stunning beach is currently closed for beach access due to erosion, but the bluff overlooking lake Michigan is a perfect spot to take in some amazing sunsets.

Arcadia Beach – west end of Lake Street in Arcadia MI

Located near Manistee MI about a half-mile north along the coast of Lake Michigan, you’ll find a sandy beach, picnic tables, grills, playground area, and public restrooms, too.

Beautiful lake Michigan Beach in Manistee Michigan
Beautiful Lake Michigan Beach in Manistee, Michigan

Enjoy the Manistee Riverwalk

The Manistee Riverwalk is a completely accessible pathway that accompanies the scenic Manistee River as it gracefully winds through the heart of downtown.

If you head towards the south, you’ll discover the South Riverwalk, which spans a length of 1.75 miles from where the Manistee River meets Lake Michigan, extending eastwards to Manistee Lake. Along this route, you’ll pass underneath two bridges and have convenient access to a variety of shops lining Manistee’s River Street.

While strolling along, be sure to keep an eye out for majestic lake freighters navigating the river, transporting supplies to industries further upstream. Witnessing these grand vessels in action is truly awe-inspiring!

michigan national forests

Explore the Majestic Huron Manistee National Forest

You can immerse yourself in the wonders of nature in the sprawling Manistee National Forest. This vast wilderness boasts miles of scenic hiking trails, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Discover hidden waterfalls, witness stunning fall foliage, and keep an eye out for native wildlife.

The Manistee River Trail and North Country Trail offer exceptional opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife photography.

best haunted houses in michigan

Tour a Ghost Ship

The SS City of Milwaukee, a retired Great Lakes steamship built in the 1930’s, is a former car ferry that transported travelers across lake Michigan for almost fifty years.

A National Historic Landmark now owned by the Society for the Preservation for the SS City of Milwaukee; this grand ship is open for tours. In addition to guided tours and museum exhibits, the SS City of Milwaukee is also open seasonally as a bed and breakfast.

PRO-TIP: A highlight for Michigan fall travelers is the Ghost Ship haunted attraction in October, a family-friendly haunted house that attracts visitors from around the country.

Magoon Creek Natural Area

If you love the outdoors, Magoon Creek is the perfect destination for you. It’s a spacious recreational area with an abundance of hiking and biking trails, catering to the outdoor enthusiast in you. Magoon Creek nature preserve is an excellent choice for a peaceful afternoon picnic, as its beaches tend to be tranquil and less crowded.

The park provides numerous picnic tables and covered pavilions situated atop a breathtaking bluff that reaches over 150 feet in height. From this vantage point, you’ll be treated to a spectacular view, encompassing the dunes to the south and the iconic Manistee North Pier Lighthouse to the north.

Delve into Manistee’s Rich History

Step back in time and explore Manistee’s historic downtown, which showcases the town’s Victorian-era architecture and intriguing heritage. Visit the Manistee County Historical Museum to learn about the region’s past, including its lumbering and shipping industries. Don’t miss the Ramsdell Theatre, a beautifully restored venue offering live performances and cultural events.

manistee beach - best things to do in manistee Michigan

Marvel at the Manistee North Pierhead Lights

A visit to Manistee would be incomplete without admiring the iconic Manistee North Pierhead Lighthouse.

Stroll along the north pier, snap photos of the picturesque lighthouse, and take in the panoramic views of Lake Michigan. The lighthouse is an excellent spot to witness breathtaking sunsets, creating a truly unforgettable experience.

Take in a movie at the Vogue Theater- 383 River St, Manistee, MI 49660

Stop by this historic theater built in 1938 to catch the latest Hollywood flick! This historic gem in downtown Manistee still features the original signage and marquee, giving you a feeling of stepping back in time!

manistee river in the fall
The Manistee River in the Fall

Discover Outdoor Adventures on the Manistee River

Embark on an exciting river adventure by kayaking or canoeing along the scenic Manistee River. Experience the thrill of navigating gentle rapids and winding through peaceful stretches of forested landscapes.

Fishing enthusiasts will find abundant opportunities to reel in trout, salmon, and steelhead, making it a paradise for angling enthusiasts.

More best Things to Do in Manistee Michigan

Indulge in Gaming and Entertainment at Little River Casino Resort

If you’re seeking entertainment and gaming excitement, head to the Little River Casino Resort located just outside Manistee. Test your luck at the variety of slot machines and table games, catch live performances by renowned artists, and savor delectable dining options. The resort provides a perfect blend of relaxation and excitement.

Arcadia overlook- inspiration point
Arcadia Overlook, also known as Inspiration Point

Savor the Views at the Arcadia Overlook

Head north along the popular M-22 Scenic drive to Inspiration Point, where you can climb the stairs to be rewarded with an unforgettable panoramic view of Lake Michigan.

Chances are good that you’ve seen a picture of this on social media, it’s a popular stop on an sightseeing tour for anyone passing through the area. Trust us, the stairs are worth the climb: Lake Michigan shows some gorgeous shades of aqua blue here.

Hike Arcadia Dunes: CS Mott Nature Preserve – Gilbert Rd, Arcadia, MI 49613

Arcadia Dunes is a tranquil haven for nature enthusiasts. With its expansive sand dunes, lush forests, and diverse ecosystems, this preserved area offers a unique opportunity to connect with the natural world.

You’ll find a network of well-maintained trails that meander through its pristine landscapes, providing breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding wilderness. From hiking and bird-watching to photography and peaceful picnics, a visit to this serene sanctuary is a must for nature lovers seeking a rejuvenating escape.

Shop in Downtown Manistee

Whether you prefer the open-air ambiance of market-style shopping or the cozy charm of indoor boutiques, downtown Manistee offers a delightful array of shopping experiences for you.

You’ll find encounter numerous shops, boutiques, and galleries, each brimming with a wide selection of unique gifts, souvenirs, and keepsakes. Here are a few of our favorite spots:

  • The Happy Owl Bookshop -358 River St, Manistee, MI 49660 – offers a wide variety of books from best sellers to books by local authors including a nice selection of children’s books.
  • The Ideal Kitchen – 421 River Street Manistee, MI 49660 – is a favorite stop to stock up on the latest kitchen gadgets and décor. They offer an assortment of gourmet food items, too.
  • Kellie’s Hallmark – 445 River St, Manistee MI 49660- You’ll find some unique souvenirs and clothing along with cards and other gifts at this fun stop on River Street.

More Manistee County shopping and dining spots to check out:

  • MacBeth and Company- 8011 1st Street, Onekama, MI 49675
  • Redeemed Furniture and Décor – 172 Memorial Drive, Manistee, MI
ultimate guide to Michigan craft breweries

Iron Fish Distillery
14234 Dzuibanek Rd, Thompsonville, MI 49683

Michigan’s first farm-based distillery in Thompsonville, MI, is a must-visit destination for those seeking a unique and memorable experience. Nestled in the picturesque countryside, this distillery combines the art of craft spirits with a commitment to sustainability and local sourcing.

With a focus on farm-to-glass production, Iron Fish Distillery takes pride in using locally grown grains and botanicals to create their award-winning spirits. Take a guided tour to learn about the distillation process, from field to bottle.

The on-site cocktail bar offers a cozy atmosphere to enjoy handcrafted cocktails made with their artisanal spirits.

Tour the Manistee Harbor

Manistee Harbor Tours offer both sunset and day cruises on Lake Michigan as well as the Manistee River and Manistee Lake. Their popular Fourth of July cruise offers a great opportunity tio see the Independence Day fireworks display from Lake Michigan, but be sure to check the date as the holiday is celebrated on different date each year!

15 places for disc golfing in michigan
  • Toss the Disc in Lighthouse Park
  • Manistee Golf and Country Club
  • Play A Round of Mini Golf at Northern Falls in Manistee
  • Take a Scenic Plane Ride at Orchard Beach Aviation
  • Camp on the Manistee River at Instalaunch Campground
  • Whitwater Kayak on the Pine River

Planning Your Visit to Manistee Michigan

Manistee, Michigan, offers a delightful mix of natural beauty, historical charm, and recreational activities. Whether you’re captivated by the pristine beaches, fascinated by the town’s rich history, or eager to explore the great outdoors, Manistee has something to offer every traveler.

Embrace the scenic beauty, immerse yourself in the local history, and create cherished memories in this enchanting Lake Michigan destination. Plan your visit to Manistee today and embark on an unforgettable journey.

More Fun Michigan Travel Destinations

best rock hunting beaches in michigan
15 BEST MIchigan chocolate shops
best places to visit in michigan
15 places to go bird watching in michigan