Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula: A Day by the Lakes

Workers remove the nets from grape vines in Old Mission, Michigan.
Workers remove the nets from grape vines in Old Mission, Michigan.
Glen Haven lakefront.
The shore of Lake Michigan at Glen Haven.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore, on the shore of Lake Michigan.
A Great Lakes fishing boat with an enclosed deck.
A Great Lakes fishing boat with an enclosed deck, in Glen Haven, Michigan.
Inside Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, where it's all about cherries.
Inside Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, where everything is made of local cherries.

I love discovering new places and today’s excursion onto the Leelanau peninsula outside of Traverse City, Michigan was a fascinating series of discoveries.

I never knew about the vast fishery of the Great Lakes and that only native Americans are allowed to fish for chub, whitefish, lake trout and salmon here, nor have I ever seen so many different ways you can market cherries, or that there are almost 40 wineries in these two large counties in Northern Michigan.

But that’s why I’m a travel writer and why I always say yes to visiting a new place, so I can share these wonderful things with you, my dear readers.

Mike Norton picked me up in a snow squall and we set out heading west from Traverse City across the flatlands where cherry and apple orchards dot the landscape.  Vast open tracts of land looked like places you’d find deer–and that’s correct.

Our first stop was the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s visitor center, where we looked over a diorama which showed the steep cliffs that plunge down to the shore of Lake Michigan. A hike on a snowy path took us up about a mile to a bluff where the magnificent dunes shone bright and we could see the North and South Manitou, small uninhabited islands just off the coast.

We drove up the coast to the town of Glen Haven, which is home to a small maritime museum (closed this time of year) and then to the summer town of Glen Arbor, which was mostly windswept and closed, and felt like being in Cape Cod in February.

This part of the world is cherry country and to find out all about the fruit we visited The Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor.  From cherry flavored coffee, to jams, jellies, dried and fresh cherries, the theme here was pretty clear, and a sign said it all: Apples Smaples, Peaches, Smeaches, Oranges, Smoranges.

Hell yeah!

We continued up north until we got to Leland, where ferries depart for the islands and a member of the Carlson family was smoking salmon and beef in a wood fired smoker.

 

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