Old Mission Lighthouse.
Postcard-worthy scenery in a secluded nature preserve, picnicking at the base of a lighthouse, penny candy from a 100-year-old general store: purely protocol for another spectacular day along Old Mission Peninsula (oldmission.com).
Kick-start your dream cruise by driving north on M-37 (also known as Center Road) and make your first stop the scenic overlook just past Nelson Road. From this elevated point on the 45th parallel, you can see over orchards and vineyards to the sparkling blue waters of both bays. Continue north until you hit Old Mission Road, then turn right and follow it as it hooks left to Mission Road. The Old Mission General Store (231-223-4310) waits on your right.
Started more than 160 years ago in a wigwam, the store offers the best of the past — think nickel coffee, wide-planked pine floors, pickle barrels, brass spittoons, Black Jack gum and antiques galore — with modern-day gourmet. Pick a picnic-worthy sandwich made with the deli's fine cheeses and meats, toss in a bottle of Orange Crush, then head back to Center Road, rolling north until the road ends at Old Mission Lighthouse Park. After a picnic beside the beach's glassy waves, dip into the surrounding forest trails for a stroll.
With belly content and legs stretched, retreat back to the front seat and drive south down Center Road, turning right on Kroupa Road and following its zigzag south to Neah-ta-wanta Road, which loops through a sleepy summer cottage enclave tucked among the trees. At the end of the loop, stay on Neah-ta-wanta as it jogs east, turning left up the unpaved Pyatt Road to the Pyatt Lake Nature Preserve (888-929-3866, gtrlc.org). Here, hiking trails and boardwalks meander beneath a dense canopy of trees while two observation decks offer views of pristine wetlands. Just before sunset, drift back to Neah-ta-wanta Road, heading east again toward Peninsula Drive, which will route you along the orange-lit coast until you meet up with M-37 near the base of Old Mission.
Lynda Twardowski is travel editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
This article was first published in April 2006 and was updated for the web February 2008.