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Northern Michigan Vacations: Old Mission Peninsula, a finger-like, 22-mile-long strip of land that divides East and West Grand Traverse Bays, serves up miles of beachy coastline, rolling hillsides, cherry orchards, vineyards, nature preserves and parks, and some breathtaking views. Here are some of our picks for the best Old Mission has to offer. For a map of roads and attractions, visit oldmission.com.
A lazy, self-guided driving tour that leaves plenty of room for spontaneity is the best way to take in the sights of Old Mission. Follow Center Road (M-37) from the base of Old Mission all the way to the tip, feeling free to divert from this mainline for more scenery and off-the-beaten-path exploration. For great views on the west side of Old Mission, try stretches of scenic Peninsula Drive; on the east, the best scenery can be found on Bluff Road and East Shore Road. Whichever route you take, make sure to hit up Lighthouse Park at the northern tip of Old Mission for access to trails, beaches, a historic lighthouse and a picnic area. Time it right, and you’ll also find this is one of the best spots around to catch a romantic sunset.
Old Mission’s location at the 45th parallel combined with its soil and topography make it one of the best wine regions in the country. A half-dozen wineries call Old Mission home, making it an ideal destination for a serene day of wine tasting (see our guide on page 35). Other great ways to while away an afternoon on Old Mission include a hike through Pelizzari Natural Area, where easy to moderate trails wind through a mix of meadows, woods and a lovely stand of old hemlocks; swimming at Haserot Park, a fantastic (and seldom busy) beach; and picnicking at the kid-friendly park on beautiful Bowers Harbor. (Find provisions, plus ice cream, antiques and souvenirs at the funky Old Mission General Store. 18250 Mission Rd., Village of Old Mission, 231.223.4310.)
Many of Old Mission’s restaurants are tucked down side roads that are easily missed from M-37. On the peninsula’s main artery, however, you’ll find a great lunch spot: Bad Dog Deli (14091 Center Rd., Traverse City, 231.223.9364), a great place for a grab-and-go lunch on your way to the park or beach. Peninsula Market (14111 Center Rd., 231.223.9500, thepeninsulamarket.com) is another spot for assembling a meal to go, including local produce and wines. For sit-down dining, the Jolly Pumpkin (13512 Peninsula Dr., Traverse City, 231.223.4333, jollypumpkin.com) offers craft beers, spirits and classy twists on the traditional pub grub menu; or try Mission Table for an inspired farm-to-table destination that also offers beer, wine, and house-made distilled spirits (13512 Peninsula Dr., Traverse City, 231.223.4222, missiontable.net).