Leelanau County, a stunning Lake Michigan peninsula, is filled with rolling cherry orchards, vineyards, trails to ski and hike and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Dotted throughout are some of the most picturesque, unique villages in Northern Michigan, filled with restaurants, galleries, shopping and entertainment. Here's a peek at what you can expect to find in Leelanau's towns. Now, hit the road!
Multiple household shrines to Mary; not one, but two Polish sausage shops; a gigantic and riotous Polkafest every July. This humble town beside Victoria Creek displays a proud heritage. Bonus: subtle surprises are tucked in, like a destination quilter’s shop; a superb knitting store and Cedar City Market’s blend of organic food and fine wine. (Remember: polka is three beats.)
A surf shop, a friendly tavern called Friendly Tavern, a grocery store with a good butcher counter. Empire expresses a captivating blend of counter-culture individuality and hometown warmth. Set at the foot of the majestic Empire Bluffs and sporting a fab Lake Michigan beach out its back door, Empire is … well, a magical empire indeed. (FYI: the headquarters of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a short walk from downtown).
Watch a summer sunset on Sleeping Bear Bay by Glen Arbor and you’ll know one of the most ethereal, lingering and lovely moments the American landscape has to offer. Talk it over as you stroll the tiny burg’s sidewalks. Live music on Boonedock’s deck? Whitefish sandwich and brew at Art’s? Smart jewelry and women’s fashion and captivating art in shops all around.
Rising on the banks of the narrows that separates North and South Lake Leelanau, this namesake town serves up a marvelous mix of crazy good stuff. Like bonafide Indian take-out at the grocery, dynamite vegetarian at Kejara’s Bridge, global aesthetic wool fashions at Baa Baa ZuZu, and of course, a good high-ball and burger at Dick’s Pour House (where they’ll also cook that fish you caught out on the lake).
Come summer, Leland sidewalks reflect a spirited mix of locals, resorters, tourists and boaters. All are drawn to this movie-set town of prim neighborhoods, inventive boutiques and the cedar-shake tourist shops of Fishtown. Three waterfront restaurants prove that the locals have priorities straight. Provision up at the Leland Mercantile grocery and catch the ferry to the Manitou Islands right here for a lovely boat excursion or campout.
At Leelanau’s tip, Northport exudes an island-like sense of individuality and waterscape. Hang-out at the beach, right in town. Walk the pier, lie around, then wander shops and eateries as various desires take hold. Dog Eared Books for used reads, Eat Spot for gourmet sandwiches, a cool rock shop in an old rail car. Stubb’s for dinner.
Just a few businesses in this Lilliputian harbor town, but each is worth a visit: check out Tamarack Gallery for inspired art; the Omena General Store for a soda and dose of that somewhere-in-time feel; Leelanau Cellars and Knot Just a Bar restaurant for that irresistible view of Omena Bay.
Inventive restaurants (tons of take- out), unexpected boutiques, smart antique shops, even a great little grocery store and The Bay Theater classic movie theater. Linger till evening and wander the marina in the purple hues of dusk. Just so you know: you’re going to want to live here.