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Northern Michigan Vacations: Leelanau County isn't just a vacation paradise. The peninsula has a rich cultural history of 19th century farmhouses, unnerving shipwrecks, immense logging & fishing industries, and Native American settlements. Stop in the blacksmith exhibit at Glen Haven or tour the gravel roads of Port Oneida to get a glimpse of what this place looked like before it became a 21st century tourist destination.
A connection to Great Lakes maritime culture is being preserved, in a functional way, in this collection of weathered fishing shanties, smokehouses, tugs and charter boats along the Leland River. The nonprofit Fishtown Preservation Society offers self-guided walking tours. 203 E. CEDAR STREET, LELAND, 231.256.8878, FISHTOWNMI.ORG.
Empire Area Museum Center
This multi-building museum lets you stroll town as it once looked. Walk through the Roen Saloon, a one-room schoolhouse nestled in trees, a blacksmith’s shop, an old-time fire station and more. 11544 LACORE ST., EMPIRE, 231.326.5568.
St. Wenceslaus Church and Cemetery
Set atop a lofty ridge with a view of Lake Michigan and the rolling countryside, this Gothic period beauty was constructed by volunteers in 1914 to replace the original church built by Bohemian settlers in 1890. Browse a cemetery remarkable for its metal gravestones shaped by Bohemian craftspeople. 8500 E KOLARIK RD., SUTTONS BAY, 231.271.3574.
Glen Haven District
The entrance to one of the region’s prettiest beaches is characterized by a historic village restored to its 1920s appearance and function. Pick up vintage goods at the General Store, find historic boats at the cannery boathouse museum, or interact with a blacksmith forging tools. Off M-109, just south of Glen Arbor. 231.326.5134, NPS.GOV/SLBE.
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore uses 18 farmsteads to convey historic themes through exhibits, kiosks, tours and field guides and an annual hands-on historic fair. 231.326.5134, NPS.GOV/SLBE.
Exhibits feature lighthouse history and archaeology, shipwrecks and area Native American settlements, and new Historical Ghost Walks bring that history to life in a particularly eerie way. A rare opportunity to live a lightkeeper’s life is offered through a volunteer keeper program. 15500 N. LIGHTHOUSE PT. ROAD, NORTHPORT, 231.386.7195, GRANDTRAVERSELIGHTHOUSE.COM.