Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- 1. Visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
- 2. Search for Petoskey Stones
- 3. Stroll Around the Leland Historic District
- 4. Take a Boat Ride in Charlevoix
- 5. Explore Mackinac Island in a Horse & Buggy
- 6. Eat Fudge from the Fudge Capital of the World
- 7. Learn Some History and Fire a Cannon
- 8. Taste Cherries in More Ways Than You Can Imagine
- 9. Tour the Mushroom Houses in Charlevoix
- 10. Sample Wine at Mari Vineyards
- 11. Enjoy a Scrumptious Brunch from Patisserie Amie
Northern Michigan is one of those surprising U.S. vacation destinations. From one of the most beautiful dunes beaches in the world to a no-cars-allowed island to more cherries than you can possibly eat, here are 11 of our favorite things to do in Northern Michigan.
If you are searching for a unique vacation destination, look no further than Northern Michigan. I think vacationing in Michigan may be the best-kept secret in the country. I was really impressed with Michigan’s exquisite towns of Mackinac Island, Traverse City, Charlevoix, and Petoskey. Each destination is bursting with charm and character reminiscent of cities in Europe. Read on for my 11 favorite things to do in Northern Michigan.
Will you be required to wear a mask at your destination? Try one of these super cute masks from Etsy.
1. Visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
This is one of the most beautiful stretches of sand dunes anywhere in the world. And the Lake Michigan waters this far north are surprisingly clear and blue. But it’s the dunes that are the draw.
Sleeping Bear Dunes is a National Lakeshore, encompassing 35 miles of shoreline. The towering sand dunes provide not only a treat for your eyes but also a playground for those physically fit enough to enjoy the 450 foot drop in terrain. I watched in awe as families ran down the dunes, then basically crawled back up, mostly on all fours. Signs were posted saying that it is possible you may have to be airlifted from the bottom due to the incline and strength needed to climb in the deep sands.
2. Search for Petoskey Stones
I never imagined that I would enjoy combing the beaches for rocks on my vacation, but in Petoskey, it is a very cool thing to do. The stones are native to this area in Northern Michigan. Petoskey stones are both rock and fossil and quite beautiful when polished. The rock is shaped like a pebble and has ringed designs that look fashionable to me.
With Michigan’s crystal clear water, it was easy to find them in the shallow waters. The rocks make nice souvenirs, too. If you can’t find them on your own, never fear; Petoskey stones are sold around town.
3. Stroll Around the Leland Historic District
Leland’s commercial fishing heritage is alive and well in “Fishtown.” This restored area offers quaint shops, 19th-century weathered fishing shanties, and scenic waterfront views.
I enjoyed browsing the shops (especially Leland Gal) and eating a famous Third Coast sandwich (Chicken breast, Maytag blue cheese, lettuce, tomato, and Brownwood’s Kream mustard on pretzel bread) from Village Cheese Shanty. You can also charter a fishing boat in Fishtown, which would be a blast on the beautiful waters.
I’m a facts girl, so it was interesting to learn that Fishtown was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
4. Take a Boat Ride in Charlevoix
Charlevoix (pronounced char-la-voy) is a beautiful town in Northern Michigan. It is surrounded by four bodies of water: Lakes Michigan, Round, and Charlevoix, plus the Pine River.
With so much waterfront property, it would be a shame to miss taking a boat ride to admire the elegant homes. These killer houses often have two, four, or six incredibly fancy boathouses and slips, which made me feel a bit dreamy just seeing them. Make sure to schedule time for a quick trip to see the Charlevoix South Pier Light Station.
One of the best things to do in Northern Michigan has to be spending as much time on the cool waters as possible.
5. Explore Mackinac Island in a Horse & Buggy
To get to Mackinac Island, you must travel by boat. We arrived by ferry. Mackinac (pronounced Mack-i-naw) is ano-cars-allowed island. Once the ferry drops you off, you have three choices to get around: by bicycle (bring your own or rent them there), on foot, or by horse-drawn carriage.
While you’ll spend most of your time on the island biking or walking, don’t miss the chance to take a horse and buggy ride. It’s the way things have been done there for years and years. I actually found it quite nice to explore Mackinac Island this way. The scenic trip was perfect for snapping pictures and seeing the pristine cottages and buildings. The horses were well-tended to and had plenty of rest time and water breaks. For those curious, there are 550 horses on the island.
6. Eat Fudge from the Fudge Capital of the World
I don’t really think we need a reason to eat fudge, but since Mackinac Island is the fudge capital of the world, you should definitely indulge. Families gather in droves in the downtown fudge shops to watch master candy makers pour and flip the rich goodness to perfection in these heavenly smelling stores. Ryba’s Fudge Shops satisfied my sweet tooth with its Chocolate Mint fudge and English Toffee flavors of fudge.
7. Learn Some History and Fire a Cannon
Mackinac Island is filled with history, including a self-guided walking tour of the some of the historic houses. But take kids to Fort Mackinac, which was built during the American Revolution and remained an active military fort until 1895. There, kids can learn to march just like soldiers who lived at the fort — some with their wives and children! — did. The highlights: Playing with period children’s games and watching (and hearing) the deafening daily cannon blast. One lucky kid gets to help load and fire the cannon each day. Get more information about that here.
Read More: 30+ Fun Midwest Road Trip Ideas
8. Taste Cherries in More Ways Than You Can Imagine
Michigan also bills itself as the Cherry Capital of the World. Find anything and everything you could ever want cherry flavored in the Great Hall at the Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, a huge store dedicated to cherry salsas, syrups, jams, chocolates, and more! The Winery, directly beside the Great Hall, offers cherry wine tasting while The Grand Cafe offers a tasty meal (cherry bratwurst, anyone?), snack, or ice cream. Don’t leave the Cherry Republic without purchasing at least one jar of the delicious classic cherry salsa.
9. Tour the Mushroom Houses in Charlevoix
Local resident Earl Young’s quirky Mushroom Houses can be toured on your own or through a more in-depth tour aboard a cute GEM car through the town of Charlevoix. See for yourself these 26 adorable gnome-like homes, with stone masonry walls and wavy eaves, designed by an eccentric man who was not a licensed architect. The melted look on the chimneys of the hobbit houses was my favorite part. Wouldn’t it be cool to see inside them? Unfortunately, they are all rental properties so that isn’t currently an option without renting one of them.
10. Sample Wine at Mari Vineyards
Who isn’t a fan of wine sampling, especially when the wines are all lip-smacking good? On a tour of Mari Vineyards in Traverse City, you’ll enjoy the exquisite landscape and scenery almost as much as the tantalizing wines. I recommend the Praefectus red and the Scriptorium Riesling white. Mari Vineyards has one of the most upscale and beautiful tasting rooms I’ve ever experienced. The vineyards staff was super knowledgeable about the grapes, climate, and vintages.
11. Enjoy a Scrumptious Brunch from Patisserie Amie
I had read about Patisserie Amie in Traverse City long before I visited. Neither rain nor lack of motor transportation (ride shares are rare in this part of the state) could stop me from trying Sunday brunch at this talked-about French bistro. I opted for a Raspberry French Soda that whet my whistle and one of my favorite sandwiches ever, Croque Madame, to eat. Wow, the bechamel was on point, creamy and rich. I loved the open-faced concept of the sandwich and the taste was sheer perfection.
What are your favorite things to do in Northern Michigan?