Smitten with the Mitten: Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula is family-friendly vacation destination

This Georgia-native is embarrassed to admit I’ve overlooked Michigan as a vacation spot my whole life.

Until now.

We just got back from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Mackinac Island as well as Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula (also called the mitten’s little finger). I loved all three areas. But the Leelanau Peninsula wins in terms of utmost beauty.

Turns out: fresh coast, best coast.

Here’s what we did in Michigan and recommend:


Upper Peninsula

Pictured Rocks Cruises Spray Falls Cruise on Lake Superior to see Pictured Rock National Seashore

Junior Ranger packet from @ Munising Falls Visitor Center and hit Sand Point Marsh Trail across from Sand Point Beach.

Hike Grand Sable Dunes Trail to access Grand Sable Dunes on Lake Superior.

Hike Log Slide Overlook Trail for views of Lake Superior, the Grand Sable Dunes, and Au Sable Lighthouse.

Hike Beaver Basin Wilderness Loop to look (unsuccessfully) for beavers.

Ride the self-guided observation raft in Michigan’s largest freshwater spring, Kitch-iti-kipi (which means “big cold water”) in Palms Book State Park.


Mackinac Island

Ride Star Line Mackinac Island Hydro-Jet Ferry from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island. Catch one of the few rides that goes under the “Mighty Mac” Mackinac Bridge –  the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere – en route to the island.

Rent basketed-bikes from Mackinac Cycle on Main Street on Mackinac Island and do the self-guided attractions tour to see Arch Rock, Skull Cave, Fort Mackinac, Grand Hotel.


Leelanau Peninsula

If you, like me, have long wanted to stay in a yurt, you will love the magical yurt we stayed in on storybook-like Spruce Hill Farm in Maple City. It’s like a woodsy pantheon complete with windowed dome and loft. The farm includes an equally magical horse named Chief, pigs, goats, chickens and ducks plus miles of trails through meadows and handknit-sweatered-trees.

Outdoor dinner @ The Little Fleet in Traverse City

Spend as much time as possible @ Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore including The Dune Climb from the base of the dunes to beautiful blue Lake Michigan in Glen Arbor.

Junior Ranger packet from Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire.

Hike Empire Bluff Dune Trail in Empire for steep bluff views of dunes and Lake Michigan.

Outdoor dinner and maybe watch curling @ Broomstack in Maple City.

Hike Pyramid Point Trailhead in Maple City for an expansive northern view of dunes and Lake Michigan

Outdoor lunch @ Hop Lot Brewing Co in Suttons Bay with s’mores by a bonfire and cornhole

Cherry pit spitting contest outside @ Cherry Republic in adorable town of Glen Arbor.

Pizza to go from Pegtown Station in Maple City.

Sidenote: We spent too short of time in the oh-so-retro Sagatuck along Lake Michigan and would love to return.

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