We've visited northwestern Michigan many times over the years, and for those of us who live in Michigan, it was our little secret for many years.
It's not a secret any more since more than 100,000 folks voted to name it as the "Most Beautiful Place in America" in a competition for that titles among views of ABC Television's "Good Morning America" program a couple of years ago.
I still sort of wish it was still our own secret, but I guess it's time now to share some of the fun!
I've written many stories over the years about this region, and I'm finally gathering the stories together for a multi-part series of suggested stops along Michigan's M-22 highway.
Here's Part 2, which wends its way north from Suttons Bay along the eastern side of the Leelanau Peninsula to its tip at Leelanau State Park, just past Northport, and looping back south on the western side of the peninsula to Leland:
You're truly getting away from the busy area surrounding Traverse City and enjoying a beautiful coastline drive along Grand Traverse Bay on this leg of the trip.
Northport has a nice little downtown with a few eateries and stores, and the area is a favorite place for celebrity chef Mario Batali to spend his summers.
Continue north to find Peterson Park and stop to find a remote rocky beach along the Lake Michigan shoreline. There is a small picnic area and viewing platform near the parking lot that offers a bluff-top view of Lake Michigan.
Getting to the beach requires a trek down 114 stairs, but it's a must for rock hounds and folks looking to walk along a beach bereft of the summer crowds of sunbathers and beach volleyball players.
We always wondered about the story behind the Woolsey Memorial Airport and its resemblance to other Works Progress Administration structures we'd seen in Michigan. We finally stopped there for a closer look at the vintage airport late last year and learned of the story behind the pioneering aviator the airport honors. Woolsey wanted to make the first solo trans-Atlantic flight, but tragically lost his life in early 1927 before doing so. Another young aviator (Charles Lindbergh. Ever hear of him?), who reportedly took flying lessons with Woolsey, achieved the goal later that same year.
This little airport, a WPA building finished in 1935, serves as a nice memorial to Woolsey.
The Grand Traverse Lighthouse sits at the very tip of the Leelanau Peninsula in Leelanau State Park.
This is a great stop for beach views, lighthouse history, and a nice place for a picnic or to let the kids blow off a little steam in the park playground. The park also has 8 1/2 miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails. as well as a rustic campground right by the beach
Drive back to Northport and catch M-22 again, going south along the western shore of the Leelanau Peninsula to Leland.
By now, you might be ready for lunch, and depending on the season, our favorite places for lunch along this stretch of the highway include Fischer's Happy Hour Tavern just a few miles south of Northport or the Cove at Leland's historic Fishtown.
We particularly like cozy Fischer's for its soup and pub fare during the winter. The Cove, which closes for several months during the winter, is a nice place to eat outside on the patio overlooking the lovingly preserved commercial fishing shacks and docks and watch salmon heading upstream over a dam to spawn. Don't miss the Cove's famous clam chowder!
Leland has a compact and walkable downtown small-town shopping area (make sure you stop at Leelanau Books while you're in town, where you can use the WiFi or grab a cup of coffee as you browse it's a great selection of regional books).
Winter in Leland offers a much quieter scene as large slabs of ice can create abstract patterns in the bay as visitors dream of the hustle and bustle of summer in the popular tourist destination.
Come on back here next week as we head south further south on M-22 to Glen Arbor and Empire, home to the headquarters of the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.
Want to learn more about some of the places mentioned here? Try checking out Fishtown (A Short Story Collection from Leland, Michigan) by Bill Crandell , Fishtown by Laurie Kay Sommers or Grand Traverse Lighthouse (Images of America) by Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum.
© Dominique King 2015 All rights reserved