Leelanau Peninsula: 25+ Best Things to Do, Including Leland, Northport, Empire & Glen Arbor Michigan

Leelanau Peninsula Glen Arbor Leland

From Beaches to Boutiques: Discovering Leelanau Peninsula’s Best

Welcome to Leelanau Peninsula, your next “must-visit” Michigan travel destination.

Maybe you’ve heard of Michigan’s scenic M-22, but haven’t driven all 116 miles of it yet. Maybe you’ve been to Sleeping Bear Dunes or nearby Traverse City but haven’t ventured farther into Leelanau from there.

Empire Bluff Hike at Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan
Empire Bluff Hike at Sleeping Bear Dunes

We’ve been falling for Leelanau since the first time our wheels hit M-22 and we think you will too.

Whether you’re a local or a newbie to Michigan’s fresh coast, the Mitten’s “pinkie” is your soon-to-be-favorite getaway spot.

Where is the Leelanau Peninsula?

Leelanau County is a peninsula is located in northern Michigan. It is often referred to as the Leelanau Peninsula since the landmass is surrounded by Lake Michigan waters.

The southeastern part of the county is very close to Traverse City, Michigan.

If you would like to drive to the northernmost tip of the peninsula, it will take you about an hour to make the 40-mile drive.

When you arrive, you’ll find yourself at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse in Leelanau State Park.

leelanau county on mi map
Leelanau County is located in Northwest Lower Michigan

From picturesque lakeshore towns to outdoor adventure along M-22, discover why you should add this UpNorth slice of paradise to your list.

Small Town Visits

The Leelanau Peninsula is is small, but mighty. When you’re here, you’re by some of the prettiest places Michigan has to offer.


Empire, MI is a tiny village in Leelanau County surrounded by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Empire may be small, but there are delightful things waiting for you here.

Philip A. Hart Visitor Center
9922 W Front St, Empire, MI 49630

Start with a visit to the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center, the Sleeping Bear Dunes headquarters.

Get your park pass and learn about the dunes, all in one easy stop. This is also the place to ask park rangers any questions you have about the National Lakeshore.

You’ll need a pass for any park activities you wish to do including visiting the picture-perfect beaches, trekking up the Dune Climb, or touring Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.

Empire Bluff Trail
Empire Bluff Trail, Honor, MI 49640

Take a short drive up a steep hill to the parking lot of Empire Bluff Trail. This 1.5-mile roundtrip hike is through hardwoods and ends with a spectacular boardwalk bluff view of Lake Michigan. Bonus points if you get here for the sunset.

Tiffany’s Cafe
10213 W Front St, Empire, MI 49630

Quaint on main street Empire, Tiffany’s cafe is a great ice cream or coffee stop.

Empire Beach Village Park
10484 Niagara Street, Empire, MI 49630

Walk from Tiffany’s or drive the few short blocks to Empire Beach where you’ll be greeted with two water options.

Swim in Lake Michigan or South Bar Lake, depending on the wind and water conditions. A waterside playground, basketball court, and picnic spots are available for public use as well.

Fire rings on the Lake Michigan beach are also available. There is a small parking fee at this beach.

Empire Bluff Trail at Sunset in the Fall
Sunset views at the Empire Bluff Overlook


Leland is located on Lake Michigan, a little over halfway up the Leelanau Peninsula.

It’s a bustling summertime tourist destination from June – September. Shops, restaurants, beaches, hikes, and Leland’s Historic Fishtown draw people to the area year after year.

Fishtown – Leland

Leland is probably most famous for its Historic District, otherwise known as Fishtown. Shanties filled with little shops, tugboats, and charter boats line the Leland River, as they have for years.

As in the past, today Leland is still a town with deep commercial fishing roots.

Two Fish Gallery
104 River St, Leland, MI 49654

Shopping in Leland is a treat.

Quaint tree-lined streets and lake breezes make it fun to pop in and out of shops manned by local proprietors. Stores here stock unique finds, making every trip one of discovery.

While we love most every shop in Leland, one has stolen our hearts: Two Fish. Time after time, they stock items that make us smile and that we can’t seem to find anywhere else.

Vans Beach
205 Cedar St, Leland, MI 49654

This sandy beach offers great views of dunes in the distance to the south and Leland Harbor to the north. You might want water shoes if you’re going to swim – the lake has a rocky bottom here.

This is a great beach for rock hunting – you may even find a Leland Blue!

leland fishtown michigan leelanau county
View from Fishtown Looking out Into the Harbor

Suttons Bay

Located on M-22 30 miles north of Sleeping Bear Dunes, and 15 miles north of Traverse City, you can’t miss the village of Suttons Bay.

*Bonus: On-street parking is free in Suttons Bay

The Bay Theatre
214 N Saint Joseph St, Suttons Bay, MI 49682
This cute little town has a walkable main street with great shopping and even a small movie theater, The Bay Theatre.

Grand Traverse Bike Tours
318 N St Joseph St, Suttons Bay, MI 49682

Grand Traverse Bike Tours offers a remarkable package that lets you bike a paved trail to a variety of wineries.

The package includes bike rental and helmet. PLUS a van will come along and collect any wine that you chose to purchase, and they will deliver a catered lunch to one of your stops to enjoy along the way.

Suttons Bay Bikes
318 North St. Joseph St, Suttons Bay, MI 49682

Another shop in town rents bikes as well. This outfitter can set you up with Stand Up Paddleboards (SUPs) or Kayaks for use on the calm waters of Suttons Bay at Suttons Bay Beach, just a hop away from their shop.

Use their online reservation system to ensure availability for your desired timeslots.

Suttons Bay Beach
416 Front St, Suttons Bay, MI 49682

Suttons Bay Beach, aka Sutton Park or South Shore Park, is sandy with playground equipment, restrooms, and easy carry-in kayak or SUP access to the water.

Bayside Gallery
204 N St Joseph St, Suttons Bay, MI 49682

From glass garden sculptures to jewelry & home decor, this vibrant gallery is worth the stop. Featuring over 150 artists from around North America, you’re sure to find something that fits your budget and makes you smile. Don’t miss the wall of clocks!

bayside gallery in suttons bay, michigan
Bayside Gallery Art Garden, Photo: Bayside Gallery

Glen Arbor

The town of Glen Arbor, Michigan, so sleepy in the past, has grown to become a coveted summer vacation destination.

Nestled between Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Glen Lake, this village swells in size in the summer. As a result, it’s one of the few places to find services and amenities in this part of the Leelanau Peninsula.

Don’t be fooled into thinking big-town thoughts, though. There is one small, well-stocked grocery, several restaurants, lovely boutiques, art galleries, recreational outfitters, a few lodging options, and a post office. There are also a couple of small places to access Lake Michigan. This walking map is helpful.

Here are a few favorites not to miss in Glen Arbor:

Glen Arbor Township Park
The corner of State Street & S M-22, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

The big draw here: the playground and pickleball courts. The park also has tennis courts, basketball courts, outdoor workout equipment, walking path and sidewalks, grassy areas, pavilions, public restrooms, a water bottle filling station, swings, and benches.

Glen Arbor Garden
S Lake St, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Public restrooms, open May – November. Includes a kiosk with visitor info, walking maps, benches, and grassy areas.

Glen Arbor Boat Launch
The boat ramp at the end of Lake Street is for seasonal and commercial boats to access Lake Michigan from Glen Arbor. $10 daily use fee is payable at the launch site.

Glen Arbor Farmer’s Market
6394 Western Ave, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Located behind the Town Hall. The market runs on Tuesdays from 9 AM -1 PM, June 4 – September 10, 2024. 

Glen Arbor Township Park Playground


You’ll never accidentally find yourself in Northport.

Located at the tip of Michigan’s “pinkie,” it takes intent to make it all the way to this village. With a population of less than 1000 people, you might be surprised that this little burg packs a punch in the summertime.

Cute shops, restaurants, and a busy harbor are what draw people to the main street. The Farmer’s Market, Music in the Park, and believe it or not – an annual Dog Parade are social highlights of the year. The Dog Parade is held on the 2nd Saturday in August – guaranteed to make you smile.

This is also your last stop on the way to Leelanau State Park, so if you need gas or food, fuel up in Northport.

Annual Northport MI Dog Parade. Photo: Northport Chamber

Outdoor Adventures

Being Up North in Michigan means spending time outside. Whether it’s on the water or on land, there’s no shortage of outdoor adventures in the Leelanau Peninsula.

Kayak Crystal River

Crystal River Outfitters
6249 River Rd, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Crystal River is clear, shallow, and full of logs to navigate. Kayaking this river is the way to go.

Trips last 2-3 hours, stretch four miles, and will probably include wildlife sightings.

At one point, you’ll go through a large culvert and “shoot the tube.”

Hike, Hike, Hike

If you like hiking, you must treat yourself to a Leelanau County visit ASAP.

Unparalleled natural beauty paired with citizens and municipalities bent on preservation have created a hiking oasis that is hard to find anywhere else in lower Michigan.

The Leelanau Conservancy is to credit for many of these preservation efforts.

The number of worthy hiking spots are too many to list. Here’s the top picks:

Empire Bluff Trail
Empire Bluff Trail, Honor, MI 49640

This scenic 1.5-mile out-and-back trail is one Michigan hike you simply must do. Winding through lush hardwood forests for the first half, it ends on a boardwalk overlooking Lake Michigan far below. You’ll love how blue the water looks from the higher vantage point.

Alligator Hill Trail
Stocking Rd, Empire, MI 49630

This is another top hike in the area.

Our hike to the overlook and the “easy” 3-mile loop was just enough for our 5 and 9-year-old. You can’t beat the Lake Michigan views from the top of the Alligator Hill Trails.

Leelanau State Park – Lake Michigan Trail Loop
Hiking Trailhead, Densmore Rd, Northport, MI 49670

This is a gorgeous kid-friendly hike through the woods to a Lake Michigan beach. It’s a 2.4-mile loop of moderate difficulty. Get your Michigan Recreation Passport ahead of time to park for free.

Clay Cliffs Natural Area
4755 North Manitou Tr, Lake Leelanau, MI 49653

This hike isn’t long, but it’s beautiful and family-friendly. There is a 0.75 universal access loop. Portions of the trail are hilly. The trail system goes through woods and open areas. You can hike to a Lake Michigan lookout using the 1.5-mile loop.

Whaleback Natural Area
1639 North Manitou Tr, Leland, MI 49654

We’ll summarize the Whaleback hike as short, steep, and worth it. If you’re in Leland, you’re within walking distance of the Whaleback Natural Area.

The cliff that makes up the whaleback is a local landmark. The cliff (actually a glacial moraine) looks like a beached whale from afar and has been used by Lake Michigan sailors as a reference point throughout history.

The first part of the trail crosses private property, so be sure to stay on the trail. Hike the whole loop for a 1.6-mile trek through a birch forest that includes Lake Michigan views.

Top of Alligator Hill

Tour Pierce Stocking Drive (Sleeping Bear Dunes)

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
M-109, Empire, MI, 49630

*Sleeping Bear Dunes Park Pass Required
Here’s how to get one for free!

This 7-mile scenic driving route takes you to spectacular overlooks of Lake Michigan, Glen Lake, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Two picnic areas are also on the route. Get a brochure at the entrance to the drive.

There are 12 designated stops – but here are the ones that top our list if you’re visiting with kids:

Stop 1: Photo op at the covered bridge. It’s just pretty!

Stop 2: Glen Lake Overlook – Your first glimpse of the vast beauty found at the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Take pictures!

Stop 3: Dune Overlook.

Stop 9: Lake Michigan Overlook – Park and walk to the platform overlooking Lake Michigan. You’re treated to views of the dunes, Manitou Islands, and splendid lakeshore views.

** It’s not recommended that you hike down. The climb back up can take 2 hours and is very strenuous. There’s a hefty rescue fee if you hike down and can’t climb back up.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive Pamphlet
Rangers Distribute Pamphlets at the Entrance to the Pierce Stocking Drive

Go Camping

D.H. Day Campground
8010 W Harbor Hwy, Glen Arbor, MI 49636
Rustic campsites. Operated by the National Park Service. Lake Michigan Beach.

Indigo Bluffs RV Park & Resort
6760 W Empire Hwy M-72, Empire, MI 49630
RV Park & Campground has a swimming pool, modern restrooms, camp store, cabin rentals, RV rentals, laundry, LP gas, dump station, volleyball, shuffleboard, and basketball. Food truck on site.

Leelanau State Park
15310 N Lighthouse Point Rd, Northport, MI 49670
Rustic camping and cabins. Located at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula near the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. Some sites are waterfront.

More camping spots in Leelanau County

D.H. Day Campground in Sleeping Bear Dunes

Go Rock Hunting

Peterson Park
10001 E Peterson Park Rd, Northport, MI 49670

Christmas Cove Park
E Christmas Cove Rd, Northport, MI 49670

We love finding the best places for rock hunting in Michigan. Peterson Park and Christmas Cove Beach in Northport are renowned places to search for Petoskey Stones.

For best results, go after a storm has tossed the beach. Bring a bucket so you can scoop water to wet the dry stones.

Of Note: The Leland Blue Stone is a local treasure. While some may see it as just a by-product of industry, this slag-turned-stone is regularly found on the shores of Leland’s beaches and beyond and has become a symbol for the area. Jewelry, art and other uses have been found for Leland Blue Stones.

Christmas Cove and Peterson Park Rock Hunting – Northport, MI

Go Mountain Biking

Palmer Woods Forest Reserve
4715-5999 S Wheeler Rd, Maple City, MI 49664

The mountain bike trails at Palmer Woods Forest Reserve are intermediate level, single track flow style trails. 

The Central Ridge Loop features a challenging climb with a rewarding downhill descent featuring rollers, berms, and drops that will be a fun challenge for intermediate riders. 

Palmer Woods Mountain Bike Trail Map

Visit the Manitou Islands

Manitou Island Transit ferries visitors to Sleeping Bear Dunes’ North and South Manitou Islands from Leland, MI, every summer.

Manitou Island Transit
207 W River St, Leland, MI 49654
Call 231-256-9061 for all ferry tickets.

South Manitou Day Trip
Ferry day trips to the island leave every day at 10 AM and return to Leland at 5:30 PM. The boat ride to the island is 1.5 hours.

Days trips run daily seven days a week, June 17 through Labor day weekend.  *There is no day trip on Labor Day, September 2, 2024.

Some people bring kayaks on the ferry. There’s an extra fee for this.

You will need to pack all of your supplies, including food and water, as there are no stores or concessions on the island. You’ll also need a National Park Pass. Here’s how to get one for FREE if you’ve got a 4th Grader.

Visitors like to explore the old town that was left behind, as well as the South Manitou Lighthouse. (Daily tours offered July 15 – Aug 16, 2024).

You can also go on an island tour during your visit. Choose from the Farm & Schoolhouse Tour or the Cedar & Shipwreck Tour.
TOUR COST: Adults: $12 Kids 12 or under: $7

Ferry Rates: (Round Trip)
$45/adult – $23/kids (12 & under) – 2 and under:  free

Backpacking North Manitou Island
Ride over to North Manitou Island for a 13+ mile hiking loop. There is only one small campsite where an open fire is allowed, otherwise you’ll need to operate under backcountry rules.
fee must be paid before camping.

Camping on South Manitou Island
Camping on South Manitou Island is permitted in three locations: Bay Campground, Weather Station Campground, and Popple Campground.

Make it to Leelanau State Park

Leelanau State Park
15310 N Lighthouse Point Rd, Northport, MI 49670

Covering over 1500 acres of land, this state park features a rustic campground, lighthouse, and playground. A separate section of the park, located a few miles to the south, is where you’ll find hiking trails leading out to Lake Michigan.

Note: A Michigan Recreation Passport is required to enter any portion of the State Park. Its good for a year and gets you into every State Park in Michigan for free.

Driving from Traverse City to Leelanau State Park will take you about an hour. It’s a picturesque drive, but I wouldn’t make this a destination with little kids unless we were camping at the park or the kids really love lighthouses, hiking or rock hunting. While there is a neat playground on site, there isn’t a lot for kids to do and there are places closer to civilization for hiking and rock hunting.

The Grand Traverse Lighthouse, built in 1850, is one of the oldest in Michigan. The first lighthouse constructed here was of poor quality and had to be replaced with the current structure about 10 years later.

Fun fact: If you are really into lighthouses, you can spend a week here (April – December) as a lighthouse keeper in their Keeper Program.  You’ll stay in the former assistant keeper’s quarters, greet visitors, provide historical information, and more. The cost is $200 per week per person and you’ll have to fill out an application.

For those just wanting a visit, lighthouse admission is $8/adult, $3 for kids 6-12. Ages 5 and under are FREE. You’ll get to walk through the restored keeper’s dwelling and climb the tower for a great view.

Camping at Leelanau State Park

All camping at Leelanau State Park is rustic. Tents and RVs are allowed. Some Camper Cabins are available. You’ll be using vault toilets for this stay.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse Northport Michigan
Grand Traverse Lighthouse, Northport, Michigan
Leelanau State Park Map

Bike a Trail

The Leelanau Trail is paved and runs north/south up the Leelanau Peninsula from the Grand Traverse County line up to Suttons Bay.

The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a 21-mile, mostly paved, trail that traverses the diverse landscape of Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Some sections are relatively flat, while others have steep sections. (See map for details). You need a park pass to use the trails and trailhead.

Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail

Nearby Traverse City Fun

21 Things to do with Teens

Activities teens & tweens actually enjoy

Toddler-Approved Fun

Stroll the shops, hit the beach

Unexpected Adventures

Off-the-beaten path in Traverse City

Multi-Gen Trip Ideas

Activities, eats & stays for all ages

Festivals & Fun

Traverse City’s best things to do in the summertime

Don’t Miss Lake Leelanau

Lake Leelanua is a name that belongs to both a lake and a small unicorporated community on M-204. This community is located at the “narrows” – a spot where a bridge crosses the narrowest section of the lake.

The body of water named Lake Leelanau is 21 miles long and runs north/south on the Leelanau Peninsula. It empties into Lake Michigan via the Leland River on the north end.

Lake Leelanau is a fantastic lake for swimming and water sports. If it weren’t located in such close proximity to the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Traverse City, Lake Michigan, and the Grand Traverse Bay, it might have more name recognition. As it stands right now, it’s a bit of a sleeper hit known to locals and those who’ve visited the area before.

With that said, there are a few places on Lake Leelanau that are perfect family vacation destinations:

Nedow’s Bay (Bartholomew Park)
1221 Juniper Tr, Leland, MI 49654

This is a wonderful family beach and park, especially when the big lake is too cold or too windy.

Located in the village of Leland, this park includes a beach, dock, grills, fire pit, picnic tables, and boat launch.

Fountain Point Resort
990 S Lake Leelanau Dr, Lake Leelanau, MI 49653

Located on the shores of Lake Leelanau, Fountain Point is one of the oldest historic resorts in the state of Michigan, second only to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. A visit to this historic hotel and collection of cabins transports visitors to times gone by, but with the comforts of today.

A large, sandy beach, waterfront bonfires, and boat rentals are just some of the amenities found here.

The resort offers hotel rooms on a nightly basis, and cottages for weekends, 5-day Sunday-Friday stays, or by the week.

Lake Leelanau RV Park
3101 S Lake Shore Dr, Lake Leelanau, MI 49653

Lake Leelanau RV Park is an upscale camping resort set on the shores of Lake Leelanau with 800 feet of frontage. The beach has a large, shallow sandy swimming area.

The park rents boats, kayaks, paddleboards, and more.

At the Lodge, patrons can play pickleball, shuffleboard, and horseshoes among other things. Park activities, a playground and full service camping sites round out the experience.

Map showing the location of Lake Leelanua, the Body of Water
Fountain Point Resort on Lake Leelanau

Local Dining and Tasting

Wine, beer, cherries… Leelanau Peninsula is filled with top picks (and iconic locations) for everything.

Go Wine Tasting in Suttons Bay, MI

Suttons Bay, Michigan is a great home base if you’re looking to do wine tasting on the Leelanau Peninsula.

If you’re looking to sample the vineyards and wineries, the Leelanau Wine Trail offers several different routes. 

If you don’t want to be in charge of driving, book a tour with Traverse City Wine and Beer Tours. They pick you up and take care of all of the details.

Shady Lane Cellars
9580 E Shady Ln, Suttons Bay, MI 49682

One winery we’re sure to stop at whenever we’re in the area is Shady Lane Cellars. 

This place has created a welcoming space where everyone can find a spot to enjoy their wines. If a winery could win a “make you feel at home award,” Shady Lane Cellars would scoop it up year after year.

Suttons Bay Ciders 
10530 E Hilltop Rd, Suttons Bay, MI 49682

Even if you’re into wine, you owe it to yourself to try Suttons Bay Ciders. 

Yes, their ciders are amazing, but so is their hilltop view of West Grand Traverse Bay and the Old Mission Peninsula. Try to visit on a day where you can sit outside on their deck for the full experience. Bonus points if you visit during fall color season.

Hop Lot
658 S W Bay Shore Dr, Suttons Bay, MI 49682

For the beer lovers in your group, get yourself to Hop Lot.

Self-described as offering a wide selection of delicious beers, scrumptious food, and a one-of-a-kind microbrewery experience right on M-22 in Suttons Bay MI.

Their outdoor beer garden gives Northern Michigan rustic vibes with fire pits, yard games, and at times, live music. It’s really a great place to hang.

Suttons Bay Ciders
Suttons Bay Ciders. Photo: Suttons Bay Ciders

Eat Fresh-on-the-Farm Tacos

Cedar Sol Tacos
9452 S Cedar Rd, Cedar, MI 49621

Some of the tastiest tacos in the north are out in the “middle of nowhere” at the Cedar Sol Taco stand.

What makes these tacos so special is that Cedar Sol Hydro Farm is one of Michigan’s largest outdoor hydroponic farms. This growing method saves a ton of water and land and it’s what is used to grow the ingredients used to make your tacos.

Another perk at Cedar Sol? The view. They’re on a bluff overlooking Cedar Valley. Definitely make this a stop if you’re in the area.

Check their Facebook page for current taco stand hours.

cedar sol taco stand
Cedar Sol Taco Stand in Leelanau County

Pick Fruit

Bulldog Berries
7187 East Harrys Rd, Traverse City, MI 49684

They are a U-Pick and wholesale strawberry & blueberry farm just outside of Traverse City, MI, on the Leelanau Peninsula. Berry picking starts in early July. Call for updated info: 231-360-9964

Bohemian Lavender Farm
8181 S Shimek Rd, Maple City, MI 49664

This lavender farm, operated by the local Shimek family, consists of thousands of lavender plants. They run a lavender U-Pick operation in July and August along with a small lavender shop in their 100+ year old barn.

Stop by to have a picnic, pick lavender, shop, or just stroll the fields.

Polish Heritage Farm
6421 E Glazier Dr, Cedar, MI 49621

Polish Heritage Farm is a small family farm in Cedar, MI, on Leelanau Peninsula.

They raise hogs, goats, chickens, ducks, and guinea fowl on their 14-acre homestead. 

Along with livestock, they tend a market garden that they use to fill their onsite market stand during the summer months.  Check with them about their farm tours – they love giving them!

The market stand is open dawn til dusk and is self serve.
Farm tours available by appointment. 231-835-2464

Omena Cut Flowers U-Pick
12401 E Freeland Rd, Suttons Bay, MI 49682

Omena Cut Flowers is a U-Pick flower farm located 7 miles north of Suttons Bay on M-22 in Leelanau County. They are open dawn ’til dusk daily, May- October and offer 29 beds to pick from with over 50 varieties to choose from.

Hallstedt Homestead Cherries & U-Pick Flowers
8227 N Matheson Rd, Northport, MI 49670

Hallstedt Homestead is a first generation, locally owned orchard selling eat-off-the-tree varieties of sweet cherries on the Leelanau Peninsula.

Their flower garden produces over 100 species and varieties of annual, perennial, and biennial flowers from May through September. Customers are welcome to pick their own flowers or purchase fresh-cut bouquets at their farm stand.

Jacob’s Farm
7100 East Traverse Hwy, M-72 West, Traverse City, MI 49684

This farm is on the county line, but we’re including it in the Leelanau County list of things to do. Visitors come to this Michigan Centennial farm not only for the maze experience, but also for the You-Pick berry farm, farm market, wagon rides, pumpkin patch, and apple orchard.

U-Pick strawberries, saskatoon berries, peaches, and apples are available at Jacob’s Farm in season.

Make a Pit Stop at Cherry Republic

Cherry Republic Glen Arbor
6026 A, 5109, S Lake St, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

This is Cherry Republic HQ. The mothership. The must-stop destination for anyone remotely interested in all things cherry.

This Cherry Republic destination is like a fairytale. Welcoming outdoor spaces filled with perennial gardens, paired with the cherry-inspired fare, make this a space like no other.

Stop in to sample cherry products, grab lunch or ice cream, or just lounge in their family-friendly indoor/outdoor spaces.

Cherry Republic, Glen Arbor, Michigan

Relax at Farm Club

Farm Club
10051 Lake Leelanau Dr, Traverse City, MI 49684

Farm club is a farm, brewery, restaurant, and marketplace. Indoor and outdoor seating available.

Expect farm-to-table food and drinks in a great family-friendly atmosphere.

No reservations needed, just stop in.

Monday – Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday – Friday: 12 PM – 8 PM
Saturday – Sunday: 10 AM – 8 PM

Farm Club TC

Lake and Water Fun

Being on the lake doesn’t just mean swimming or boating. There are so many other things to do on or near the water in the Leelanau Peninsula.

Bonfire on the Beach

Several places on the Leelanau Peninsula will let you have a bonfire on the beach.

Each spot has its own rules so check those out before starting a fire.

Beaches within the Sleeping Bear Dunes permit beach bonfires on Lake Michigan’s mainland beaches between the water’s edge and the first dune. (And you cannot bring in your own firewood. It has to be purchased on site.)

The Village of Empire allows beach bonfires on the Lake Michigan portion of Empire Beach Village Park within the provided fire rings.

A request from park officials: Please do not build fires on or near vegetation and remember to extinguish your fire with water and clean up all debris before leaving. Put your fire out with water and make sure the coals are not only wet, but visible to passersby. Sand can trap embers below, keeping them hot through the night and possibly injure beachgoers the following day.

beach bonfire sleeping bear dunes
Beach Fires are Allowed on Some Lake Michigan Beaches in Leelanau County

Play on Glen Lake

On the Narrows Marina
8137 S Glen Lake Rd, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Glen Lake’s waters are clear, blue, and inviting.

Little Glen and Big Glen Lake make up Glen Lake. The two sections are separated by a land bridge that locals call “the Narrows.” There is a channel that goes under the narrows that connect the two lakes.

Both parts of Glen Lake are great for boating, kayaking, SUP and taking out a jet ski.

You can rent these fun toys at On the Narrows Marina. Calling is your best bet: 231-334-4891.

Glen Lake Public Access
The best place to put your boat in the water is at the public Glen Lake DNR Boat Ramp launch on Day Forest Road, on the north end of Little Glen Lake. The launch is just to the west of the Narrows.

Glen Lake DNR Boat Ramp
7075 W Day Forest Rd, Empire, MI 49630

Want to swim at a Glen Lake Beach?

You can access both lakes from the Narrows Bridge if you can find parking. This is probably the best public place to swim in the lake, although a bit tricky to access.

The next two spots offer public access to Glen Lake, but don’t provide optimal swimming conditions.

Glen Lake Beach Park (aka Little Glen Picnic Area)
6629 S Dune Hwy, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Glen Lake Beach Park is operated by the National Park Service and is a part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes lakeshore. You will need a park pass to access this park.

This park is across the street from the famous dune climb. You won’t find a typical sandy beach here. The park is grassy with picnic tables and rustic restrooms.

You can wade into the water – it’s shallow for quite a ways out. Most people don’t find swimming here enjoyable, but it is a really good place to launch a kayak or SUP if you’re comfortable carrying it to the water.

Old Settlers Park
8802-8806 S Dunns Farm Rd, Maple City, MI 49664

Old Settlers Park is on the south side of Big Glen Lake. This park has a playground, gazebo, restrooms, and a non-motorized boat launch. If you decide to jump in the lake for a swim, know that it has a rocky bottom and is quite shallow for quite a ways out.

Sunset Paddleboard on Big Glen Lake
Glen Lake Beaches and Public Access Points
Glen Lake Beaches and Public Access Points

Go on an Ice Cream Sail

The Leelanau Peninsula is home to two Tall Ship companies, the Inland Seas Education Association and the Traverse Tall Ship Co.

The Education Association focuses on educational excursions (many are open to the public), while the Tall Ship Co. offers recreational sails for visitors.

Traverse Tall Ship Co.
13258 S W Bay Shore Dr, Traverse City, MI 49684

We did the two-hour afternoon Moomers Ice Cream Cruise on the Tall Ship Manitou and enjoyed every minute of it.

Guests (kids included) helped raise the sail, concessions were offered, and ice cream was served. All in all, it was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

The Manitou also takes guests for other specialty sails, including:
– Brunch Cruise
– Evening Sail
– Dinner & Sail
– Music Cruise

Inland Seas Education Association
100 Dame St, Suttons Bay, MI 49682

Public sails are offered on a limited basis on the Inland Seas.

Check their website for dates/times for the following and more:
– Night Sail
– Fall Color Sail
– Fishes of Lake Michigan
– Great Lakes Discovery Sail

Ice Cream Sail on the Tall Ship Manitou

Unexpected Discoveries

While these things may not have been on your original list of Things to Do in Leelanau MI, they are worth considering.

Soak Up the Night Stars

Have you ever been in a place where it was so dark the stars seemed to pop out of the sky?

That’s what it’s like at the Sleeping Bear Dunes on a clear night. Where can you best see the stars?

One of my favorite spots is at the Dune Climb – open 24 hours a day – but any Lake Michigan beach will be wonderful, too.

You’ll be surprised at just how much the stars light up the evening! Download a stargazing app for your phone, aim at the night sky, and learn constellations with your family.

stargazing sleeping bear dunes
Stargazing at Sleeping Bear Dunes

Photo Op at the 45th Parallel

Stop for a photo with this sign on M-22, two miles north of downtown Suttons Bay.

45th Parallel Park
700-796 N West Bay Shore Dr, Suttons Bay, MI 49682

45th Parallel Park is nearby as well. It’s very rustic and offers water access.

45th parallel

Play at the Great Lakes Children’s Museum

Great Lakes Children’s Museum
13240 S W Bay Shore Dr, Traverse City, MI 49684

Hands-on, inquiry-based, educational fun for all ages. Free parking.

Capacity Limited – Reservations Recommended. Reserve tickets online ahead of time.

Great Lakes Children’s Museum

Listen to the Beach Bards

The Leelanau School 
1 Old Homestead Rd, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Mark your calendar for these special Friday evenings when the Beach Bards invites the public to share in By Heart Poetry, Stories, or Music around a community bonfire on the shore of Lake Michigan.

This over 30-year tradition is a memorable experience for people of all ages.

Friday Nights beginning at 8 PM with Children’s Hour: June 21, July 5, July 12, August 2. Admission $1.

Pro Tip: Park in any Leelanau School lot. Walk down the boardwalk and cross the Crystal River – this is where you’ll find the bonfire circle.

The Beach Bards Leelanau
The Beach Bards tell stories around the bonfire on select evenings in the summer

Map of Things to do in Leelanau MI

find things to do in Leelanau MI

Did We Get Everything?

With so many places to visit and things to do in Leelanau MI, you’re never going to be bored.

Did we forget anything? Let us know in the comments below!

Leelanau Peninsula Glen Arbor Leland

2 thoughts on “Leelanau Peninsula: 25+ Best Things to Do, Including Leland, Northport, Empire & Glen Arbor Michigan”

  1. In the section covering Northport MI, a picture was as Northport harbor, when in fact it is the G. Marsten Dame Marina, an important point since it represents one of many references about the Dame family that founded Northport.

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