Ever Pass by Manistee, MI? Here’s What You’re Missing
It’s no secret that if you’re vacationing in Michigan, you have options.
Table of Contents
To help you find your way around this marvelous city & county, we’ve written a playbook that will take you through everything you need to know for a family visit, including:
28 Reasons to Set Your Sights on Manistee, MI for Your Next Family Trip
The City of Manistee lies inside of Manistee County in Michigan. Both are worthy destinations.
Manistee is one of those lucky places that stakes a claim on Lake Michigan, with miles of sandy shoreline.
It’s also a place rich in history – and old, turn-of-the-century brick buildings to go with it.
Historic Theatre in Downtown Manistee MI
Today, just over 6,000 people call the city of Manistee home year-round. 24,000 people live in the county.
A visit to Manistee wouldn’t be complete without sampling what both the city and the county have to offer.
Here’s where you’ll find Manistee on the Michigan map:
PARKS, TRAILS & NATURE: It’s Hard to Stay Inside When You’re in Manistee MI
Acres of state forest land, along with miles of shoreline and rivers, make Manistee a nature-lovers playground.
And you don’t have to be a hardcore hiker, biker, or fisherman to get in on the action.
Many Manistee treasures are very accessible, so even if your mobility is limited by a stroller, little kids, or wheelchair, you can participate, too.
Or, if you’re in a place to ramp it up and do a mega hike, overnight backpacking trip, or head on out on a canoe-packing trip, Manistee has that, too.
Here’s Your Get Outside “Things to Do” List for Manistee:
1) Drive Through the Tunnel of Trees
Drive your car through this iconic canopy of towering black willow trees and you feel like you’re in a fairytale for a few moments.
If you’re lucky, you’ll see deer at the end of the road like we did.
This is a great spot for photos – the road isn’t very busy – but do be on the lookout for other vehicles when you stop.
Locals call this road Bullfrog Highway because the frog noises from the nearby Big Manistee River are so audible here.
If you can find the Manistee Meijer, you’re close to the Tunnel of Trees. To get there from Meijer, head SW on M-55 (Caberfae Highway) for 0.8 miles and then turn right onto N Main St. That’s where you’ll find the Tunnel of Trees.
2) Stroll the Arcadia Marsh Boardwalk
Manistee County – Arcadia
16791 Northwood Hwy, Arcadia, MI 49613
It’s not every day you get to hike through a marshy nature preserve and get the perfect IG backdrop.
Tucked away in the most unexpected place, the Arcadia Marsh Boardwalk is a treasure so hidden and so new that most locals don’t even know about it.
At just under a mile, this universally accessible pathway system travels over diverse wetlands and all but guarantees abundant wildlife viewings.
3) Picnic Under the Hemlocks & Hike the Trails at Magoon Creek Park
|Magoon Creek Natural Area|
Red Apple Road, Manistee, MI 49660
The hardest part of a visit to Magoon Creek Natural Area is deciding how to spend your time.
The 1.5-mile hiking loop is great for kids. A picnic under the hemlock trees would be magical. Watching Lake Michigan freighters from this high-bluff view is another great option.
4) Hike out to Big Views @ Arcadia Dunes and Maybe Visit Old Baldy, Too
If filling your lungs with fresh air makes you smile, head on over to Arcadia Dunes in the C.S. Mott Nature Preserve just north of Manistee MI.
With over 15 miles of trails, you might wonder where to start adventuring. Don’t worry – we’ll help!
If you’re using a stroller or wheelchair, you’ll want the Overlook Trail. This one-mile roundtrip trail uses a wooden boardwalk system and a series of switchbacks to get you up to a great Lake Michigan overlook.
If you’re up for a little off-road adventure and don’t mind a sandy hike with stairs, adventure over to Baldy Dune for even bigger Lake Michigan views.
5) Climb to the Top of the Arcadia Scenic Overlook
Manistee County – Arcadia
This is a fantastic stop along M-22. Park your car at the bottom and climb up the 120 steps for the best view.
Perched hundreds of feet above Lake Michigan, you’ll get a birdseye view of the lake and its shoreline to the south. Be sure to bring your camera!
Arcadia Overlook. Photo: 22 North Photography
6) See How You Measure Up Against Michigan’s Very Own Giant Sequoia Tree
|Michigan Champion Giant Sequoia Tree @ Lake Bluff Bird Sanctuary|
2890 Lakeshore Rd, Manistee, MI 49660
Yep, Manistee MI has a Giant Sequoia Tree
Come for the giant tree, stay for the views, birding, and hiking.
The Michigan Giant Sequoia was planted as a seedling in 1949 after being carried back to the state from California in a coffee can. Today, the champion tree towers above the other trees at the sanctuary and already makes humans feel very small by comparison.
When you’re done getting photos of the giant sequoia – if you can fit the whole tree into a photo – see if you can find the Giant Sycamore tree on the property.
Bald Eagles have been spotted from the trails and this park offers wonderful Lake Michigan views.
7) Top Off Your Water Bottles at the M-22 Artesian Well
Manistee County – Onekama
Water flows continually from this artesian spring just off of M-22 on Portage Point Drive in Onekama, MI.
It’s cold, pure, and refreshing and a nice little stop if you want a place to fill up water bottles while you tool around Manistee County.
Another artesian well, nicknamed Old Faceful, is located in Pierport, MI.
8) Pretend it’s Yesterday on the Old Wooden Playground at Lighthouse Park
Cherry Road, Manistee, MI 49660
Not many of these old wooden playgrounds are still in existence. Happily, this one is still standing and is in good repair.
My kids gasped with delight when they saw this one at Lighthouse Park in Manistee and instantly resumed a game of tag leftover from the last time they found a play structure like this.
Downtown Manistee MI
Once upon a time, Manistee was one of the richest cities in Michigan.
Home to a number of 1800’s-era lumber barons who kept trying to one-up each other, the city saw the rise of an incredible number of victorian buildings and mansions. When fire destroyed 2/3rds of the town in 1871, the wealthy lumber tycoons rebuilt many lost structures using stone and brick in the style of the day.
As you drive or walk the streets of Manistee, you’ll see many of these stately Victorian structures standing today.
As it was then, today downtown Manistee’s shopping district is situated along River Street and runs for several blocks.
The Manistee River is to the north of River Street, and it’s on this street that you’ll find most of the downtown shops and restaurants. Downtown is also home to a stage theatre, a movie theatre, museums, and lodging options.
The county’s Visitor’s Bureau has put together a number of self-guided theme-based history tours for those wanting to explore the city’s past (everyone should!) and this local news article is a great read on Manistee’s history as well.
9) Get Your Steps in on the Manistee Riverwalk
You can walk along the river from downtown Manistee all the way to Lake Michigan via the riverwalk (minus the small washed-out portion at the end waiting to be repaired.)
That’s 1.75-miles one way.
It’s a hike, but it’s a fun walk that will let you see the city in a whole new way. While you walk, read the markers and learn more about how the river impacted the development of Manistee over the years.
10) Just Try and Choose a Favorite Downtown Restaurant
Downtown Manistee has a variety of restaurants to choose from.
Delightfully, many of these restaurants sport streetside patios as well as decks overlooking the river.
You can’t go wrong with tacos from Taco ‘Bout It Mexican Fusion.
|Taco ‘Bout It Mexican Fusion|
344 River St, Manistee, MI 49660
North Channel Brewing Co. is the place to stop in for a burger, fries and a local beer.
|North Channel Brewing Co|
86 Washington St, Manistee, MI 49660
Bluefish Kitchen + Bar, serving lunch and dinner, has a great riverside deck. Head here when you’re in the mood for seafood.
11) Leave Enough Time for Shopping
The cute streets of Manistee are home to a smattering of shops that you must visit.
Better yet, the area is easy to walk and parking is free.
The Happy Owl Bookshop has a solid children’s section as well as a nice variety of reads for adults. Stop here to grab a few beach reads.
If you ask me for my favorite store in Downtown Manistee, it’s going to be a toss-up between Synder’s Shoes (always remember to shop the basement!) and the Ideal Kitchen. They both have an amazing stock of high-quality items. I love my kitchen about as much as I love shoes, so they both get the top slot IMO.
My kids love to shop at Glik’s – that store is always on trend.
12) Dock Your Boat at the City Marina
You can boat your way to downtown Manistee as well, whether you’re coming from Lake Michigan or Manistee Lake.
The city marina was renovated and reopened in 2012. Improvements include a spacious day room, modern showers, and laundry facilities.
Make a reservation before heading out: call (800) 447-2757 or reserve online.
13) Watch a Movie on a Big Screen in the 82-Year Old Vogue Theatre
The Vogue is currently open with social distancing measures in place.
Today, the Vogue is staffed by volunteers and shows first-run movies, 25¢ specials, and a little bit of everything else in between.
14) Catch a Tour or Live Program at the Ramsdell Regional Center of the Arts
The venue is currently open with social distancing measures in place.
This is Manistee’s go-to spot for culture.
Theatre, dance, musicals, tours and classes are just some of the things offered in this historic 1903 building.
Adventurous Things to Do in Manistee
15) Get Out on the Water with Inn Fun Cruises
Hop aboard for a private sightseeing cruise with Tonya and Kevin’s Inn Fun Cruises.
Kevin captains the boat while Tonya narrates your two-hour journey around the waterways of Manistee. She’s truly a wealth of information and you can tell she loves where she lives.
As you motor around, Tonya might disappear for a moment or two. That’s because she’s grabbing a surprise for you – customized to whatever it is that you’re celebrating that day. This boat is where memories are made, so don’t be afraid to let Tonya know the reason for your visit.
BYOB for the trip. They’ll provide light locally-sourced refreshments – we had Taco ‘Bout It Mexican Fusion chips and guac, as well as a few tasty items from Wee Bee Jammin’, among other things.
16) Put on a Headset and Buckle Up for a Scenic Airplane Ride
|Orchard Beach Aviation @ Manistee County Blacker Airport|
2323 Airport Rd, Manistee, MI 49660
It works out to $1/minute/person when you sign up for an aerial sightseeing tour with Orchard Beach Aviation, and that’s a pretty good deal.
Pick three friends to pack into the 4-seater airplane, tell the pilot what you’d like to see, and get ready to be wowed. If you need a surprise birthday or anniversary gift, this might just be it.
You’ll likely fly over Lake Michigan beaches, the city of Manistee, or Portage Lake and surrounding areas for a bird’s eye view of the area.
Flights are $30 per person (two-person minimum.) Call (231-723-8095) or stop in for more information.
Flights are conducted year round.
17) Board the SS City of Milwaukee for a Tour or Show Up for the Haunted Ship – if You Dare
City of Manistee
|SS City of Milwaukee|
99 Arthur St, Manistee, MI 49660
This big boat invites you aboard to learn more about how a steamship of this size spent decades on the water of Lake Michigan.
If you do the tour, you’ll get an inside look at the ship’s mechanicals as well as an idea of how people living and working on the ship passed the time. Some of the occupations back then were pre-OSHA – you’ll be surprised to hear how dangerous some daily tasks were.
Bring your kids on this tour – it opens your eyes to a piece of history that they won’t get to experience anywhere else.
And, if you dare, bring them back for a fright when the ship is all decked out as a Ghost Ship in October. They take their spooking seriously here.
18) Get Ready to Ride the Rapids – Pine River Rafting
Most people don’t realize that there is a place in lower Michigan where you can go whitewater rafting. There is – and it’s on the Pine River, which runs through Manistee County.
The rapids here are small – class one – and in August, they’re usually pretty tame. That makes renting a raft a fun family thing to do on a warm afternoon.
While the Pine River is not recommended for novice canoe or kayak operators, running a raft down the river is a lot easier to do. The raft lends stability – it’s very hard to tip over.
That doesn’t mean the swift current won’t run you into a tree or two – that happened to us – but we had a blast paddling for 3.5 hours and would love to do it again.
To do this trip, you need at least 4 people old enough to handle a paddle well. All of our rafters were over 10 years old. We took turns rotating the rider.
While we toured with Bosman’s and had a fantastic experience, there’s another reputable outfitter in the area as well: Pine River Paddlesports should one or the other be booked up.
More Manistee MI Adventures for Next Time
- 19) Gravity Hill – Put your car in neutral in this section of Putney Road and watch as your car appears to roll UPHILL. What??! It supposedly works on bikes and skateboards, too. We can’t wait to test it out. According to the Manistee CVB website, “Putney Rd. crosses Joyfield Rd. between US 31 and M22. Travel south from Joyfield Rd. and stop at a point 150 to 200 ft. beyond the “Stop Ahead” sign on the east side of the road, then put your car in neutral. You will roll all the way back up the hill to the Blaine Christian Church. And take time to enjoy the view of rolling hills, orchards and farms along the way.”
- 20) G&D Alpaca Farm, 4796 Maple Road, Manistee MI 49660. We also want to visit the Alpacas! These alpaca pastures are open for public visits May 15 through October 31, 10 am – 4 pm daily, except Tues & Wed. They also have a forest fairy trail and a boutique with alpaca-based merchandise. Call (231) 723-2838 to confirm open hours. Special events, like “pick your own bouquet” and “fairy house building” happen on occasion.
photo: G&D Alpaca Farm Facebook
Manistee has quite a variety of beaches for you to sample.
21) Spend the Afternoon at 5th Ave Beach, Pier & Lighthouse
City of Manistee
It’s okay to have a beach fire in the fire ring at the Manistee beach. How cool is that?
The beach house here offers concessions, the pier is open for walking, and the lighthouse is very photogenic. It’s the smaller of the two city beaches, but that doesn’t make it’s Lake Michigan water or beach any less.
22) Slide Down the Tallest Slide at First Street Beach
City of Manistee
This beach sits opposite of the 5th Avenue beach, across the Manistee River channel.
It’s much larger, with a variety of picnic pavilions and play areas. There’s also a large fish cleaning station.
Waves here can get big – heed the flag color when thinking about a swim in Lake Michigan.
One thing we loved was the massive retro slide at the playground. We haven’t seen a slide this tall anywhere else in Michigan.
First Street Beach also has a beach house with concessions.
23) Watch the Sunset at Portage Point Beach
Head north of Manistee a bit toward Onekama to find another Lake Michigan beach.
Here, you can walk the pier, climb the dunes, and catch the sunset.
24) Score Petoskey Stones or Beach Glass at Magoon Creek Beach
|Magoon Creek Natural Area|
Red Apple Road, Manistee, MI 49660
South of Manistee, Magoon Creek Park is right on Lake Michigan and is a delight for visitors in search of Petoskey Stones, beach glass, and other beautiful stones across its 2,300 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline.
25) Stock Up at Wee Bee Jammin’
|Wee Bee Jammin Storefront|
8925 Norconk Road, Bear Lake, MI 49614
Wee Bee Jammin is an adorable shop featuring yummy artisan jams they craft onsite themselves and label with clever names like Toe Jam (this kind tastes good!) and Razzle Dazzle.
They make their own honey, too, from bees that they raise themselves. That’s probably why their Flower Power Honey will knock your socks off.
If you can get there in person, do it. The little storefront boutique is stocked with their own creations as well as fun and interesting Michigan-themed boutique finds.
If you can’t get there in person, shop their online store – it’s got a great selection of their artisan jams and jellies – and it’s what I’m putting in stockings this year and using for housewarming gifts going forward.
If you’re looking for something really unique, get yourself the Wild Flower Comb Honey. It’s taken straight from the hive, cut, packaged, and sent right to you. Grab a honey dipper and enjoy!
26) Sample all of the Ciders at Northern Natural Cider House & Winery
Manistee County – Kaleva
It’s a little drive from downtown Manistee to this locally owned, locally grown cider house, but it’s worth the trip.
Northern Naturals regularly puts on events featuring live music, fresh food truck pizza, and tacos. Check their Facebook page for the latest on that.
They only offer outdoor seating and are regularly open every day from 3 to 8 pm. Food is served Wed-Sun from 4 to 8 pm.
27) Get Pizza & Ice Cream at Papa J’s and Follow it Up with Putt Putt
Manistee County – Onekama
|Papa J’s Ice Cream & Eatery|
4825 Main St, Onekama, MI 49675
Papa J’s is BIG in the small town of Onekama, MI.
Locals love it for their solid ice cream menu and food offerings. (Their fried pickles are tops, too.)
Mini golf and kayak/SUP rentals are handled by this business as well.
28) Visit Historic Portage Point Resort
Manistee County – Onekama
|Portage Point Resort|
8567 Portage Point Dr, Onekama, MI 49675
Few hotels remain from Michigan’s steamship era, but Portage Point Resort is one of them.
Visit for the day or make this your home away from home and enjoy the lakeside saltwater infinity pool. This is resort generations have called home and the new owners are renovating it to help it last for centuries to come.