City Guide: Traverse City, MI

Traverse city guide .jpg

About a month ago, my family took a 4-day road trip up to Traverse City, Michigan. I’m no stranger to Michigan, but my family and I typically frequent Southwestern Michigan. Even though we were only up North for 4 days, we sure crammed a lot of activities (and driving) into that short time. In today’s post, I’ve listed everything we did, ate, slept and whether or not I would do it again.



We left Saturday morning at the crack of dawn and decided to take a break about halfway through our drive in Saugatuck. If you’ve never heard of Saugatuck, it’s a coastal town on a river that is known for its quaint shops and East-coast, small town feel. Since we hadn’t eaten a proper breakfast before we left, we ate at Ida’s Red Cottage for breakfast. It was your basic breakfast food, but overall nothing special. I ordered eggs with toast and sausage and they were fine – my mom, on the other hand, ordered their french toast (which came highly recommended by our server) and it was TINY.


The only hand-crank ferry left in the country is found here (the first picture I included). You can ride it across the river onto the island on the other side, which is home to Oval Beach. In the guide book my mom had borrowed from the library, Oval Beach was listed as one of the most beautiful spots in all of Michigan. Compared to the other beaches we saw during the remainder of our trip, I’m going to give Oval beach a 3 out of 5 stars. If we were going to do this road trip again, my entire family agreed we would have skipped Saugatuck all together.

Once we left Saugatuck, we headed to Traverse City. We rented a cabin in the Timber Ridge RV & Recreation Resort. My dad was exhausted from driving so he napped while my mom, sister and I went on a driving tour of Traverse City. We got turned around many times, but we stopped for some delicious pie at the Traverse City Pie Company (I got the strawberry rhubarb – highly recommend). We also discovered a grocery that my mom LOVED called Tom’s Market. Okay, okay I’ll admit it too, it was a pretty awesome grocery store. We spent the night at our cabin and my sister and I seriously struggled to get a fire going – thanks damp firewood.



On Day 2, we visited Leland, MI which is home to the historic Fishtown. It’s a relatively small area, but very cute. All of the shops are in the original buildings that were built in the early 1900s and maintain an air of fishing-town charm. That being said, most of the shops are renovated on the inside and contain typical tourist souvenir shops.


That being said, I would highly, highly recommend visiting Carlson’s fresh smoked fish (pictured above) if you’re a fish eater. My mom and I sampled both the smoked salmon and trout and decided on the trout. We got 2 pounds of the stuff and it was all gone by the next day. Seriously, it was SO good.


After stopping in Leland, we worked our way up the to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. I didn’t seem to take a picture of the actual lighthouse (go figure), but once you walked past the lighthouse closer to the shore, the sights were absolutely beautiful and very relaxing.


See what I mean? We spent about half an hour exploring the coast line and dipping our toes in the water before moving on to the best part of the trip in my opinion.


Okay, let me just start off by saying that (a) this photo is not edited at all – it was actually that beautiful and (b) I’m very proud of the artsiness of this photo. We continued our way up the Leelenau peninsula. This is a picture of the beautiful Black Star Farms and Winery. I had never done a wine tasting before and, to be honest, it was just an added bonus to visiting this beautiful vineyard. My mom and I both sampled 5 wines for $7 each and got to keep the glasses we used. This was all fine and dandy, but my favorite part of the vineyard was…


Also an un-edited photo and arguably my favorite photo of the entire trip. I think my sister and I named this fella Javier, but he was just too precious for words. If you’re a new reader, then let me bring you up to speed: I love goats – like really love goats. Now that you’re all caught up, I’ll continue. In another building separate from the tasting room/building, there was a restaurant and spirit distillery. Behind that building was Javier and his siblings, a few cows, many chickens and two absolutely beautiful horses.


Glen Arbor

After I somehow managed to tear myself away from Javier, we got in the car and drove to Glen Arbor for lunch. We ate at Art’s Tavern and I had a super tasty and incredibly filling reuben. My mom, the cherry aficionado of the family, wanted to visit The Cherry Republic (pictured above) aka the cherry mecca of the Leelenau peninsula. It was a very adorable cherry compound and had every kind of cherry condiment (and free samples) you could imagine. Seriously, there was even cherry salsa.


After a very comedic drive to the North West, we finally made it to Sleeping Bear Dunes. The entire drive was beautiful. We were surrounded by lush forests which were interrupted by brief cameos of small sand dunes before we finally made it to the dune pictured above. Both my sister and I just sat and watched the water. It was so calm, the sun was perfectly warm, it was an absolutely beautiful sight.


The next day, we began by stopping by the vineyard Chateau Grand Traverse and taking a walk around. We did not sample any wine from this vineyard, but it was an easy start to our day – get warmed by the sun, see some grapes, get back in the car. Also, the workers at this vineyard were significantly nicer than the workers at Black Star Farms. If I were to go back, I would choose to do a wine tasting here rather than at Black Star Farms (even if they did have Javier).


Old Mission Peninsula

We hopped back in the car and drove up to the tippy-top of the Old Mission Peninsula to the Old Mission Lighthouse. To be honest, this lighthouse was kind of dinky, but it had an expansive beach, benches, swings and the water was incredibly shallow so you could take a casual stroll over to a nearby island. My sister and I played volleyball on the beach until we noticed some rain clouds rolling in. Luckily, we left just as it was starting to rain, so we headed to…


…the Old Mission General Store. This was one of the neatest places I have ever been. Stepping foot through the front door to this store made me feel like I was stepping backwards in time. The shelves were filled with a mixture of new and old items and it made me chuckle to see old fashioned, dusty bottles of moonshine sitting next to a box of brand new Band Aids. I could’ve spent hours in this store just walking around and looking at everything on every shelf. We ended our final night in Traverse city by successfully making a fire and several s’mores.

Our sight seeing wasn’t over when we left the next day. We stopped by the very modern 2 Lads vineyard, which I managed to somehow not take a photo of. As we continued South, we stopped in a very cute town called Manistee, which was located on a wonderful riverfront.


We stopped at Manistee National Forest and Dunes, which was absolutely beautiful. By this point in our trip, I had started to contract a cold so I was ready to get out of there and get back home, but it would be an absolutely stunning place to spend a day at the beach.

I hope you enjoyed my first-ever city guide. As I  continue to travel, I hope to create more of these posts if you enjoy them – let me know!

Where did you travel over the summer?





15 thoughts on “City Guide: Traverse City, MI

  1. Gurk Kay says:

    I have lived i Michigan for an year or so, but never had a chance to visit these places. I guess next time these places will be in my to-visit list. Thanks for sharing :)

  2. angelmerisa23 says:

    My family and I used to travel to Michigan a lot when I was younger to visit my aunt when she lived there and all of my memories are just filled with snow so it’s nice to see a different, more summery perspective. xx Merisa | Monogrammed Magnolias

  3. livelifewellblog5 says:

    This looks like a cool place to visit. I’ve never been to Michigan. This summer, we went to Turks and Caicos, Anguilla, and Grand Cayman. My mom and I are headed to Hawaii on Thursday and I can’t wait. I’m not ready for summer travels to end.


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