In this year of limited travel, I was able to travel to Michigan for a long weekend. As soon as I returned, the Covid cases in my county started increasing to higher numbers than we had seen in the spring, so I will be staying home again for now.
My daughter traveled with me as we enjoyed a weekend of wine, fiber, and fall colors in Michigan. The colors were amazing – we hit it just right. We visited an interesting fiber mill and several yarn shops. The area is ideal for vineyards and wine production so we also did a little wine tasting.
Upper Lower Michigan
We traveled to Traverse City, Michigan which is in the upper part of the Lower Peninsula of the state. The drive took about five hours from my home in northwest Indiana. We stayed in a hotel in Acme – just five minutes from Traverse City.
The upper part of the Lower Peninsula of the state is actually divided into three peninsulas. The easternmost main one connects with the Upper Peninsula at Mackinaw City. The westernmost peninsula is the Leelanau Peninsula, while the middle one is Old Mission Peninsula. We spent time in each of the peninsulas.
The fall colors were at their peak in nearly all of the areas we visited. On Friday we drove east and north to Cross Village, a small touristy town on the edge of Lake Michigan. We had thought about continuing another 30-40 minutes to Mackinaw City, but decided against it.
Cross Village is the start of the “Tunnel of Trees,” a picturesque section of Highway 119. As the name implies, the trees grow up and over the highway, making it seem like we were driving through a tunnel. We had read that the trees in this area change color later than surrounding areas, because of their proximity to Lake Michigan. Although that was true, and the trees were not showing vivid fall colors, we still enjoyed the drive.
We drove from Cross Village through Good Hart and Harbor Springs before arriving at Petosky. From there, we continued along the lake, driving through Charlevoix on our way back to our hotel. The day was sunny and the views were amazing.
We spent Saturday and Monday on Leelanau Peninsula and Sunday on Old Mission Peninsula. Around every bend and over every hill, we were treated with another view of the dazzling colors. Locals agreed that this year the leaves were more beautiful than the average year.
There are several towns on the Leelanau Peninsula – Northport, Sutton’s Bay, and Leland are the largest. The entire peninsula is geared toward tourists with boating, fishing, and wine tasting the primary activities. In each town, we saw restaurants and gift shops. There were bed and breakfasts and a couple small hotels to welcome guests. Traverse City has several large hotels – many people stay there, driving up the peninsula during the day.
On Saturday we ate lunch in Leland. We had planned to eat at the Village Cheese Shoppe, but they do not take credit cards. Instead, we had a delicious lunch at the Bluebird Restaurant. On Monday we ate another great lunch at VI in Sutton’s Bay.
Leelanau State Park is on the northern end of the Peninsula. The park includes camping areas, hikes, and a lighthouse with a gift shop. The lighthouse is closed for climbing this year (although the gift shop is open), but we did not visit it. We had not planned to hike or camp and there is a $9 fee for people from out of state. I did not think it was worth paying the fee to see the lighthouse from the outside, although I’ve seen it before and it is nice.
Old Mission Peninsula
Old Mission is the smallest of the peninsulas. There is only one small town, Old Mission, but there are many lodging and restaurants choices available throughout the peninsula. Several of the inns and restaurants are connected with a winery. They look luxurious, but are above my budget at this time.
Old Mission Peninsula also has a lighthouse on its northern end. This one is not in a state park and there is no fee associated with viewing it. We walked around the grounds and read the informational signs – very interesting. There were hikes available throughout the area, but we were not dressed for hiking.
Despite the restrictions put in due to the virus, wine tastings were available at nearly all the wineries. Many had outdoor seating available as the only option, so we were glad the weather cooperated. Of the wineries that had indoor tasting areas, all were separated by distance, so we felt safe. Masks were required and everyone we saw complied.
The wine was flavorful and we were pleased to be able to learn more about the different varieties. It is interesting to note the differences between wines made from the same grapes, but grown in different soils around the world. Although we visited several wineries, there are many more in northern Michigan. Additionally, there were several breweries and a couple distilleries, for those who prefer them.
On our way back home on Tuesday, we drove over to Ludington, also on the shore of Lake Michigan. We drove through the Ludington State Park – a massive park that includes a long stretch of dunes, a lovely camping area, and miles of trails. This state park also has a lighthouse, but it is not accessible by car, so we didn’t visit it.
We drove to the edge of town by the lake and watched huge waves crash into the shore. In town, we visited a yarn shop and then ate lunch at the famous House of Flavors restaurant.
Stonehedge Fiber Mill and Yarn Shops
On this trip, we were able to tour Stonehedge Fiber Mill and shop at several yarn shops. The mill itself deserves a separate post. I’ll post a link here when I write about it.
My daughter and I had a great time on this close-to-home and in-the-middle-of-Covid trip. I’m itching to travel again, but many past opportunities are not available. This trip satisfied my need, if just a little.
We especially enjoyed the fall colors – we seemed to visit right at their peak. The area would be great at any season, though, since there is so much to see and do.
Have you been to upper lower Michigan? What was your favorite part?