Leelanau County An Outdoor Haven Perfect For A Family Adventure

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‘Leelanau County An Outdoor Haven, Perfect For A Family Adventure’ has been written by Kristin Naylor.

Some people don’t know you don’t have to go all the way to the Bahamas for white sugar sand and gorgeous teal water!  Leelanau (Lee-luh-naw) County, Michigan, at the shores of unsalted Lake Michigan, is a haven of outdoor beauty and adventure. Keep reading for tips on how to spend a day in Leelanau with the family.


Where to Start?

Start in quaint Northport, at the Tribune. This cute place offers locally sourced ingredients, professional service, and top-notch coffee and espresso. Huevos, eggs benny, and sausage gravy make all the reviews. Afterward, stroll around the marina or hit a few of the unique shops for the perfect start to your day.

The Must-See List 

You can’t come all the way to northern Michigan and not see Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park near Glen Arbor. It is worth your time and fun for the whole family – even the littles who only go halfway up. At the top of the main hill is a postcard-worthy view of Glen Lake, take a dip once you’re done dune climbing (public access across the street from dune parking). 

But — if you want the best view, it’s scenic overlook #9 along Pierce Stocking Drive. The entrance is about a mile north of the main dune and there are many nice spots for ooohing at the views and having a picnic along the 7-mile route. The observation deck at post #9 stands 450 feet above the lake looking out over a thousand shades of blue water, and the air, sky, and islands below are just breathtaking. 

Another must-see is the Crystal River, a pristine clear shallow stream preserved with Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. Rent a kayak at Crystal River Kayak –  race the fish, dodge the tree branches, find the most beautiful stone, float through the portage tunnel during your three-hour trip – it is always a fun time!

What’s for Lunch?

Secluded behind acres of hardwoods in Suttons Bay is the Hop Lot Brewing Co., a one-of-a-kind outdoor beer garden with an ‘Up North” twist. It’s 10/10 kid-friendly, the Hop Lot features a hop garden, campfires, picnic tables amongst tall maples, cornhole, strung lights, and a clear view of the summer sky. Try the brisket or burrito bowl, beers ‘o plenty, and the s’mores kit for a perfect finale. If you have room, grab an ice cream at nearby Grandma Lin’s – generous scoops for a steal!


Leelanau’s Hidden Gems

The true hidden gems of Leelanau County are Petoskey stones! This unique fossil is unique to Leelanau and can be hard to find. The distinctive, six-sided pattern pops when it’s wet, so hunt for them along the shore or by wading out into the water.

Another hidden gem is Northport’s, Peterson Park. If it’s a good sunset night you’ll be wowed! Take the 100-some steps down to the lakeside or watch topside as the sun slowly sinks into Lake Michigan, wispy clouds above – it is magic.


A Tall Glass to Relax

Mawby Vineyards and Winery, also near Suttons Bay, specializes in sparkling wines and has a nice upbeat vibe. Try their flight of unique and flavorful wines, and sit outside overlooking the lovely valley below. It’s quite lowkey here with loads of space for the kiddos to run and play, a great place to take a break.


Dinner Time

Call ahead for dinner and ask for a table with a view, then head to Leland. The Cove sits next to the Leland Dam at the head of Leland’s Historic Fishtown. It has an up north knotty pine flair and a great view of the Manitou Islands. Try the “campfire roasted” whitefish and a local brew. After dinner, stroll along the boardwalk, hit some shops, – Fishtown has a charm all its own and is not to be missed. 

Water, sun, shops, food, and wine – people love Leelanau for many reasons and we think you’ll love it too. Below are a few fun things we couldn’t leave off the list.


The Best of The Rest

Cherry Republic – Visit the world’s largest retailer of cherry products in Glen Arbor – soda, gummies, sauce, jam, wine, etc. Samples galore! 

Charter Fishing – Leland is known as one of the best fishing ports in Michigan (May through October). Reserve a charter and experience the thrill of catching a trout or King Salmon! 

The Tart Trail – The 10.5-mile-long TART trail is the best place to bike. It runs from  M-72/Bates Road in Acme Township to Carter Road in Traverse City. Rent bikes in Suttons Bay or Traverse City.

Great Lakes Children’s Museum – Near Traverse City, little ones learn about the Great Lakes & more from hands-on activities.


If you’re traveling to the Midwest, be sure to check out our 2022 Chicago travel guide which has tons of community sourced recommendations for:

  • restaurants that will delight mom, dad and baby,
  • trustworthy babysitters for a date night out,
  • charming hotels with rooms that are welcoming to kids,
  • vacation rentals in case you want your own kitchen and living room,
  • hidden gems that even Chicagoans don’t know about, and
  • pediatric clinics and local baby meds, just in case.

All these items are pinned on an interactive map that you can download for off-line use. Updated post-pandemic with latest information.

Buy your Chicago Destination Guide now!


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