Michigan- Trip Report Leelanau & Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore
Replies: 5 - Last Post: Aug 7, 2012 3:50 PM Last Post By: ooz
Aug 6, 2012 12:13 PM
Michigan- Trip Report Leelanau & Sleeping Bear Dunes National SeashoreJust returned from a long weekend in North Michigan Leelanau Peninsula Wine Country & Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore Park, as well as Traverse City, Charlevoix, and driving from Leland to Ludington via the side roads and Rt 22/Rt 31.
We departed Chicago downtown at 1pm Thursday and arrived at Suttons Bay at 730pm, as you lose an hour going from CST to EST in Indiana. The drive is easy, and is very pretty once north of Grand Rapids.
We based in Suttons Bay, in the peaceful Stoney Pointe area of the bay. We rented a nice home that was across the street from the bay, and 5 minutes drive into SB. There were a dozen great wineries nearby.
The highlight was the town and area of Leland, small and rustic, the Yacht Club beach and setting on the Leelanau lake is lovely and the gold course is old school nice. The beaches were so pretty, and the pace and feel very much what we prefer when vacationing. Sleeping Bear Dunes is a great park, and if you take time to go south of Empire, the less visited woods and beaches are down gravel roads thru pristine dunes and forest of pine, hemlock and oak, wildflowers and wetlands, nice meadows and huge dunes of sawgrass and pine. The water all along this coast is crystal clear and look like the caribe more than a fresh water lake.
Glen Haven/Glen Harbor is a nice little town for a bite, we ate a nice healthy bistro cafe across from the big outside bar and hamburger joint, where hamburgers are $12...are you kidding me? As this was a common theme in much of the area, dining out is very expensive compared to almost any other region based on tourism I have been, it was highway robbery, and the quality was below par from what I could detect. Though we cooked a lot of meals at the house and bbq, overall it was a big let down, the few places that did look to have a nice menu (Healthy and Fresh) they really only had indoor seating, as patios and terraces were not common. A prefect example is Empire, only 2 places to eat, both in old buildings that had seen better times and not updated since 1950's, dark, few windows and very unhealthy menus. When I travel I like to enjoy some nice food, but in this region the best food we had dining out was at the Black Start Farms we had a great super thin crust mushroom pesto pizza as everything was from the the farm at the winery. Pizza, cup of soup, white wine, root beer, $33. Not bad.
We drove to Traverse City and checked out the main downtown area of cafes and shopping, it looked all nice, a tad too busy and touristy, not as quaint or enjoyable waterfront that I had imagined. I would not stay there for sure. We then drove to Charlevoix as I had not been there since I was a kid, and have to admit, was not impressed with the main downtown and overall vibe there. The beach area is terrible looking with a huge sand/concrete factory in the horizon, spoils the views and ruins the skyline. The drive is also hell from Traverse City, crummy hotels, long hot stretches of road, and nothing worth looking at from what I could tell. We had lunch there, drove around the old homes and downtown and got the out ASAP, the food offerings were miserable. I am sure Traverse City had the majority of the finer dining, but I cant imagine what the prices were like there, for what you got elsewhere.
The highlight was really hanging around the house, enjoy the beaches, and also a winery for the afternoon nip, but even the wineries were a tad plain and lacking in a inviting atmosphere, maybe we are spoiled my Napa. We only hit 3.
The best part for us was discovering the coast as you drive south on RT22, we really enjoyed meandering about the roads, parks and small hamlets as you make your way to Ludington via Frankfort, which we liked this area too, and also Crystal Lake, as well as Arcadia Manistee, where we ate outdoors overlooking the marina. We got on the highway in Ludington on RT 31.
So in review, this area is best taken advantage of around Leland, Leelanau area, Suttons Bay. If you have kids, I would access Traverse City as day trips for the putt putt and other stuff, and stay out of town IMO.
We normally go to Douglas and Saugatuck area, and to be honest, is really nice for lakeside holiday from Chicago, as Traverse City area is a really long drive.
Aug 6, 2012 6:40 PM
Aug 7, 2012 6:00 AM
2SoloHobo, thanks for your report. As you know I live in Traverse City and I have to agree with you about the tourists, in the summer it is a night mare, but it seems that there are a lot of people who like that. I really do not go downtown in the summer unless I have to, especially during Cherry Festival week. After Labor Day the city is much different and I would highly recommend visting after Labor day and through the color season in the fall. The colors where you were in Leelanau County at that time of year are exceptional.
I also prefer the Suttons Bay, Leland areas, but in the summer their main streets can be packed with tourists. I also agree that menu prices are way to high, but I guess that is what they have to charge to stay in business and when you consider their season is only two or three months a year. Traverse City does have some excellent restaurants, but they are also not cheap. In the winter and spring the restaurants here offer a lot of great deals, two for one, etc.
I also like the country side best and just one trip to Detroit makes me really appreciate where I live.
Aug 7, 2012 6:40 AM
3Thanks for all your help, tips and advice for enjoying the area.
I think the winery scene would be more fun in the fall as well, with the pretty colors and cool air to enjoy, as well as I imagine it is a more adult setting on weekends and not so many families, but more couples/weekenders in the area.
Probably head back around end of September...
Aug 7, 2012 8:07 AM
Aug 7, 2012 3:50 PM
(4 star Hotel)
From US$165.00 per night
(5 star Hotel)
From US$525.00 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$275.00 per night