UP NORTH: M-22, The Leelanau Peninsula

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We’ve been trying to get up here for what seems like ages; the proverbial “Up North” getaway, something always seemed to get in the way. Michigan has a plethora of fantastic, beautiful scenery, but to us, the northwest corner is king. Like all of our trips, we cram a lot into a little time; today we’ll show you some of our M-22 favorites. We leave the metro area via M-15, then hop onto M-115 via US10. While certainly not unpleasant, the scenery along the way looks like much of Michigan; then we make our way to the tiny hamlet of Beulah and catch our first glimpse of the perfectly aqua water of Crystal Lake; we have officially arrived.It was already time for lunch when we first set eyes on this gorgeous inland lake; we stopped in Beulah, grabbed a carry-out from L’chayim Deli, and took it to a table lake side to eat. The village does a great job allowing the public access to the lake with its pavilion, small beach and seating areas. With a perfect view of the water, we dug into our sandwiches; the Jerusalem: artichoke hearts, black pepper feta spread, red onion, lettuce and tomato on a salt bagel, and the Oy Vai: Corned beef, pastrami, cream cheese, pepper jack, red onion, lettuce, tomato, and Dijon mustard on multi-grain bread; both were delicious.

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Onward we went; we continued our tour of Crystal Lake driving the perimeter, then on to Frankfort, across Betsie Lake and on to Elberta. Perched on the side of a sand dune is a small gallery/coffee shop called Trick Dog. What a cool place! The building itself is adorned with funky details, the large front porch overlooks the serene Betsie Bay, large sculptures on the grounds encourage smiles. The gallery itself is filled with unique art work, it also sells an interesting array of housewares, dog accessories, jewelry and T-shirts. The espresso bar offers a variety of beverages along with baked goods, yum! We enjoyed our coffee break, stopping briefly for a panoramic view of Lake Michigan, and pointed the Jeep northIt would be impossible to tell you about every charming town and spectacular view we had the pleasure of experiencing on our trip, so I will try to narrow it down to highlights and favorites; then you will have to make the trip and see for yourself what an amazing place this is! 

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The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has been swarmed with visitors since being voted America’s Most Beautiful Place by Good Morning America, with good reason, it’s absolutely stunning. Our favorite way to see it? Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. At just over seven miles long this narrow road leads you through the forest and dunes; scenic turnouts provide spectacular vistas of Glen Lake and of course,  Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes. The Lake Michigan overlook is 450 feet above the lake itself; the beach below  a resting spot for those about to embark on the steep climb to the top. Anchored near shore are boats of all sizes, their passengers cooling off with a late afternoon dip. As Kris wanders about taking photos I make myself at home atop the dune; the sand has absorbed the heat of the sun, increasing my body temperature. As I gaze outward the lake seems to go on into eternity; what do you call that color of blue? It’s quiet here, even though the dune is littered with people, I watch the progress of the climbers as family and friends cheer them upward. Kris got my attention, we moved on to the deck that  hangs out over the dune; probably the most popular place to take pictures. It is easy to detect the changes in depth here by the varying shades of blues. There is no end to the comings and goings of tourists.

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We still had much to do before day’s end, Glen Arbor was our next destination. As somebody who likes getting somewhere as much as being there, M-22 is a dream drive for my husband; winding roads are smooth and even, traffic lights do not exist. Orchards, farms and tiny towns speck the vast open land, it is serene and picturesque. We arrived in Glen Arbor and drove straight toCherry Republic , with a motto of  “Life, Liberty, Beaches and Pie”, what’s not to love? We started at the winery and tasted to our hearts content; after narrowing it down to two bottles we made our purchase and stepped next door to the Great Hall of The Republic. Here you will find a mind-blowing array of cherry products, I will not even attempt to list them, you can click on the link to their website and see for yourself. The store itself has shelf after shelf of items, generous samples abound; it’s a good thing they do not weigh you as you come in and as you leave, it could be embarrassing….The products are truly outstanding; made with the highest quality fruit, nuts and chocolate, they are second to none.

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With our sweet tooth satisfied and a stash of goodies to last us the next few days, it was back on M-22 and up the Leelanau Peninsula. We stopped briefly in Leland, took a quick walk through Fishtown and then drove out to the tip of the peninsula and Lighthouse Point. Again, the view is remarkable, the air feels fresh and clean in my lungs, my body feels relaxed, at ease. We walk the shoreline taking more photos of water, the sight never becomes tiresome. Folks have begun stacking rocks, creating towers of all shapes and sizes. We notice the sun is getting lower, our cue to head back down the peninsula, this time following the east shoreline.

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Northport has grown since our last visit; a quick stop at the quaint Kamp Grounds Coffee and Creamery provided us a much-needed beverage. Omena, Peshawbestown and Suttons Bay are all enchanting little villages, darling shops and cafes call to us, but the clock and water views keep pulling us onward. Next visit we will dedicate an entire day to this lovely peninsula, its towns and wineries. For us it is time to head into Traverse City and get some dinner! When we arrived in the city is was after 9pm and the town was packed; the Traverse City Film Festival was in full swing. For an instant panic set in, would the restaurants be lined up out the door? Only one way to find out….Last time we were in town we ate at a little place on Union called Soul Hole, described as eclectic southern cuisine, the food was excellent; we were hoping to get dinner there tonight. We lucked out with a parking place right in front of the door and no line to be seated, whew! With a quick glance at the menu we placed our order and sat back in our booth, we had been on the go since early morning. Without much delay plates of food arrived at the table; fried green tomatoes, crispy outside, juicy inside with a spicy creole dipping sauce. The house salad was served with a sweet corn vinaigrette, very tasty and then there’s the southern fried chicken…fried to a perfect golden brown, tender and well seasoned it is out of this world; the cornbread and grits were pretty awesome too! When our meal was finished the day had finally settled down upon us, we were in need of a comfy bed and a good night sleep. Fortunately for us it was just a short drive to the place we would call home for the next few days; a condo on loan from dear and generous friends.

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3 Responses to “UP NORTH: M-22, The Leelanau Peninsula”

  1. farlane August 15, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    Love it – featuring on the Leelanau.com Facebook!

  2. Annette August 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    reading your description was wonderful! these are my favorite spots to visit as well! lovely area!

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