Driving north into Leelanau County from
one of the first sights to catch the eye on West Grand Traverse Bay at
Greilickville is the distinctive two masted sailing vessel Malabar.
This 105 foot , gaff rigged topsail schooner was built in
Maine in 1975 and hearkens back to the days when sailing vessels
maritime trade in and around Leelanau County.
Farther North on M-22, Suttons
Bay hugs the waterfront of the natural harbor on Grand Traverse Bay
for which the community was named. As one enters the downtown
the highway becomes St. Joseph's Avenue, the city's main
The nine-block central business district is a lively collection of specialty
shops, boutiques, art and antique galleries, dining
establishments and guest
lodgings. Conveniently located in downtown Suttons Bay is the
village's public beach with picnic areas and rest rooms, and the
Bay Marina with slips for both long term rental and transient
This is the site of the annual Suttons Bay Classic Boat show, the
Bay Art Festival, and JazzFest. JazzFest is an annual
of classic jazz featuring the music of Goodman, Ellington, Kenton,
and others by professional name bands, accompanied by food and wine of
the Leelanau Peninsula, all under one big tent.
|For a closer view of areas on a map, just click on the region with which you are interested and a larger, clearer image will appear. Links to towns and other areas of interest are below the map, so take a peek into the wonder and beauty of the mystical Leelanau.|
The northern most community on the peninsula is Northport which is nestled along another natural harbor on West Grand Traverse Bay. A favored port for recreational boaters under both sail and power, the Northport Harbor in the lee of the peninsula can be a welcomed site for mariners escaping heavy weather on Lake Michigan. The 82 slip marina is adjacent to the downtown area and thus convenient to the villages many shops, stores and restaurants. Two full service boat yards are located in Northport to tend to boaters' needs and the community's maritime flavor is highlighted by the annual Harbor Days Fish Boil.
Northport is the gateway to the Leelanau State Park at the very tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. This popular park, stretching along the Lake Michigan shoreline, offers camping, hiking and cross country trails and magnificent expanses of sandy beaches. At the very tip of the peninsula is the Grand Traverse Lighthouse which was a crucial beacon for Great Lakes mariners for many years. Within the the lighthouse facility is also a maritime museum documenting its rich history.
Winding back down the windward side of the peninsula, the first major community is Leland, the seat of Leelanau County. Straddling the Leland River as it flows from Lake Leelanau to Lake Michigan, Leland has managed to preserve intact one of the last vestiges of a once thriving commercial fishing industry in northern Michigan.
The Fishtown District at the mouth of the river, with its quaint structures and working fish tugs, is one of Michigan's most photographed historical landmarks. Visitors to Fishtown will find among its vintage structures and eclectic mix of specialty stores offering everything from maritime art to smoked fish to exclusive sportswear.
The Leland Harbor is home port for ferry service to the Manitou Islands, South Manitou and North Manitou, located in Lake Michigan about 15 miles off the Leelanau coastline. These largely underdeveloped islands are fascinating to explore, both for their undisturbed natural environment and their historic artifacts such as old lighthouses and remains of shipwrecks.
Leland is also home to the Leelanau Historical
Permanent exhibits tell the story of the settlement and development of
the county from the time the first lighthouse was built on South
Island. Special temporary displays feature domestic and folk
Kids of all ages are invited to play with the toys of the past.
Heading south from Leland, one can either follow the coastline to the Sleeping Bear area or drive inland to Lake Leelanau, both the village and 22-mile finger lake for which it is named.
The village of Lake Leelanau is situated at the narrows of the lake and offers many recreational services and amenities. One of the community's highlights is the Walleye Festival held the first Saturday of May each year. Lake Leelanau is also home of the Leelanau County Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber provides helpful assistance for visitors.
Cedar is nestled on the southern end of Lake Leelanau and at the northern reach of the Pere Marquette State Forest. Named for the majestic cedar forests that once defined its lumbering history, the community is now an excellent four season resort area. It also has a rich Polish heritage dating back to its earliest immigrant settlers and celebrates this heritage with a Polka Festival each July.
Cedar's most famous resort and recreation property is Sugar Loaf offering excellent ski and golf opportunities. This world class resort attracts golfers from all over to its championship 18 hole golf course and is building another signature course designed in part by Arnold Palmer. Sugar Loaf's ski area consists of seven lifts and 24 slopes which are open to off road bikers during the off season.
Cedar is also home to one of Michigan's most unique small business success stories, Pleva's Meats. Joe Pleva, founder, opened a general store on the site in 1919. In 1949, Andy Pleva started producing sausages in the great Polish tradition and in 1970 his brother Ray joined the business. In 1989, Ray Pleva developed Cherry Pecan Sausage using cherries from the nearby cherry orchards and a legend was born. The product was chosen as the best new food product at a national restaurant show in Chicago in 1989 and was also named Michigan's best new product of the year.
Ray has since developed another popular new meat product, the patented Pleva Lean, a 91% lean ground beef product made with cherries, oat bran, oat fiber, salt and spices. This product is now offered on the menu in 13 states, for school lunch programs and soon to go international in Japan and New Zealand.
In the category of food and beverage processing it should be noted that Leelanau County's sun drenched, rolling hills, sandy soils and Lake Michigan moderated climate have made it ideal for growing high quality grapes and producing some of Michigan's best wines. Wineries such as Leelanau Wine Cellars overlooking Omena Bay offer tasting rooms and tours, as well as sales of their finest vintages.
Maple City is home to some fine restaurants and if maple syrup strikes your fancy, you can sample some of northern Michigan's finest at the Sugar Shack. Near Maple City are also two of Leelanau's excellent inland lakes, Lime Lake and Little Traverse Lake, on which accommodations may be found.
Back on the western side of Leelanau County is another of the county's world class resort centers. The Homestead. The Homestead is a four season resort that combines incredible natural beauty with the finest amenities. Beautifully situated among the the great dunes, deep forests and majestic presence of Lake michigan, The homestead offers unlimited recreation. In summer, beach walking, swimming, sailing, tennis on clay courts, or golf on a 9 hole, par 3 course. In spring and fall there is fly fishing on the Crystal River, canoeing, biking, hiking, and relaxing acres of forests. And, in winter, enjoy breathtaking telemark skiing from high above the lake, or cross country skiing along miles of dramatic trails.
The community of Glen Arbor is on Lake Michigan's Sleeping Bear Bay. This recreation oriented village also has access to Leelanau County's second largest inland lake, Glen Lake, as well as the the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Glen Arbor has a lively selection of shopping, dining, entertainment and lodging.
Once you discover Burdickville on Glen Lake you'll want to add it to your list of places to revisit. particularity unforgettable is the French Cuisine of the La Becasses restaurant. There are also many lovely picnic areas in this beautiful stretch.
Located farther down Lake Michigan's coast in the southwest corner of the county is Empire, home of the Sleeping Bear Dune National Lake Shore, one of Michigan's most impressive natural wonders. Naturalists will enjoy the unique ecosystem of the dunes and can learn more about the formation of this dramatic landmark at the National Park Headquarters. Young and old will enjoy climbing the famous Dune Climb and running down the sandy slopes.
Hikers and cross country skiers taking the Empire Bluff Trail south of Empire are rewarded with a panoramic view of the dunescape, Sleeping Bear, and the Manitou Islands. Bicyclists and motorists can take in the spectacular scenery of the dunes from the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.
Towering over the dunes are the domed radars once employed by the U.S. Air Force. Empire celebrated its centennial year in 1995 and its rich history as a lodging center can be explored at the Empire Area Heritage Museum. The community's ties to the maritime commerce on the Great Lakes and information for recreational divers are found at the Manitou Underwater Preserve Information Center and Northwest Michigan Maritime Museum.