2013 Festivals: Come for the breathtaking scenery, but stay for the events!
LELAND AND LAKE LEELANAU
May 29-Jun. 2
Birding Festival: Hosted at Fountain Point Resort on South Lake Leelanau.
Grape Expectations: Pre-Leland Wine Festival Art Party at the Old Art Building; appetizers and local wines.
Leland Wine and Food Festival: 16 wineries join 11 local eateries for a tasty afternoon.
Fourth of July celebration: Fireworks July 3; parade July 4.
Leland Heritage Festival: Classic boat show on the Leland River; Classic car exhibition at Van’s Garage.
Leland Fall Frenzy: Donuts, cider and store sales.
Jun. 28-Aug. 30
Music in the Park: Concerts every Friday.
Northport Wine Festival: Features the peninsula’s 10 Northern Wine Loop Wineries.
Leelanau Wine & Music Festival and ISEA Classic Boat Show: Dame Street and Marina Park.
Suttons Bay Art Festival: Features 100 artists and food.
Floatilla 2: Rafting together of kayaks and canoes.
Suttons Bay Fall Art & Wine Walk
Leland Township Harbor has a new marina with 69 slips, including large ones along 500 feet of broadside space. Additional amenities include two launch sites, a new bathhouse with showers, day room, laundry facilities, Wi-Fi, new parking lot, public bathrooms, walkways, and a patio. Dredging took place in May 2013. It is a harbor of refuge, but requests for slips are strongly encouraged.
Call: 231-256-9132 or 231-534-4580 during off-hours.
Coordinates: 45° 01’ 26” N 85° 45’ 51” W
Radio channels: 9, 16, 68
G. Marsten Dame Marina at Northport has been renovated with 114 slips, including seven floating “shoppers” docks, a new bathhouse with showers, day room and laundry facility, and a new dock house. This is a harbor of refuge, but slip requests are encouraged.
Call: 231-386-5411 or 231-386-5182 during off-hours.
Coordinates: 45° 07’ 48” N 85° 36’ 38” W
Radio channel: 16
Suttons Bay Marina features a play park, public beach and many other amenities. It has 173 slips, but it’s not a harbor of refuge. Reservations should be made early to ensure availability.
Call: 231-271-6703 or 231-271-3051 during off hours.
Coordinates: 44° 58’ 32” N 85° 38’ 43” W
Radio channel: 9
- Leland and Lake Leelanau Chamber of Commerce http://www.lelandmi.com
- Fishtown Preservation http://www.fishtownmi.org
- South Manitou Island http://www.nps.gov/slbe/planyourvisit/southmanitouisland.htm
- Manitou Island Transit http://www.manitoutransit.com/day-trip-to-south-manitou
- Leelanau Historical Society and Museum http://www.leelanauhistory.org
- City of Northport http://www.leelanau.com/northport
- Chamber of Commerce http://www.northportomenachamber.org
- Grand Traverse Lighthouse http://www.grandtraverselighthouse.com
- Northport Bay Boat Yard http://www.northportbayboatyard.com
- Suttons Bay Chamber of Commerce http://www.suttonsbayarea.com
Turquoise waters lap against dunes and cliffs as you cruise Lake Michigan along the Leelanau Peninsula. A breakwater’s outstretched arm appears ahead, enticing boaters into Leland Harbor. Entrance reveals a picturesque fishing village huddled on a narrow river, complete with colorful flower- and banner-decked shops.
This is Leland, Michigan and its historic Fishtown, a charming vacation destination where visitors throng Brigadoon-style from early summer to mid-fall, and winter sports enthusiasts flock during colder months.
It’s easy to get lost in the quaintness of this coastal community. Stop for a treat at Murdick’s Fudge Shoppe, ice cream at Harbor House Trading Company or Leland Toy Company, and lose track of time wandering through the unique local shops. Afterwards, pick up some smoked whitefish at Carlson’s Fishery, crackers from the “Merc” (Leland Mercantile to tourists) and watch the sun set over Leland Harbor while sipping a Pinot Blanc medalist from Verterra Winery.
So might end your first day in this tiny township of slightly more than 2,000 people on the west coast of Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula. That’s about the same number of boats that pull in here each summer.
To cap appetizers on the boat, you’ll want to snag a reservation at the historic upscale Riverside Inn, the casual Bluebird Restaurant or the lively Cove Restaurant. All three restaurants have great waterfront views. If you’re looking for overnight accommodations in the beating heart of downtown, Falling Waters Lodge is a one-of-a-kind lodge with views of the waterfalls, Fishtown, the Leland River and Lake Michigan.
Leland is more than just a pretty town; it’s home base to explore, fish, hike and bike the entire region.
Coin toss: Heads, explore; tails, fish
Leland is known for fishing and as a jumping-off point to South Manitou Island. Fish Hook, across from the harbor, has fishing licenses and other gear, and the Manitou Island Transit’s ferry leaves from Leland.
Visitors come from all over to fish for salmon because there’s no wait for a fall migration, according to Cris Telgard, Leland Township Harbor Commission chairman.
“Some years ago a charter captain out of Leland stumbled across great schools of salmon out by the Manitou islands,” Telgard says. “This is not like ports where salmon migrate in the fall. This is a prime salmon fishing port.”
Chamber president Linda Lindquist-Bishop, whose family has lived in Leland since the early 1900s, suggests visitors take a charter boat for a half-day of salmon or trout fishing.
“When you bring them in you can get pictures, have the fish cleaned and Carlson’s will pack them in ice for you,” she says.
Or spend the day at South Manitou Island for its grove of giant white cedars, considered the largest of their kind in North America, the beaches, and the 104-foot-high lighthouse.
Take the ferry over or anchor offshore. South Manitou Bay is a natural harbor that has a “harbor of refuge” designation. North Manitou is primarily limited to three-day camping visits. Watch for the square Manitou Shoals Lighthouse between the Manitou Islands when going over to South Manitou.
The island’s beaches, ridge-covered dunes and abandoned farmhouses draw swarms of summer visitors, so make ferry reservations ahead of time. Oh, and bring lunch. It’s a day trip. The Village Cheese Shanty near the ferry is a popular stop for sandwiches.
The ferry takes 1½ hours. It goes over in the morning and picks up in the afternoon. Work off sandwich calories climbing 117 steps to the South Manitou Lighthouse’s observation deck for spectacular views of the Manitou Passage and its boat traffic.
“It’s a main water highway like (Interstate) 196 is for cars. You see barges, ore boats and freighters on the Manitou Passage,” Lindquist-Bishop says.
The Manitou Passage is busy, but the scenery is picture-perfect.
If you originally approached Leland from the south you would have passed Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore of Good Morning America’s “Most Beautiful Places” fame (see feature story on Sleeping Bear Dunes entitled “American Beauty,” p. 28 of the July 2012 issue of Lakeland Boating). From the north you would pass Beaver Island and the Fox Islands before heading past Leelanau Peninsula’s rocky northwest scenery. While at Leland, cruise the part you haven’t seen before heading home.
“Leland Harbor is a jewel along our coastline of spectacular sandy cliffs and pristine tree-lined beaches,” Lindquist-Bishop says.
A revamped harbor
What visitors see when they enter Leland Harbor is a new configuration that handles 69 boats, including large ones, because there’s 500 feet broadside. Redone in two stages during the past three years, the harbor has updated everything.
“Boaters came in spite of our outdated facility,” Telgard says. “Leland was very popular. We wanted the Leland Township Harbor to be equal to the attractions of the village. We added new slips and new facilities. It was just completed last summer. Boaters love it. Now there is a quality facility.”
The harbor building, sand-colored with a red roof, has a day room with TV and wireless internet access, eight showers and laundry. The marina has floating docks and a second launch site.
Past problems with shoals won’t be a problem in 2013, according to harbormaster Russell Dzuba. “We’re dredging the first of May,” he says.
Because Leland is 100 percent transient and a harbor of refuge, no one is turned away; however, the harbor is not on the state reservation system, so Dzuba encourages boaters to call when they are on the way.
“It never hurts to call,” he says. “Around the 4th of July is hectic. Early August is hectic. Leland is popular. We have historic Fishtown, shops, restaurants, beaches, a laid back atmosphere, and now, a first class facility.”
One can’t-miss stop is the newly renovated historic Leland Lodge, a four-block walk uphill from the harbor. Dine and wine admist sweeping views of North Lake Leelanau and the Leland Country Club, or book rooms for your next land-based visit.
“Leland used to be a stop up to the North Channel,”Dzuba says. “Now, Leland is no longer a stop on the way; it is a destination.”
Maritime exhibits and historic Fishtown
After a day spent at South Manitou or out fishing, there’s still time to discover treasures at the wonderful shops and galleries in Leland and Fishtown before relaxing riverside with a “Chubby Mary” at The Cove Restaurant. It’s a bloody Mary with, well, you'll see. Now pull out the camera; you’re sitting between the dam and the shanties of Fishtown, that jumble of well-weathered huts and narrow walkways you see dotted along the Leland River.
The dam at the east end is more than picturesque. It regulates the water level of Lake Leelanau, which flows into the Leland River and out to Lake Michigan.
Look for still-working fishing tugs Janice Sue, built in 1958, and Joy, a trap-net boat from 1981. Between shanties gill nets dry on reels and are repaired.
According to Amanda Holmes, Fishtown Preservation Society’s executive director, commercial fishing boats have plied Lake Michigan waters from the Leland River for more than 150 years, and Fishtown, as it appears today, developed in the early 1900s. She notes that the Great Lakes was peppered with commercial fishing enclaves and shanties similar to Fishtown, but few remain.
“What we have is very rare,” Holmes says. “We have survived. We still have commercial fishing that carries on our maritime traditions.”
If interested in the area’s maritime history, including shipwrecks, cross the bridge over the Leland River on Main Street (M22) to Cedar Street, where the Leelanau Historical Society has a museum.
While there, take advantage of free Wi-Fi and computer access at the Leland Township Library located next door. The library serves both residents and tourists. You can pick up a book to read on Van’s Beach where Cedar dead-ends just west behind Van’s Garage (a local reference point).
Hike, bike or boat
Leelanau County’s scenic country roads beckon to be biked or hiked. Harbor House Trading Co. carries some hiking brands, and George Bennett can supply the wheels from his Geo bike shop.
You might think you’re ready to go, but first carb-load at Stone House Bread Café on the south side of town. It’s on M22, the Michigan two-lane highway that rings the Leelanau Peninsula. Stone House Bread does breakfast, lunch and snacks as eat-in or take-out. They also often sell out of their goodies, so ask them to set aside what you’d like to pick up on the way back to town to ensure you’re taste buds aren’t left hanging.
Your adventure starts as you bike or hike south on M22 along the vast waters of North Lake Leelanau. But it’s decision time when you reach Leelanau County Highway 204.
Option 1: Wind east through summer’s dappled greens and fall’s glorious color as 204 dissects the peninsula from Leland to Suttons Bay. Your destination would be the small hamlet of Lake Leelanau, an easy 5 miles from Leland.
When you hear “Lake Leelanau,” you need to know it could reference either the town or the approximately 22-mile-long inland lake. The town is situated at the “narrows,” a strip of land bridging North and South
You don’t have to wait until the sun is over the yardarm to sample the handcrafted spirits of Lake Leelanau’s Northern Latitudes Distillery. Their vodkas and Limoncello are good at any hour.
Biking all the way to Suttons Bay can be tough unless you have a ride back. The road’s steep slope downhill east means an exceptional uphill challenge back west. If you drove to Leland, continuing on to Suttons Bay’s yummy eateries and charming shops is worth the time.
Option 2: Continue south on M22 to the northern segment of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore, where you can dip toes in sand or water at Good Harbor Beach while gazing at the park’s famed Pyramid Point. On the way back, refresh with a wine-tasting stop at Good Harbor Vineyards.
Option 3 begins back in Leland. As a boater, you really would like to explore or fish on the peninsula’s long inland lake. Leelanau Water Sports rents a variety of boats and jet skis
Take the launch site into the Leland River behind the Bluebird Restaurant and follow the bend upstream into North Lake Leelanau. Just don’t take a chance on boat availability; reserve ahead.
“We live in an extraordinary area,” says the Harbor Commission’s Telgard. “People come here and say they can‘t believe this is here, in Michigan, and they didn’t know it.”
North by NorthportIf Leelanau Peninsula’s outstretched arm of woods and hills seduce you into staying longer, head around its northern tip. You can refuel 30 miles northeast of Leland at Northport’s upgraded G. Marsten Dame Marina at the top of Grand Traverse Bay.
Have the camera ready. Past Cathead Point and Cathead Bay, Grand Traverse Lighthouse’s red roof comes into view. It has been a guiding light since 1852.
“The bright inviting buildings greet you at Northport’s harbor,” says Greg King, Northport’s administrative coordinator. “The new bathhouse with six showers, laundry facilities, day room and a new dock house are white stucco with red roofs on purpose. We’re carrying out the lighthouse motif.”
Proud of the new boating and public spaces, King says, “We now have 10-foot boardwalks with bump-outs where people can stop and not interfere with others going to their boats. And we revamped the public beach. We have new sand and sidewalks.”
In addition to Northport’s 100 slips, half of which are transient, the marina added seven floating docks that Martha Cook, a Northport Harbor supervisor, calls “shoppers’ docks.”
“Some people come by boat to shop and do lunch,” Cook says. “Everything is within walking distance. Later, we flip them for overnights.
“It’s beautiful here,” she continues. Cook says she never tires of looking out at the water. She also loves meeting boaters. “They are always happy. Well, they are doing what they like to do.”
Northport is a harbor of refuge so no one is turned away, but Cook thinks radioing in ahead of time is good. “Then we will have a slip assigned and boys out to help,” she says.
If you encounter any problems along the way, Northport Bay Boat Yard is located just north of the marina. “We do service calls,” says Rae Ellen Thyer, who owns the operation with husband Don.
“House” calls are intended for minor repairs; however, if major work is required, the boatyard can transport your vessel from the marina to its facility. “We have the largest lift from Holland to Cheboygan, so if grounded, we can bring boats here.”
As former Chicagoans who often cruised with Rae Ellen’s parents and siblings around the Leelanau Peninsula, the Thyers understand about transients wanting to “get it fixed” and go. “We know that in summer, people are on vacation and want to go on their way as soon as possible,” she says.
Northport Bay Boat Yard, which is a sponsor of America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association, is a year-round operation.
Stop and shop at Suttons BaySet a southern course to Suttons Bay to shop and visit wineries. The town is fun, but biking between it and Leland is difficult. Suttons Bay is only about 13 miles south of Northport. For a wine tasting interlude, pull in at Omena Bay, where slips are outside Leelanau Cellars.
Hopefully, you have reserved a slip at Suttons Bay Marina. Not a harbor of refuge, its 173 slips fill, particularly during July. A mere 38 slips are transient.
Harbor reservations are necessary, but you’ll know the town is informal when you see “Village Hall” on a shack at the harbor. During off hours, Village manager Wally Delamater helps out at Suttons Bay Bikes.
“We are already taking summer reservations,” Delamater says while working on a bike’s spokes.
Asked about the popularity, Suttons Bay Harbor supervisor Edie Aylsworth explains, “Everyone likes to shop and eat.”
That might as well be the town’s mantra, because when you exit the marina onto Saint Joseph Street (M22) you’re at North Country Grill, known for its juicy, ground-on-site hamburgers and delicious prime rib.
Martha’s Leelanau Table, where the locals go for soup or sandwiches, is across the road. VI Grill (formerly Village Inn), which does eggs the way you like ’em, is down a block. And those are just a few food choices. At Suttons Bay Trading Company, owner and Chamber president Karen Pontius mixes spices that can transform galley meals into gourmet.
The Visitors Center sits between the harbor and St. Joseph at Madison and Dame streets, by a red phone booth. Volunteers can direct you to galleries, boutiques and to Jon’s Barber Shop & Sports Shop for a hair cut or fishing license, and to Suttons Bay Bikes/Grand Traverse Bike Tours for winery tours by bike. About 11 wineries are south off a converted railroad bed bike trail and another couple are located north, reachable with a van or bike.
Restock the galley at Hansen’s Foods a few blocks south. Don’t worry if you didn’t pick up a bottle from a Leelanau winery because this upscale grocery has a sommelier to help you select a lovely locally produced wine.
In addition, store staff will drive you back to the harbor with your groceries and clothes bundle if you used Suttons Bay Laundromat in Hansen’s Plaza. As you head back to the harbor, look for the Inland Seas Schoolship schooner.
When logging in your Leland, Northport and Suttons Bay experiences, you might want to add a footnote to scenery that reads: Shop, eat and drink wine.