Take a Staycation, Explore Culinary Hidden Gems in Northern Michigan

You won’t find salt water beaches, palm trees, or coral reefs in northern Michigan – and that’s just the way we like it. Traverse City and its surrounding areas are some of the most scenic and beautiful destinations in the world, and they just might be in the comfort of your own back yard. If you’re a northern Michigander, here’s a roundup of some of the off-the-beaten-path food and culture gems to check out when you want to get away without going far.

First things first- the beer.

Traverse City is home to many breweries, taprooms, and pubs that you can only find when visiting.  You can’t truly call yourself a craft beer connoisseur until you try some of the many, many delicious brews that have made the breweries famous.  Some of the most popular destinations to grab a cold one:

  • Brewery Terra Firma fall-color-tour
    • Brewery Terra Firma is unique in its approach as a brewery and as an agricultural destination. Through the integration of sustainable production methods, environmentally conscious waste management and innovative water recycling/reclamation techniques, they hope to become a model for breweries and agricultural destinations throughout the nation.
  • The Workshop Brewing Company
    • The Workshop Brewing Company exists to preserve Northern Michigan’s spectacular natural environment, to reinforce Traverse City’s warm and vital community, and to honor traditional craft. They do not consider their business to be a success unless they are demonstrably and sustainably doing all three. They express this commitment by using the Trifidelity symbol, which stands for their motto: Nature. Community. Craft.
  • The Filling Station Microbrewery ???????????????????????????????
    • Established in the spring of 2012, The Filling Station Microbrewery is a family owned and operated business, dedicated to providing friendly and knowledgeable service and the highest quality of hand crafted brews and edibles.  Located just off the TART Trail in the historic railroad district, the Filling Station Microbrewery features a rotating list of at least 10 craft beers, which pair perfectly with our wood-fired flatbreads and fresh salads.  Whether on your own, meeting friends or with your family, patrons of all ages feel welcomed in our casual pub-style setting.   You’ll enjoy views of Boardman Lake from inside the pub or out on the patio, live music and the occasional train passing by.
  • Right Brain Brewery
    • Right Brain Brewing is committed to using the best available local ingredients in every small batch of  craft brew. Featuring a rotating right brained beer menu & artwork!
  • Short’s Brewing Company
    • Today Short’s Brewing Company continues its efforts to make the best beer on earth in Northern Michigan. Although Shorts has quickly grown to be one of Michigan’s largest breweries, they still take pride in their hands-on, mom-and-pop approach and the energy they put into the quality of our beer, food, staff, customers and facilities.
  • Stafford’s Noggin Room Pub
    • The Noggin Room Pub’s casual and comfortable atmosphere provides a great place to break from shopping the near-by Gaslight District, meet with friends and enjoy our award winning selection of domestic and imported beers. With personal service from the “Best Staff in Northern Michigan” (as voted by Northern Express), we’re sure you’ll feel right at home.

For those looking to enjoy their favorite node of Traverse City wine, check out these taste rooms and vineyards:

  • Left Foot Charley LeftFootCharly
    • The winery has since grown to around 6000 cases and is located in the former Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane in Traverse City, Michigan. The urban environment has served to bring the terroir to the people. LFC is a Michigan version of an Austrian Heuriger – a place where aromatic and flavorful wine is an everyday event. Locals and visitors alike have come to realize that the non-traditional setting pairs perfectly with the atypical fruit sourcing and old style winemaking that defines LFC. Left Foot has a committed a focus on white wine varietals, hard cider, and sparkling wine.
  • Blustone Vineyards
    • Bluestone’s story started 20 years ago visiting Leland as a family for the first time. The simplicity and beauty of the “tucked away” secret that is Leelanau has always been what we treasure most about the area. There is a connection to the land found only here amongst the lakes, dunes, hills, and sunlit fields and our dream to start Blustone was born out of that.

If you give a mouse a cookie, they’ll ask for a glass of milk. If you give a tourist a beer, they’ll ask for something to eat.  

Along with famous craft beers, Traverse City is known state and nation wide as a hub for unique and tasty meals from your not-so-typical mom and pop type restaurants.  Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty breakfast, fresh caught walleye, or a mouth watering burger, Traverse City boasts it all.  At the risk of leaving out some hidden gems, here’s a few nibble nooks you won’t want to miss:

  • Bay Bread Co.
    • Specialties: Breakfast and lunch sandwiches and some of the best baked goods you can find!
  • Cherry Republic

    • Celebrating the beauty and spirit of northern Michigan in everything we make and do, Cherry Republic has grown from a t-shirt sold out of the trunk of a car to the world’s largest exclusive retailer of cherry food creations. Along the way, we have turned one man’s vision into a nation of citizens embracing his creed of life, liberty, beaches, and pie.
  • Pepe Nero Kabob
    • PepeNero is a cozy and intimate restaurant snuggled inside the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Owners Giorgio and Monica Lo Greco are experienced professionals who know how to amaze your palate by preparing simple, genuine Italian food utilizing the gift of fresh seasonal ingredients from local markets and the high quality of imported Italian products.
  • Quay Restaurant and Bar
    • Quay Restaurant + Terrace Bar, pronounced kwā, is located in the beautiful town of Charlevoix, Michigan.  Come enjoy our three story restaurant and bar offering a New American menu along with a comprehensive wine and beer list.
  • Terry’s of Charlevoix
    • With over 35 years in the business since graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Terry Left, the proprietor, and Paul Bradley, the executive chef, have brought their years of experience to bear in developing exquisite recipes complemented by just the right sauces. Terry’s offers excellent full course dinners in a warm, casual dining atmosphere. Given the close proximity to the Great Lakes, their fish entrées are a fresh and ever-popular selection.
  • City Park Grill
    • In 1997 Bob & Mary Keedy, Dick & Laura Dinon, Chef John Norman, and Patrick Faylor purchased the Park Garden Café and changed the name to City Park Grill. The menu was changed as well to reflect their scratch kitchen and daily/seasonal specials. Since then, the restaurant has been restored to the glory days of the past, serving a wide array of guests from around the world.
  • Twisted Olive Quattro beef_1920x1200
    • A true Northern Michigan gem, Twisted Olive Quattro offers some of the most unique and decadent samplers, entrees, and drinks of anywhere in the mitten.
  • Cafe Sante
    • A casual, European-style bistro serving The Classics—simply and with flair. Featuring wood-fired pizzas, mussels and frites, pastas, Panini, unique breakfasts and casual cuisine from other fine European traditions.

Now that’ you’re good and full, you’re probably wondering what is there to do?

From the Sleeping Bear Dunes, scenic Lake Michigan beaches, and countless trails to explore, there truly isn’t enough time in one day to see it all.  If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, we encourage you to check out a guided tour or make a stop at one of the local museums.  You can’t go wrong with what you pick to do in TC, but here’s a few of our favorite things to get you started:

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes tour outdoors_naturepark_dunes
    • You will find a wide variety of activities for every age available to you at the Lakeshore. Climb the Dunes, swim at one of the many beaches, or take a hike through the Maple/Beech forest to some beautiful overlooks. Maybe you will want to spend some time in the museums or tour Port Oneida to learn about the rich history and culture of the area.
  • Music House Museum Tour
    • Recognized by Forbes.com as one of the ten reasons to visit Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the Music House Museum offers a unique collection of instruments that provide guests with a walk through the history, the artistry and the engineering of automated music.
  • Earl Young House Tour
    • This tour will take you around the triangular block bounded by Park Avenue, Grant Street, and Clinton Street.  Here you can see some of the most famous, and most beloved, work of long-time Charlevoix resident, Earl Young, homes he built or remodeled beginning in the late 1930s, and culminating in the construction of the “mushroom house” in the 1950s.
  • Castle Farms Garden Tour kings_grand
    • Northern Michigan’s very own fairy tale castle! With cobblestone courtyards, soaring stone towers, and magnificent sweeping gardens, Castle Farms has earned a reputation as one of Michigan’s premiere historic attractions, as well as a celebrated wedding venue. Whether you’re on a travel adventure, or searching for the perfect site in which to exchange marriage vows, this French Renaissance style castle offers the perfect blend of old-world charm and modern-day elegance for visitors seeking family fun and bridal couples-to-be.
  • Little Traverse History Museum
    • The Little Traverse Historical Socity was established in 1905 and, 1969, it was incorporated as a non- profit organization, “To preserve, advance and disseminate knowledge of the history of the Little Traverse Bay Area.” To this end, and with the support of members and winter and summer residents, they acquired and restored the abandoned Chicago and West Michigan Railroad depot. Originally built in 1892 to accommodate the large influx of summer resorters, the depot now serves the area as The Little Traverse History Museum.  The museum houses the historical society’s archives, long term displays, and an annual new summer display.  It is also the site of ongoing programs.  Currently, the museum is only open during the summer season (Memorial Day – mid October).
  • Cooking demonstration at Fustini’s
    • The company was founded by Jim and Lane Milligan, who lived in Minneapolis/St. Paul and took frequent family vacations to the beautiful resort town of Traverse City, Michigan. Like many others before them, the Milligans fell in love with northern Michigan and hoped to “someday” settle down there.  Flash-forward to today and Fustini’s is a Northern Michigan staple!

With everything there is to eat, drink and do in Northern Michigan, there’s no reason not to plan your staycation!  These are just a few of our own suggestions, however.  For more information on how to plan your own staycation in Northern Michigan or any other #PureMichigan destination, visit michigan.org

Exploring a Shipwreck on a Drummond Island Off-Roading Adventure

Today, guest blogger Christian Anschuetz from Modern Explorers tells the story of how his group of thrill-seeking adventurers came across a shipwreck while on an off-roading adventure on Drummond Island.

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

With everything that progress has brought to our modern world, it’s refreshing to know that there are still places on the planet that remain pristine.  Perhaps surprisingly, Michigan brims with more places like this than many expect, and our group of would-be adventurers, true modern explorers, seek and discover these hidden gems.

Our crew of ten men and women has made it their mission to find these often wild and remote places in the hopes of inspiring others to do the same.  From the northern shores of the Upper Peninsula’s Keweenaw, to the great National Huron and Manistee Forests, they have visited ancient copper mines, followed in the footsteps of Au Sable lumbermen, camped in the ruins of abandoned ghost towns, and most recently, visited the historic Drummond Island.

Here’s the story of how we discovered a well-known, but rarely visited shipwreck, on our latest adventure.

A piece of the Agnes W. Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

A piece of the Agnes W. Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

A summer squall rages across Lake Huron.  Strong winds whip the air and the surf into a frenzy, punishing all in its path.  Today’s victim would be a sturdy steamer that was once the largest vessel to travel the Great Lakes.  But neither her size nor her steadfast crew could protect her from the wrath of Mother Nature, which forced the Agnes W aground.  It was July 3rd, 1918 when the Agnes W crashed into the rocky shoreline and sank.  Nearly a century later, my team and I find ourselves staring at her well-preserved wreckage as we look to the south from Traverse Point on Drummond Island.

Locating the Agnes W on a map was a simple task, but making our way to the wreckage was another matter altogether.  Drummond Island is a beautiful, rugged place, and the path to the sunken ship was long, narrow, and harrowing.  While the off-road vehicles we took down the trail were up to the task, the drivers were tested after just a mile of navigating the sand, mud and stone.  We shared a deep sense of accomplishment as we exited our vehicles at the shoreline and began the hike toward where the Agnes W broke upon the rocks.

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

As we walked the last quarter mile to Traverse Point, our curiosity grew with every step: What would we find?  Two hundred yards from our destination our group made its first discovery: a massive beam pierced with wrought iron stakes lay upon the shore.  This large piece of debris had to belong to the Agnes W, so with sharpened eyes we moved forward, finding more and more of the wrecked ship along the way.  By the time we arrived at the tip of Traverse Point, we were surrounded by artifacts.  Less than 40 yards away we could see the well-preserved hulk of the steamer peeking through the surface of the water.  Despite the warm air and bright sun, a cool and eerie feeling descended on our group.

Individually and collectively, we wondered about the fate of the crew that night.  What was their experience of the violent collision between ship and land?  How many perished, how many survived?  Some answers to our questions reside in the history books.  Many others have been lost to time.  What the wreckage made clear, however, was that even this great ship was no match for the giant rocks that are the foundation of Drummond Island.  After discussing the little-known history of the Agnes W, we took our last photos and began the hike back to our vehicles.

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

As with most things on Drummond Island the adventure isn’t complete until you are safely back to your starting point.  This time we tackled the trail off the beach knowing that the surviving crew of the Agnes W likely forged a similar path as they left that shore cold, wet and scared.  Our team departed under far better circumstances, and with a sense of satisfaction that we had found what we were looking for.

During the following days we navigated even rougher terrain as our team explored and discovered towering cliffs, amazing rock formations, old ruins and intriguing Chippewa sites the locals call “places of power”.  For Drummond is a big island with an even larger history.  A land that calls out to would-be adventurers to rediscover her secrets.  A worthy destination for all, and one that deserves the title Pure Michigan.

Have you had the opportunity to explore Drummond Island? Tell us about your experience! 

Check out the Modern Explorers in action and see the wreck of the Agnes W for yourself in the video below.

Christian ModExpChristian Anschuetz embraces the duality of modern life, and freely moves from being a technologist at work, and an avid outdoorsman and adventurer for play.  As an IT executive and entrepreneur, he happily takes the lead of the Modern Explorers crew.  As a former Marine, the path he leads the team is often fraught with obstacles, dirt, and adventure. You can reach Christian at christian@modern-explorers.com. To learn more about the Modern Explorers follow them on Facebook or check out their YouTube Channel.


Keep These Tips for Recycling in Mind While Traveling in Pure Michigan

Unspoiled natural beauty and pristine forests and lakes make enjoying the great outdoors in Michigan so special. Today, guest blogger Kerrin O’Brien from Michigan Recycling Coalition shares some best practices for recycling while traveling in Michigan. 

Recycle, MI Sleepy Hollow

Photo courtesy of Michigan Recycling Coalition

So, the great Michigan outdoors beacons you to come play?  What drew you?  The amazing fresh water beaches?  Picturesque sand dunes?  Sublime, cool forests?  Or, the rustic and modern places where friends come to eat, drink and be merry?  Whatever your reason for traveling in and around Michigan, take notice of these places.  Do you see litter? Can you find a trash can or better yet, where’s the recycling bin?

What you don’t see in the water, on the beach or in the forest is a big part of what makes Michigan pure.  We care about our peninsulas and it shows.  Michiganders take great pride in the beauty of our state.

As a kid, my family went camping a lot. It’s what young families did in the 1970’s. One camping trip to the Great Smokey Mountains in Kentucky left a big impression on me. Sadly, it wasn’t the beauty of the mountains but the trash dumped off the side of a cliff that left its mark. We never encountered this kind of thoughtlessness on such a grand scale in Michigan. My family spent a day cleaning up that hillside.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Recycling Coalition

Photo courtesy of Michigan Recycling Coalition

Now when my family goes camping, we think about leaving no trace long before we’re in place.  You won’t always have ready access to convenient garbage cans, let alone recycling bins, so it’s important to consider your options before you don’t have them.  We try to make smart choices about the products and packaging we buy before we’re in the woods or at the beach.

Recycling wasn’t yet a big thing in the 1970’s, but neither was complex plastic packaging.  Think about reducing your waste when you’re buying.  Purchasing products sold in minimal, smart, and recyclable packaging will reduce your waste burden and bill.  Recycling, wherever you find yourself, is an important part of the commitment and unfortunately, not always easy.

ReMi_4C_TMGovernor Rick Snyder recently made recycling a priority for Michigan.  We now know that providing Michiganders and visitors with recycling options wherever they go is an important part of keeping Michigan clean and green.  The environmental benefits of recycling are probably clear to many of us, turning our garbage into back into new products puts our garbage to work for us and conserves our resources.  But you know what else recycling does?  It creates jobs and local economic activity that doesn’t involve digging for new resources.

So, on your travels this summer, look for ways to reduce your waste in the first place, choose recyclable products and packaging, buy in bulk, look for or ask for recycling bins wherever you go, pack out your recyclables and feel confident that you’re playing your part in Pure Michigan.

How do you recycle while traveling? 

KerrinKerrin O’Brien has been involved in recycling on a professional level for more than 20 years and Executive Director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition since 2008.  O’Brien’s experience in the Smokey Mountains so long ago gave her the passion and purpose to make a career of reducing waste.  The Michigan Recycling Coalition is an association for recycling professionals and statewide advocate for best practices and policies in recycling. Their Recycle, MI campaign aims at raising awareness of the value of recycling for communities across the state.