Exploring the Old Mission Peninsula on M-37

Just north of Traverse City, the Old Mission Peninsula is a narrow finger of land extending into the center of Grand Traverse Bay. It’s 22 miles long and in some places as little as a mile wide: a beautiful patchwork of orchards, vineyards, forests and villages that’s especially lovely in fall.

Highway M-37, known by locals as Center Road, shows you the best of this magical place. It’s perfect for a half-day drive that combines fall color with beautiful views, visits to wineries and fruit stands, and unforgettable meals at charming restaurants.

The first winery you’ll encounter is just past the crest of the first hill, it’s the Old Mission vineyard and tasting room of Black Star Farms, established on the site of the former Underwood farm. At the bottom of the hill, rising up on the left, is the Italian stone villa that houses Mari Vineyards, the peninsula’s newest winery.

For the next few miles the road runs along the shoreline with its ducks, docks, birds and boats, then begins to rise again. On the right you’ll see a former one-room schoolhouse. (The Peninsula once had seven of them, and five are still in use.) It’s the tasting room of Peninsula Cellars. Across the road and up the hill is the relaxed new Bonobo Winery.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

At the summit of the hill, there’s a scenic treat: a lovely overlook with splendid views of both arms of the Bay – a favorite place for watching sunsets, storms and other natural displays. It overlooks the sprawling vineyards of Chateau Grand Traverse, the first winery established on the Peninsula.  As the road descends the hill, continue to enjoy the scenery along with the fruit and vegetable stands that will be increasingly noticeable on both sides of the road. Stop by for some fresh apples, plums, beans, squash and other locally-grown goodies!

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Just ahead is the village of Mapleton, one of the Peninsula’s two small towns, home to the laid-back Peninsula Grill and Bad Dog Deli, as well as a handy grocery store, the Peninsula Market, which has the only gas pump out here.

From Mapleton, the road leads north over a razor-thin bluff known as the Hog’s Back, (with wonderful views of East Bay to the right) and rises even higher to the imposing Chateau Chantal Winery Bed & Breakfast. Over the next hill you’ll find the Old Mission Tavern, a charming eatery that has its own art gallery, the Bella Galleria.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

One last hill takes you down past cherry orchards, vineyards and tall rows of hops with great views of Old Mission Village to the right. Here, as the highway makes a gentle turn to the east, you’ll enter Lighthouse Park, home to the picturesque Mission Point Lighthouse, built in 1870. Although it is no longer in operation, it is open for tours and is the centerpiece of an attractive park with popular beaches, historical exhibits and extensive hiking trails.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

What are your favorite memories of the Old Mission Peninsula? Share with us by commenting below!

Blogger Bio: Mike Norton majored in history at the University of Michigan and spent 25 years as a newspaper writer and columnist in Traverse City. For the past decade, he’s been director of media relations at Traverse City Tourism. He lives in the village of Old Mission.

No better time than Autumn in Northern Michigan’s Benzie County

Fall signals its arrival with the slow turning of leaves. Michigan’s 19 million acres of woods crescendo into vibrant crimsons, oranges and golds, finally exploding in their annual blaze of color inviting residents and travelers alike to take the open road.

If you’re looking to plan a Michigan roadtrip to view the colors, (and possibly check out a few events!) read why Benzie County in Northern Michigan is an ideal choice.

Autumn, when crowds retreat, the air is crisp and the landscape is ablaze with color, this is Benzie County, Northern Michigan Preserved®. Our pristine location offers time to reflect and experience the beauty of fall color.  Take the scenic M22 drive, which was named the “Most Scenic Autumn Drive” in the county by readers of USA Today in 2015. The beautiful drive takes you through three northern Michigan counties, Manistee, Benzie and Leelanau and offers multiple opportunities for scenic views of Lake Michigan and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is breathtaking in the fall

Photo Courtesy of the Benzie County Chamber of Commerce

There are many fantastic fall events taking place during October throughout the area. Make your way to Fall Fest in Beulah/Benzonia on October 1 or Fall Fest in Frankfort and the Peak to Peak Mountain biking event on October 8.  Frankfort Beer week runs October 3-8, where you can enjoy delicious craft and seasonal brews and the Frankfort Film Festival (perfect for cinema lovers!) runs from October 20-23.  For ORV-enthusiasts, there are specific Saturday events that allow you to rev up your  ATV’s and 4×4  season long. The local-favorite Pumpkin Run takes place on October 22 and the Haunted Trail Ride (with ghosts, goblins, and more!) will take place  on October 29 at Twisted Trails Off Road Park off of M-115.

Benzie County is an ideal biking destination in the fall

Photo Courtesy of the Benzie County Chamber of Commerce

How about getting a bird’s eye view of the colors?  Every Saturday in October enjoy panoramic views of three counties at Crystal Mountain where you can ride the Crystal Clipper Quad Chairlift to the top of the mountain to enjoy the music.  Or take a tour of the most photographed lighthouse in Michigan, The Point Betsie, who’ll have lighthouse tours October 1-3 and 7-9.

The Point Betsie Light looks beautiful no matter the season

The Point Betsie Light looks beautiful no matter the season

If artisan crafts and foods peak your interest, then there’s no better place than Benzie County. Wineries, Breweries, Distilled Spirits, Artist Galleries and Farms will certainly round out your visit to our area.  So what are you waiting for? Start planning your autumn visit to see us.  Need more of an incentive?  Check out our Benzie Treasure Trove promotion that offers hundreds of dollars in freebies, discounts and gifts from area businesses, just for staying two or more consecutive nights at one of our participating lodging properties.  All the details on events, lodgings, dining, shopping and the Benzie Treasure Trove promotion can be found on our website, www.visitbenzie.com or call us at 800-882-5801.

What is your favorite memory from Benzie County? Share with us by commenting below!

Get Your Fall Foliage Fix at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

As we say goodbye to summer and welcome the root of fall, we face new explorations of Pure Michigan. Known for its abundance of autumnal colors, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is unique not only for its rock formations and shoreline, but also for its hiking trails and waterfalls. Whether you’re planning to experience the lakeshore by water or land, there are many ways to get your fall foliage fix.

Read more on four ways to see fall foliage near the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

1. Cruise the Lakeshore

Travel alongside the picturesque 40-mile stretch of vibrantly colored trees, sandy beaches, waterfalls, caverns and rare rock formations on a Pictured Rocks Cruise. The clear blue water and red and orange hues of the rocks rising vertically out of the shoreline add a nice touch to the fall foliage that line the Lakeshore. The tour features the most iconic landmarks of Pictured Rocks including the East Channel Lighthouse,  Miners Castle, Lovers Leap and other iconic landmarks. This family-friendly cruise also offers complimentary dog kennels on-site for the duration of the cruise. The 2 ½ hour-long cruises are an ideal way to see parts of Pictured Rocks that you cannot see from land.

Pictured Rocks Cruises is one of the best ways to see the Lakeshore

Photo Courtesy of Shawn Malone

2. Paddle Pictured Rocks

Get up close and personal on a Pictured Rocks Kayaking tour of the most iconic stretch of the Lakeshore. On this 5 hour-long tour, you’ll get the chance to paddle through caves, under arches and alongside waterfalls. Glide through the crystal clear water of Lake Superior and enjoy the vibrant hues of fall foliage surrounding the Lakeshore. The journey features many landmarks including Miners Castle, Lovers Leap, Rainbow Cave, Indian Head, Gull Rookery, Grand Portal, Chapel Cove and Chapel Rock. Pictured Rocks Kayaking provides all paddling equipment and ensures that paddling will be done with the wind at the paddlers back whenever possible.

Get up close and personal with multi-colored sandstone cliffs by kayaking

Photo Courtesy of Shawn Malone

3. Hike the Trails

Experience Pictured Rocks from a different perspective. While hiking the shoreline, you are at the heart of the fall foliage, with a breathtaking view of Lake Superior below. The Lakeshore offers a variety of recognizable sites to see and should be on every Michiganders bucket list. With over 60 miles of hiking trails within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, you’ll experience fall color like never before.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore boasts many beautiful waterfalls

Photo Courtesy of Pictured Rocks Cruises

4. Take a Drive

An explosion of vibrant red, orange and gold adds an entirely new dimension to a Pictured Rocks road trip. The route to the Lakeshore offers an astounding look at fall foliage with towering trees and royal blue lakes encompassing most of your drive. With many areas to stop and admire the scenery, you won’t mind taking the long route.

Celebrate Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore’s 50th anniversary this autumn with a cruise, kayak or hike—we guarantee you’ll fall in love.

What is your favorite memory from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore? Share with us by commenting below!

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