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.

10 Grand Things You Might Not Know

Since 1887, Grand Hotel has been a defining feature of historic Mackinac Island, where horse-drawn carriages and bicycles are the preferred modes of transportation. Here are 10 things you never knew about Grand Hotel that make it a true American icon.

1. No two guest rooms are alike

Every one of Grand Hotel’s 390 guest rooms has its own unique character, artfully decorated by Carleton Varney of Dorothy Draper & Co. Inc. in New York City. Varney is also known for his design consultancy at the White House.

Hotel Room

2. Five U.S. Presidents have visited Grand Hotel

Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton have all experienced the elegance and unique atmosphere of Grand Hotel.

3. Grand Hotel is a third-generation family business

Taking over for his father, R.D. Musser Jr., President Dan Musser III currently handles all-day-to-day operations of the world’s largest summer resort. His sister, Vice President Mimi Cunningham, manages Grand Hotel’s 14 retail outlets and works closely with Carleton Varney on design projects at the hotel.

4. The world’s longest front porch

At 660 feet long, no other hotel in the world can match it. That includes relaxing in a rocking chair while enjoying stunning views of the Straits of Mackinac.


5. Grand Hotel maintains over 125,000 flowers

More than one ton of flower bulbs are planted each fall to create the many gardens on Grand Hotel grounds. Varieties include 25,000 tulips, 15,000 daffodils and more than 5,200 geraniums, the hotel’s signature flower.


6. You can find Grand Hotel Somewhere in Time

This 1980 classic film starring Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour was filmed on location at Grand Enthusiasts of the film meet every year in October to celebrate the cinematic secrets of the timeless classic and meet cast members.

7. A pool named for a star

The Esther Williams swimming pool at Grand Hotel was named for actress Esther Williams, star of the 1947 movie This Time For Keeps, filmed at Grand Hotel.

Architecture Photography by Michigan Photographer Don Johnston

8. The legacy of Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor

Scottish Terrier Sadie, owned by hotel proprietors Amelia and R.D. Musser, Jr., was awarded Best in Show at the 2010 Westminster Dog Show. Named for this much-loved dog, Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor features Grand Hotel Pecan Ball Ice Cream, inspired by the hotel’s signature dessert and made using Michigan’s own Hudsonville ice cream.

Ice Cream

9. More than 6,000 pounds of pecans are used annually

Fresh pecans are a necessity for Grand Hotel’s signature dessert. Made with vanilla ice cream and Grand Hotel’s original fudge sauce, more than 60,000 balls are served each season.

10. A grand way to golf

Grand Hotel’s award-winning golf course, The Jewel, is the only course in the world where players are transported between the front and back nine via horse-drawn carriage.

Learn more or make reservations at grandhotel.com or call 1-800-33GRAND. Enjoy special savings during Family Added Value Days , going on now.

What is your favorite thing about the Grand Hotel?

Pure Michigan Road Trip: Relive Our Along the Way Commercial

Roadtrip-MapRecently, we debuted a Pure Michigan ad, titled ‘Along the Way’, with a new look and feel showcasing the fun around taking a road trip in the Great Lakes state.

The four actors whom starred in the commercial had such fun roadtripping around Pure Michigan they became great friends, and because there was so much great footage, we were able to make an ‘Along the Way’ part two! Below is a list of the destinations our famed travelers visited, and  the second installment of ‘Along the Way’.

Want more great road trip ideas? Check out our roadtripping page and stay tuned for part two of this blog series that will feature awesome destinations in the U.P.!

Harrisville (Harrisville State Park Campground) Harrisville State Park features camping, cabin rentals and day-use area nestled in a stand of pine and cedar trees along the sandy shores of Lake Huron. The park is within walking distance of the resort town of Harrisville. Established in 1921, it is one of Michigan’s oldest state parks and offers a two mile trek hiking trail as well as non-groomed cross-country trails and metal detecting area.

Harrisville State Park is perfect for the adventurous traveler

Photo Courtesy of Sarah Grimmer

Ossineke (Dinosaur Gardens) World renowned reproduction of over 25 prehistoric birds and dinosaurs on a 40 acre tract of land split by Devil River encompass Dinosaur Gardens in Ossineke. Check out a brontosaurus that’s over 80 feet long, weighing over 60,000 pounds! Stay for a round of minigolf as you step back into prehistoric times.

Look out for dinosaurs in Ossineke!

Photo Courtesy of Sarah Grimmer

Mackinaw City/St. Ignace (Mackinac Bridge) The Mighty Mac unites Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. The Mackinac Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere with 7,400 feet of roadway suspended in the air over the straits of Mackinac. Total length of the bridge, including its approaches, is approximately five miles.

Mackinac Island (Arch Rock) Experience the breathtaking views of the harbor, incredible sunsets under The Mighty Mac, over 80 miles of lush hiking and biking trails and crystal clear water. Mackinac Island is the ultimate place to unplug, relax and experience beauty the way nature intended.

Arch Rock is as famous as any landmark in Pure Michigan

Arch Rock on Mackinac Island


Old Mission Peninsula (Haserot Beach and Old Mission General Store) The oldest permanent settlement in the Grand Traverse Area, this picturesque peninsula near the tip of was founded in the mid 1800’s by the Rev. Peter Dougherty as a mission to the Native Americans. Today it is a resort area, reminiscent of a New England town, with several well-preserved churches, homes, stores and other 19th century buildings that are still in use.

Our Pure Michigan travelers had a blast at every destination they visited

Photo Courtesy of Sarah Grimmer

Traverse City (Nicholas Farm) Combining breathtaking attractions with a rich blend of adventure and relaxation Traverse City is true north! Explore the incredible scenery at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Bike, paddle or hike your way to see the beautiful cherry blossoms. Take a wine or beer tour and be sure to save time for unique dining and shopping found throughout the region.

Honor (Platte River) Founded in 1895 as a thriving lumber hub, this small community in the center of Benzie County, offers lots of history, year-round adventure and comfort to all ages. Honor is located within 15 minutes access to golf courses, hiking trails, Betsie River, Lake Michigan, Big & Little Platte Lakes, Crystal Lake, and Upper & Lower Herring Lakes. The Platte River flows through town, offering wonderful fishing, canoe, kayak and tubing opportunities. In addition, Winter sports enthusiasts will enjoy the close proximity to cross country skiing and snowmobile trails.

The four adventure-seekers got a great tour of Northern Michigan during their journey

Photo Courtesy of Sarah Grimmer

Holland Pier (Big Red Lighthouse) Well-known for its Dutch history, Holland is historic yet hip. Browse downtown’s trendy boutiques and galleries or stroll the tree-shaded campus of Hope College. Attend concerts, theatrical performances and special events. Purchase farm fresh fruits, veggies, annuals and perennials at the Farmers Market. Hike Holland’s soaring Lake Michigan sand dunes or simply relax on our soft sandy beaches. Offing urban excitement and homespun simplicity, Holland is a sophisticated city wrapped up in small-town charm.

Holland's Big Red Lighthouse is an iconic landmark in West Michigan

The Big Red Lighthouse in Holland

Saugatuck (Oval Beach) One of USA Today’s “Best Summer Weekend Escape”. Known as “The Art Coast of Michigan”, artists enjoy the natural beauty of Saugatuck and Douglas with grassy dunes and white sand beaches. Unique shops, fine dining, exquisite lodging and special events lure visitors from far and wide, while at the same time, have maintained the charm of small-town rural America.

Their adventure proved to have perfect weather

Photo Courtesy of Rob Hoffman


How many of these Pure Michigan destinations have you visited? Share with us by commenting below!