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.

Four Ideas for a Post-Valentine’s Day Romantic Michigan Getaway

Valentine’s Day may have passed, but romance is forever. To show appreciation for those you love, flowers and chocolate top the list of popular gift ideas.  This year, consider the gift of travel.   Many hotels, spas, restaurants and attractions offer specials or packages for those looking to treat their significant other, or even themselves.

Here are four ideas to experience some romance in Pure Michigan for those looking for a romantic getaway anytime of the year.

Relax at a Bed and Breakfast 

Michigan has more than 400 bed and breakfasts around the state. Whether it’s a historic house steps away from the shore or a log cabin nestled in the woods, staying at a bed and breakfast is a great way to relax and unwind with your significant other.

What makes a stay at a B&B so special is that all of them are unique in their own way. Innkeepers provide special touches like desserts, unique furnishings and soft, comfortable beds that will make any stay memorable.

The Huron House Bed and Breakfast is right on the shores of Lake Huron in Oscoda, and is a couples-only retreat.  Rooms offer stunning views of the shoreline and many rooms come with a private outdoor hot tub.

Cocoa Cottage Bed and Breakfast in Whitehall is a 1912 Arts and Crafts bungalow that has been restored into a charming bed and breakfast just minutes away from Lake Michigan, with a sweet twist.  Guest rooms are named after well-known chocolate delicacies and every breakfast is started with chocolate.

Many historic homes in Ludington have been converted to beautiful inns.  The Cartier Mansion was the former home of Ludington lumber baron Warren Cartier.  Many of the rooms still have the original woodwork, fixtures and flooring.

Photo Courtesy of John Hill Photography

Photo Courtesy of John Hill Photography

Gaze at the stars  

The Headlands Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City is one of only ten International Dark Sky Parks in the world, which offers some of the best star gazing in the state.

The 600-acre park sits on more than two miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline in Emmet County. Here you will find the darkest of skies, undiluted by light pollution.

The Headlands is open 24 hours a day, every day, at no charge. There is no camping allowed, but visitors are welcomed to stay out through the night for dark-sky viewing opportunities.  You can bring blankets, sleeping bags, chairs, food and beverages.

Grab some warm and cozy gear and snuggle up by the stars for a date to remember.

Wine (Or Brew) and Dine

Kick your culinary experience up a notch with a beer or wine tour or experiencing some of Michigan’s best culinary destinations.

With more than 100 wineries nestled among 15,000 acres of scenic vineyards, Michigan truly is wine country with wine trails all around the state including Traverse City, Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail and the Thumbs Up Wine Trail.

If beer is more your thing, Michigan’s beer trails will quench your thirst. Head over to Grand Rapids for an extensive tour of some of the best breweries in West Michigan. It’s no wonder the city was voted Beer City USA in 2012 and 2013!

Michigan brewery tours are a great way to try a variety of craft beers right in the microbreweries that brew them! From Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City to Detroit Beer Company in Detroit, you’re sure to find that perfect pint. Check out this breweries map for an extensive list of places to visit!

Immerse spa

IMMERSE Spa, Photo Courtesy of MGM Grand

A Day at the Spa

What’s more relaxing than a day, or weekend, at the spa?  Fortunately, Michigan has several award-winning spas to choose from to pamper your loved one.

Boyne Mountain and Crystal Mountain might be known for ski slopes and winter sports, but the resorts’ spas are worth the trip alone.

Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville has a 18,500-square-foot, LEED-Certified oasis with private transition rooms with heated floors, steam rooms and infrared saunas, and an outdoor Mosaic Garden with hot tub.  The Crystal Spa offers a Winter Spa Menu, as well as specials for Valentine’s Day.

Boyne Mountain in Boyne Falls is home to Solace Spa, with spectacular views of the mountain and amenities such as cedar saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, relaxation and treatment rooms.   Solace Spa offers unique winter seasonal treatments, couples massages and a Petoskey Hot Stone massage.

MGM Grand’s IMMERSE Spa, in the heart of Detroit, has a menu of remineralizing seawater and marine extracts, exotic botanical, and meticulously customized aromatherapy-based treatments and rituals.

What are some other Pure Michigan romantic getaways? Comment below!

5 Surprising Reasons Why You Should Take a Michigan Vacation (CLOSED: Plus a Giveaway!)

Traveling is a great way to reconnect and have fun with family and friends.  But, did you know that studies have shown that taking vacations can lead to better productivity, less stress and better health.  

However, many people aren’t taking advantage of their vacation days.  More than 40 percent of Americans say they didn’t take a single vacation day last year, according to Skift.

In honor of National Tourist Appreciation Day, here are five reasons why you should treat yourself to a Pure Michigan vacation.  We are also giving away a $100 gift certificate to the  to kick Pure Michigan Store start your summer!  See details below.

Castleexterior1

Photo courtesy of Castle in the Country Bed & Breakfast

1. Recharge Your Batteries: A 2011 study by Expedia found that 35 percent of Americans feel better about their job and are more productive after a vacation. Vacations help us recharge because we sleep better during and shortly after them. When we return, our brain responds quicker. To recharge your batteries, try a relaxing weekend at one of the 400 cozy Bed and Breakfasts throughout the state.

2. Unleash Your Inner Picasso: Staring out at a beautiful Michigan sunset isn’t just a treat for your eyes; it’s good for your brain too! Studies have shown nature scenes activate areas of the brain associated with less stress. Daydreaming allows you to be more creative and be a better problem solver, too.  Take a look at our Instagram page for inspiration on places to take in a Pure Michigan sunset.

Tunnel Park

Photo courtesy of Holland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

3. Great Lakes, Great Relaxation: Stress is known to be harmful to our health. One of the many antidotes to stress is a vacation, especially near water! One study showed that people were five percent happier when they were near a body of water. The color blue is known to stimulate positive emotional responses, too.  With numerous beaches to choose from along 3,126 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, a Michigan beach vacation is good for you

4.Connecting While Relaxing: Picnics on the beach or canoeing as a family can strengthen your bond with loved ones while creating unforgettable memories! Some studies suggest that group travel builds social ties, which encourages life-long learning.

Copper Harbor Trails

Photo courtesy of Copper Harbor Trails and Hansi Johnson

5. Get Physical: Active vacations are proven to lower health risks such as diabetes, high blood pressure and more, according to the Physical Activities Guidelines Advisory Committee. If you’re feeling adventurous, try a mountain biking excursion in Keweenaw.

Vacations offer the opportunity to discover new things and places to enrich and transform your perspective. Where will you take your next Pure Michigan vacation?

Do you want to score a $100 gift certificate to the Pure Michigan store? Simply tell us in the comments section below what your favorite Pure Michigan vacation destination is and what item from the Pure Michigan store you’d want to pack in your suitcase. We’ll then select one lucky winner at random to win a $100 gift certificate. To be eligible, simply submit your comments (along with your email address) by Thursday, May 7 at 11:59 p.m. EST. We’ll contact the winner Friday morning using the email address provided (we won’t share it or sell it to anybody).

UPDATE: This contest has ended and the winner has been contacted via email. Thank you to all those who participated!