Top 10 Reasons for a Fall M-22 Roadtrip

Brandy Wheeler, owner of Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas, takes us along a cruise of M-22, one of the country’s greatest roadtrip adventures. She has ten reasons to consider M-22 for your next Pure Michigan adventure!

Named one of the Top Five Greatest Driving Tours in America by Rand McNally, M-22 has something for everyone: fantastic restaurants, picturesque scenery, shopping and more. Living in the heart of the M-22 corridor I have dozens of favorite stops along the scenic drive. For the sake of brevity, here are my Top 10 Reasons for a Fall M-22 Roadtrip.

Fall in the Sleeping Bear Dunes

Fall in the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Commercial photo license purchased by Manistee County Visitors Bureau from 22North Photography (Brian Edward).

1. Canoe the Platte. The salmon run upstream in autumn to spawn and the Platte River is the perfect place to witness this natural wonder. Rent a canoe or kayak from Riverside Canoes, located on M-22, or some fishing tackle if you’re feeling adventurous.

2. Wine Tours. Leelanau peninsula is home to over 18 wineries, many of them off-the-beaten-path. Visit tiny tasting rooms like Chateau Fontaine in Lake Leelanau, or explore the impressive Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay. Each as diverse and interesting as the award-winning wines they produce.

3. Stand on the 45th Parallel. M-22 wraps around the Leelanau Peninsula on both coasts and has the unique claim of crossing the 45th parallel, not once, but twice! So go ahead, get out of your car and take that photo next to the big green marker.

4. Shop ‘Til You Drop. The M-22 scenic drive takes you through a half dozen quaint towns defined by unique locations and talented small business owners. Enjoy homemade edibles at Cherry Republic, or how about M-22 logowear, branded by local kiteboarders to symbolize the M-22 lifestyle?

5. Pumpkin Chuckin. Watch trebuchets launch 1500 lb. pumpkins into Betsie Bay during the Fall Festival in Frankfort. Cheers and bragging rights go to the winning build team. Make sure they don’t chuck one of Ed Moodys giant jack-o-lanterns on accident!

6. Dining Destinations. From car-side service at the A&W in Frankfort to the Bluebirds famous whitefish, dining options along M-22 are mouthwatering. For gourmet waterfront dining visit Blu in Glen Arbor or enjoy a casual meal at Knot Just a Bar in Omena. I’m hungry just thinking about it.

7. Kilchermans’ Christmas Cove. Do you like apples? Then you’ll love these apples. Kilchermans grows over 280 varieties of antique apples. Think that’s unique? Check out their soda bottle collection, over 10,000 strong.


8. Breathtaking Views. The colors of autumn bring out the beauty of hardwood forests, crystal blue waters and miles of sand in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. Prefer a lakeside view? Check out Sleeping Bear Dunes Boat Cruise in Frankfort for a tour.

9. Point Betsie Lighthouse. Artists are drawn to its picturesque scene, and historians to its 150 year maritime tradition. In the fall, windsurfers and kiteboarders don wetsuits to catch huge air off the crashing Lake Michigan waves. Don’t forget your camera.

10. Fishtown. Wooden shanties line the Leland boardwalk, remnants of this century-old fisherman’s village. Charter fishing boats bring in fresh salmon to be smoked at Carlsons, and the Manitou Transit waits to take visitors to the nearby Manitou Islands.

While you travel along M-22 through Benzie and Leelanau counties take a few detours of your own. And remember don’t forget your cameras!

PS: M-22 is among the top 20 “scenic drives” in the United States selected by USA TODAY 10Best travel experts as their favorite fall foliage-lined stretches of pavement. The top title for “Best Scenic Autumn Drive” is now being chosen by readers who can vote on the USA Today 10Best website. Vote for M-22 now before the poll closes on Monday, September 28 at 12 noon!

A fall backroad in Northern Michigan in the peak of fall color season. Commercial photo license purchased by Manistee County Visitors Bureau from 22North Photography (Brian Edward).

A fall backroad in Northern Michigan in the peak of fall color season. Commercial photo license purchased by Manistee County Visitors Bureau from 22North Photography (Brian Edward).

Brandy Wheeler is the owner of Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas, a resource for Traverse Area visitors looking for information on restaurants, attractions and day trips in Northern Michigan. She enjoys writing and photography as a means of capturing the beauty of our great state.

19 thoughts on “Top 10 Reasons for a Fall M-22 Roadtrip

  1. {Finding it|Discovering it} was {the challenge|the process|the task}….

    However it is really a good deal easier than you could think….

  2. you mention how great it is in the Fall but what about Summer? I’ve never been.

  3. Brandy, my wife and I have been coming up for the drive on M-22 for about 10 years now. We try to time it right around peak (we’re coming up on 10/14 and staying the weekend). We would argue that the wine trail should be #1 :)
    And the drive on M-22 a close second. For anyone who has not yet taken this drive around the peninsula yet, you’re missing something truly spectacular and memorable.

  4. Taking the family up to kayak the crystal river with the salmon running and the beautiful fall colors. Does anyone know of a place to pick apples and pumpkins in the area?

  5. I was raised in Michigan, and when I married we moved to Germany and Singapore. Now we live in Phoenix. But my true love is Michigan! Did you know that Michigan has 116 lighthouses, Higgins Lake has the purest water where you can see the bottom almost everywhere. All the lakes and beautiful trees I miss. I would love to move back there if I could!.

    Mary Ann Herzog

  6. I agree. M-22 is absolutely the most beautiful drive in the fall and I hope to be doing it myself again this year.

  7. i am originally from Michigan and cannot tell you how much I miss it. I have lived in Texas for 30 years and drool every time I click on pure Michigan. I can semi retire this year I plan on being in Mich in the spring for as long as I can.It is the most beautiful state I know. The people are great and I wish I was there . happy fall !! my favorite time of year.

  8. Wonder how many of those destination I could do in one day?? We are so blessed to live in this beautiful area. Thanks for sharing Brandy.

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