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.

The Must-Try Local Flavors of Traverse City

Traverse City, located in the Northwest Region of the Lower Peninsula, is famous for pristine beaches, friendly community and of course, cherries. But besides the delectable fruits (honored with their own annual festival) this city is a mecca for local and fresh fair available year-round.

Read more on the bountiful food scene in Traverse City, courtesy of guest blogger Tricia Phelps from Taste the Local Difference.

Fresh, Northern Michigan Fruits and Vegetables 

Plan your day on either the Leelanau or Old Mission Peninsula to take in the sights and attractions, including the u-pick farms and community farmers markets. Late-summer into fall is the most abundant growing season in Northern Michigan, and there’s always a delicious variety of farm-fresh produce at your fingertips! Have fun with the kids and fill a bucket of blueberries, add some fresh apples to your picnic basket, or enjoy flavorful heirloom tomatoes fresh off the vine.

Enjoy delectable local fare with Traverse City's many u-pick farms and eatery options

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

 

See where your favorite brews start - right from the vine!

Photo Courtesy of Gary Howe

Northern Michigan is becoming well known not only for its breweries but for the number of quality producing hop farms that line our county roads. Drive by the 200+ acre hop farm at MI Local Hops in Williamsburg, or cruise through Leelanau County to catch sight of various farms constructed by Empire Hops. And up in Omena you’ll find the home of New Mission Organics and the Michigan Hop Alliance. It’s the perfect time to see local hops growing tall, so be sure to include a drive out to one of these northern Michigan hop farms before you visit the Traverse City breweries. Then keep your eye out for the locally grown hops on the ingredient list, or ask the bartenders to help you pick the best one!

Goodwill’s Farm to Freezer Products

Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan started their Farm to Freezer program in 2013. The program empowers community members through hands-on workforce development training, while simultaneously supporting local Michigan farms and creating a flash-frozen local product that can be enjoyed year-round. Get a taste of their frozen fruit line in a delicious smoothie at the Daily Blend, one of nine independently owned food trucks parked at The Little Fleet in Traverse City. Daily Blend specializes in fast, healthy food and uses local whenever possible.

 

Enjoy the many wineries in and around Traverse City

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Locally Grown & Milled Flour

Have you tried the croissants from 9 Bean Rows, or how about the fresh-baked bread from Blue Heron 2? One bite and you’ll know these delicious baked goods are made with only the highest quality ingredients, including locally grown and milled flour from Bill Koucky of Grand Traverse Culinary. Head to the Sara Hardy Farmers Market to grab a bag of flour for home and a 9 Bean Rows treat, or stop into Blue Heron 2 and grab lunch before hitting the scenic route up M-22.

Local Wine & Cheese

One of my favorite pairings is wine and cheese. With over 50 different wineries in Northern Michigan there are hundreds of local wines to choose from — and it’s easy to put together a delicious cheese plate to accompany them! Look for a selection of unique cheeses at The Cheese Lady in Downtown Traverse City. Locally-made recommendations include Boss Mouse artisan cheeses made by hand with local Moomer’s milk, or the French-style Leelanau Cheese made in Suttons Bay and of course Idyll Farms Cheese, the mostly soft, spreadable cheeses made from goats milk.

Guest blogger Tricia Phelps enjoying some time in downtown Traverse City

Photo Courtesy of Gary Howe

Tricia Phelps is a local food & farming advocate in northwest Michigan. She is the Operations Director for Taste the Local Difference® — a company specializing in the marketing and promotion of local food. Visit their website at www.localdifference.org for more information.

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!