Small Town Spotlight

Women shopping in downtown Lexington.

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Don’t let their tiny populations fool you—these little hamlets are big on fun. Tour the perimeter of the historic Copper Harbor Lighthouse by boat or kayak for a stunning photo opp. Discover an 1844 fort where costumed interpreters bring the past to life. Explore a whimsical collection of antiques and treasured objects at a string of high-end galleries. Shop for old-fashion candy, collectables and gifts at a charming old-time general store. Visit a remote island and see native wildlife and acres of rare flowers. Adventure, art, relaxation—you’ll find it all among our five small-town spotlight destinations.

Copper Harbor

Population: 108
From its one-time mineral rush to today’s adrenaline rush, the Upper Peninsula’s northernmost point always delivers.


Man walking out of Jamsen's Fish Market with smoked fish.
Jamsen's Fish Market | Photo Courtesy of Aaron Peterson/Meredith

Gear up at Keweenaw Adventure Company, where guides send advanced mountain bikers to the top of Brockway Mountain, topping out 720 feet above Lake Superior. Power down trails recognized by IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) as Epic rides. Casual adventurers can set out on a sunset paddle around the rocky point featuring Copper Harbor Lighthouse.

At Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, see an 1844 fort where costumed interpreters bring the past to life. Pick thimbleberries like residents did more than 175 years ago or enjoy them folded inside a puff pastry at Jamsen’s Fish Market and Bakery (open May – October).


Population: 526
Follow M-22 along the little finger of the Mitten for notable beaches and possible glimpses of the northern lights.

Signs banning cell phones welcome visitors at Dead People’s Stuff Antiques, a whimsical collection of antiques and found-object art next to a string of high-end galleries. No need for apps here, anyway. Locals who gather over cinnamon twists at Barb’s Bakery steer out-of-towners to the best rock-hounding and northern lights beach (Peterson Park) and cove of soft sand (Cathead Bay). Climb the restored lighthouse tower at Leelanau State Park, then head back for an open-air dinner at the Garage Bar and Grill, or relax on the covered outdoor patio at The Mitten Brewing Company with any of the 14 pours on tap.


Population: 925
Artists convene at this open-minded town known for nature’s artwork—dunes and sugar-sand beaches along Lake Michigan.

With 30-plus galleries, the town is a natural for its moniker, The Art Coast. The Art Institute of Chicago runs the waterfront Ox-Bow School of Art and its day and weekend workshops. Sample your way through food art, such as the fruit-based products at American Spoon; the soul food of a James Beard Award semifinalist at The Southerner; or iced coffee at Uncommon Coffee Roasters. Head to dune-lined Oval Beach (deemed one of the 25 best shorelines in the world) in an especially cool way: The hand-crank Saugatuck Chain Ferry for pedestrians and cyclists, which is said to be the only remaining chain-driven ferry in the country.

Drummond Island

Population: 1,060
Rugged and remote, Drummond perches between Michigan and Ontario, drawing off-the-beaten-path explorers.

Catch the mile-long ferry across St. Marys River, then head into North Haven to rent a kayak. Browse gifts made from pudding stone, named because it resembles suet pudding with berries, before paddling along limestone cliffs and over Lake Huron wrecks visible 30 feet below. Get an ORV from Beaver’s ATV Rentals to reach remote parts of the island, or make the easy drive to the Maxton Plains Preserve. There, Sandhill cranes gather and the rare prairie smoke flower renders the ground a wavy field of summer purple. Be sure to try the classic island dish, whitefish,
at The Northwood.


Population: 1,115
One of Lake Huron’s southernmost towns delivers with vacation-worthy sand beaches, plus shopping, food and fun.


Two women shopping in Downtown Lexington.
Downtown Lexington | Photo Courtesy of E.E. Berger/Meredith

Penny candy never went out of vogue at The Lexington General Store, one highlight of a 3-block downtown of redbrick buildings accented by sea blue awnings. Pick up beach gear at Crazy Joe’s or picnic fare at the Sweetwater Gourmet Deli and Bar. Settle in for dinner at 1860 The Cadillac House before retiring to one of 12 guest rooms with in-room fridges, coffee makers and fluffy robes.