Scenic Drive: 10 Things to Do Along M-22

Brandy Wheeler, the owner of Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas, takes us along a cruise of M-22, one of the country’s greatest road trip adventures.

Forest along Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore during fall
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore | Photo Courtesy of Instagram Fan melissamariecurtis

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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 things to do on a M-22 road trip.

1. Canoe the Platte River

The salmon run upstream in autumn to spawn and the Platte River is the perfect place to witness this natural wonder. You can rent a canoe or kayak from Riverside Canoe Trips, the river is peaceful and beautiful in the summer too.

2. Take a Wine Tour

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 Quaint Downtowns

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

5. Watch Pumpkin Chuckin’

Watch trebuchets launch 1500 lb. pumpkins into Betsie Bay during Frankfort's Fall Festival. 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. Dine at Mouthwatering Destinations

From car-side service at the A&W in Frankfort to the Bluebirds Restaurant & Tavern 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. Pick Apples in the Fall

Do you like apples? Then you’ll love these apples. Kilcherman's Christmas Cove Farm grows over 280 varieties of antique apples. Think that’s unique? Check out their soda bottle collection, over 10,000 strong. They're open each year mid-September through early November.

8. Experience 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 Lakeshore. Prefer a lakeside view? Check out Sleeping Bear Dunes Boat Cruise in Frankfort for a tour.

9. Photograph Point Betsie Lighthouse

Artists are drawn to its picturesque scenery, and historians to its 150-year maritime tradition. In the fall, windsurfers and kite boarders don wetsuits to catch huge air off the crashing Lake Michigan waves. Don’t forget your camera.

10. Cast a Line in 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. I encourage you to take a few detours of your own. And remember don’t forget your cameras!