Top Outdoor Patios for Dining in Michigan

People eating on patio overlooking channel with boats docked in Leland

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The menu is almost beside the point when you're eating or sipping on a Pure Michigan patio, deck or terrace. There's enough shoreline along inland lakes, Great Lakes bays and rivers that you don't have to travel far to find outdoor dining overlooking the water. Other linger-worthy decks jut over vineyards or orchards or line lively main streets. Here are just a few ways to soak up or extend summer, al fresco dining-style.

1. Karl's Cuisine, Winery and BrewerySault Ste. Marie

Karl's is known for its elevated cuisine, microbrews made on site and a rooftop deck view you're not likely to see anywhere else in the world. Ocean-going freighters pass so close as they enter the busy Soo Locks that you may be tempted to toss a fish or chip to the captain. Bonus fun: the whole restaurant is shaped like a ship.

2. Elizabeth's Chop HouseMarquette

Winter dreams are made of the summer opening of this screened patio perched high above the Marquette Harbor. Your lunch of Lake Superior whitefish tacos (or other specialties) is a short stroll from Ellwood A Mattson Lower Harbor Park. See famous ore docks on your way to pick up sweets at Donckers, where former President Barack Obama once stopped by for the specialty candies. 

3. The Pink Pony Bar and GrillMackinac Island

Chippewa Hotel on waterfront on Mackinac Island
Chippewa Hotel Waterfront | Photo Courtesy of Mackinac Island CVB

One publication called this one of the country's top 10 restaurants for outdoor dining, and where else can you enjoy a whitefish beurre blanc or burrata salad as horses clip-clop past and ferries zoom in and out of the Mackinac Island harbor? Go for dinner or just for a cocktail—they're famous for their Rum Runner—and top off the day of touring by bike or horse-drawn carriage.

4. Legs Inn ­– Harbor Springs

The Tunnel of Trees is a Pure Michigan fall destination must for the way the fall foliage arches over scenic M-119 as it winds past picturesque farms and up high Lake Michigan bluffs. Partway through the 20-mile scenic drive, Leg's Inn offers the pierogis and goulash and Polish crumble cake reflective of the owner's Polish roots—all from a flower garden-style patio strung with lights and offering an expansive Lake Michigan view.

5. Churchill Pointe InnHubbard Lake

There’s going out to dinner and then there's special occasion destination dining, and when that's on the docket, head to circa-1926 Churchill Pointe Inn on the state's Northeast side. From your romantic patio table, watch the sun set over the lake once known as “bottomless lake” for its mysterious depth, and after dinner, head to your room on site.

6. Petoskey Farms Vineyard and WineryPetoskey 

This roomy, winery patio is popular for sipping, especially in the fall, where the panorama of vineyards and forest becomes a patchwork of color that rivals the variety of wine hues you'll want to order through via, one of the signature sampler trays. The winemakers on this upstart trail are winning competitions as they apply traditional winemaking techniques to newer varietals.

7. The CoveLeland

People eating on patio overlooking channel with boats docked in Leland

This restaurant in historic Fishtown has garnered nationwide notoriety for its patio dining view and interesting menu items. The “Chubby Mary” cocktail garnished with a smoked chub is an Instagram star, but it has a photographic rival in the views of the Leland River and Lake Michigan sunsets. 

8. Hop Lot Brewing CompanySuttons Bay

Families love this outdoor beer garden, nestled between curtains of hops and boasting lawn games, blazing fires (with S'Mores kits) and an extensive grill-centric menu. Find live music on weekends, igloos for winter warming and nearby year-round fun in local bike and ski trails, quaint gallery towns and some of the state's prettiest beaches and bluffs.

9. Dockers Fish HouseMuskegon

You get it all here: a view of Muskegon Lake and a Tiki Bar vibe with live music on weekends and three outdoor seating areas. You're also just steps away from the soft sands of Pere Marquette Park for a pre- or after-dinner stroll.

10. Boatwerks Waterfront RestaurantHolland

This popular summer gathering spot offers a view of Lake Macatawa from the patio and umbrellas to shade you. Round out the trip with a visit to area beaches, microbreweries and the Windmill Island Gardens, a destination must during the city's famed tulip festival that blooms all summer and into fall.

11. Haute at New Hotel MertensGrand Rapids

This is one of the state's hottest new urban rooftop patios. Head up for the afternoon's cooling breeze or the peach-colored sunset skies. Either way, you sip under strings of lights and handy patio umbrellas.

12. Flint Farmers’ MarketFlint 

This market is not just for vegetable shopping; here, after shopping among the 50-plus vendors, you can enjoy some Vietnamese Pho or a craft brew on a rooftop terrace.

13. Frankenmuth Brewery CompanyFrankenmuth

Frankenmuth Brewing Company
Frankenmuth Brewery Company | Photo Courtesy of Josh Tremper

The elevated patio overlooking the Cass River is perfect for those looking for a summer meal or cocktail. Round out the weekend with a riverboat cruise, horse-drawn carriage ride or shopping in the state's Little Bavaria.

14. Limberlost LoungeHoughton Lake

Whatever your outdoor dining style, you'll find it here where you can enjoy food and drink at a balcony table, outdoor bar or beach chairs at water's edge. This stop is famed for both its lively fun and memorable sunsets.

15. The BeltDetroit

Traveler standing in alley painted with graffiti created by artists
The Belt | Photo Courtesy of Instagram Fan joeroose

It's basically a nook in a graffiti-coated Detroit alley, and you'll likely sip your cleverly crafted cocktail thinking you've never hung out anyplace quite so cool. The graffiti featured in Belt Alley is created by carefully curated artists, and the strings of light that criss-cross the alley space complete the look. Even the parking deck the alley runs between is a gallery in itself.

16. Lumen Detroit – Detroit 

You could spend a month's vacation in downtown Detroit and not fit in every worthy patio for dining. Lumen offers exquisite meals with a city view, not to mention the Detroit River is only a short drive away.