We recently just returned from a short getaway to Traverse City to celebrate the 4th of July. To be honest, we had never heard of Traverse City and were completely blown away by the beauty of this area. It reaffirmed to us why we do these trips – to find gems in our own backyard that we usually wouldn’t focus on. This trip was full of new surprises – we felt like we discovered this big secret but were probably the only ones that didn’t know all the great things Michigan has.
After the nearly 6 hour drive from Chicago – our days in Traverse were lovely – every day we headed out by 10 am and spend the day either winery hopping, beaching, and exploring. We ended the trip with a visit to the Sleeping Bear Dunes…which if these photos don’t speak for themselves, it’s literally one of the most beautiful places in America (it was, in fact, voted that!). If there is anything you do from this guide, let this be the one thing you actually do. When Thomas and I arrived, we literally couldn’t believe how blue the water was and just how big the lake was – it’s no wonder they call it the “third-coast”. You will want to take a million pictures and after you do, I advise you to just sit and take it all in.
We will be heading back to northern Michigan in the Fall to experience the autumn foliage and drink cider! Ahhh – we can’t wait. In the meantime, I hope some of you can head to Michigan to take in the glory days of summer.
Airbnb – We found our Inn on Airbnb and were very happy with it. The location was central and just a few blocks away from the downtown area of Traverse. For our first time in this area of Michigan, we think it was perfect however, we do want to stay closer to the wineries or right by the lake. Please note that this is not a big “city” in fact it’s more like a town so you won’t have luxury hotels in the area so renting a beautiful house/room is what I advice you to do.
Bed and Breakfast – We later realized that there was a ton of Inns by the wineries! Who doesn’t want to wake up with the sound of birds chirping and a field of grapevines? Sign me up for that. 🙂
Trattoria Stella – This was our first meal because it was highly recommended and it lived up to the reputation. Known as one of the best restaurants in all of Michigan, this Italian gem was delicious. A farm to table restaurant that makes almost everything in-house (they even have a butcher), the menu has a list of the farms they source the produce from and every pasta dish and cheese plate sounded like a dream! Too bad I was on a diet and went for the lighter dishes…like the scallops which of course, were also amazing. The restaurant has an old-world feel to it because it used to be a hospital so it has exposed brick and warm tones with hidden alcoves that only makes the experience that much more charming.
The Little Fleet – We had a quick bite here before heading to the beach. The Little Fleet is in the town of Traverse and it’s an area with local food trucks. It’s perfect to hang out and you can either sit outside on the picnic tables or inside by the bar. We had tacos from the “Happy’s Taco Shop” – they were SO good! Definitely check them out.
Good Harbor Grill – We had delicious seafood and a fresh strawberry shortcake dessert in this quaint restaurant in Glen Arbor. We sat out front and enjoyed people watching and admiring how nice it was to see the families strolling the streets and taking in the beautiful evening.
Hop Lot – We ate lunch here right before hitting the road – it’s in the area of Sutton Bay and it has a big open space outside with picnic tables, bonfires and games. The food and drinks were great. Def. a place for groups!
The Cook’s House – Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make it for dinner but heard great things about it. Make sure to call for reservations weeks in advance – it’s super tiny and fills up in no time.
Patisserie Amy– Okay so this was highly recommended for breakfast/brunch but there was a 2-hour wait by 11 am and a line of people that wrapped around the block. Get there before 11 am and let us know how you like it. Sad we missed it.
Brew – Cool for coffee, green juices and creative twists on avocado toast!
Bad Dog Deli – Decent prices, no fuss and good for a quick lunch. It’s also close to all the wineries so great for a pit stop before you continue drinking. 🙂
Oryana Natural Foods – Made a quick stop here on our way to the beach. It’s basically a supermarket but great spot to pick up already made sandwiches and wraps for the beach.
Sleeping Bear National Lake Shore – Again, if there is ONE thing you do from this entire guide, please visit Sleeping Bear. Trust me when I tell you that you won’t regret it. Pay for the entrance to the national park ($20) than grab the map which will list the scenic locations and make sure you stop at #9 and #10. Get that camera ready and if you’re brave, try to climb the dunes – wouldn’t advise this if the weather is too hot or if you’re not in shape.
Beach – There are tons of beaches but we decided to choose Peterson Beach because it was off the beaten path (so much that when the GPS says turn right and you see nothing but a road so tiny that you will question how the car will fit, you know it’s the right spot! ) The beach only had a few people when we visited, mostly locals. Bring your food and beverages (no glass allowed) because there’s nothing in sight but shoreline. The lake was amazing – very cold but that made it so refreshing since the temps were in the 90’s for most of the time we were there.
Leelanau Wine Trail – Michigan is full of wineries – I’ll discuss this further in our next post. A few of our favorites were Bonobo and Big Little Wines.