21 cool Up North Michigan things to do

Terrific lesser-known places near comfy, friendly B&Bs

Some Up North Michigan things to do in the Lower Peninsula hog the spotlight, don’t they? Skiing down the Sleeping Bear Dunes, sipping your way along the wine trails, fly fishing the Au Sauble, searching for Petoskey stones, driving the Tunnel of Trees —

They’re all great, but let’s call out 21 other equally wonderful Up North Michigan things to do, including some ideas you may not have heard of or considered.

A good reason to choose a #MichBnB as home base for your Up North Michigan adventures is that innkeepers have connections. They will point you to the good and worthwhile in any category of things to do, see, buy, eat or drink.

1-5 Take Torch Lake Bed and Breakfast, for example. Innkeeper Deb Cannon says, “I can have guests skydiving by noon and parasailing by 3.” Or riding in a helicopter, gliding in a hot-air balloon or windsurfing. You can even arrive by your own float plane — see above photo — to her inn on the north end of Torch Lake. And that’s just the list of airborne activities. Deb knows people.

6 At Always a Holiday Bed and Breakfast in East Tawas, innkeeper Brenda Hawkins is excited about being able to recommend a new restaurant. (New eateries don’t come along often in an area with only 4,500 residents.) The Boathouse Beer Co. & Boozery, overlooking Tawas Bay, had more than 300 five-star reviews before its official grand opening on May 18.

Take some paths less traveled

7 Ogemaw Hills Pathway north of West Branch in Northeast Michigan: Fifteen miles of wooded trails in rolling terrain for hiking, mountain biking and, in winter, cross-country skiing. A bit tame for some, but ideal for many. Close to civilization. Afterward, do some porch-sitting at LogHaven Bed and Breakfast 11 miles away.

8 Mason Tract Pathway: Work off the gourmet breakfast you enjoyed at Hanson House Bed and Breakfast in nearby Grayling on this 10.3-mile network of trails along the South Branch of the Au Sauble River. No bikes, no motorized vehicles. Return the next day to canoe, kayak or fly fish this less-traveled branch of the Au Sauble.

9 Pyatt Lake: The Bill Carls Nature Preserve: These 159 acres of the undisturbed landscape give visitors a glimpse of Old Mission Peninsula before the impact of agriculture and real estate development. Just a 1.5-mile trail, but you can observe a regionally unique geological habitat known as “wooded dune and swale.” More than 250 plant species have been identified. Two great choices of B&Bs are each under five miles away: Chateau Chantal or Grey Hare Inn Vineyard Bed and Breakfast.

Lavender and herb labyrinth at Cherry Point Farm and Market, an attraction visited by many Up North Michigan visitors.
Lavender and herb labyrinth at Cherry Point Farm and Market, an attraction visited by many Up North Michigan visitors.

10 Pentwater Pathway, within the Pere Marquette State Forest: Popular for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter, Pentwater Pathway is shared by hikers and mountain bikers in the warmer months. If you follow all loops of the 7.2 miles of trails, your workout will be 15 miles.

11 Empire Bluff Trail: Numerous reviewers say this two-mile trail is their favorite within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Beautiful beech and maple forest, great photo ops at the top. Can be crowded near sunset. Stay at Cottonwood Inn Bed and Breakfast in Empire or at Glen Arbor Bed and Breakfast and Cottages in Glen Arbor. Given the enormous popularity of the dunes, travelers often book lodging farther away, such as in Arcadia or Manistee.

12 River Road Scenic Byway, including Iargo Springs and Lumberman’s Monument: This 20-plus-mile drive in Northeast Michigan roughly follows the Au Sauble River along its journey to Lake Huron at Oscoda. Make frequent stops for the overlooks and trails leading to viewing platforms. If you take in Iargo Springs (294 steps) and Lumberman’s Monument (272 steps), you will doubly appreciate your stay at Oscoda’s Huron House Bed and Breakfast, where every room includes a jetted tub or a private outdoor hot tub, or both.

13 Grass River Natural Area, Bellaire: This 1,492-acre nature preserve surrounds the Grass River. Seven miles of trails include a 1.5-mile boardwalk floating above wetlands. Abundant birds, plants, trees and wildlife. Where to stay: Inn at Breezy Hill Farm Bed and Breakfast, Bellaire.

14 Historic White Pine Village, Ludington: If you’d prefer a walk back in time to a walk in the woods, take a self-guided tour of the 30 buildings comprising this immersive history attraction, situated on 23 acres. Four MBBA member inns in Ludington offer coupons for tours of the Village and of the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, which opened in 2017. “Both are fantastic places,” said innkeeper Jen Hinderer of The Lamplighter Bed and Breakfast. “It’s hard to believe that our little town offers these experiences. They both do a great job of telling the story of life in a lumber town.”

Gotta love Up North Michigan shopping

15 How about some Toe Jam to take home as a souvenir? Whaaat?  Combining apples, cherries, peaches, and strawberries, Toe Jam — for “TOE-tally outrageous” — is the most popular product at Wee Bee Jammin’, a highly recommended store in Bear Lake. Small and seasonal, featuring Michigan products.

Mixed-media assemblage at Tamarack Gallery, a popular Up North Michigan gallery
An example of artist Dewey Blocksma’s outsider art at Tamarack Gallery, Omena

16 Hats for every season abound at Diversions on Front Street In Traverse City. Think ahead to winter because this store offers a first-rate selection of Stormy Kromer hats, now made in Ironwood, MI, and every bit as functional as the 1903 original, yet more stylish. Only a six-tenths-mile walk to your room at the elegant Wellington Inn, you’ll find many other diversions on TC’s main street for shopping and dining.

17 Tamarack Gallery in Omena stands out among many fine art galleries in Northwest Michigan because it has benefited from the discerning vision of the same owner for all of its 46 years. Featuring the work of dozens of U.S. artists, the gallery includes fine art, fine crafts, outsider art, and folk art. Tamarack Gallery is only 15 miles north of  Suttons Bay.

18 Mooney’s Ben Franklin in East Tawas “is like a dollar store on steroids,” according to one of dozens of five-star Google reviews. “The place to find something you didn’t know you wanted,” says another. When Always a Holiday B&B owner Brenda Hawkins was moving to East Tawas, she stopped at a gas station and happened to mention she was opening a B&B on Newman Street.  The attendant said, “Oh, that’s the street with the Ben Franklin store.”

Agri-tourism meets agri-beauty

19 In the peak of summer, innkeeper Marci Palajac of House on the Hill Bed and Breakfast in Ellsworth recommends a visit to Lavender Hill Farm outside Boyne City, not far from her inn in Up North Michigan. “My guests love this place, but usually haven’t heard about it until they see the brochures I have.”

20 Drawing on ancient tradition, a large lavender and herb labyrinth is the centerpiece at Cherry Point Farm and Market in Shelby. It’s more than worth the scenic 40-minute drive from more great B&B choices in Ludington. Innkeeper Ellen Alderink of Ludington House B&B said, “The market has lots of fresh produce and cherry everything. There is also a dining room for lunch. And don’t forget to try a cherry turnover. Mmmm.”

And then…

21 For contrast — after you’ve meditatively followed the fragrant spiral paths of the labyrinth — bust out your inner yee-haw by renting an ATV, Jeep or dune buggy at nearby Silver Lake Sand Dunes. Loads of fun. Beautiful views. Then get back to your Up North Michigan B&B for a long, hot shower or a soak in a jetted tub.


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