3 Amazing Michigan Road Trips and B&B’s to stay at along the way

Couple with camera sitting on their tailgate looking at a beach for a Michigan Road Trips
Michigan Road Trips

Nothing brings two people together quite like a good old-fashioned American Road Trip. And Michigan is filled with miles and miles of scenic highways to make your Michigan Road Trip the trip of a lifetime. In this blog, you’ll find suggestions for three different Michigan Road Trips- some ramble through quaint towns, others along breathtaking coastlines where you can witness the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets, some near historic lighthouses, and all while enjoying awesome national parks, dense forests filled with wildlife, farm-to-table eateries, breweries and wineries and picturesque lighthouses sprinkled along the way.  Included in these helpful roadmaps are Michigan Bed and Breakfasts which make a great stopping point. Here you will find quality assured lodging, caring and knowledgeable innkeepers, and a deliciously comfortable bed with a nourishing homemade breakfast to start your next day of adventure.

The road trip itineraries that we’ve put together are perfect for outdoor adventurers- from walking a sand dune to climbing to the top of a lighthouse or people who enjoy the scenery from the comforts of their cars. A road trip can be a great way to bond with friends or romantic partners. It allows you to spend quality time together discovering the best of what the beautiful state of Michigan has to offer. You will appreciate the easy packing and planning and it’s cheaper too for your Michigan Road Trip of the century!

1. Michigan’s Most Picturesque Small Towns

Best Road Trip to experience small town America

Are you in the mood to get away and enjoy exploring small towns?  Well, you’re in luck: Michigan just happens to be perfect for experiencing small-town America- and with that comes historic towns, countryside vistas, farm-to-table eateries, microbreweries, artisan shopping, and wineries. Here is a road trip that includes some of our favorite small towns along with quality assured bed and breakfasts to stay at.

The Google map above is a perfect visual to understand why Michigan is frequently called the mitten state. Many of the quaint towns can be found on the coastline which makes for a perfect Michigan Driving Trip. Each Michigan Picturesque Small Town is highlighted below with the Best Quality Assured MBBA Bed and Breakfasts nearby. We are starting in Kalamazoo in Southwest Michigan and moving north then south around the mitten, landing in Ypsilanti which is close to Detroit.

Kalamazoo– Vibrant downtown, known for its outdoor mall, great dining, craft culture, theatre, and remarkable lodging at the Kalamazoo House. The city is recognized for craft beer, notably Bell’s Brewery, a pioneer in the craft beer industry since 1985, and world-class museums and attractions including the Smithsonian-affiliated Air Zoo Aerospace and Science Museum and the Gilmore Car Museum, North America’s largest automobile museum. The innkeepers at the Kalamazoo House love to recommend dining at the Principles Food & Drink and Roca for some ridiculously good fusion of flavors inspired by Latin American culture and cuisine. Many vineyards and breweries surround Kalamazoo. One of the couples’ favorites is the Cody Kresta winery– named after their two dogs. All the grapes used in their wines are grown in the Lake Michigan Shore Appellation, with Amy’s favorite -2020 Peach- made from 100% Southwest Michigan peaches.

South Haven– The perfect beach town with plenty of shopping, fish shacks, breweries, and wineries!  The Harbor District and pier-to-pier river walk offer beautiful views of the water with public art installations along the way. The classic movie house with its iconic marquee lights up the street in the evening. Throughout the year, many festivals (the Blueberry Festival being the most popular) take place in downtown South Haven, making it a vibrant and fun place to visit. Visitors can enjoy the sprawling lakefront, where you’ll find a sandy beach, a walkable pier, two lighthouses, and a busy harbor filled with fishing boats. The downtown is only a short 4-minute walk away. You’ll have a perfect resting spot at the Vintage Inn at Veritas Esates. Guests enjoy a serene country landscape with close access to the beaches and downtown area, all while enjoying fresh farm-to-table food and local wines. For more information about the Vintage check out this past article.

Allegan– Downtown Allegan is filled with quaint shops, a variety of eateries, and breathtaking riverfront views. At night the bridge is covered in lights and perfect for a nighttime walk; During the day, enjoy ziplining over the river. Allegan is surrounded by farmland yet close to beaches and larger towns such as Holland and Saugatuck. If you are looking for a quiet country location check out the lovely lodging at the Jade Estate Inn, Castle in the Country,  and Kingsley House in nearby Fennville. For more details, check out a recent blog- Experiencing the Quiet Side of the Art Coast of Michigan in Allegan & Fennville.

Big Red Lighthouse

 

Holland– This southwest coastal town became famous for its Big Red Lighthouse House and the Tulip Festival. But there is so much more for visitors to enjoy year-round. Dutch heritage can be found everywhere including Windmill Island Gardens and Nelis’ Dutch Village with a  downtown area that includes heated brick-lined sidewalks with over 100 locally owned establishments. Holland State Park is known for its sugar-sand beach, beautiful sunsets, and views of the ‘Big Red’ lighthouse. For personalized and comfortable lodging, check out the Dutch Colonial Inn and the Inn at Old Orchard Road.

An insider tip from the innkeeper at Dutch Colonial- check out a new kid on the block for yummy donuts and cheesecake- Bowman’s on 8th- Bakery and Cafe.

Saugatuck– Also known as the Art Coast of Michigan, this popular coastal town offers visitors a vibrant, walkable, and historic downtown area. This charming seaside community is filled with upscale boutiques and art galleries for excellent shopping, pubs, and restaurants featuring farm-to-table cuisine, and beautiful gardens. For remarkable lodging check out Hotel Saugatuck, The Wickwood Inn, The Judon Health Colonial Inn,  and the nearby lakeside lodging at the Rosemont Inn in Douglas.

Grand Haven– Another popular beach community known for its lighthouse and fun downtown vibes filled with breweries, shopping, and great dining. If you are looking for great beach views check out the lodging at the Looking Glass Beach Front Inn and for a lovely in-town location check out the comfortable lodging at the Washington Street Inn.

An insider tip from Tony, Innkeeper at the Washington Street Inn- check out the Unicorn Tavern- Located in the east end neighborhood of Grand Haven, the Unicorn is a Belgium-inspired tavern that recently came up with a new locally sourced IPA- The Project Unicorn. This particular beer is locally sourced from Oddside Ales and a portion of every pint sold is given to areas that support special needs children in honor of their daughter that recently passed away from Down’s Syndrome.

Ludington– Moving north up the Lake Michigan Shoreline is the lovely town of Ludington, which includes a thriving downtown area boasting unique shops, delicious dining, a skate plaza, and art galleries. This coastal town is known for its two lighthouses and a remarkable state park. Ludington has four quality-assured lodging choices: the Ludington House, The Cartier Mansion, the Candlelite Inn and the Lamplighter Bed and Breakfast. 

Local innkeeper, Jenn, from the Lamplighter- don’t miss out on the local ice cream shop- House of Flavors – This Guinness World Record Holder for Longest Ice Cream Dessert serves homemade ice cream and other American classics in a retro, 1950s-style diner.

 

Sleeping Bear Dunes wooden boardwalk
Boardwalk in the Sleeping Bear Dunes

Glen Arbor- Named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America, it’s no wonder why so many people flock to Sleeping Bear Dunes every year! Explore Michigan’s Coast, the hills, dunes, valleys, and shoreline. There’s nothing better than watching the sunset from the sand dunes. You’ll also find an endearing downtown area with unique shopping and dining. Here you will also find the lovely lodging with coastal views at the Glen Arbor Bed and Breakfast and the intimate lodging at the Cottonwood Inn.

Charlevoix– Pure Michigan perfectly highlighted the beauty of Charlevoix- “From any vantage point in the city, and in every season, Charlevoix lives up to its nickname: “Charlevoix: the beautiful.” Lake Michigan’s wide, sandy shoreline is a short stroll along a channel from downtown. There, boutiques, microbreweries, creative restaurants, a clever book store, fresh fish markets, and more, line a harbor often dotted with picture-perfect sailboats. There are beaches that highlight sunrise, others sunset, a classic drawbridge, and unusual architecture that full vacations are planned around. Here are a few other ideas for a vacation itinerary.” And for the perfect lakeside lodging check out the House on the Hill B&B. A blissful spot to enjoy a peaceful location, with luxurious rooms and delicious farm-to-table breakfasts served to you on their porch with lake views. P.S. This town is also known for its large assortment of second-hand and vintage shops

East Tawas– For a sweet old-fashioned stopover on the Huron side of Michigan,  check out the quaint town of East Tawas. You’ll find a laid-back experience with good old-fashioned hospitality surrounding you. Everything is within walking distance including the East Tawas Lighthouse, dining, shopping, ice cream, candy store, and plenty of brew pubs. MBBA member, Always a Holiday! Bed and Breakfast is also a perfect place to call home during your Michigan Road Trip.

Bay City-Bay City is known for its lovely river walk, shopping, antiques, and thriving downtown area. You will find great dining, coffee shops to relax in, and boutique shopping galore. The City Market is also a fun destination.  For a restful night’s sleep, check out the lodging at the Historic Webster House. Here you will find luxurious rooms, spa services, and yummy breakfast.

Frankenmuth– If you love Christmas and fried chicken, this is a must-stop for your Michigan Road Trip. Frankenmuth is known as a Tiny German Town with Big Bavarian traditions! Here you can wander cobblestone streets with quaint boutiques, and experience the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. Experience ziplining on an aerial adventure or wine tasting on a river tour. Frankenmuth is also known for its famous fried chicken. No one does chicken dinners like Bavarian Inn Restaurant and Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth! These mouthwatering masterpieces are all-you-can-eat and served family style. For your stop in Frankenmuth, you are in luck as the very best lodging can be found at the Frankenmuth Country Bed and Breakfast.

Lexington- The Village of Lexington has an assortment of shops, restaurants, community theatre, and galleries along with an active calendar of community celebrations. The picturesque harbor is an attraction for all with a marina offering boaters a convenient destination and the half-mile long pier providing visitors an ideal walk along Lake Huron. Check out this previous blog for more details and to learn about the Lexington House Bed and Breakfast -which also includes an ice cream shop on the property.

Ypsilanti – A sweet ending to your road trip could include a stop in Ypsilanti. Ypsilanti is the college town where you’ll find Eastern Michigan University. Michiganders refer to it as Ypsi, for short and the city is as fun as its name. Here you will find excellent craft beer pubs, an excellent foodies scene, and art enthusiasts will find something to do in their eclectic art scene. In addition, those interested in automotive and aviation history will find plenty of exciting things to do on a weekend trip. You’ll find great dining at the local bed and breakfast- Newton of Ypsilanti which is owned by a local chef.

Woman stepping into a vintage camper
Luxurious clamping at the Goldberry Woods in Union Pier

2. Taking it Slow on a Michigan’s Harbor Country Road Trip

Best road trip for a short shore drive

Looking for a Michigan Road Trip that could be a day trip or a relaxing stay at a bed and breakfast where you can settle in and enjoy all that Michigan’s Harbor County has to offer? Read along, refer to the Google map below, and start planning a fun adventure where you can enjoy breathtaking scenery, explore a local winery or brewery, catch a show at a community theatre, and relax at a much slower pace.

Harbor Country is an idyllic getaway any road-tripper would love. It is a collection of small towns strung along Lake Michigan’s southeastern shoreline that beckons day-trippers. For a taste of Lake Michigan’s shoreline without the commitment of a 300-plus mile trip, the eight charming beach towns that make up Harbor Country, offer an amazing road trip without all the miles. Get your feet in the golden sand shores, stop by a picturesque marina or one of the handsome coves that pepper the route from Michiana-only an hour from downtown Chicago, to Sawyer, the northernmost Harbor Country community. Some favorite stops along the way include the region’s largest public beach in New Buffalo, one of Michigan’s largest organic distilleries- Journeyman in Three Oaks, Michigan’s most-awarded and longest-running winery- St Julian Wine Company in Union Pier, and a plethora of antique shops, artsy boutiques, farm to table restaurants and old fashion Americana charm. Harbor Country includes eight charming towns:
Michiana and neighboring Grand Beach– These towns are the area’s quiet southerly twins.
New Buffalo–  First stop is New Buffalo, just under a 90-minute drive east of Chicago along Lake Michigan. It is predominantly a resort community and is known for its large harbor. Here you will find wonderful dining, artful and unique shopping, and great galleries.
Union Pier-a charming beach town situated between the Lake Michigan shore and the Galien River. This area of Harbor Country is nicknamed the “Chicago Hamptons” for its abundance of lakeside retreats.
Three Oaks- Located in the middle of farmland this charming town is the art and cultural nucleus of Harbor Country  that includes the Acorn Theatre– a hip spot for concerts and  plays in a renovated corset factory with a bar, a fine arts cinema, unique art galleries, and eclectic shopping

Lakeside– This small lakeside town is home to great boutiques, including a good amount of interior design companies -get ready to transport yourself into gorgeous home decor. Calling all foodies check out another popular spot-  the Flagship Specialty Food and Fish Market. 

Harbert– This town celebrates its Nordic roots with sweet spots like Harbert Swedish Bakery. This is the bakery of your childhood, your parent’s childhood, or maybe even your grandparents’ childhood. One filled with yeasty bread, coffee cake, danish, donuts, and cookies like little time machines. This charming village offers a peaceful getaway to immerse yourself in the natural wonders, from serene shorelines to lush woodlands. Indulge in the vibrant art scene, explore vintage stores, and savor delectable cuisine in fine restaurants. For authentic Kurdish food- check out Cafe Guliston.

Interesting tidbit of history- Exhausted from this and other writings, Sandburg and his family left Chicago for the summer to vacation in a cottage overlooking Lake Michigan near Harbert. Charmed by the location, the family stayed in Harbert through the fall. A few years later, they built this house along the shore of the lake.

Sawyer– The town gives off a good-time vibe and includes a premier shopping center- the Sawyer Home and Garden Center, technically the town’s farmers’ market/shopping center. It’s where you can buy the freshest produce from Lake Michigan’s farms, ranches, and vineyards. Sawyer is also home to the Warren Dunes State Park- a vast 1,952-acre state park known for its mountains of sand that span across Sawyer and neighboring towns. After your day of exploring check out Greenbush Brewery- a popular hangout offering 12 taps of house-brewed beer, including experimental ales, plus a menu of pub grub.

 You can drive the route from Michiana to Harbert in less than a half hour, but that’s not the point – this is a leisurely road trip of discovery. Stop, enjoy the views, sample wines, explore a sand dune, and watch a magnificent sunset- you get the point – it’s all about taking it slow in Harbor County. For lodging during your trip to Harbor Country check out the lovely quality assured accommodations at the Goldberry Woods Bed and Breakfast and the Garden Grove Inn– both in Union Pier. For a new experience check out the new glamping experience at Goldberry Woods in their new vintage campers.

Port Sanilac Lighthouse
Port Sanillac Lighthouse

3. Romantic Lighthouse Road Trip

Best Road Trip to Learn about Michigan Lighthouses

As you can guess, Michiganders love lighthouses in the “Mitten State” and are proud that 129 are remaining, making Michigan the state with the most lighthouses in the United States! At one point, there were over 250 lighthouses that lined the coastline of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and Lake Huron

 

With this Best Michigan Roadtrip, you’ll start your trip close to Chicago at the lovely lodging of the Garden Grove Inn, located in the popular area of Harbor County (check out Road trip #2, which is a condensed road trip seeing everything that this Michigan Southwest Coastline has to offer).  The first lighthouse is located in Grand Haven, which also includes a pretty special bed and breakfast that features farm-to-table dining and wines- The Vintage Inn at Veritas Estate.  Next up is the most photographed lighthouse in Michigan- The Big Red, located in the quaint town of Holland where you will find the intimate lodging of the Inn at Old Orchard Road and the Dutch Colonial Inn.

Depending on how far you want to travel up the coastline each day,  further north you’ll find the Grand Haven Pier Lighthouse. You can see this lighthouse from the porch of the Looking Glass Beachfront Inn.  In town, you’ll find the warm hospitality of the Washington Street Inn. Moving on, the White River Light Station sits on a thin peninsula of land separating Lake Michigan from White Lake. The building was built in 1875. A perfect stop nearby is the historic Lewis House in Whitehall.

Ludington is known for its two lighthouses, a lovely park, beautiful lakes, an endearing village, and quaint bed and breakfasts. Check out this previous blog for all the details.

Manistee, Michigan finds a beautiful light and a historic former lumber baron’s home- the Dempsey House Manor and Tea House.  

Traverse City is a popular summer destination and while there you can visit the Pointe Betsy Lighthouse, Robert H Manning Memorial Lighthouse, and the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. You’ll have many quality assured bed and breakfasts to choose from including the lakeside location at the Spring Lighthouse in nearby Elk Rapids, wineries at the Chateau Chantal and Grey Hare Inn, and the historic Wellington Inn

You are now on the Sunrise Coast. Moving southward now on US23 Heritage South you’ll find 200 miles of spectacular scenic views of Lake Huron.  Another favorite lighthouse can be found in the quaint town of East Tawas where you will find the East Tawas Light House and the comfortable lodging at the Always a Holiday! Bed and Breakfast. You can learn more about the inn and East Tawas here.

Sitting on the tip of the thumb is the operational Port Austin Reef Light about 2.5 miles north of Port Austin. Its location on a rocky reef, which is a real hazard to navigation, warns boaters of the shallow water. You’ll need to plan a boat ride to see this one up close. Port Austin is a lovely town to layover in and you can enjoy the newly renovated Port Austin Bed and Breakfast. 

Moving around the thumb, check out the Harbor Beach Lighthouse and the Port Sanilac Lighthouse. Here you can enjoy the lovely lodging of the Raymond House Inn and further south,  the Lexington House Inn.

Now that you have made your way around the mitten and are very close to Detroit you may want to take one more night to enjoy the fabulous food at the Newton of Ypsilanti. The chef-owner can arrange for a private dinner and breakfasts are quite remarkable- healthy, locally sourced, and delicious.

Exterior of Port Austin Bed and Breakfast
Port Austin Bed and Breakfast

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