Discovering Manistee and Onekama: A Local’s Guide to Hidden Gems

Several people beside the Manistee Lighthouse at sunset
The Manistee North Pierhead Light lighthouse on Lake Michigan

Exploring Michigan’s Hidden Treasures

Amidst the gentle lapping of waves and the rustling leaves, there lies a tale waiting to be told—a tale of two enchanting towns nestled in Michigan’s embrace. Welcome to Manistee and Onekama, where the heart finds solace in the rhythm of the lakes, glorious nature, and sunsets and two quaint towns in Northwest, Michigan.

Manistee: Where Love Meets the Horizon

Manistee, located in the northwestern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, is a hidden gem that seamlessly blends natural beauty with rich historical heritage. Manistee, with its historic charm and sun-kissed beaches, beckons lovers and dreamers alike. Stroll along the Riverwalk, hand in hand, as the sun paints the sky in hues of rose and gold. Explore the Victorian architecture, where each building holds echoes of bygone romances. And when twilight descends, find a cozy corner at a waterfront café, sipping coffee as the stars twinkle above.

Here are some of our favorite things to do:

  • Experience Breathtaking Sunsets and Pristine Beaches- Manistee boasts unspoiled Lake Michigan beaches where you can watch stunning sunsets over the water. Some of our favorite beaches include First Street Beach, 5th Avenue Beach, and Orchard Beach State Park which offers picturesque spots to unwind and enjoy the shoreline.
    Captain John Langland Beach (the turnaround)
    Best views of sunset, great swimming beach
  • Stroll the Manistee Riverwalk- Explore the charming Manistee Riverwalk, which winds through the heart of the city. Stroll along the riverbanks and take in the serene views.
  • Visit the Lake Bluff Farms– In 1948, six sequoia trees, 8 inches high, were brought from California by Mr and Mrs Eddie Gray and were planted at their Lake Bluff estate in Manistee. Three of these trees have survived and are thriving. The biggest, the Michigan Champion, is 116 feet tall. It is the largest Giant Sequoia east of the Rockies.  Foresters and arborists around the world are in awe of its great success in a place so far from its natural growing area. It is nearly one-half the size of the biggest known sequoias in the world.
  • Historic Downtown- Manistee’s vibrant downtown area features quaint shops, cozy restaurants, and beautifully preserved Victorian-era architecture. It offers a nostalgic charm that captivates both residents and tourists.
  • Enjoy Outdoor Adventures- The Manistee National Forest surrounds the area, providing endless opportunities for hiking, biking, and camping. The Manistee River offers fishing and boating experiences.
Old picture of Main Street in Manistee
Photo credit: Manistee County Historical Society
  • Learn about the Lumbering Heritage- During the late 1800s, Manistee played a significant role in the lumber industry. White pine logs were floated down the river to the port, destined for markets in Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, and Chicago. Visit the Manistee Country Historical Museum to see firsthand the important part Manistee played in Michigan’s lumber industry. 
  • Explore the Two Lighthouses- Marvel at the Manistee North Pierhead Lights, which stand as guardians of the harbor. Explore the rich maritime history associated with these iconic structures.
  • Little River Casino Resort- Indulge in gaming and entertainment at the nearby Little River Casino Resort.
  • Arcadia Overlook- Savor breathtaking views from the Arcadia Overlook, where Lake Michigan stretches out before you.
  • Cozy Lodging- Whether you’re seeking a family vacation, romantic getaway, or weekend adventure, Manistee offers a range of lodging options. Our very favorite place to stay can be found just north of Manistee in the quaint town of Onekama, at the historic Canfield House Bed and Breakfast. Couple holding hands on a beach

    Onekama: A Love Song Written in Water

    So, the first question you might ask- how do I pronounce the name and where did the name originate from? The name is pronounced- oh-NEK-ə-mə and is derived from Ona-ga-maa, an Anishinaabe word which means “singing water”  Here, the lake meets the land, and the breeze carries secrets from distant shores. Just 20 minutes north of Manistee, Onekama is the first community along the M-22 Scenic Heritage Route. Commonly known as the “Two Lake Town,” Onekama offers a combination of Lake Michigan shoreline and peaceful views of Portage Lake. And as night falls, seek refuge at the very best Bed and breakfast in the area at the Canfield House, where great views of Portage Lake and warm hospitality will warm your heart.

Aerial view of Portage Lake

Onekama’s History

Portage Lake and Lake Michigan weren’t always connected by a channel – it was a man-made accident that made the channel as we know it today. How did it happen?

Once the small Portage Creek drained into Portage Lake. An enterprising mill owner, Mr. Stronach, placed a dam on this creek to help his lumber mill operation. Future mill owners would periodically raise the water level on the lake and flood the property of early homesteaders along the shores.

Since these homesteaders were improving their land, they weren’t very happy when lake levels were raised. Push came to shove and by 1871, a small ditch was dug to prevent the water level from being artificially raised. When the water finally let loose through the ditch, you can imagine what happened. Portage Lake dropped almost 14 ft and the small “ditch” became 500 ft. wide and 12 ft deep.

In Onekama, you’ll find a harmonious blend of natural beauty, local treasures, and a warm small community spirit. Whether you’re exploring the outdoors or immersing yourself in history, this charming village promises an unforgettable experience. 🌟

Here are some of our favorite things to do in the area:

Portage Lake and Canfield House grounds viewed from porch
Views from the Canfield porch


  • Experience lake views including breathtaking sunsets from the Canfield Porch
  • Watch a movie at an old-fashioned drive-in Cherry Bowl Drive-In.Opening in 1953 this icon will bring you back to the fabulous 50’s with the finest in film, food, and fun.
  • Enjoy a summer concert on Monday nights at 6 pm in the Onekema Village Park. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy the music.
  • Explore Orchard Beach State Park. Whether you’re sunbathing, swimming, or beachcombing, this park offers a serene escape.
  • Watch a sunset or go for a swim at Captain John Langland Beach (the turnaround)
  • Enjoy the many water sports adventures, available complimentary at the Canfield House Bed and Breakfast.
  • Check out the quirky and fun John J. Makinen Bottle House in nearby Kaleva is a must-see. Constructed entirely from glass bottles, it’s a testament to creativity and resourcefulness.
  • Hop in your car and embark on a breathtaking journey along M-22. Wind through lush forests, catch glimpses of Lake Michigan, and discover charming towns along the way.
  • Tee off amidst rolling hills and pristine greens in the area. Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or a beginner, the views are par for the course. Check out this link for Golf courses in the area.
  • Go for a hike or bike ride on the many trails nearby-

    With an abundance of natural beauty in the area, here are a few of our favorite places to visit and things to do:

    • Inspiration Point – This Lake Michigan overlook just off of M22 in Arcadia is a must-see

    • Arcadia Marsh Trail (Arcadia) – .75 miles

    • Portage Point Woods Preserve (Onekama) – As you hike the looped trail, watch and listen for a variety of animal species, from songbirds and raptors to reptiles and amphibians

    • North Point Park (Onekama) – This land was designated as “North Point Park” in 2002 by the Township Board and includes 3 different trails on 60+ acres.


There is an abundance of local establishments within a short drive of The Canfield House. Here are some favorites:

  • The Glenwood in Onekema is known for “Distinctive Dining Prepared to your Liking.” Open seasonally and reservations recommended
  • The Cabbage Shed in Elberta.  Rustic lakefront bar/grill featuring fish ‘n’ chips, a big Irish whiskey selection & entertainment.
  • Blue Fish Kitchen & Bar in Manistee. Seasonal American seafood restaurant in a brick-walled Victorian building with a riverfront deck.
  • TJ’s Pub in Manistee. Located below the Ramsdell Inn, they offer a wide variety of food.
  • Yellow Dog Cafe in Onekama. Coffee and homemade treats in downtown Onekama.


Breweries and wineries are plentiful in the North West Michigan area. Here are some guests’ favorites:

  1. Black Star Farms-Leelanau County
  2. Blue Slipper-Onekama great atmosphere with many local beers and wines available.
  3. Mari Vineyards- Old Mission Peninsula
  4. North Channel Brewing Co. Manistee- An ode to the fascinating history of its hometown.
  5. Peninsula Cellars-Old Mission Peninsula
  6. Storm Cloud Brewing-Frankfort- A local, award-winning brewery.
  7. Rove Winery- Traverse City

Enjoy your stay and savor the local flavors!

Side view of the Canfield House with Porch-grey shingled building with white trim in the town of Onekama

Book your Stay at the Canfield House Bed and Breakfast

Now that you have determined there is so much to explore and experience in Onekama and Manistee,  we know the very best place to stay during your getaway- The Canfield  House Bed and Breakfast.

The Canfield House is know as the inn on two lakes because it overlooks beautiful Portage Lake, which connects to Lake Michigan in Onekama, 45 miles southwest of Traverse City.

Cherry Sleigh bed at the Canfield House

Built in 1900 as the summer home of lumber baron Charles Canfield, Canfield House Bed and Breakfast offers six guest rooms that have been completely renovated while retaining the original charm.

As you approach Canfield House Bed and Breakfast, you will sense the 2.5-acre’s peaceful atmosphere. Turn-of-the-century features of the house have been preserved, including the covered wrap-around porch,  the Dutch doors of the dining room which open onto the porch, and the original leaded glass windows and magnificent stone fireplace in the large gathering room. Relax in front of the fireplace, warm up to a book from their eclectic collection, enjoy one of the many board games with other guests, or enjoy the comfort of your bedroom or a stroll along Lake Michigan.

Bacon and cheese omelet in a black skillet with a wooden spoon from the Canfield House in Onekama

Insider tip- the innkeeper/owner of this gem used to own a bakery and is quite a chef. Guests enjoy house-made omelets, blueberry french toast with a new twist on a classic favorite served with locally made maple syrup, creme brule french toast, sausage and cranberry quiche, sausage souffle- just to name a few of the guest favorites.

Book your stay today at the Canfield House and create a memory of a lifetime in the quaint and very special town of Onekama.