A tale of two peninsulas begins on...M-22 or M-37? Mile for mile, these scenic Michigan highways run the lengths of the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas. M-22 follows West Grand Traverse Bay and into Leelanau County, while M-37 goes north into the village of Old Mission. Both are easy drives from downtown Traverse City and can be explored in one day – or a few if you want to really take it all in.
Step back in time on Old Mission or explore the Sleeping Bear Dunes and quaint port towns along M-22. The choice is yours...
Old Mission Peninsula
M-37 shows you the best of The Peninsula, heading north from Traverse City through a landscape of steep hills and elegant homes, hugging the shore of East Grand Traverse Bay, climbing to the top of a high ridge, cruising along West Bay and finally dropping you off at a cozy 19th century lighthouse.
This narrow ridge of land separating the two arms of Grand Traverse Bay features splendid lake views, farms and vineyards. Near its tip is the charming Old Mission village, founded in 1839 and home to the the Old Mission Inn (the oldest continuously operated hotel in Michigan). There's also the Old Mission General Store, a quirky shop with an old-timey feel. They even sell penny candy!
At the very end of the road is the cozy Mission Point Lighthouse, built in 1870 to warn ships away from the dangerous shoals that can be seen from shore. Although it’s no longer in operation, the lighthouse is open for tours and is the centerpiece of an attractive park with popular beaches, historical exhibits and extensive hiking trails.
Because of its compact size, the Peninsula is ideally suited for wine touring. Its nine wineries are surrounded by some of the region’s most beautiful scenery and are open for tours and tastings. The peninsula is also home to several fine restaurants and an outstanding art gallery, and there are farm markets and vegetable stands offering local produce during the season.
The Leelanau Peninsula
The region’s larger peninsula, the scenic Leelanau Peninsula, stands between Grand Traverse Bay and the open waters of Lake Michigan. It has long been a major fruit producer, and today it’s also the region’s most active wine-producing area.
Much of the gorgeous Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore lies along the southwest shore of the peninsula, but Leelanau contains a wealth of other natural treasures as well, from the coves and beaches of Northport to the paved Leelanau Trail between Traverse City and Suttons Bay. It’s also home to several charming villages – like Leland, with its evocative Fishtown district, where century-old fishing shanties have been converted into unique shops and restaurants, and Northport, the last town almost to the tip of the peninsula just before you reach the iconic Grand Traverse Lighthouse.
Because the Leelanau Peninsula is larger, it's best suited for a full day's visit or even a few days (if you really like to take your time). Definitely try the Dune Climb at the Sleeping Bear Dunes, eat something with cherries at Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor and catch a sunset from the dock in Leland.