The Leelanau Peninsula, and Leland in particular, can be an amazing and relaxing place to vacation. While you could explore the entire Leelanau Peninsula for weeks, we think you can do a lot right here in Leland or within a couple miles of town and keep busy for a few days of your stay. Many of our guests appreciate just hanging out and taking it all in so close to the Inn. Here are 10 things to do in Leland on your visit!
1.Visit Fishtown! A revitalized fishing village, Fishtown is a collection of shanties, tugs and charter boats along the Leland River opening up to the harbor along majestic Lake Michigan. If you’ve never been there – you owe yourself a visit. There are signs along the way to read about the history of this shanty-town, shops to buy everything from smoked fish to Sperry Top-Siders to custom hand made art and apparel with a tug boat logo. There is a ferry service to outlying islands and a famous sandwich shop, both of which deserve their own entry! Learn more by visiting Fishtown Preservation.
2. Visit Manitou Island(s). Islands in Michigan? Oh yes. South Manitou and North Manitou Islands are some of the most beautiful and historically rich local gems you could adventure to rather easily. We’ll focus on South Manitou because it is accessible with a simple day trip. There are old growth forests, original schoolhouses, unique sand dunes, a lighthouse (tour available), ghost towns, hiking and camping. Did you get all that? Yes, it’s amazing. There’s one way to get there (if you don’t happen to have your own boat in Lake Michigan). Visit Manitou Transit to learn more and buy tickets to the island (plan a full day). For the more adventurous and for those with more time, visit North Manitou Island for primitive backcountry camping.
3. Watch the sunset at Van’s Beach! A local and tourist favorite, and so easy to see why. White sugar sand, close to Leland town, and named for the famous Van’s Garage that sits along Main St. on your way into town. All we can say is that the sunset does not often disappoint. Plan a few minutes to find parking in summer (may have to park down the road a bit).
4. Eat a Cheese Shop. What does that mean? No, don’t eat the actual shop. But everyone here just says they are getting a Cheese Shop. There is no need to say sandwich. Rumor has it the owner gets up at 3 am to make the pretzel bread from scratch every morning during season. There is a daily special, cheese curds and other select cheeses under the glass. Grab a beer or a soda, make it a bagged lunch with chips, a pickle and a cookie if you’re feeling it. Just go – it’s worth the wait (cash only btw).
5. Ice cream at Harbor House. A gear store that carries name brand clothing plus sells ice cream? Need we say more? If those folks on their way to Manitou forgot their rain jacket here’s where you buy it. Right in Leland on the way to Fishtown but check them out to see all they offer.
6. Rock hunt at North Beach! Access at Lake & North. Find the famous “Leland Blue” and Petoskey stones, as well tons of nice fossils. You can catch some fun waves here too!
7. Hike the Whaleback Natural Area. One of many protected natural areas under the care of the Leelanau Conservancy, this is a wonderful loop with a lookout over Lake Michigan and views of the Manitous. A must. Walkable from Whaleback Inn.
8. Have a beer at the Bluebird (and maybe lunch or dinner, too). It doesn’t get much more classic than the Bluebird. Smelt, cold beers, reliable and right in town.
9. Hike Clay Cliffs Natural Area. Just a couple miles north of town, this is a fantastic hike where you can get a good workout and a section of climbing switchbacks for those that like to get their heart rate up. 104.5 acres, 1700 ft. of shoreline – perhaps see eagles, hawks, but definitely get an amazing view from the overlook!
10. And of course…stay at the iconic Whaleback Inn! The most important thing when you’ve done all of your exploring for the day is to have a comfortable, clean place to stay with a great view of the water, right? We think so. We invite you to enjoy one of our 14 lake view rooms, a cottage suite (we have 3), or a stand alone cottage for your much deserved vacation. We offer a continental breakfast Memorial Day through Labor Day, a porch and lawn with a view of the lake – full of furniture for you to relax on, read a book, enjoy a beverage of choice all while you plan your next adventure. Come check us out!