Traverse City is a city in the state of Michigan.
On the shore of Traverse City, enjoy good times and stunning beauty at these wineries, restaurants, Parks, viewpoints, and roadside attractions. These are the must-see attractions on Old Mission Peninsula, whether you’re on vacation, entertaining guests, or simply enjoying your home.
On the picturesque Old Mission Peninsula, a short strip of land that splits Grand Traverse Bay and spans 19 miles into the blue waters of Lake Michigan, wineries are clearly a huge draw these days.
However, if you spend any time touring Old Mission, the smaller of the region’s two peninsulas (the other being Leelanau), you’ll find much more than world-class wines. The idyllic environment is dotted with tidy cherry and apple orchards and sprawling family farms, as well as unrivaled views of Grand Traverse Bay from hilltop viewpoints, both east and west.
Take a stroll around these hip enclaves and communities and plan to stay a while! The finest things to do in Traverse City are listed below.
SOUTH UNION STREET (SOUTH UNION STREET) (AKA SU).
This treasure trove of art and antiques may be found just off Front Street.
THE SENSE OF THE PLACE: Best “Secret” Side Street.
VISIT THE HIGHER ART GALLERY FOR CONTEMPORARY EXHIBITS AND VISIT WILSON ANTIQUES FOR DELICIOUS VINTAGE ITEMS. After that, get a crepe at Millie & Pepper and go down to the Boardman River, which is only a block away. Low Bar, an underground artisan cocktail club serving delectable cocktails, is the perfect place to end your day. A acidic, frothy summer favorite is the Pisco Sour.
This summer, our beloved Eighth Street is receiving a facelift, but shops are still open! Check out the latest development updates online, and know that these places are well worth the trip.
THE MUST-TRY: At Bon Vin, you’ll find exquisite wine, while at Silver Spruce, you’ll find refreshing beers. Order a B.A. Bagel at Rose & Fern Cafe, then walk down the street to Press on Juice for a healthy boost (each juice is packed with more than two pounds of produce).
This downtown sector, which is between Front Street and Grandview Parkway on Garland Street, is anchored by the trendy Warehouse MRKT and Hotel Indigo.
THE SENSE OF THE AREA: Industrial Modern meets Midwest/Instagram Paradise.
THE MUST-VISIT: Darling Botanical, Relish, Grey Wolf Creek, and Wood + Cloth, all of which are located in the Wander Warehouse MRKT. BLK MRKT serves artisan coffee and baked foods. Make a reservation for supper at Alliance for a sophisticated, locally sourced meal.
At Relish, say hello to Simon, the adorable pug.
Homemade breads, morning pastries, and cookies are available at Pleasanton Bakery at the Commons. It’ll be difficult to choose between the parmesan olive and cranberry pecan breads.
GRAND TRAVERSE COMMONS.
The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is home to some of the best restaurants and boutiques in the area. It’s located at the corner of Division and Eleventh streets.
THE SENSE: This is a historic estate.
THE MUST DOS: Do you have a hankering for a cup of coffee or a morning sandwich? Cuppa Joe or Higher Grounds are two good options. Sugar 2 Salt and Red Spire Brunch House both serve brunch. Visits to Trattoria Stella and PepeNero, two local favorites, are recommended for supper. Also, stop through the indoor Mercato to browse the stores.
NEIGHBORHOOD OF SLABTOWN.
Between West Front Street and Grandview Parkway, there are adorable homes, nicely manicured grass, chalk-covered sidewalks, and a popular burger place.
THE SENSE of AREA: Traditional
THE MUST-DOS: Shop for a high-end memento at consignment shops like Evergreen (which is going to Eight Street shortly) and Zany Boutique. Do you have a hankering for burgers? We feel the same way. Slabtown Burgers’ TC Cherry Burger is an exceptional burger experience. Burgers!
The enjoyment begins in the downtown stores and extends a mile down the street to a craft distillery, brewery, and riverfront park.
THE SENSE of AREA: Relaxed.
THE MUST-DO: Take a visit of Traverse City Whiskey on Fourteenth Street, a terrific local distillery. If you prefer beers over bourbon, go to the adjacent Right Brain Brewery on Sixteenth. Enjoy a picnic in Legion Park before seeing the next act.
Traverse City’s heartbeat is Front Street. It stretches for nearly a mile east to west and is lined with restaurants, stores, the State Theatre, and other attractions.
THE SENSE of AREA: Main Street
THE MUST-DOS: Stop by Poppycocks for a beverage and an appetizer and sit in the window to watch the world go by—the pita platter is to die for. Horizon Books and Brilliant Books are always warm and welcoming, with a strong emphasis on local authors and activities. The Little Fleet (east side) and Nada’s Gourmet Deli (west side) on the outskirts of Front provide delicious lunch and supper alternatives.
Some of the region’s best restaurants are located on the peninsula, where chefs use fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers. Roadside farm stalls are an ongoing relic of the peninsula’s agricultural heritage, as well as a part of the local culture.
In the spirit of the past, no visit to Old Mission would be complete without a stop at the Mission Point Lighthouse, which sits a few hundred yards south of the mythical 45th Parallel. The restored lighthouse, which was once a beacon for seafarers, now welcomes 21st-century land tourists.
We’ve compiled a list of five things to do on Old Mission Peninsula that capture the best of what the Traverse City region has to offer while being manageable for a day trip. They are as follows:
Wineries in the Old Mission Peninsula.
Old Mission (together with the other peninsula) is located in the center of the Traverse Wine Coast, which produces 60% of the state’s wines. While the two peninsulas have their own American Viticulture Areas, they produce world-class wines when combined. Among the 11 wineries that dot Old Mission, you’ll discover delicious red and white varietals including pinot noir, merlot, cabernet franc, and riesling, chardonnay, and pinot blanc, as well as some fruit wines.
You won’t have to go far along Route 37 to reach Mari Vineyards, the first must-see vineyard. The stone mansion standing atop the slope appears to have been taken from Tuscany and transplanted to northern Michigan. Mari, one of the peninsula’s newest wineries, specializes in Italian varietals and uses innovative techniques to cultivate grapes in this chilly region. Nearby, Hawthorne Vineyard’s new tasting room is high on a cliff with stunning views of Grand Traverse Bay’s West Arm and acres of rolling vines. Sample gamay, pinot noir, riesling, and chardonnay, to mention a few, at the tasting room’s circular bar.
Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, a family-owned business farther north, produces some of the region’s greatest red varietals, including pinot noir, cabernet franc, merlot, and Bordeaux-style blends. The winery was once a farmstead built in the 1890s, and a former barn has been turned into a beautiful guest house with views of Grand Traverse Bay’s East Arm. 2 Lads Winery, located at the further end of the peninsula, is situated in a simple, industrial-style structure. Enjoy delicious red and white varietals while taking in the breathtaking views of the bay, which are only 1,000 feet away.
Farm Stands in the Mission Peninsula.
Farm stands have long been a feature of the Old Mission Peninsula’s rural roadways, which are still home to numerous family-owned farms and orchards. Some farms may be traced all the way back to the beginnings of settlement. The locals are kind and willing to give information about their farming activities and local history. You’ll be astounded by the abundance of seasonal vegetables available from Old Mission farms.
Edmondson Orchards (12413 Center Rd.).
Edmondson Orchards, located on Route 37 about midway up the peninsula, is well-known for its sweet and tart cherries. Pick your own fruit or stop at the modest roadside kiosk. Apples, melons, peaches, blackberries, pears, plums, pumpkins, raspberries, rhubarb, and squash grow on the 150-acre farm. Apple cider, cherry cider, dried fruit, honey, and maple syrup are among the various goods produced on the farm. Come at the correct time of year, and you’ll be able to select your own cherry among countless others.
Island View Orchards (2211 Island View Rd.).
Island View Orchards does not have a conventional roadside kiosk, but guests are welcome on the 100-acre property. Since the 1930s, Island View has been farming cherries. The sixth-generation family farm began with a 40-acre parcel purchased in 1881. If you swing by the orchard to get some fresh fruit, you’ll almost certainly be met by Mary Lyon, who married into the family and has worked on the farm since the 1970s.
“We were one of the first to cultivate cherries on the peninsula,” Mary says, as she tells a family narrative about the farm’s origins. “To pay off the land, my husband’s great grandpa traveled to Traverse City every day for two years.” He would stroll on the ice in the winter. You didn’t want to be a slave to anyone back then. That’s a compelling narrative, and it’s accurate.”
Today, the farm crops apples, peaches, plums, apricots, one sour cherry type, and eight sweet cherry kinds. Guests must provide their name and address when they come to visit. Mary has been keeping track of visitors since 1999, and she now has 5,619 from all around the country and the world. By the way, unless they’ve changed zip codes, repeat visitors don’t sign.
The Mission Point lighthouse is a must-see.
The primary road along Old Mission comes to a close at the base of Mission Point Lighthouse, which first opened to the public in 1870. The lighthouse, which was decommissioned in 1933, has become an iconic emblem of Traverse City and a popular day-visiting destination.
Old Mission Point Park, a five-acre municipal park encircling the lighthouse, with a large, sandy beach and forested hiking trails. Hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders use the park’s hundreds of acres of state-owned woodlands.
The one-and-a-half-story wood-frame lighthouse stands 14 feet above the ocean on a dune and resembles a home with a tower. The lighthouse’s elevation allowed its signal to shine 13 miles out to sea during its decades of duty. The lighthouse is open to those who want to investigate it and climb the tower.
“From the tower and the beach, it’s a million-dollar view,” says Ginger Schultz, the lighthouse manager. “Because of the shallow water, many people like to go to the beach.” There’s also a lot of silence here. Boats can’t go because the water is too shallow. It’s a lovely, tranquil setting.”
The Hessler Log Cabin, which was formerly the home of early peninsula pioneers Joseph and Mary Hessler, is also on the property. The family most likely came to Old Mission via boat across the Mackinac Straits. Between 1854 and 1856, the cabin was constructed.
Views of the Old Mission Peninsula.
Beautiful lake vistas abound along Old Mission, because to the peninsula’s short width of about three miles and the high topography.
The Old Mission Scenic Overlook, located on Route 37 about midway up the peninsula, is one of the panoramas with fascinating views. The viewpoint in this case provides views of both sides of the peninsula: the West Arm and the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. Between Bonobo Winery and Chateau Grand Traverse sits the viewpoint. By the way, Bonobo’s terrace is a lovely place to sip wine and watch the sunset over the vineyards.
Chateau Chantal Winery & Inn, located nearly three-quarters of the way up the peninsula, immediately off Route 37, claims to have the greatest water views. Its deck has views of the Old Mission on both sides, as well as acres of rolling vineyards. The pavilion of Chateau Grand Traverse, one of the region’s original vineyards, also offers sunset views.
Head to Haserot Beach in the town of Old Mission, one of the region’s oldest villages, near the northern extremity of the peninsula, to see a sunrise. Many of the village’s 19th-century structures are still in operation, including a church and a general shop. Although the beach at Old Mission Point Park (site of the lighthouse) faces north, you may get sights of the dawn and sunset by straining your neck. Many people stop along the road just south of the park to view the sunset over Grand Traverse Bay’s West Arm.
Restaurants in the Old Mission Peninsula
On Old Mission, you’ll find some of the top restaurants in the area, including Boathouse, Mission Table, and Peninsula Grill. Boathouse and Mission Table are both farm-to-table restaurants that source fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foods from local farms.
Boathouse Restaurant, located on the western bank of the peninsula’s Bowers Harbor, is regarded one of the region’s most exquisite restaurants, with a dining area overlooking the bay and docked boats. Chef Jim Morse’s cuisine features excellent beef and lamb, as well as seafood from Lake Michigan and abroad. A chef’s seasonal six-course tasting menu is also available at the destination restaurant. The Boathouse obtains a large portion of its fruits, vegetables, herbs, and hydroponic microgreens from the owner’s adjacent 10-acre farm. Chickens and Muscovy ducks are also raised by the family.
Seasonal produce is also sourced from local farms and fisherman at Bowers Harbor Inn’s Mission Table. The restaurant, which opened in 2010, is located on the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay, surrounded by beautiful oaks and pines, and was formerly the vacation home of a Chicago timber mogul. Seasonally, the menu varies. Local wineries, artisan brewers, and distillers are also tapped for libations, reflecting the region’s wealth.
Peninsula Grill, located on Route 37 approximately halfway up the peninsula, is a more informal choice. Small dishes, soups, salads, and seafood, including Lake Superior whitefish, are available in the rustic dining area. It also features a large collection of Old Mission wines and artisan beers from Michigan and local breweries.
To-Go Good Eats
In the village of Old Mission, stop by the Old Mission General Store. The shop, which has been a fixture in the hamlet since 1839 and claims to hold Michigan’s oldest post office in one room, is a relic from another period. The shop is more than just an antiques store. It features a tiny café that serves sandwiches, pickles on a stick, and the greatest cherry pie in the area, according to some customers. Given the availability of cherry and pie manufacturers in the area, this is excellent praise. Take your lunch to go and set up a picnic in a local beach or park.
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