A conversation that I often have with friends this time of year is about where everyone is planning to take a vacation. Since moving to the Ohio Valley, I have learned that Myrtle Beach is the go-to vacation destination for people in this area. The Outer Banks also seems to be a popular choice. While I have been to both North and South Carolina on a few occasions, and enjoyed my time there very much, I always have to make a plug for my absolute favorite summer vacation destination of all time, back in my home state of Michigan.
My mother’s family has been taking summer trips up to the Leelenau Peninsula in Michigan for as long as she can remember, and while I obviously don’t remember, I made my own first trip up there just a few weeks after I was born, and almost every summer since. We have always stayed at condominiums and a ski chalet at what used to be a thriving ski resort called Sugar Loaf, near Cedar, Michigan, but the real action is in the nearby town of Leland, which is conveniently located just inland from Lake Michigan and on the beautiful inland Lake Leelenau. Unlike the majority of inland lakes in Michigan, Lake Leelanau has the clearest, cleanest and most spectacularly blue water I have ever seen outside of tropical ocean locations. It’s warm enough to swim in, even in the deepest areas, and there are beaches and sandbars all around the lake, which helps to alleviate the crowding of public beaches and swimming areas, and really lets you just enjoy your surroundings. You can also rent paddleboards or canoes and kayaks, allowing you to experience the lake in a number of ways. The town of Leland is a classic upper Michigan seaport. The “Fishtown” area offers a variety of shops in converted fishing shanties, and you can buy some of the best ice cream, candy, cheese, and meats in the whole state there. You can also take a boat out to some of the islands in Lake Michigan, where there is plenty of hiking, camping and general outdoor wonder to be enjoyed. Restaurants in the town make the most of the fresh fish supply, and almost all of them offer great waterside views and patios to enjoy a drink or meal outside. There are also a number of excellent wineries on the Leelenau Peninsula, and it’s easy and convenient to schedule a bus tour to take you from one to the next. My personal favorite, Chateau Chantal, is located on top of a hill, and their beautiful stone patio offers a view of almost the entire area. The Leelenau Peninsula is also home to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, several beautiful state parks, biking and hiking trails, world-class golf courses and a number of casinos and resorts. It offers something for everyone, and is a place that I would recommend everyone try to visit at least once in his or her lives. I am always proud to be able to describe such a place as being in my home state.