Sunday, July 21, 2013

Northwestern Michigan Adventures - Beaches, Dunes, and City Walks

Arcadia Beach in Western Michigan - Feeling Tropical

Girls Trip Ladies - Courtney, Leanne, and Me
Every year, my friends Leanne, Courtney, and I go on a "girls trip" for a week or two in the summer.  We take turns planning the destination and the itinerary.  Last year, I was responsible for our trip to Newfoundland, and wrote about it on my first blog: "On the Rock".  This year, Leanne has designed an exciting trip to her home state, Michigan.

I admit, touring Michigan wasn't on my bucket list.  I groaned a little when I spent my hard saved money on a flight to Detroit, but since then I have had to retract my groans because so far, this this trip has been just what the doctor ordered!

In the past three days, I've swam in surf, sunned on beach, ran down dunes, hiked along a National Shoreline, and tasted fine dining in Traverse City.  We are only half way into our trip, and I can't wait for it to continue!

Here is a taste of what you need to experience in Northwestern Michigan...

Traverse City 

Beautiful Traverse City Waterfront
This is an awesome tourist-friendly city!  Sitting on the picturesque Lake Michigan, it is host to world-renowned fine dining, excellent shopping, and serene outdoor adventures.  Leanne and I drove straight into town, parked the car, and spent hours walking the friendly streets.  We popped into shops and enjoyed the natural beauty of the city on the water.

Along Front Street you can visit coffee shops, boutiques, and eateries.  Leanne and I bought local delicacies at "Cherry Republic"- a shop that sells delicious sweets and sauces made of local cherries.  We also enjoyed the waterfront's "Clinch Park" - a green space that offers picnic areas, walking, kayak rentals, and swimming.

River running through Traverse City reminds me of Venice!

We scoped out many places for a fine dinner including multiple breweries, restaurants, and even a parking lot of funky and gourmet-style food trucks.  Having done our research, we ambitiously traveled to Trattoria Stella - a top-rated Italian restaurant that offers a farm to table menu, in addition to a wonderful wine list and knowledgeable staff.  Without reservations, the wait was over two hours, but the four of us easily slipped into four empty bar seats and enjoyed a world class meal.

Trattoria Stella - Italian Fine Dining

Antipasta Menu from local farmers

Sleeping Bear Dunes
Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan

One of the biggest attractions to the Western Shore of Michigan is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Shoreline.  The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is a must-see for park visitors.  The loop offers 12 focal points/pull outs including dunes, hikes, forests, and views of Lake Michigan.

It took us about two hours to do this 7.4 mile drive because we made multiple stops including hiking the 1.5 mile Cottonwood Trail through dunes and forest, picnicking at Picnic Hill, and sunning at the Sleeping Bear Dune Overlook.

Other worthwhile points-of-interest included the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center, the Dune Climb, and the swimming area at Glen Haven.  Check out the photos below!

Courtney on the Cottonwood Trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes
Dune Running!

Arcadia and Nearby Attractions
Our digs - Leanne's parents' pop up!

We weren't able to get a campsite at Sleeping Bear Dunes, so we stayed at a private campground 20 miles south of the park called the Arcadia Campground Marina in the town of Arcadia, MI.  This campground is essentially a large field that offers sunny spots for RVs and tents including electric and water right on the marina.  It's not a great spot for privacy or shade, but it was convenient to be right next to the Arcadia beach, which is beautiful and an ideal location to sun and swim.

We made friends at the campground and got some fantastic suggestions for local points-of-interest.  Some of my favorite spots included: the Pointe Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort, the Gwen Frostics Print Blocking studio and store in Benzonia, and the Trick Dog Cafe in Elberta.

Gwen Frostic Print Block Gallery and Shop
Pointe Betsie Lighthouse
Sunset on Lake Michigan

After three days of exploring the Western Shore, we are venturing north to the Upper Peninsula.  I'm excited and ready for more nature-filled adventures in Michigan!

Loving Michigan!

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