Located on the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan, which stretches into the lake of the same name, Lake Leelanau is a peaceful community with fantastic family-friendly recreational opportunities available year-round. Enjoy swimming, fishing, hiking, and strolling along beaches that are comparable to oceanfront villages in coastal states. Accordingly, look forward to experiencing kid-friendly dining, and agri-tourism at one of the many local farms and orchards. Book a stay at a Lake Leelanau vacation rental today. Start planning your adventures with this list of the top 12 things to do when vacationing at Lake Leelanau.
1. Climb a Sand Dune
Head a few miles west of Lake Leelanau to get to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This patch of shoreline bordering Lake Michigan is home to a range of mountainous sand dunes that offer adventurous fun for the whole family. Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day lounging among the dunes. Let kids run up and down the hills, or play hide-and-seek in the dips and peaks of this beautiful natural formation.
2. Revisit the Past in Glen Haven
Between Lake Leelanau and Lake Michigan lies Glen Haven, a historic recreated village near the town of Glen Arbor. Visit the village blacksmith for a crash course in turn-of-the-century metalworking, or satisfy your sweet tooth with an authentic old-time candy recipe at the general store.
3. Browse Historic Fishtown
Located in Leland, a few miles northwest of Lake Leelanau, Fishtown is a collection of 19th-century fishing shacks that have been converted into cute boutiques and one-of-a-kind Michigan businesses. Stop in for a bite to eat at one of the local specialty stores like the Village Cheese Shop, or browse original artworks at an independent gallery.
4. Hike Through Leelanau State Park
A vacation cottage on Leelanau Lake puts you just an easy drive away from Leelanau State Park, on the northern tip of the Leelanau peninsula. This park covers over 1,700 acres of land and includes eight and a half miles of hiking trails to suit outdoorsy folk of all ages and skill levels. Arrive in the winter to take advantage of local snowfall, which turns these hiking trails into cross-country ski routes.
5. Take a Tour of the Grand Traverse Lighthouse
Located on the peninsula within Leelanau State Park, the Grand Traverse Lighthouse is a beloved local landmark that has guided ships sailing Lake Michigan since the 1850s. The lighthouse is still an active beacon and has also been restored as a museum showcasing the life of a lighthouse keeper in the 1920s through various exhibits, accounts, and artifacts. Take a guided tour of the interior museum, or hike the surrounding area to get some picturesque photos of the light.
6. Learn About the Area at the Leelanau Historical Society Museum
Located in Leelanau County, this museum is run by the Leelanau Historical Society and is dedicated to helping locals and tourists alike connect with the area’s past. Ongoing exhibits explore the maritime history of the peninsula, along with fascinating accounts of shipwrecks. Book an appointment or tour ahead of time to make the most of your trip.
7. Take a Cruise Down the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
Within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is a seven and a half mile driving route through a particularly lush and picturesque area of the park. Drive slowly along the route and let the kids take photos of the beautiful vistas of Glen Lake, Lake Michigan, and the sand dunes.
8. Visit Glen Lake
A couple of miles west of Lake Leelanau, Glen lake occupies the opposite side of the peninsula, in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Enjoy the beaches and hiking trails that surround this lake, which is renowned for its deep blue color all year-round. The local trails offer several raised viewpoints that are perfect for photo opportunities.
9. Spend a Day at the Children’s Museum
In rainy weather or during the cooler months of the year, head from your vacation spot in Lake Leelanau to Traverse City to visit the Great Lakes Children’s Museum. Enjoy interactive exhibits for kids of all ages, including educational activities and workshops. Young kids can learn about sailing, maritime life, and basic fluid dynamics while playing fun, engaging games.
10. Relax at Clinch Park
A short drive south of Lake Leelanau, Clinch Park is a calm, sunny beach in a secluded section of the Lake Michigan shoreline. Spread out a towel on this sandy stretch of land and enjoy the warm summer air. Build a sandcastle or go swimming with the kids, then enjoy a picnic lunch on one of the public tables in the park.
11. Sail the Lake on a Traverse Tall Ship
Book a sailing trip with Traverse Tall Ship Company to strike out from Traverse Bay aboard the Manitou, a beautiful schooner that’s one of the largest sailing ships on the Great Lakes. Two-hour day sailings are available during the day or in the evening, so you can choose between daytime views and lunch served aboard the schooner, or gorgeous views of the sunset over Lake Michigan.
12. Take an Afternoon Hike Along Empire Bluff Trail
Bring along your hiking boots and spend a couple of hours hiking Empire Bluff Trail, a one and a half-mile trail that overlooks Lake Michigan and South Bar Lake. The trail is hilly, but mild enough for kids to tackle. Check out some of the abandoned farming equipment along with a section of the trail that intersects with an old farm. This trail remains open during the winter, but the route is restricted. Check weather conditions before you head out.
Ready to go? Check out these amazing Lake Leelanau vacation rentals on Tripping.com.