Indiana Woman Finds Amazing Views, Miles of Wineries, and Tons of History in Northern Michigan
An Annual Anniversary Tradition
Every year, my boyfriend, Chance and I plan a trip to celebrate our anniversary. We started the tradition in 2018 when we celebrated our first anniversary in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Since then, we have traveled to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia, Cumberland Falls in Kentucky, and Hocking Hills, Ohio. Making memories with a unique adventure definitely trumps any gift by a long shot.
To commemorate fve years together this year, we wanted to plan a trip to a state we have never visited. (Hello, 50 states bucket list!) With limited time away from work, our only restriction was a place within an 8-hour car ride. That led us to book a beautiful cabin, load our three pups into the car, and head to Michigan.
Indiana's Upstairs Neighbor
As Indiana's northern neighbor, the Michigan border is only a little over five hours away. Less than half of a day's drive, Michigan was the perfect place to experience fall colors, vastly beautiful lake views, and interesting history. Within our four-day trip, we were able to explore four cities centered around Traverse City and all equally unique, making it a great place for any Hoosier to visit.
Ludington's Interesting History
While cruising around in search of breakfast and coffee on our first day there, we happened upon the charming city of Ludington. We took a stroll at Stearns Park where we saw huge propellers from a ship. One of the propellers was damaged by ice when the car ferries were used all year round. The enormous structure which looked as if someone took a bite off of the edge of it, towered over my 6'6" boyfriend.
The park had a picturesque walkway that treated us to amazing views of the lake and the Ludington North Breakwater Lighthouse. I swear, it was just as blue in person as in the pictures.
From the walkway, we could see a ginormous ship in the distance that we had to find out about. It turns out it was the SS Badger, the ship used as a car ferry across the lake to Wisconsin. The 410-foot boat can hold over 600 passengers and 180 vehicles. The historical landmark is the last coal-fired passenger steamship in the United States and has been in operation since 1953.
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Cherries Galore in Traverse City
During our visit to Traverse City, we quickly learned that cherries are a huge staple in the Great Lake State. When I say huge, think what corn is to Indiana.
While walking along Front Street, Traverse City's popular spot for shops and eateries, we came across the store, The Cherry Republic. This place was every cherry lover's dream with a variety of different sauces, drinks, and treats made with the popular sweet red fruit.
Walking in, we were immediately invited to sample cherry salsas, barbeque sauce, trail mixes, chocolates, and even wines. There was so much to choose from and having the choice of so many free samples gave us the opportunity to taste some of the more interesting cherry concoctions. It turns out cherry salsa isn't as weird as it sounds. We definitely left with a jar of cherry barbeque sauce, some dark chocolate-covered cherries, and a mix to make cherry crisp.
There is no doubt, if you are visiting Michigan, you have got to try their cherries!
The Stunning Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula
For our anniversary day, we ventured just north of Traverse City to Old Mission Peninsula. Founded in 1839, the 18-mile-long peninsula is the oldest permanent settlement in Grand Traverse Bay. The astounding views of the lake set behind the rolling hills of vineyards made this one of the most scenic locations we have ever seen. It looked as though it came straight out of a painting.
Since Old Mission sits on the 45th Parallel, the same parallel as Piedmont, Italy, and Bordeaux, France, its climate is perfect for growing lush vineyards. Of course, the wine lover that I am, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to visit one of the 10 wineries in a five-mile stretch. Wine is so prevalent here that even a Catholic Church owns its own winery.
The first winery we visited was called Chateau Chantal. It is located on one of the highest points, completely immersed in blue skies that were seemingly inseparable from the even bluer lake. While enjoying a caddy flight of 3 different wines, we enjoyed stunning views of the wine country that seemed to go on forever from the outdoor patio area. We made sure to leave with a bottle of their sparkling cherry wine.
We also made sure to visit Chateau Grand Traverse, Northern Michigan's oldest winery. Even though we showed up close to closing time, we were greeted by super friendly staff who invited us to do a tasting. You haven't had cherry wine until you've had it from here. We walked away with a bottle of their spiced cherry wine that tasted just like Christmas, sure to impress guests if you are hosting or visiting loved ones for the holidays.
Outside of the abundance of wineries, the Old Mission Peninsula was also a prime place to stay at a charming bed and breakfast. Who wouldn't want to wake up to those views?
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Travel Back in Time inside the Old Mission General Store
One of the most interesting stops on our trip was the Old Mission General Store. Stepping into this shop was like entering a time warp. Not only did the store carry cold drinks, snacks, and sandwiches, but it also held a collection of interesting antiques like a uniform from the civil war, a phonograph, and other relics. Built in 1839, the store is an antique in itself and was the second gas station installed by Henry Ford in the state of Michigan.
The store had so much character and charm, we could have spent hours just exploring and listening to stories from the chatty and amazingly knowledgeable owner.
Feel Like You're in Cape Cod
My absolute favorite stop of the day was Mission Point Lighthouse located at the very end of the peninsula.
To get to the lighthouse we walked down a dirt path surrounded by trees still clinging on to their fall colors. First on the path was a primitive log cabin. The Hessler Log Cabin was built by Joseph and Mary Hessler, early pioneers who arrived in a small boat from Mackinac. It was built between 1854 and 1856 and includes an inside look at cabin life including many original tools and furnishings from the time period.
Visitors are able to walk completely around the lighthouse that looks like it could have been transported from Cape Cod. Below the 1870 lighthouse is a beach right along the shore of Lake Michigan. We enjoyed unusually warm temps as we walked barefoot on the soft sands along the beach.
Another cool attribute of the lighthouse is that you get to stand right on the 45th parallel halfway between the North Pole and the equator. Imagine the bragging rights you would gain. For those history lovers out there, they also offer a lighthouse keeper program that lets you spend a night in the lighthouse.
The Unique Architecture of Grand Rapids
On our last day of the trip, we explored the city of Grand Rapids. The city itself had a very industrial feel, but once we entered downtown, we were in awe of the beautifully constructed buildings with their historical charm and unique architecture.
Although most of our time here was spent cruising around and admiring the unique architecture, we did stop at the large downtown market. This large building was full of artisan cuisine, local food products, and other specialty foods. After stocking up on some local favorites to take home, we grabbed dinner at Uccello's Restaurante, a popular Italian cuisine eatery in Michigan. The food there was delicious and their signature pizza puffs are a must-have. If you don't find yourself in the mood for Italian during your visit, there were definitely tons of places to choose from including Wahlburgers and The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck.
Start Planning Your Getaway to Michigan
With its fascinating history, gorgeous shorelines, and picturesque wineries, Michigan can make for a fun trip almost any time of year.