Michigan's Best Three Beach Towns
Summer is prime time to take advantage of three waterfront Michigan towns brimming with innovative cuisine and winning wineries, plus endless water views.
We've tapped into a trio of Michigan towns--naturally beautiful Empire, bustling Traverse City, and artsy Suttons Bay--that locals describe as their own private paradise filled with artisanal food, shoreside boutiques, and breathtaking scenery. Here's your guide to the new, the delicious, and the local secrets to be found in this dynamic corner of the state.
Empire sits at the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore--a national park with 35 miles of Lake Michigan coastline, 400-foot dunes, hiking trails, scenic overlooks and some of the best beaches in the state. The low-key bike paths and self-guided road trips make this area easy to navigate.
On the opposite side of town, the expansive Empire Beach is a quiet, well-kept insider's haunt. Seek out downtown's Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak to rent stand-up paddleboards and surfboards for when the wind whips up those freshwater waves.
Located on the souther coast of balmy Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City has emerged as a foodie destination with award-winning chefs and restaurants, and a strong cult following for local brews, vodka, and wine. Thanks to (relatively) mild falls and winters, the surrounding hills are home to more than 30 wineries and white-blossomed orchards that produce 75 percent of the nation's tart cherries.
Located on eclectic Front Street, Amical--French for "amiable"--lives up to its name by adding patrons' suggestions to its delicious menu. The European-style cuisine often uses local products such as porcine goodies from nearby Halpin Family Farms, sourced for a recent bourbon-glazed porch chop special. Snag a table at the outdoor patio or head to the back, where oversize windows offer views of the bay; 231/941-8888 or amical.com.
Fifteen miles up the coast from Traverse City, a tidy marina of white boats sets the tone for the small town of Suttons Bay. The harbor has been a haven for boaters since the 19th century; today, families still picnic on the shore or walk the boardwalk around the marina. They also hit the historic Bay Theatre for independent, classic, and foreign films, and browse through the town's two dozen shops, where the goods are as whimsical as the brightly painted storefronts.
Back Star Farms is part inn, part winery, part creamery--all nestled on a hillside overlooking barns and pastures. On the property, Leelanau Cheese Company's aged raclette is made with milk from local cows--you can watch the process through picture windows in the winery tasting room. High-season rates for the eight rooms start at $295; 231/944-1251 or blackstarfarms.com.