Archive for February, 2020

Scenic Tours: Lakes, Lighthouses, & Brewpubs. Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, Ludington, Little and Big Sable Lighthouses, Ludington State Park, Crystal Lake, and Frankfort

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

The Old Mission Peninsula is a narrow strip of land that extends into Lake Michigan north of Traverse City, Michigan. The Old Mission Peninsula is known not only for its rolling hills and excellent eclectic restaurants, but also for the number of wineries that produce some of the Midwest’s best wines! Diving on M-37 [the main road that follows the “spine” of the Old Mission Peninsula] reveals spectacular views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding area. One of the most interesting trips is to go all the ways to the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula and see the Old Mission Lighthouse.

Old Mission Peninsula Winery & Scenic Overlook
Old Mission Peninsula Scenic Overview

The Old Mission Lighthouse sits near a swimming area and a lovely sandy beach. The lighthouse itself is short in height [you can climb it for $5], but offers great views of the surrounding area. More importantly, the lighthouse grounds straddle the 45th parallel; there is even a sign up front attesting to this fact! If you find yourself near Traverse City and want to take in some spectacular views, head to the Old Mission Peninsula; it is time well spent.

Old Mission Lighthouse Sign
Old Mission Lighthouse
Old Mission Lighthouse from beach
Panorama from atop Old Mission Lighthouse
Old Mission Lighthouse Beach Panorama from the Beach

Traverse City [“Cherry Capital of the World”] is a MAJOR destination for a lot of people who visit northern Michigan. Traverse City lies on the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan. Traverse City has something for everyone including great biking trails, opportunities to kayak, and a hopping brewery scene. One of the best ways to see more of Traverse City is to take a kayaking/biking/brewery tour, which involves biking or kayaking to a brewery, spending some time at the brewery and then going to the next one. If you find yourself in Traverse City at sunset, be sure to go to the H&L Social located on top of the Hotel Indigo Traverse City. Not only can one experience the sunset behind the hills west of Traverse City, but you will also observe the famous Traverse City waterfront and surrounding area. There are enough activities in Traverse City for everyone to choose from, whether you have a day or an entire weekend!

Sailboat in Grand Traverse Bay near Traverse City
Traverse City Sunset panorama from H&L Social
Sunset in Traverse City from H&L Social
Traverse City sunset and clouds from H&L Social

Ludington is a wonderful destination on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and is located at the mouth of the Pere Marquette River. Not only does Ludington have a selection of excellent breweries, but also quaint shops, a wide public beach, and two breakwaters that extend into Lake Michigan. One of the highlights of going to Ludington is to climb the North Breakwater Lighthouse [$5 admission fee] and take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding area. The lighthouse itself is designed to look like the front of a ship, which is evident when the lighthouse is viewed from the end of the breakwater.

Ludington also boasts the S.S. Badger, a car ferry that is a National Historical Landmark traversing Lake Michigan on a daily basis to and from Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Watching the Badger return in the evening is a thrilling event as it passes between Ludington’s breakwaters. A highlight of visiting Ludington is to charter a fishing board and sail into Lake Michigan in search of salmon and trout; an attribute for which Ludington is well known! Lastly, Ludington is known for its Great Lakes shipping heritage; so much so that a Ludington Maritime Museum was built to showcase the area’s history. If you find yourself in the Ludington area and want to learn more and enjoy the area, this is an excellent place to explore or use as a base.

City of Flint Lifeboat in Ludington
Spirit of Ludington in Ludington
Sunset at Ludington
Ludington Lighthouse
View from atop Ludington Lighthouse
View north from Ludington Lighthouse Breakwater
Light opposite Ludington Lighthouse
Ludington Harbor & Breakwater Panorama
Ludington Breakwater (Including Ludington Lighthouse & light opposite)
Ludington Harbor, Breakwater, & Storm Clouds!
S.S. Badger
S.S. Badger – A Closer View

Little Sable Lighthouse lies south of Ludington and is located near Pentwater, Michigan. The lighthouse stands 108′ tall, is located just south of Silver Lake Park, and is easily accessible from Silver Lake Road and Lighthouse Drive from nearby Mears, Michigan. The lighthouse itself is located on Little Sable Point, a salient promontory that extends into Lake Michigan, and has served as a guide for sailors for over 100 years.

The lighthouse itself sits among tall sand dunes and beautiful evergreen forests. Climbing the over 100 foot lighthouse costs $5 (you must buy tickets at a nearby trailer instead of the lighthouse itself), but it is well worth the admission price. Those who climb to the top are rewarded with views of seventy foot tall sand dunes, evergreen forests, and magnificent views of Lake Michigan. If you find yourself in Pentwater area, Little Sable Lighthouse must be visited!

Approaching Little Sable Lighthouse
Little Sable Lighthouse sign – Front
Little Sable Lighthouse sign – Back
Little Sable Lighthouse in Shadow
Little Sable Lighthouse – Closer View
View from ascending Little Sable Lighthouse [1/2 way to the top]
Panorama from atop Little Sable Lighthouse
View south from atop Little Sable Lighthouse
View from atop Little Sable Lighthouse
View from atop Little Sable Lighthouse – People, Lake Michigan, and Beach
View from atop Little Sable Lighthouse – Shadow on the Beach Sands
Little Sable Lighthouse Lens
Little Sable Lighthouse Lens – Closeup
Little Sable Lighthouse Lens – Peering Inside

Silver Lake State Park is a State Park that is located very close to the Little Sable Lighthouse. Silver Lake State Park is unique is that it is full of sand dunes that can be traversed in wheeled vehicles whether they be ATVs, beach buggies, motorcycles, or Jeeps. For the more adventurous, Silver Lake State Park is best scene from the seat of a Jeep Wrangler or another guided-tour 4-wheel vehicle.

However, the majority of Silver Lake State Park is pedestrian only [no off-road vehicles], so one can explore on foot at will. The park offers excellent views of sand dunes and nearby Silver Lake while boasting scenic walks along the shores of Lake Michigan. There is also an interpretive area for those interested in the history of the Silver Lake area dunes. Remember to bring water and sunblock as Silver Lake State Park as the sun can beat down all day, leading to sunburn & dehydration. Another item to remember is your Recreation Passport for State Parks [however, one can be purchased for $11 at the Park Headquarter. The Recreation Pass is for one year]. Silver Lake State Park is a place where one can explore dunes and experience magnificent views of Lake Michigan and inland Silver Lake.

Panorama View atop Dunes in Silver Lake State Park – Lake Michigan in Background
Panorama View atop Dunes in Silver Lake State Park – Rolling Dunes and Silver Lake in Background
Panorama view from Lake Michigan beach at Silver Lake State Park
View from atop dunes in Silver Lake State Park – Peering Out into Lake Michigan
View from atop dunes in Silver Lake State Park – Sandy, Bluish, and Greenish Hues
View from atop dunes in Silver Lake State Park and Silver Lake
Silver Lake

Big Sable Lighthouse, located in Ludington State Park, directly north of Ludington, stands 112′ tall. Since the lighthouse is located inside the State Park, make sure to get a Recreation Passport when parking your car. Built in 1867, Big Sable Lighthouse sits among tall dunes & thick forests on a sandy promontory that extends into Lake Michigan.

Getting to Big Sable Lighthouse may be a bit of a challenge as there is no road on which to drive up to the lighthouse. However, there is a 1.8 mile-long crushed limestone trail from the State Park parking lot that meanders through dunes and trees to the lighthouse; the trail has interpretive signs that explain the dune zone environment. You can climb Big Sable Lighthouse for $5 and be rewarded with exceptional views of the surrounding areas. On clear days, parts of the city of Manistee [some 12-15 miles north] and nearby Ludington are visible from the top of Big Sable Lighthouse. Remember to bring water and sunscreen as it can get very hot walking among the dunes with little shade to be found. If you are headed north out of Ludington, this is definitely a destination to see!

Panorama at Ludington State Park from dunes above Lake Michigan
Approaching Big Sable Lighthouse
Big Sable Lighthouse Sign – Front
Big Sable Lighthouse Sign – Reverse
Big Sable Lighthouse
Big Sable Lighthouse from the Beach Side
View Ascending Big Sable Lighthouse
Panorama Atop Big Sable Lighthouse – Peering into Lake Michigan
Panorama Atop Big Sable Lighthouse – Land Side
Lake Michigan, Dunes, and Forests from atop Big Sable Lighthouse
Looking north from atop Big Sable Lighthouse
Looking into Lake Michigan from atop Big Sable Lighthouse

Crystal Lake is a beautiful treasure in northern Michigan, even though it may be a bit remote. Crystal Lake is located near the town of Beulah, and is one of Michigan’s largest inland lakes. Crystal Lake is known for its crystal clear waters and beautiful scenery. Standing at the public access docks in Beulah reveals rising hills that seem to ascend out of the sides of Crystal Lake.

There are many different activities for one to enjoy at Crystal Lake including boating, kayaking, and swimming. Crystal Lake cannot only be enjoyed from the shores of Beulah, but also at various points around Crystal Lake. The best way to explore Crystal Lake is to take M-115 towards Frankfort, then County Road 702 before taking M-22 and County Road 705 back to Beulah. Crystal Lake is definitely a destination where one can enjoy views of a beautiful lake and enjoy a day on the water. If you are on your way north on US-31, make Crystal Lake a place to stop; you will not be disappointed!

Panorama at Crystal Lake
Crystal Lake
Crystal Lake – Hills Rising From the Water
Crystal Lake – Sunshine on Crystal Lake

The City of Frankfort is a little-known destination located on the shores of Betsie Lake, at the mouth of the Betsie River; the charming town of Elberta sits opposite Frankfort in the harbor. One of the main attractions of Frankfort is its breakwater and lighthouse. The breakwater is unique as it extends into Lake Michigan before taking what seems like a 45 degree angle. Located at the end of the breakwater is the beautiful Frankfort Lighthouse, which has been guiding ships into Frankfort since 1873. The breakwater also affords a view of the surrounding area that includes lovely lakeside houses, tall dunes, and green forests. There is also a wide sandy beach for families and those who want to enjoy swimming in Lake Michigan.

A number of brewpubs have located to Frankfort, the newest of which is Stormcloud Brewing Company, that is quickly becoming well-known in the area for its brews & grub. Across the street from Stormcloud at Villa Marine Bar & Grill. Here you can sip a cold drink & watch the boats sail from Lake Betsie into Lake Michigan. Even if you spend only a few hours in Frankfort, it is well worth every minute of it!

Breakwater at Frankfort from Public Beach
Entrance to Frankfort Harbor from Beach – Closer View
Panorama at Frankfort Breakwater
Looking south from Frankfort Breakwater
Looking south from Frankfort Breakwater towards Green Dunes
Frankfort Shoreline
Entrance to Frankfort Harbor
Approaching Frankfort Lighthouse
Frankfort Lighthouse – Up Close and Personal