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Leland and Fishtown in Leelanau County

Located along the Lake Michigan shore in Leelanau County, Leland is the site of the oldest and largest Ottawa village on the Leelanau Peninsula. This cozy little town is wedged between Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau. Part of Leland is nicknamed “Fishtown” for its charming historical preservation.

Top Things to Do and See in Leland

  • Manitou Islands: A ferry out of Leland provides service to both the North and South Islands where you can visit the well preserved wilderness of Michigan.
  • Leelanau Historical Society Museum: Run by a society of people dedicated to preserving the history of Leelanau County, this museum has exhibits on things such as weddings, lighthouses, ships, Native Americans, the fur trade and more.
  • Whaleback Natural Area: This 40-acre area was sculpted by glaciers over 10,000 years old and offers excellent hiking trails.
  • Lake Leelanau: This skinny lake runs 21 miles through the middle of the Leelanau Peninsula from Leland to Cedar and has scenic beauty, fishing and boating.

Historical Fishtown

For over 150 years, Fishtown has evolved as a working waterfront. The shanties represent the heart and foundation of Fishtown as it was over a century ago and are loved for their rustic appeal and resilient functionality. Surviving many cold, snowy winters in Michigan, these shanties continue to tell their story of endurance. You can walk along the docks amongst the weathered fishing shanties, smokehouses, racks of drying fishing nets and fish tugs on the Leland River. Thanks to the dedication of preserving Fishtown, you can imagine what it would have been like in the early 1900’s to live and work in this small fishing village, nestled along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Browse the docks at Fishtown and discover restaurants, shops, and galleries in Fishtown. There’s even the Falling Waters Lodge, where you can stay right on the river in Fishtown and have a great view of the waterfalls and Lake Michigan.

Downtown Leland

The small, charming town of Leland is a great “walking around” town, where you can arrive by car or boat! All of the shops, restaurants, galleries and museums are located within walking distance. There is easy access to public beaches, boat launches on each lake and a river connecting the two. Visit the Leelanau Historical Society Museum, right in downtown Leland, to get a taste of the history of the area. The Leelanau Historical Society was launched in 1957 by a group of residents dedicated to collecting and preserving Leelanau’s history. Leland, first established in 1853, became the location for the Society. When the old county jail became available in 1959, the museum found its first home. Through generous donations and grants, a new museum was built in 1985 and later expanded.

Wineries

Leelanau Peninsula’s cool winter climate, rolling hills and warm, sunny summers is ideal for growing fruit and hops, thus becoming the home of many wineries, breweries and distillaries. One of Leland’s signature events is the annual Leland Wine and Food Festival held on the second Saturday each June. This festival features many of the region’s exquisite award winning wines as well as outstanding food and hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants.

Beaches, Parks & Trails

Leelanau County is known for its pristine beaches, and Leland has some of the best in the area! Right downtown in Leland, Van’s Beach is at the end of Cedar Street and is in walking distance from Fishtown or Downtown Leland. Farther down M-22, turn on to Reynolds Street to access the South Beach. Just outside of downtown Leland on North Street, the North Beach is another clean, sandy beach to visit. There is also access to beaches along Lake Leelanau.

Downtown Leland, you’ll come across the Village Green, a peaceful location right downtown, perfect for a picnic. Bartholemew Park on Pearl St., seven blocks from the main street, includes a public beach and park on North Lake Leelanau with a boat launch, picnic area and dock.

Whaleback Natural Area is a beautiful 40-acre natural area with hiking trails open to the public. This challenging hike takes about an hour and a half to complete but comes will a spectacular Lake Michigan view. There’s an info kiosk at the trailhead and benches along the steep trail. Located off M-22, about 1.5 miles south of Leland, look for the Conservancy sign.

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