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Photo by Todd & Brad Reed Photography 

Visit the Leelanau County Peninsula in Northwest Michigan

One of the most beautiful sections of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour is found in the Leelanau County Peninsula.

Just northwest of Traverse City, The Leelanau County Peninsula is home to many fine wineries, and the very famous Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, with spectacular views of Lake Michigan and 35 miles of coastline. The communities that comprise Leelanau Peninsula each offer something unique and interesting to the visitor.

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes | Photo by Todd and Brad Reed Photography


A small village of only 400 people, Empire swells during the summertime due to it being the gateway to Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. Make your first stop at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center, just east of Empire on M-72. View the exhibits and dioramas, ask questions of the staff, or pick up a brochure and map to help guide you through the park. Take M-109 to the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, a seven mile stretch that shows you the highlights of Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. Be sure to stop off at the Lake Michigan overlook, giving you fantastic views from 450 feet above lake level, and only the ambitious dare to undertake the Dune Climb. Vacationers may want to visit Empire in May, for the annual Asparagus Festival.

Glen Arbor

Continue north on the Lake Michigan Circle Tour along M-22 until you arrive in Glen Arbor, home to three bodies of water…Lake Michigan, Big Glen Lake, Little Glen Lake. Spend your day on the water, lie on a clean beach, or listen to the sounds of a summer concert. Art galleries abound in Glen Arbor, where you can spend the day shopping for treasures. The downtown district will amaze you with the variety of specialty shops, and you’ll find the finest food in area restaurants. Grab a glass of local wine, sit back and be amazed at the fiery sunsets. See why so many people choose Glen Arbor as their vacation getaway.


Leland takes you back in history…especially when you arrive in Fishtown, Leland’s nickname. Rustic shanties that are now home to various shops have stood the test of time and give you a feel on how life was 100 years ago in the commercial fishing business. Leland is where you can catch a ferry to the Manitou Islands. North Manitou Island is the larger of the two, lies 12 miles from Leland and does not allow motorized vehicles. You can enjoy wildlife and plants in their natural habitat while you sit in quiet solitude. South Manitou Island is 16 miles west of Leland and is a bit more active. Visit a shipwreck, lighthouse, and Coast Guard Station. The beaches and parks are both beautiful and numerous in Leland, and try to take in one of their big events, like the Wine & Food Festival, held annually the second Saturday in June.

Suttons Bay Leelanau Peninsula, West Michigan

Downtown Suttons Bay | Photo by Suttons Bay Chamber of Commerce

Suttons Bay

There are at least six galleries for the art lovers, or hop aboard the Inland Seas Tall Ship for a cruise on the bay. Choices for lodging in Suttons Bay range from cozy bed and breakfasts to family cottages…you’ll feel comfortable and right at home. 

As you wind your way south on M-22, you’ll discover the charming village of Suttons Bay. Their downtown region is rated high among visitors as being very “walkable” and having so many specialty shops in which to explore. As in so many of Leelanau County’s towns, Suttons Bay has many trails in which to hike or bike and lush vineyards that produce some of the tastiest wines in northern Michigan. 


In the northern-most part of the Leelanau Peninsula is the aptly named Northport, one of the earliest settlements in the county. The hills surrounding Northport are filled with cherry and apple orchards. Traveling up to the tip of the peninsula is Leelanau State Park and the historic Grand Traverse Lighthouse. Browse art galleries and antique shops in and around Northport, or find an original petoskey stone along the beaches. Although not a well known town, many famous people have lived in Northport or enjoyed summers in this beautiful northern village.

Leelanau County Business Directory

Leelanau County Events

Leelanau County has two popular physical events that happen each summer. In June, the M-22 Challenge takes place in Glen Arbor. This is a challenging multi-sport event and anyone, from first time racers to professional competitors are welcome to compete. Then in August, the Dune Dash is held at the Sleeping Bear Dunes. This four mile run/walk starts and ends at the base of the Dune Climb.

For travel information or to request a visitors guide contact:

Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce

P.O. Box 484, Suttons Bay, MI 49682

(231) 252-2880

Traveling on M-22 Through Leelanau County

M-22 Sign
The Leelanau Peninsula is the “little finger” of Michigan’s mitten, and one of the most beautiful sections of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour. Home to many wineries, gorgeous terrain, Lake Michigan beaches and smaller lakes, Leelanau County is a destination you won’t want to miss.

Visit Leelanau County Communities Along M-22

While taking the M-22 Scenic Drive, Leelanau County begins shortly after Frankfort and the Point Betsie Lighthouse in Benzie County, before reaching the city of Empire.

The first place you will come across will be the small village of Empire, headquarters for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore — named the most beautiful place in the United States by the viewers of Good Morning America. It’s a place you must visit to appreciate how history and nature come together to form spectacular sand dunes. Read more about Empire here.

You’ll enjoy the quaint shops and variety of restaurants in Glen Arbor, just 15 minutes north of Empire. Home to Glen Lake and in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, this township is a must stop along M-22. Read more about Glen Arbor here.

Continue along M-22 up through the Leelanau Peninsula to Leland, a cozy little town about 30 minutes north of Glen Arbor. Visit historic Fishtown, a working waterfront with cute shops right along the docks. Grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants or fisheries. Read more about Leland here.

Another 20 minutes north of Leland, and you have reached the peak of M-22. Northport is an historic town known for its fine marina, beautiful parks, friendly downtown shops, scenic beaches and the annual Northport Dog Parade and Wine Festival. Read more about Northport here.

Work your way south along the Grand Traverse Bay and in about 20 minutes you’ll reach Suttons Bay. This very walkable village offers unique shopping and eating experiences. Several wineries and hiking trails are in the surrounding area. Read more about Suttons Bay here.

Another worthy M-22 stop, Peshawbestown is a small community sitting on a Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indian reservation. Known for the Leelanau Sands Casino, the community is just four miles north of Suttons Bay. Leelanau County, as a peninsula, has many of its most prominent features on M-22, but there are some significant highlights outside the coastal highway. Leelanau County includes several islands, most notably the Manitou and Fox Islands. Ferries are available in many of the major towns along the west coast, and the islands remain a popular place to visit and explore. Lake Leelanau offers boating, fishing and scenic beauty, running over 20 miles down the middle of the county and stretching from Leland to the community of Cedar. Inland, Maple City offers some great dining options like fine dining at La Becasse Restaurant or Market 22 for the best pizza in the state.

M-22 Map

The scenic highway M-22 is designated as a Pure Michigan Byway, and is also part of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour.

This map shows the entire 116-mile length of M-22, which takes travelers along Lake Michigan and through the beautiful countryside of these Northwest Michigan counties:

Scroll below for more articles about the Leelanau County area.

Experience the Leelanau County Area