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Woman taking in the view at Sleeping Bear Point

Michigan

Traverse City, Michigan: Three Days Exploring the Gateway to Sleeping Bear Dunes

By: Joel Welin

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  • States:
    Michigan

Traverse City is the gateway to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the deep blue serenity of Lake Michigan.

The city and the surrounding Northwest Lower Peninsula region of Michigan offer spectacular scenery and many ways to get out and enjoy it. While the outdoor experiences in the park are spectacular and unforgettable, biking, canoeing, hiking and kayaking adventures in and around Traverse City are equally incredible.

Day One: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Viewers of ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” voted the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as the “Most Beautiful Place in America” – and with good reason. The sweeping vistas of Lake Michigan, the preserve’s many expansive beaches, densely forested islands, clear lakes and diverse wildlife make it one of those special places worth experiencing for yourself. Whether it’s camping in the backcountry, splashing in the sandy-bottom shallows or hiking the 24-kilometer Platte Plains Trail, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore captivates.

Take in the expansive views of Lake Michigan during a hike in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Take in the expansive views of Lake Michigan during a hike in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
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Day Two: Bicycling in Wine Country

The Old Mission Peninsula that hooks into gorgeous Grand Traverse Bay is renowned for the quality of its grapes as well as for its breathtaking scenery. In addition to eight wineries, there’s a number of nearby fine-dining choices for meals that pair nicely with the wines. Rent a bicycle in Traverse City and spend the day pedaling 29 kilometers from the east side of town to the wineries, then on to Old Mission Lighthouse at the end of the peninsula.

To the west, the Leelanau Peninsula also features a wine trail that highlights 25 wineries. Cyclists can break the trek into mini-loops, offering additional opportunities to pedal, sip, soak up the sunshine and repeat. Plan a stop in Sutton’s Bay (24 kilometers north of the western side of Traverse City), a quaint town filled with galleries, boutiques and alluring restaurants.

Tour Traverse City’s wine country via bike trails, which pass right alongside the vines.

Tour Traverse City’s wine country via bike trails, which pass right alongside the vines.
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Day Three: Hike, Bike or Paddle

With all the acclaim its grapes receive, Traverse City is also a haven for cherries. Hectares of cherry trees line the many bike paths, lakes, rivers and streams of the area, and in the spring, you’ll think the pink blooms are electric. From Traverse City, you can hike one of several trails with panoramic views of Grand Traverse Bay, such as the Leelenau Trail along Cherry Road and Center Highway. Rent a kayak or canoe and paddle out for picturesque views from the water. You can also rent a stand-up paddleboard and join other practitioners for yoga on the bay, or charter a fishing excursion and discover why Boating Magazine named Traverse City one of its “Ten Best Places to Live and Boat.”

Kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding are just a few of the ways you can enjoy the waters of Lake Michigan.

Kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding are just a few of the ways you can enjoy the waters of Lake Michigan.
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Getting There

Traverse City's Cherry Capital Airport (TVC) is a full-service airport offering major airline service to 300 domestic and international destinations. Service is offered through three hub airport connections: Michigan’s Detroit Metro, Illinois’ Chicago O’Hare and Minnesota’s Minneapolis/St. Paul. Seasonal direct service is also available to New York City, Newark, New Jersey; Denver, Colorado; and Atlanta, Georgia.