Join me as I drive, shop, eat and explore my way across the Traverse Area on a mission to fill my displays. Together we’ll be tourists in my hometown.
M-22 Corridor from Empire to Leland
My first travelog begins on M-22, the scenic highway that traces the contours of Leelanau county and beyond. The state highway is 114.5 miles long and crosses four counties. I highly recommend the entire trip, but like a cheesecake I prefer to enjoy it one piece at a time. I have several card display locations along the route in Glen Arbor and Leland. Today my focus was on Leland. It’s less than 30 miles between Empire and Leland, but I like to enjoy trip when I have the time. Slip in some shopping, lunch or a beach diversion, and it’s easily a 3 hour tour.
Just before I head into Empire, and not long after crossing from Benzie into Leelanau county, I come across my first stop. Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate sits right on M-22 along the curve. It’s modest building and signage may slip past you, so pay attention because you won’t want to miss it. Mimi Wheeler left her job as a social worker to produce fine natural chocolates made from organic ingredients, including the herbs from her garden. I can’t drive through Empire without indulging my chocolate fix with some of Mimi’s Chingers; dark chocolate covered candied ginger.
You won’t see much of the village of Empire unless you venture off M-22 into town. There is a wonderful beach, although rather stony for those with tender feet. The Robert H. Manning memorial lighthouse is a fun photo-op. It’s not a working light, more like a monument, but it’s still classified as a lighthouse. There are a few shops in town and along M-22, as well as some restaurants. One of our favorites is The Village Inn, or The V.I. as the locals call it. Today, however, I was just passing through.
M-22 leaves Empire and winds it’s way toward Glen Arbor. This time of year I’m always looking for the little farm stands along the side of the road selling fruits and vegetables from small wooden displays. Hand-painted signs introduce blueberries, cherries and fresh sweet corn just ahead. Many stands are on-your-honor with small glass jars for collecting payment.
One of my favorite stretches of highway is just past the narrows bridge which bisects the turquoise waters of Glen Lake. On the left stunning homes sit back from the road and gaze down their manicured lawns across the highway toward the crystal waters of Glen Lake. The road stretches forward and soon pulls away from the water as you head into Glen Arbor.
It was before lunchtime when I arrived in town so I pulled into Wildflowers to endulge my flower fancy. Whether you have a huge garden, a few window boxes, or just an appreciation for beautiful things, Wildflowers is a treat. Outside you can shop for perennials or wander through their shady gardens in the back. Inside their giftshop incorporates garden, gifts, jewelry, art and much more.
As much as I wanted to leave with a new limelight hydrangea for my front yard it would have to wait for another trip when there was more room in the car. Today the displays were my focus, and my trip to Leland. So it was back on the road for me.
Glen Arbor is a destination of it’s own, to which I dedicate a future trip. In fact I have several display locations in Glen Arbor including The Glen Arbor Lakeshore Inn, Glen Craft Marina & Resort, Le Bear Resort, Leelanau Vacation Rentals and The Maple Lane Resort. So I’ll be back soon to check in on them.
M-22 leaves Glen Arbor as it crosses the Crystal River. The landscape all around is lush and green this time of year. The stretch from Glen Arbor to Leland wanders past fields of wildflowers, weathered barns, hidden lakes and trails that tempt you with their unknown destinations. Trees of maple, beech, ash and cherry create the landscape throughout the trip. These are only a few of the sights that make up the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the area’s largest park and greatest visitor attraction.
Today I left the National Lakeshore, passed county road 667 which leads to Maple City and back home to Lake Ann, and followed the road along Good Harbor Bay. The homes and foliage prevent most of the views of Lake Michigan but you could still hear the waves on a windy day. I drove past M-204, where I often turn to cross the Leelanau peninsula and on into Suttons Bay. Soon Lake Leelanau came into view on the right and I knew I was getting close. Which is good, because I could feel the rumblings of hunger and Leland has some great sights, and bites, to take in.
In the summer the streets of Leland are filled with people enjoying the port town and all it has to offer. Today was no exception. I entered town along Main Street and turned left at the gas station onto Cedar St and around the bend to the right where I’d land behind the Falling Waters Lodge. They enjoy a spectacular view of fishtown, the fishing village for which Leland is most know. Check out my gallery for a great photo of their unique vantage point.
After filling the display at the lodge I took a few moment to stroll down to the beach. If you’re looking for a quiet scenic view of the Leland harbor there’s a great path to the waters edge that starts behind the Falling Waters Lodge. From here you can walk the shore to the right towards the harbor. The stone pier extends it’s protective barrier from the crashing waves throughout the seasons. Today the waters were all but still. A mother and her children balanced along the top of the pier and a few fishermen cast their lines into the water.
With warm sand between my toes I headed back to the car and off to my next stop. My stomach still echoed but I had a few more trips to make before lunch. At the top of the hill on Pearl Street sits The Leland Lodge. They were busy today in the office, so it was a quick trip in and out to fill their display and head back down into the heart of town. As I pulled out under the canopy in front of the lodge I caught a glimpse of guests dining outdoors on their patio overlooking the sloping lawn. One of these days I’m going to stop here for an iced tea and a side of fabulous view.
I park in town after some circling and find a spot across from my last stop, The Bluebird Restaurant. Skip and Lynn Telgard have carried on a family tradition in Leland as third generation owners of The Bluebird. If you haven’t stopped in for their famous whitefish or renowned Sunday brunch, add it to your must-do list. I personally can’t pass up their pea & peanut salad, a highlight on the fresh salad bar, or the sugary cinnamon rolls that arrive at the table wrapped in linen and warmth. Today I’m delivering more cards for them to use in the restaurant. The hostess eagerly accepted the delivery. “Our servers hand them out with the check and the guests love them,” she said. I’m always happy to hear that.
So with my goals met for the afternoon I’m free to eat and enjoy some of Leland’s finest. My pick for lunch today is the Village Cheese Shanty. Located in the heart of fishtown on the docks is a tiny shack with amazing sandwiches. The line was nearly out the door, but they’re incredibly efficient. I chose the special of the day to make things easy and to try something new. I don’t think you can go wrong with their selections of fresh shaved meats and variety of cheeses, but you have to try the pretzel bread. The special of the day was capicola ham, lettuce, tomato, onion, fresh buffalo mozzarella and balsamic viniagrette dressing on pretzel bread. Yummy, and well worth the wait.
On my way back to the car I followed my nose to the sweet scents of Murdick’s Fudge Shoppe. It’s hard to resist their creamy blend that’s known across Northern Michigan as the best fudge around. So I selected a half slice of peanut butter to sample on the return trip.
Like Glen Arbor, there is much more to enjoy in Leland than I have time for on this trip. So I’ll be back soon. For now I’ll jump back on M-22 and continue the trip. I’ll introduce you to the rest of M-22 and the adventures to be found along the way in future travelog posts. Until then, check out Empire, Glen Arbor and Leland.
If you have a favorite spot along M-22 that you’d like to share, email me here and I’ll check it out. Thanks!