8 SMALL TOWN MICHIGAN OVERNIGHT GETAWAYS

Mesick

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It’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s near the highest point in the Lower Peninsula, and it’s the mushroom capital of the world. If you love hunting for those Morel mushrooms come spring, this is the place for you! I spent countless weekends here as a child, where we would rent a small cottage for a minimal price, and spend days walking miles in the enchanted forests.

 

Pentwater

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A short drive from Silver Lake Sand Dunes and Ludington, Pentwater is a town geared toward young adults. Volleyball courts line the beach, the bars are fun and lively, and there are multiple campgrounds to guarantee a good time. A chill downtown vibe attracts visitors for a stroll through surf shops, t-shirt displays, ice cream hangouts, and toy stores. It's a place that lives for summer, good times, and fun-in-da-sun.

 

Elk Rapids

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Located between Traverse City and Charlevoix, Elk Rapids sits at the top of Grand Traverse Bay. Although tiny in size, it is filled with beauty and peace. It is home to The Local, one of my favorite restaurants in Michigan, and offers quaint and quiet beaches compared to other tourist towns in Northern Michigan. I even once witnessed a coyote running along its beach! Summer brings a lively downtown, and winter offers knick-knack stores filled with hot cocoa. You can also take a tour of the famous Shorts Brewery Production Facility. It doesn’t get much better!

 

Epoufette

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If it weren’t for the sign along US-2, there wouldn’t be a way to know that this town exists. The town is comprised of a small convenience store that sells various smoked meats and fish, the charming Bayview motel, and a restaurant that is a must for those seeking a cheap and hearty breakfast. It sits high on the bluff, and although the hotel is not your Ritz Carlton (or Holiday Inn for that matter), it offers million dollar views of Lake Michigan for a mere $45/night. At the bottom of the bluff is a campground, which is not visible unless you venture down a small, winding road. Only paces from Lake Michigan it sits virtually empty, even in high-tourist season.

 

St. James

 

One night will not be enough, and you’ll probably find yourself extending for two, or maybe a week, or maybe a month. St. James is the harbor town located on Beaver Island in the middle of Lake Michigan. To access the island, one must take a 2 ½ hour ferry ride from Charlevoix. The Toy Museum is a ‘can't-miss’, and neither is Daddy Frank’s ice cream shop. It’s what started my ongoing addiction to flurries, malts, and hot-fudge brownie sundaes.

 

Leland

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The entire M22 area is rad and Leland is just one of the many great towns in the area. I would rather visit Leland in the winter, but only for lack of crowds. When snow and cold arrive, the town turns barren, except for the occasional cold water surfer who comes to brave the waves. Come summer, there is a bustling crowd of beach-goers road tripping M22 and backpackers that come to take the ferry to South Manitou Island. It’s the ideal location for a bonfire on the beach, and Milky Way star gazing far from light pollution.

 

Caseville

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Famous for its summer Cheeseburger Festival, Caseville knows how to have a good time. It’s the east side’s most popular “Up North” beach town. Summer months bring thousands of visitors who enjoy mini-golf, go-karts, giant ice cream cones, great food, and sandy beaches for miles. And flamingos, lots of flamingos. Although located on Lake Huron, it faces west from the thumb, so if you’re worried about missing that sunset, a massive surprise is in store for you. It’s also situated in Saginaw Bay, causing the water to be generally warmer than other areas in Lake Huron.

 

Frankenmuth

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It transports you from Michigan to Bavarian Germany in the blink of an eye. This is arguably the most culturally unique town in Michigan. The Bavarian Lodge is perfect for families (and sometimes has Groupon deals!). The lodge is equipped with indoor mini-golf, restaurants, a waterpark, and a never-ending theme of old town Germany. Frankenmuth is also home to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the biggest Christmas store in the world. If you go, be sure to stop and try the world-famous Zehnder’s Chicken Dinner. Winner Winner!

37 Comments

  1. Bruce Gezon on February 5, 2016 at 10:33 AM

    Shalee, Thanks for sharing. Great recommendations. Added a couple of the towns that I haven’t visited to my bucket list and look forward to checking out some of the local restaurants I missed before in the towns I have been to.

    • Jennifer Gauthier on February 23, 2016 at 6:52 PM

      A couple towns I didn’t know existed.

      • Mary gauthier on February 24, 2016 at 7:15 PM

        Same here,Michigan is so beautiful,I miss it

    • Kim DeMotte on February 29, 2016 at 12:56 PM

      Is this Bruce Gezon of rally fame?

  2. Marnie on February 17, 2016 at 3:39 PM

    Prost in Frankenmuth is a great place to grab an awesome adult beverage!

    • brenda on February 24, 2016 at 2:38 PM

      Tiffany s is also a great place on main street for food and spirits

    • Candy on March 1, 2016 at 4:39 PM

      Don’t forget the Riverwalk!

  3. Bill Supernaw on February 20, 2016 at 11:26 AM

    Hurray for BEAVER ISLAND 🙂 🙂

  4. Kathie Ehinger on February 20, 2016 at 3:43 PM

    Shalee, Thank you so much for enjoying Daddy Franks! Please come back and see us again. Maybe next time I can get you hooked on our homemade Pizza, and always lots of Ice Cream!

    • Shalee on February 24, 2016 at 11:03 PM

      Kathie,
      Sounds perfect. I make my way up there every summer, and it looks like pizza will be my first stop when I return this time!

  5. Deborah Yordy Coleman on February 20, 2016 at 4:10 PM

    How cool that you picked Caseville!! I grew up in Pigeon, 7 miles south of Caseville. We had a summer cottage on Sand Point. While Huron County is predominently farmland, there are cool things to do in the area. There’s kayaking around Turnip Rock at Pte. Aux Barques, there’s a winery north of Bad Axe. We even have an octagon-shaped barn!

    • S. Paradine on February 24, 2016 at 8:30 PM

      The grandfather of a friend if mine helped build that barn. I went to see it and it us amazing! So glad it’s being taken care of.

      • Candy on March 1, 2016 at 4:41 PM

        I have a picture of myself in front of the barn 5 hours before I had my motorcycle crash in April, 2008. Good memories of the Octagon Barn!

    • Shalee on February 24, 2016 at 11:05 PM

      I love the Port Austin area too! Visited the thumb for the first time not too long ago, and it has been one of my favorite places ever since.

  6. Gabrielle Rohde on February 21, 2016 at 10:46 PM

    I absolutely love The Local in Elk Rapids too!!!

  7. Leigh Plue on February 22, 2016 at 8:22 PM

    Epoufette is a favorite stop for us. We love the restaurant overlooking the water and you HAVE to try their home made potato chips. Also, the little Cut River Store across the highway has great smoked fish.

    • Candy on March 1, 2016 at 4:47 PM

      If you’re driving along US 2, don’t forget to stop at Gustafsons for smoked whitefish, cheese curds, and ostrich jerky! And since you’re so close, Little Brevort Lake has THE best bluegill fishing in the state!

  8. Chris Snyder on February 22, 2016 at 9:09 PM

    The Local is a great new stop in Elk Rapids!

  9. Martha on February 23, 2016 at 12:45 AM

    Yea for Leland, my homey town. It’s great at this time of year when only the locals are around and people who can brave the west wind blowing in their face and stinging their noses.

  10. Leslie on February 23, 2016 at 11:19 AM

    Grew p in Elk Rapids Town just gets better and better all the time

  11. LOWELL & NANCY KRAFT on February 24, 2016 at 10:20 AM

    OUR FAMILY IS FORTUNATE TO BE ACQUAINTED WITH TWO OF THE TOWNS ON A
    PERSONAL BASIS. WE HAVE A GRANDSON THAT OWNS A BEACH FRONT HOME ON BEAVER ISLAND WHERE THE TOWN OF ST. JAMES IS. AH, AND THEN THERE IS
    CASEVILLE WHERE A NUMBER OF US LIVE AND HAVE LIVED.

    • Shalee on February 24, 2016 at 11:06 PM

      How cool! What side of the island is his cottage? I spent many summers on a cottage along the north end!

      • Glen Borre on February 25, 2016 at 11:10 AM

        We have a place (34 yrs) at the NE point of the Island. Our daughter and husband live year around on the harbor. She owned Daddy Frank’s and gave it’s name. Loved your write ups on all the towns.

  12. Nick Nerbonne on February 24, 2016 at 10:28 AM

    Oops, looks like you accidentally put the ® next to the image of the M-22 state highway sign.

  13. J. Arens on February 24, 2016 at 10:33 AM

    Love Epoufette ! The Snowmobile and ATV trail is right behind the store and you can ride right up to the store and both restaurants as well as the motel. It’s a great place to stay for your adventure! The view is awesome!

  14. Cher on February 24, 2016 at 6:25 PM

    Never heard of a few of these and for most of us it would not be an overnight get away as they are 4-6+ hours away…definitely going to check some of these out. Caseville is awesome! Frankenmuth is nice, great Chicken dinners! Thanks for sharing this 🙂

  15. jen on February 24, 2016 at 10:57 PM

    Wow, for once one of these lists where there’s nothing obvious from the southern part of the state and only one tourist trap EVERYONE in the state has heard of. (No prizes for guessing. Plus whichever of those totally interchangeable chicken restaurants we ate at, I honestly don’t remember which? The chicken soup was, I swear, Mrs. Grass’s Chicken Soup Mix. My mother recognized the taste and since us kids had never eaten it, we bought a box when we got home so we could try and sure enough…Though everyone should see Bronner’s at least once. You WILL find an ornament you want.) I am going to Epoufette, though. I have NEVER heard of that one and I used to work at Mackinac.

    • Shalee on February 24, 2016 at 11:08 PM

      Thanks so much, Jen! Big compliment because that is exactly what I was going for. Enjoy Epoufette!!

  16. Shari on February 25, 2016 at 8:19 AM

    Thanks for the suggestions. I definitely want to try the Bayview Motel in Epoufette.
    You might want to change the picture you”re using for Mesick. That’s a sassafras leaf, and I doubt you’d find sassafras anywhere in the forests around Mesick. Further south, yes, but not this far north.

    • Shalee on February 25, 2016 at 10:21 AM

      Wow! I’m impressed by your knowledge! I love the Michigan-shape. Surprisingly I found it only about 30 miles south of Mesick on some trails north of Baldwin 🙂

      • Shari on February 26, 2016 at 8:32 AM

        Yes, there’s a line around there where the forest / climate changes. I grew up in The Muskegon area and we had lots of oaks and sassafras. I’ve lived in the Cadillac area my whole adult life and have never seen sassafras around here or any where north or west of here. I miss them. Love the leaves. And the smell.

  17. Jan Davies on February 26, 2016 at 7:49 AM

    Come on over to the East side – we have great little get-a-way towns too. Start in Ann Arbor and we’ll host you at Davies House Inn!

  18. Liz Kate on February 26, 2016 at 1:50 PM

    Our favorite HIDDEN MICHIGAN TREASURE , IS ***EAST TAWAS*** We wouldn’t have never known that it even exist if we hadn’t gone there to visit friends of ours that where from there!!!
    Look up there town if you love laying out on warm sandy white beaches , or when the Main Street that is full of of quaint little stores from bars, to knitting shops, to yummy ice cream shop to pizza shops , to homemade frugde,shouts down on Tuesday nights & the whole street is blocked off & a band plays in the middle of the street & everyone from (3 -to-73) dances in the middle of the street, this is awesome to watch , all the people of Tawas coming together of every age to celebrate just being together . This truly represents the people of Tawas, they are so happy, giving,& lovely people that I have ever met in me life, it’s almost unreal!!! There is also lots of other stores & things to do on Main Street , giant store on the corner that is filled with everything from clothes for the whole family, fishing gear, cowboy hats, to beautiful hats for the ladies, everything you need for the beach , to long underwear & everything in between with price so cheap that I stock up on everything I need every time I go there, there is also a lovely new & used book store allong with a 2 screen movie theater that plays moves from years ago & a theater that resembles a theater that was from yearsgreatAround the corner is a lovely & lively Bed & breakfast & don’t miss Genies Resturant for whatever you are hungry for, believe me it is there & taste like Heaven.
    Just because there is only one Street & Street light through Main Street, there is so much to do during every season of the year, (SUMMER–beautiful sandy white beaches to catch some rays, jet skiing, boating, fishing, shopping, yummy places to eat & so much more) ( FALL & SPRING– are beautiful times of the year to visit , the fall has Apple orchards, haunted houses & hayrides , it lots of fun , In the Spring, it’s stunning , as it is in the fall take hikes in the Hurun Natural Forest & check out the Lumber Men’s Monument, four wheeling & tons of other things to do as well) & when the snow starts to fall, this is a great place to visit. (WINTER– snow Mobile’s, or a great place to celebrate Christmas with the family in one of the beautiful cabins, in all sizes & costs , but I have to say that in the winter , we stayed in a beautiful cabin , with a warm potbelly stove that kept us warm & a living room surrounded with Windows to watch the snow come down , it was truly stunning to sit & watch the snow come down , drinking my hot chocolate & playing board games with friends & family & we only paid $60 a night , great deals are there, you just have to find them, like anywhere else)
    Anyway , I will always be attached to TAWAS , I had my honeymoon there , & I will always have the memories of mine & my brothers families having a great vacation together during the summer & how much I loved watching our daughters play.
    I have so many AMAZING memories up North in Tawas, Michigan , doesn’t matter the time of year , I would stay there all year long if I could!!!
    THANK YOU TAWAS FOR THE MEMORIES!!!

    • Judy DeShano on February 28, 2016 at 4:36 PM

      Could you tell me the name of the cabin you stayed in? Sounds like what we have been looking for .

  19. Mary P on February 26, 2016 at 2:14 PM

    Visit Lexington! It’s Michigan’s “First Resort North”. Just north of Port Huron, on Lake Huron. A growing little harbor town with lots of summertime entertainment and great eats and cute shops!

  20. Mick on February 27, 2016 at 10:45 AM

    South Haven is also great!

  21. Teresa on February 19, 2017 at 10:39 PM

    My family has had a place on the beach in Epoufette since 1950…still breathtakingly beautiful. Thanks for the starry night!

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