Stop numero uno is Glen Haven’s Maritime Museum (nps.gov/slbe). Vignettes set up throughout the vintage Coast Guard Station give you a peek at how the keeper and crew lived when the station was in operation. Navigating the uneven shoreline was a risky proposition for 19th-century sailors, so the Coast Guard was perpetually prepped for a rescue. Nowadays, you can catch a reenactment every afternoon during the summer.
For anyone who hopes to claim herself a Michigan nautical aficionado, a visit to Leland’s Fishtown (preservingfishtown.org) is a must. The nationally recognized and locally adored historic site is a collection of weathered fishing shanties that houses an eclectic mix of shops side by side with one of Michigan’s two fully functioning fisheries. Rev up with a cup of joe to go from River & Main (102 S. Main, 231-256-8858)—you can come back later to ogle the cases stuffed with chocolates, fudge and gummies—and head dockside to watch as fishing boats putter into the Leland River with fresh hauls of whitefish.
Last stop is Grand Traverse Lighthouse (231-386-7195, grandtraverselighthouse.com), one of Michigan’s oldest light stations, at the tip of the peninsula in Northport. The restored house and light tower are open for self-guided tours. If lighthouse life sounds like a dream come true to you, ask about the volunteer keeper program, which allows lighthouse lovers to live inside the lighthouse for up to two weeks at a time.
QUICK BITE: Fishtown’s Village Cheese Shanty (231-256-9141, villagecheeseshanty.com) makes super-fresh sandwiches on the establishment’s signature salty-sweet pretzel bread; follow up lunch with a scoop of tart cherry gelato at the Stone House Bread Café (407 S. Main, 231-256-2577, stonehousebread.com).
The Manitou Passage—seven miles of water stretching between the Manitou Islands and Sleeping Bear Point on Leelanau’s mainland—has earned notoriety as the most dangerous passage on the Great Lakes.