Heart of Leelanau
Stay: Little Belle Cottages at The Homestead
It doesn’t get more toast-worthy than these sweet-as-pie cottages tucked away in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Romantic, private, crisp and cushy, these boutique hotel suites are just moments from the brand-new Spa Amira, where Lake Michigan vistas accompany hot-stone massages, sugar scrubs, Reiki and other pampering pleasures. Back at the room, put your wine on ice; a fireplace, flat-screen TV, two-person jet tub and king-sized bed offer plenty of ways to stay busy while the bubbly chills. Fourteen suites, fall rates from $132, 1 Woodridge Rd., Glen Arbor. 231-334-5100, thehomesteadresort.com.
Dine: La Bécasse
Expect impeccable service and incredible French-country cuisine at this velvet-curtained hideaway, which recently nabbed the prestigious Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. Paris-born Chef Guillaume Hazaël-Massieux works closely with area farms to develop his thoughtful menu; this fall, look for housemade proscuitto, the result of the chef’s new alliance with a local pig farmer. When asked to recommend a particular dish to fit a sparkling mood, Hazaël-Massieux named the hanger steak with truffle sauce and, for dessert, the tarte tatin, a caramelized apple pie graced with chestnut crème fraîche: “People live and die for it.” 9001 S. Dunn’s Farm Rd., Maple City. 231-334-3944, restaurantlabecasse.com.
Sparkling day: Sunset hike to Pyramid Point
Though it’s hardly a secret, Pyramid Point is one of the lesser-visited attractions in the Sleeping Bear Dunes—and a sunset hike to this holy place on the right September evening will make you feel like the world is yours and yours alone. Find the trailhead on Basch Road, just off Port Oneida Road, and follow the hilly path (there are several steep inclines) through meadows and dusky beech-maple forests. Though the trail loops around to total 2.6 miles, a half-mile spur provides a shortcut to the big payoff: a stunner bluff-top view of the big lake and the Manitou Islands. 231-326-5134, nps.gov/slbe.
Base of Old Mission
Stay: Wellington Inn Bed & Breakfast
It’s all easy elegance at the Wellington Inn, a 1905-built neo-classical mansion on one of downtown Traverse City’s leafy residential streets. The house, originally the home of a wood plate manufacturer, is filled with period antiques—right down to the vintage china upon which the full breakfasts (quiche Lorraine, fresh corn fritters, parfaits with raspberries, nectarines and granola) are served each morning. A ballroom-turned–common area upstairs is a quiet place to mingle with other guests; a fully stocked guest kitchen has wine, homemade brownies and other treats at the ready 24/7. Nine rooms, plus a carriage house, from $195. 230 Wellington St., Traverse City. 231-922-9900, wellingtoninn.com.
Dine: Red Ginger
Sparkling wine and sushi are a culinary match made in heaven—and there’s no better place in the North to indulge in super-fresh, artfully prepared sushi and sashimi than T.C.’s red-hot Asian-luxe restaurant, Red Ginger. Chef-owner Dan Marsh goes to great lengths to ensure his pan-Asian dishes are crafted to authentic cultural specifications; the resulting flavors, combined with a whip-smart staff, has had Traverse City buzzing about this place since the day it opened last November. Beyond the sushi bar? A main-plate menu starring sake-glazed sea bass and Thai curry, plus sake drinks and fruit-infused mojitos. 237 E. Front St., Traverse City. 231-944-1733, eatatginger.com.
Sparkling day: Beach, then a movie
Finish your Old Mission tour with a flourish at the tip of the peninsula, where Lighthouse Park lets you linger on the sand and survey the bay’s expanse. Cruise back down Old Mission’s spine, then stroll through the streets of downtown T.C. to catch a show at the State Theatre. This historic arthouse cinema, owned and operated by the nonprofit Traverse City Film Festival, is one of the North’s best comeback stories—the result of a glorious community-supported restoration late last fall. Swoon over the plush seats, the state-of-the-art audio system and the breathtaking fiber-optic ceiling, which depicts the August night sky over Traverse City. 233 E. Front St., Traverse City. 231-947-4800, statetheatretc.org.