A lovely, languid drive along Old Mission Peninsula—the hilly green finger of land that divides the east and west sides of Grand Traverse Bay—is the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon. From the base of the peninsula, follow Garfield Road north, then head left on M-37, also known as Center Road. Brake for the tasting rooms of the half-dozen Old Mission wineries (wineriesofoldmission.com) to pick up a bottle of vino for dinner, then swing by Fox Valley Gardens Farm Market (231-883-8337, localdifference.org) for in-season fruits and veggies as well as honey, fresh cut flowers and maps of the peninsula. Cut across Wilson Road and cruise the coast, turning right on Nelson Road for a captivating detour: latticework branches intertwine overhead, shading a sun-speckled lane that skirts one of the peninsula’s many orchards. This hidden two-track will bring you back to M-37, and a left leads you to Peninsula Market (14111 Center Rd., 231-223-9500, thepeninsulamarket.com) for picnic provisions like sandwiches and cold almond cherry chicken salad.
Follow the signs to the eclectic Old Mission General Store (18250 Old Mission Rd., 231-223-4310), where shafts of sunlight illuminate a happy clutter of penny candy, coon caps, antiques, toys and more. Ask owner Jim Richards about the history of this store: the first outpost between Detroit and the Straits of Mackinac. Nab a few more goodies for your picnic, then head north to Lighthouse Park (peninsula township.com) at the very tip of the peninsula. Here’s the spot for a sweet sunset picnic: beach access, a lovely lighthouse and curling sand paths calling you to the water. Make your way to the old metal swing set nestled in the sand, take a seat and let the swing’s soft creaking fold into the sound of the evening waves.
Just to let you know, since I live on Old Mission Peninsula, …Garfield Road ends at the base of the peninsula. It then turns into M37. If you were on Garfield, then yes, just continue North. But, you do not take a left. At the second light up the peninsula you have a choice to go left (Peninsula Drive) or follow the curve to the RIGHT…that is called Center Rd. and will take you past the wineries and to the light house. Peninsula Market is apx. up the peninsula 11 miles right on Center Road on the left hand side. Sorry, but I think you need a gps before giving people directions! Though, the good thing is, the peninsula is only about 2 1/2 miles wide, so you really can’t get lost! LOL…enjoy!