If you think The Most Beautiful Place in America is just for visiting. Think again.

Chef Mario Batali bought a home near the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, so did comedian Tim Allen. Madonna’s family chose the area to build a winery not far away. Executives, retired auto workers, professional musicians, foodies, cherry farmers, wine makers, bakers, entrepreneurs and outdoor outfitters all have discovered how wonderful and relatively affordable it is to live near the Sleeping Bear Dunes—just voted the “Most Beautiful Place in the Nation” by Good Morning America viewers.

With 65 miles of Lake Michigan National Lakeshore that includes two islands, several lakes and sand formations unseen anywhere else on the planet, who could blame them for loving the Sleeping Bear?  Surrounding the parkland is the rest of the Leelanau Peninsula with breathtaking  views, off the beaten path beaches, small lakes, navigable rivers and streams  nearly everywhere you look.  Punctuate this with postcard little towns like Leland, Northport, Glen Arbor and Suttons Bay and you have one of the most livable places on earth.

Nine other areas were vying for the title we now hold – Ashville, NC; Aspen, CO; Cape Cod, MA; Destin, FL;  Jackson Hole, WY, Lanikai Beach, Oahu Hawaii; Newport, RI;  Port Reyes, CA;  and Sedona, AZ.  All beautiful.  Most, much, much more expensive to live thanks to the downturn in Michigan’s economy and the ensuing fall in home prices after the housing bubble burst five years ago.

With home prices in Leelanau and surrounding counties on the rebound and the national attention currently being focused on this most beautiful of places, one can only wonder when (not if) local real estate will feel the inevitable jump experienced a few decades ago in Aspen and later Jackson Hole.  We who live here face that future with mixed feelings.  We welcome the investment but fear the changes it will bring.

And that brings us back to why Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is such a wonderful thing. Since 1970 since the parkland was set aside, this area has been both nurtured and protected. Indeed we will in the next few years see more of the land accessible to bikes, wheelchairs and walkers thanks to a new trail system that will run from one end of the Park to the other.  Yet with a five minute drive I can still place my kayak on a lake few will ever see, surrounded by fox, beaver and an occasional eagle.  And I’ll usually have it to myself.

If you’d like to know more about living and owning in America’s most beautiful place, email me and I will be glad to share what I know. I can be reached at bill.wheadon@C21Northland.com.

Keep Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore with you forever with this beautiful DVD.