The shoreline along the Sleeping Bear Dunes has a rich agricultural and commercial history. Take the kids and stop by several museums, the Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitor Center (formally known as the Philip A. Hart Visitors Center) and the historic districts of Glen Haven and Port Oneida to learn about the people, wildlife and geology of the Dunes and Leelanau County.

Page Contents:

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitors Center — 9922 W Front St, Empire, MI 49630

For brochures, maps, books, park passes and sound advice, look no further than the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center, more commonly known as the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitors Center. National Park Service Rangers and well-informed volunteers are always on site to answer any question you may have, and the center’s exhibition hall is a great introduction to the Dunes’ history and ecology.  Located just east of the M22/M72 junction near Empire—and about halfway between the northern and southern tips of the Dunes—the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center is the nerve center of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  Open from 8 am to 6 pm during the summer; call at 231.326.4700 ext. 5010. ↑ To Page Contents.

Glen Haven Historic District — Glen Haven Rd, 49630

What was once a thriving shipping hub is now a historical relic.  Travel west from Glen Arbor along M22 and turn north onto Glen Haven Rd to visit several well-preserved buildings:

  • Step back in time at the Glen Haven General Store; with its vintage red gas pump and restored interior, the building is an accurate replica of its 1920’s self.  Books and souvenirs line the walls.  Open Memorial Day to Labor Day.
  • The village’s Blacksmith Workshop is still functional, and volunteers staff the bellows and anvil most summer days. In between swings of the hammer, staffers recount the history of the Glen Haven and teach about the art of smithing.
  • The Cannery Boathouse next to the Glen Haven beach houses small, restored boats employed on the waters near the Sleeping Bear Dunes.  Visit this factory-turned-museum to learn about the area’s impressive nautical history. ↑ To Page Contents.

Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station Maritime Museum

What was once the original US Life-saving Station along the Sleeping Bear Dunes is now the Maritime Museum, an exhibition space devoted to educating visitors about Great Lakes shipping, the Coast Guard and pre-Coast Guard rescue missions in the area.  At 3 pm in the summer, daily demonstrations of a “breeches buoy” drill at the nearby beach illustrate how a small cannon was used to deliver a rescue rope to shipwrecked sailors; it’s a great way to get the kids involved—they provide the muscle to haul a Raggedy Ann or Andy doll to safety during the exercise.  The museum is located just west of the Cannery Boathouse on Sleeping Bear Dunes Rd. ↑ To Page Contents.

Port Oneida Historic District

The Port Oneida Historic District is comprised of 19th- and early 20th-century sites, including as farms, schools, and even the Kelderhouse Cemetery, where many of the area’s early settlers are interred.  The area is 5 miles northeast of Glen Arbor (just south of the Pyramid Point trail) and is typically a quiet, scenic area—perfect for getting lost on a summer drive.  That pastoral solitude, though, is toppled during the second Friday and Saturday in August, when the Port Oneida Fair draws hundreds of visitors to 6 of the district’s farms for educational and artistic demonstrations.  See what life was like as an early settler by taking a wagon ride and learning about period crafts; listen to traditional folk music and cut a rug at a square-dance.  And by the way, there’s food and ice cream, too. ↑ To Page Contents.

In all, the Port Oneida Fair is a fun and engaging way to connect with the Sleeping Bear Dunes’ rich past.  The 2014 festival will occur on Friday, August 8th and Saturday, August 9th.

The venues for the Port Oneida Fair are:

  • Dechow Farm
  • Kelderhouse Farm
  • Port Oneida Schoolhouse
  • Burfiend Barn
  • Olsen Farm
  • Thoreson Farm

Empire Area Museum

Open from Labor Day into early October, this small museum is housed in a former tavern: featuring diaramas of blacksmith and saloon scenes, and with an original one-room school house resting behind the main building, the Empire Area Museum offers an excellent crash-course in Sleeping Bear Dunes cultural history.  Located at 11544 S Lacore St in Empire; the building is visible from M22. ↑ To Page Contents.

More Sleeping Bear Dunes Attractions