For full immersion in the sweet scent of pillowy spring cherry blossoms, take these memorable Northern Michigan drives. Cherry trees typically blossom in mid-May but weather plays a major role. 

Due to COVID-19, call ahead or check businesses’ websites before visiting. Hours and to-go options vary. Stay six feet away from others while hiking or in stores and follow all CDC recommendations. If you can’t safely see the blossoms this year, save this article for next spring’s adventures. 

Find maps and driving directions for each route here.

Route 1: Old Mission Peninsula

Reverend Peter Dougherty planted the area’s first cherry tree on Old Mission Peninsula in 1852, and one of the state’s most bountiful blossom drives—a straight shot on M-37 to the peninsula’s end—can fittingly include an audio tour of the house he built in 1842 and a nearby log church. Between blossom sniffs and photos, stop and see Mission Point Lighthouse and hit up the Old Mission General Store for funky antiques and reproductions, pie and aged cheddar. Then make a few stops along the peninsula’s noteworthy wine trail. Hilltop beauty Chateau Chantal offers views of bays and blossoms, or drink in the view from Bonobo’s wide patio.

Route 2: Leelanau County

The county’s heart is agriculture, but this farm-and-field-focused route, which starts and ends in the village of Lake Leelanau, has bright blue lake views, too. Pedaling Beans offers coffee and treats to go, or pick up Indian food at NJ’s Grocery for a picnic with lake-gazing at Township Park, located next to the Lake Leelanau DNR boat ramp when you head north on Eagle Highway. The route meanders near Blustone Vineyards and Aurora Cellars—both notable for wine and blossom views—and when you intersect M-22 and head south, you can mix it up with a hike. You’ll find wildflowers in bouquet-style quantity at Houdek Dunes Natural Area.

Route 3: Elk Rapids

This 14-mile route along Elk Lake and the region’s back roads leads to blossoms by the thousands. You’ll start and end in Elk Rapids, home to some of the area’s best dining at Siren Hall and Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen (get gourmet takeout for the road at Cellar 152). Follow the backroad twists and turns for maximum orchard viewing, and stop to stretch at Petobego Creek Natural Area along Angell Road and Twisted Fish Gallery on US-31. Back in town, swing by Ethanology for craft spirits and cocktails. The local distillery sources all of its ingredients from within a 33-mile radius.

Route 4: Eastport, Central Lake and Torch

Barnes Park, your start and endpoint, is where to head for both sunsets and Petoskey stone hunting. But do follow the route heading north and east for stops at the Forest Home Township Family Park at the north end of stunning Torch Lake and M-88’s Providence Farm, where the housemade chai is locally famous and you can pick up organic vegetables while watching cute farm animals play. King Orchards is a must-stop, and plan to spend extra time in Central Lake. Mammoth Distilling opened here in 2016, but shoppers also love the Adams Madams boutique and Bachmann’s Store, where you’ll find old-fashioned candy, Slinky’s and Magic 8-Balls.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner

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