Orchard Highway: Cruise US-31 This Fall in Northern Michigan

Spend a day cruising the farm market- and orchard-studded section of US-31 between Traverse City and Charlevoix.

If an apple a day is as healthy as the adage implies, then a day spent sampling ciders among Northern Michigan orchards along an agriculture-rich stretch of US-31 north of Traverse City must pretty much be the fountain of youth. That’s especially true when cideries offer plenty of youthful fun—as these do— from apple donuts to corn mazes.

NOMAD CIDERY AND FARM MARKET // 6620 M-72 E., Williamsburg

When Nomad Cidery bought Hoxsie’s Farm Market just off US-31 on M-72, visitors got the best of both worlds. The farm stand still overflows with fresh produce, fruit and flowers from the surrounding orchard and farm. But in the new tasting room (still under construction), small-batch ciders will push the envelope with fun flavors and blends. 

TOWNLINE CIDERWORKS // 11595 US-31, Williamsburg

This cider tasting bar is an offshoot of Altonen Orchards, where the Altonen family, longtime apple growers and entrepreneurs, grow and press their own fruit. Their tasting room is also the site of an annual chili cookoff and a cider and crafts fest. Try regular tap favorites like Queen Ann and Alma Mater or a popular slush made of cider and blueberry riesling. 

ROYAL FARMS // 10445 US-31, Ellsworth

Owners Patrick and Sara McGuire (who is fittingly a former National Cherry Queen) say they aim to treat guests like royalty here—and that’s true if they’ve come to taste cider sweet, dry and tart, or to pick up a breakfast pastry, farm apples, asparagus soup or pie. The on-site corn maze has royalty of all ages sticking around for an afternoon of fun, and while cider comes fresh for visitors of all ages, those of an appropriate age will want to sample fun hard cider blends like Pink Bikini, Royal Reserve, Hand Picked and Summer Crush. 

BIER’S INWOOD BREWERY // 17959 Ferry Rd., Charlevoix

You’ll first spot the vintage schoolhouse, now a gallery featuring more than 100 national and regional artists, on a hill offering a distant bay view. Tucked behind the gallery, find drinkable art similarly inspired by the local landscape. An extensive beer lineup includes tap pours like Berried Alive, a blend of local apples, strawberries, blueberries and cherries. Head there on weekend evenings for live music, pizza, grilled burgers and more. 

1918 CELLARS AT CASTLE FARMS // 5052 M-66, Charlevoix

It’d take a lot of exploring to find a tasting room with floor tiles harkening back to 1918, a striking barnwood ceiling and a bar backed by boulders. The once-popular concert venue on Charlevoix’s south side was originally built by American royalty of sorts—a former executive with Sears, Roebuck and Co. who built the French Normandy-style complex of stone to showcase Sears farm implements. In addition to the high teas, weddings, yoga classes and other events hosted here, today it’s a great spot for sipping house-made cinnamon and cherry ciders. 

Kim Schneider is a long-time travel writer specializing in Michigan adventures, food and wine. The Midwest Travel Journalist Association has named her Mark Twain Travel Writer of the Year, and she’s the author of “100 Things to Do in Traverse City Before You Die.”