Fishtown in Leland, Michigan, is a historic enclave of 19th-century Lake Michigan shanties, turned into hip boutiques, eateries and other Northern Michigan attractions. Set in Leelanau County at the edge of the Leland Harbor and at the mouth of the Leland River, Fishtown offers endless activities to fill a Northern Michigan vacation. Explore 15 things to do in Fishtown along with some more detailed vendor information below.
This article was featured in the 2021 Traverse Magazine Vacation Guide. Download your free digital issue today or get the Vacation Guide in print each year for free when you subscribe to Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine, delivered to your door each month.
1. Grab Some Fish in Fishtown!
Pick up smoked whitefish at Carlson’s and enjoy a true taste of Fishtown.
2. Watch The Boats Come In
Watch the steel tug Joy come in at the end of the afternoon with her catch of whitefish.
3. Place Your Order at Village Cheese Shanty
Order a pretzel-bread sandwich at Village Cheese Shanty and eat it on the dock.
4. Go Fishing at the Dock
Bring a rod and reel and fish off the dock.
5. Visit the Town Shops
Browse the galleries and boutiques packed into Fishtown’s weathered nooks.
6. Treat Yourself to Ice Cream
Get an ice cream cone from The Dam Candy Store and watch the sunset over the marina.
7. Snap a Fishtown Selfie
Take a selfie in front of the dam (with the shanties and harbor in the background).
8. Put Yourself on Otter Watch
Watch for otters swimming up the river.
9. Explore Fishtown’s History
Check out exhibits that reveal Fishtown’s storied past on each of the shanties.
10. Take a Photo of Fishtown’s Famous Boats
Take a frame-able photo of the Fishtown tugs Janice Sue and Joy tied up at the wharf.
11. Go on a Fishing Charter
Book a charter boat and catch your own fish on the big lake.
12. Dine at The Cove
Eat at The Cove restaurant, overlooking Fishtown.
13. Learn More About Fishtown
Stop at the Fishtown Preservation Welcome Center and learn 10 things you didn’t know about Fishtown.
14. Stay the Night in Fishtown
Book a room at Falling Waters Lodge across the river so you can go to bed in Fishtown and wake up there.
15. Support Fishtown!
Make a donation at fishtownmi.org and ensure Fishtown remains here forever.
More Ways to Explore Fishtown
Now that you’ve explored 15 things to do in Fishtown, aka Leland, dive in just a little deeper to find more information on local restaurants, shops, fishing charters, local ferries and much more.
Food and Drink
Snag an unforgettable pretzel-bread sandwich at the Village Cheese Shop or suck down a Chubby Mary (with the addition of a smoked chub fish, this is Fishtown’s take on the traditional Bloody Mary) at the Cove restaurant with its watery views. The Cove also has a fine dining menu featuring Great Lakes fish. You can also stop by Carlson’s Fishery and snag some of the best smoked whitefish in the Great Lakes. Click for more restaurants nearby.
You can watch fish dart in the river as you buy a sundress or choose a fine print at the eclectic shops that make up Fishtown.
Once a port for commercial fishermen who made their living out of the Lake Michigan waters, Leland is now a hub of charter fishing for Lake Michigan salmon, steelhead, lake trout and brown trout. Whitecap Charters and Reelin’ Leland Charters all run out of Fishtown. Click to check for other fishing charters.
Read the tales of a legendary Fishtown caption.
Hop a Ferry to the Manitou Islands
From the docks of Fishtown, you can hop the ferries of the Manitou Transit and head to North and South Manitou Islands—two uninhabited islands that are a part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. You can make a trip over to South Manitou Island in a day or opt to bring a tent and sleeping bag (primitive camping only!) and spend the night. You’ll have to bring your sleeping bag to North Manitou Island as the ferry only comes once a day.
Read what it’s like to experience backcountry camping on North Manitou Island.
Stay the Weekend
Find cottages to rent in the Leland area or stay in a hotel.
More Northern Michigan Attractions
Find this article and more in the free, digital edition of MyNorth’s 2021 Northern Michigan Vacation Guide below; or get the Vacation Guide in print each year for free when you subscribe to Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine, delivered to your door each month.