Fishtown in Leland, Michigan, is a historic enclave of 19th-century Lake Michigan shanties, turned into hip boutiques, eateries and art galleries. Perched at the edge of the Leland Harbor and at the mouth of the Leland River, it’s a must-visit on a Northern Michigan vacation. 

Things to Do in Fishtown

  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 and Lake Michigan (come for sunset!).
  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 and ensure Fishtown remains here forever.

Photo by Dave Weidner

Carlson's Fishery, Fishtown, Leland, M22

Photo by Todd Zawistowski

Photo by Taylor Brown

More Ways to Explore Fishtown

Now that you’ve explored 15 things to do in Fishtown, 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.

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 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.

Charter Fish

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 both run out of Fishtown.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner