Road Trip! Destination: Old Mission Peninsula, Mich.
There's not a single big-box store to behold as you traverse the 22 miles of unspoiled landscape that is Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula.
But a lack of commercialism doesn't mean a lack of activities. There's plenty to do as you skirt the divide of the Grand Traverse Bay.
The Old Mission Inn
If relaxing in one of the many rocking chairs dotting the Old Mission Inn's 135-foot veranda doesn't set your mind at ease, maybe a rest in an oversize hammock will.
The inn has been rejuvenating weary souls since 1869, which, in 1936, included guests Babe Ruth and Joe Lewis.
These days, it continues to celebrate its history with a mission of making guests feel as though they've taken a trip back in time without sacrificing modern amenities via their suites and rooms — all with private baths. But if staying in the Cherry Tree Suite, Cupid's Cove or Rose Garden Room isn't your scene, perhaps a night or two in the detached rustic cabin is.
Regardless, hospitality abounds in this home away from home overlooking the East Grand Traverse Bay.
“What is amazing is the fact that it's only had four owners in 146 years,” current owner Angie Jensen says. “We get travelers from all over the world, and you get to meet some really interesting people.”
The Boathouse Restaurant
When you're finished feasting your eyes on the glittering shores of the West Bay, dive into a full plate a la executive chef Jim Morse. With an emphasis on locally sourced foods, most of the menu items are designed to “blend the exotic with the familiar.” Smoked Whitefish Pate, Oysters Rockefeller, Pheasant-Eggplant Cannelloni, Sweet Potato-Quinoa Cakes, Scottish Salmon. There's so much to please the palate.
Many of the fruits and vegetables come straight from the 10 acres of proprietor Doug Kosch and his wife, Erin, who embody their restaurant's “home grown” mentality.
Pyatt Lake: The Bill Carls Nature Preserve
There are 159 acres of undisturbed landscape that await visitors who find themselves traipsing this botanically diverse piece of land.
Managed by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, the property boasts more than 250 plant species that can be found tucked within a lush forest of maturing trees. Originally an arm of the Grand Traverse Bay more than a few thousand years ago, the preserve is a “living laboratory for geology buffs” interested in exploring the glacial footprint of the dune ridge. Bird-watchers will revel in sighting a variety of feathered friends, including woodpeckers, winter wrens, warblers and more than a few owls.
Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery
Dubbed one of the “Top 10 Hottest Wine Brands in the U.S.” by Wine Business Monthly magazine, Brys Estate was started by winemakers Walt and Eileen Brys after a trip to the Napa Valley in 1975.
Ninety-one acres and 40,000 vines later, Brys Estate handcrafts its wines in small batches, harvesting grapes from the land tucked around the 1890s farm.
“We are a small, family-run winery that focuses on quality and not quantity,” says operations manager Patrick Brys. Merlot, cabernet Franc, chardonnay, pinot gris, riesling and gewurztraminer grapes are ready to ensure you'll keep a glass half-full mentality while private tours of the barrel and cask rooms as well as tastings are available year-round.
Mission Point Lighthouse
It was a sinking ship that finally was enough to encourage Congress to fund the building of the Mission Point Lighthouse in 1870. For the next 60-plus years, a handful of keepers worked diligently to guide mariners in and out of the West Grand Traverse Bay with a light that could be seen from as far away as 12 miles.
The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1933 and sat vacant until 1948, when residents raised $1,900 to purchase the property for preservation. To this day, township residents still own it, and each has full access to the lighthouse and grounds.
“It's a piece of history, and thank goodness the residents pulled together enough money to save it, because it was basically rotting,” lighthouse manager David Foulkrod says.
Having been added to the National and State Historic Register, today's visitors are able to climb the tower and gaze out on the waters before perusing its small maritime museum. But if the idea of actually living in the lighthouse floats your boat, you can apply to participate in the Keeper's Program, during which you stay in the lighthouse apartment for a week at a time and keep an eye on the grounds, museum and store.
“We've had Keeper's from Texas, Florida, Colorado. … We're already filled for 2015 and taking reservations for 2016,” Foulkrod says.