The Leelanau Peninsula is one of the most gorgeous places in the state of Michigan. Located between Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay at the tip of Michigan’s “little finger,” it is surrounded by beaches and beautiful blue water. Leelanau State Park is a year-round park where you can enjoy outdoor recreation in any season.
Leelenau State Park, located in Northport, MI, is a rustic campground, so you won’t find any water or electrical hookups and it only offers vault toilets. You will want to ensure that you have your fresh water tanks filled up and additional power sources ready to go if you’re bringing the RV. Each site has a fire ring and picnic table and an asphalt pad to park the RV on! Tent campers will have many more sites to choose from that also include a fire ring and picnic table! Before reserving your campsite, check out their site map and campground photos online. Reservations can be made online for quick, easy planning.
Things to Do
The Leelanau Peninsula and the surrounding Northport area are truly breathtaking. Northern Michigan offers fun outdoor recreation of all kinds and is a wonderful place to visit any time of year. Whether you’re planning a couple’s getaway of wine tasting and spa experiences or a fun family vacation, Leelenau Peninsula has something for you, and the Leelenau State Park is a great place to stay!
The state park features 8.5 miles of beautiful trails that wind through wooded areas, sandy dunes, and have access to both Mud Lake and Cathead Bay! The trail system is actually made up of two different trails that link together, the Lake Michigan Trail and the Mud Lake Trail, and have a few smaller trails that connect in between. You can spend all day on these trails exploring what nature has to offer! You’ll find places to rest and overlooks that offer a great view of Lake Michigan! Pack a picnic and take the family for a day of adventure! In the winter you can strap on your snowshoes or cross-country skis and hit the trails!
The vast amount of beach options at this park gives plenty of room to spread out and enjoy this beautiful state at its best! The Cathead Bay beach is great for swimming, sunbathing, building sandcastles, having picnics, and more! You may have to search for a sandy area for a little while as much of this beach is rocky, but there are definitely sandy areas to be found! Also, while here, keep your eyes peeled for Petoskey stones, the state stone of Michigan, to collect as souvenirs.
The piping plover, an endangered and protected species, is a small bird that nests on open beaches, making the Leelanau Peninsula a great place for them. The Leelanau Conservancy is working hard to ensure these birds have a safe place to nest and reproduce! Because these birds blend in so well with the sand and rocks, and like to nest on the beach, they are easily disturbed by humans walking on the beach. So watch your step as you stroll on the beaches of the peninsula. Typically a nesting area will be closed off from human traffic, but you’ll want to keep your eyes open just to be safe. If you’re interested in seeing the piping plover or other birds up close, this is a great place to get out your binoculars and do some birdwatching.
If you’re a hunter, then you’ll like this state park! During the appropriate times, Leelanau State Park offers hunting for deer, rabbit, woodcock, duck, goose, and squirrel. With a mixture of brush, open meadows, and forest, Mud Lake makes for the perfect area for hunting and trapping! Catch your dinner and cook it over your open campfire!
Grand Traverse Lighthouse
A great place for a road school field trip is the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. Built in 1852, this lighthouse has been guiding ships past the peninsula ever since. There is a great museum inside with exhibits that reference the lives of the keepers as well as sailors from the lake! Other exhibits include the history of Grand Traverse Light, Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve, and Native American Settlements of the Area. On your way out, don’t forget to hit the gift shop for some great souvenirs to remember your visit! You can even get a polishing kit for all the Petoskey stones you find!
The Surrounding Area
There are so many things to do on the Leelanau Peninsula, you will have a hard time choosing where to start! If you’re looking for adventure outside of the state park, you’re in the right place!
Wine and Beer
If you want to relax and enjoy a glass of wine, you’ll have many quality choices of places to go! Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, Leelanau Wine Cellars in Omena, and L. Mawby Vineyards in Suttons Bay are just a few of the many wineries the peninsula has to offer year round! Or if you’re into liqueur, visit Northern Latitudes Distillery in Lake Leelenau and get a “latitude adjustment.” And for a cold beer, pull up a barstool at Hop Lot Brewing Company in Suttons Bay for some of Michigan’s best beers! A cold drink or a stiff cocktail is just a short drive away from the Leelenau State Park.
Leelanau was once a prized area for fishing and had a huge market of shanties, smokehouses, docks, and boats. While no longer a bustling fishing village, a non-profit organization called Fishtown Preservation was created to help preserve a living link to the maritime history of this town. Join in on some of the activities that help raise money for Fishtown Preservation, such as a 5K run, art shows, raffles, and more. And visit some of the shops and restaurants that support the organization to delight in local fare and take home some unique northern Michigan souvenirs.
At the end of your trip to the Leelenau State Park, you’ll be so glad you headed north and experienced one of the most beautiful places in Michigan! Surrounded by crystal blue waters and quaint northern Michigan towns, this state park is the perfect destination for a fun, relaxing vacation. Have you visited Leelenau State Park? Tell us what you love about Leelenau Peninsula in the comments!