Few fall drives are as iconic as Northern Michigan’s scenic Tunnel of Trees. And this is just one of the show-stopping spots in this stunning fall destination.
If you’re flying, Traverse City
makes for a great starting point. Explore the Peninsula, driving up route 37. You’ll find incredible wineries
along the way (as well as Jolly Pumpkin Brewery, which also serves great food). Bonobo Winery boasts incredible views of the West Arm of Traverse Bay, and makes some delicious wine to boot.
After you’ve experienced the Peninsula, head back toward Traverse City and start driving north on 31. You’d think Lake Michigan is the big draw here, but in fact, it’s the inland lakes like Elk, Torch, and Charlevoix that really win hearts with their Caribbean blue waters. If you have time, venture off the main road to Bachmann’s Store in Central Lake—an old school candy shop with loads of charm.
Farther north in Charlevoix, you’ll find great shopping, dining and one-of-a-kind architecture. Check out one—or many!—mushroom houses designed by local native Earl Young. Continuing on, you’ll bop through many charming hamlets, including Petoskey
. Views of Lake Michigan stun from downtown. Grab lunch and a beer at Tap 30, offering creative interpretations of bar food staples as well as loads of local brews. American Spoon makes excellent gelato, and in between your beer and ice cream, you’ll find lots of great little shops, including Dave’s Boot Shop, Cutler’s (who sell all sorts of house and kitchen gear), and the adorable Rocking Horse Toy Company. Harbor Springs, just around Little Traverse Bay, also boasts a cute downtown, with more shops, restaurants and Tom’s Mom’s Cookies, a quaint local bakery.
Next, you’re on to the Tunnel of Trees
—a roughly 30-mile venture down one of America’s most beautiful fall drives. The narrow M119 road meanders alongside Lake Michigan, but since the leaves are so dense, you only get peeps of the blue waters from a select few overlooks. After the curvy drive, reward yourself with a meal at the Legs Inn, a 100-year-old restaurant specializing in Polish food. This cozy lodge is a Michigan icon.
Since you’re already up there, why not take advantage of low season on Mackinac Island? This car-free island, a short ferry ride from the mainland, is jam-packed in the summer. Come fall, the lines for fudge and carriage rides dwindle. You’ll get leafy bike paths mostly to yourself.