Itinerary Ideas

The Sleeping Bear Dunes area offers endless activity ideas for everyone!  Here are a few favorites of visitors and locals alike.

1.  Paddle the Crystal River or Glen Lakes

Paddling down the clear waters of the Crystal River is a relaxing, fun trip for individuals, couples or families.  Bring your kayak or rent one from Crystal River Outfitters during the Spring, Summer and Fall months.  Also be sure to grab some lunch to go from your trip from one of the many restaurants in town, including Riverfront Pizza and Deli (across from Crystal River Oufitters).

If you’re looking for a very mild paddle, head to Fisher Lake – a small inland lake that connects the Crystal River to Big Glen Lake.  This is also a great place to practice stand-up paddleboarding!

For the more advanced adventure seeker, take your kayak, canoe or paddleboard out to Lake Michigan and paddle along the shore towards Glen Haven. We recommend you check the wave conditions on the lake first, as calmer waters are ideal for this type of paddle. Have your picnic lunch in Glen Haven and then come back to Glen Arbor to rest up for your next adventure.

Time needed:  Anywhere from 2-5 hours, depending on your route.

Locals will tell you:  Bring sunscreen, bug repellent, and a plastic bag for your camera and phone (just in case)!

2.  Foodie Day

Start your “foodie day” in Glen Arbor on Tuesday morning at 9am at Township Hall, where the weekly Farmers Market comes to town!  Gather up (almost) everything here needed for your stay in Glen Arbor, from fresh veggies, fruits, eggs and artisan breads to local grass-fed beef, local cheeses and fresh-cut flowers.

Once you’ve put away your market haul or made some of it into a fantastic breakfast, come back into town to enjoy wine tasting!  Cherry Republic and the M22 store both offer tastings every day (yes, even starting in the AM).  Or if wine isn’t your thing, pick up some freshly roasted coffee at Leelanau Coffee Roasting Co, and be sure to enjoy a cup while you’re there.

Can’t decide where to go to for lunch?  Wish we could help you more here….but you can find everything in town from classic burgers to homemade soups, salads and sandwiches.

And if you have not yet made evening plans, your dinner options also vary from casual to 5-star cuisine.  Be sure to make your reservations at Blu for an unforgettable experience overlooking Lake Michigan right on the beach of Sleeping Bear Bay.  A few other local favorites for fine cuisine in quaint settings, are La Becasse or Funistrada (in Burdickville), reservations are also recommended. Nona’s at the Homestead for more fine dining. Check out the welcoming Little Traveres Inn, a gastro pub with Live Music on select days each week, is a great family friendly eatery option. More casual options in Glen Arbor include Western Avenue Grill, Art’s Tavern, Boonedocks and Cherry Republic.

Then treat yourself to dessert on the bay – grab your folding chairs and a blanket, some of your farmers market dessert findings and a glass of wine, and soak up a beautiful Lake Michigan sunset.

Annually, the week before Mothers Day is Glen Lake Restaurant Week for foodies to get a great deal on dining, with 3 coarse pre-fixe menu’s from lunch to dinner time, at participating restaurants. You can experience a great variety of food, “from French fries to French cuisine.”

Time needed:  As much/as little as you please!

Locals will tell you:  Get to the farmers market early for the best selections; and make your summertime dinner reservations ahead of time.

3.  Explore Burdickville, Empire and beyond

While the heart of town is undoubtedly the “epicenter” for shopping and dining in the area, there are gems around the lake and in the countryside that are must-stops!  Head down M-22 to visit Good Harbor Farm, an environmentally certified working farm and farmstand with fresh fruits, veggies, eggs, meats and maple syrup.  Once you’re stocked up with goodies, swing back towards Glen Lake and visit Burdickville, home to Old Settler’s Picnic Area, home to a small children’s play area, beautiful grounds and docking area on Glen Lake.  When you’re here, stop by Laker Shakes for a quick lunch or Moomer’s Ice Cream cone.  If your cone can bear the summer heat, take it up to Inspiration Point, where you’ll have unforgettable views of Glen Lake, the dunes and Lake Michigan.

Form here, head to Empire and make a stop at Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate, winner of countless local and national chocolate-making accolades.  If you didn’t grab an ice cream cone in Burdickville, be sure to try one of their fudgesicles!  If you have kids in your crew, be sure to stop at the Empire Beach playground, overlooking Lake Michigan and the bluffs.  Or take a stroll here on the flat, sandy beaches – or in the shallow, clear waters.

Time needed: 3-4 Hours

Locals will tell you:  If you have an SUV or 4-wheel drive vehicle, sneak off onto Burnham Road (near Inspiration Point) for a beautiful, slow drive through the woods.  Stick with Burnham Road over Benzonia Trail and it will also serve as a shortcut to Empire.


4. Find Your Park – The Sleeping Bear Dunes

From a long and beautiful drive through Pierce Stocking, to a quick pull-off lookout at Inspiration Point with a birds-eye view of the Glen Lakes, to a seasonal road and “off the beaten path” hike in the woods, you can find a variety of recreation in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a more recent development, creating year-round, non-motorized, easily accessible way to experience the park. For wheelchairs to kids on bikes, hikers, walkers, skiers, snowshoers and the elite in training, the Heritage Trail can be enjoyed by all ages and stages. There’s many sections that have been developed, connecting as South as Empire, continuing onto Glen Haven, Glen Arbor, and through Port Oneida, on up to Bohemian Rd. Get a map at the Visitors Center in the Park in Empire, various retailers and restaurants also carry the map, or pick one up at M-22 store in Glen Arbor, or at the Public Restrooms/Garden area behind Art’s Tavern. The trail is funded and maintained year round, by Friends of Sleeping Bear through fundraising.

The park also provides beaches to enjoy for miles and miles. Some beaches are dog-friendly and you may also make a campfire if done responsibly. Beaches are marked well with signage to let you know. Picnic tables and out-house style restrooms are available at most.

Time needed: 1 hr to as much time as you want!

Locals will tell you: The Park stretches way further than you think. Get a map and see, some of our properties we call home border park boundaries, from Maple City, to Empire and Glen Arbor. We’ve lived here for years and can still discover spots in the Park we’ve never been. We continue to blaze our own trail, where there’s no trail, but just know it’s National Park-owned land.

5. Spa Day

Golf – A par-3 course in the Homestead Resort, is Mountain Flowers. The views are breathtaking and the nine holes are spectacular. When you’re ready for a full round, you can take a short drive to their sister property, Manitou Passage Golf Club. You’ll find 18-holes of Arnold Palmer designed golf there. Just around the corner is “Sugarloaf, the Old Coarse” another golf game option in a beautiful setting. The River in Glen Arbor is under new management beginning summer 2016, and offers put-put golf in a fun atmosphere right on the Crystal River, a great thing to do with kids and family.

Spa – LeBear Resort provides Spa services for their guests. The Homestead has a Spa open to the public, Spa Amira

Salons – Open to the public, make an appointment for luxurious salon services including makeup, nail care and waxing at Lilyjade Salon in The Homestead. For men, women and children, right in the heart of Glen Arbor, Glen Lake Beauty Salon provides all hair care services, manicures, pedicures and waxing.

Time Needed: 2 hrs – Full Day

Locals will tell you: You don’t have to leave the Glen Lake area to seek peace, serenity and pampering.