Leelanau County Summer Vacation Guide – Our Top Spots!

Are you planning your Leelanau Peninsula vacation? We’ve compiled a list of our family’s favorite things to do in Leelanau County! The PlayNorth Watersports home base is located right in Lake Leelanau, so of course we have all the inside information for your best summer ever.

Never pass up a chance to ride into a sunset – on PlayNorth jet skis!
Group of fossilized rocks and petoskey stones found at lake michigan beaches in traverse city and leelanau county.
Stones found rock hunting in Leelanau County and Grand Traverse County. Find our Michigan rock hunting tips here.
Amazing sunset taken off PlayNorth boat rental at Van's Beach in Leland Leelanau County Michigan.
One of many beautiful sunsets from a Maple City Beach in Leelanau County.

Maybe you’ve heard of Summertime in Northern Michigan? Once you experience a Suttons Bay sunrise or a boat day on Lake Leelanau, you will be a lifetime fan of Leelanau County!

If you want to plan kid-friendly activities in Leelanau, use this list – almost all the activities in our below list are family-friendly. The outdoor activities in Leelanau are endless! Paddle trip through the Leland River to Fishtown, anyone? 

Quick River Day Trip: We like to put in on North Lake Leelanau, at the mouth of the Leland River. The Leland River flows right into the heart of historic Fishtown, Leland.
Destination, Fishtown Leland! The iconic Leland Dam connects Lake Leelanau and Lake Michigan. Pssst, park your boards and go explore Fishtown! A trip down the Leland River and back is a relaxing 2-3 hour trip.

Real fast – a quick rundown of just one reason why we locals and vacationers love Leelanau. The Leelanau Peninsula is not only surrounded on three sides by Lake Michigan but also home to 33 inland lakes (Get an idea of where you are going to be staying with our Lake-by-Lake Guide to the Lakes of Leelanau County).

Let’s jump in!

Our Favorite Things to do in Leelanau County:

  1. Sunrise paddle trip or a light up LED Night Sky Kayak/Paddleboard Trip 

Sunrise Paddles are a great way to begin a summer morning! Want to sleep in? Plan one of our favorite outings – a night glow paddle. When you reserve a PlayNorth LED paddle board, the boards are outfitted with special LED lights that set the water aglow. Kids and adults alike will love seeing the lake from this new perspective. Stargazing on a paddle board has to have a place on our list of things to do on the Leelanau Peninsula!

Best Place to see the Sunrise in Leelanau County:

Suttons Bay is often protected from the northwesterly winds. The conditions of the bay’s calm waters and the gorgeous sunrises make it the perfect place to paddle board.

After your morning kayak, stop in for coffee and breakfast at Mundo’s Eat House in downtown Suttons Bay, or grab an extra flaky croissant at 9 Bean Rows Farm and Bakery in Suttons Bay!

Best Inland Lake for a Night Paddle:

Our top two picks are Lake Leelanau or Glen Lake on a calm night. Inland Lakes tend to be safer for night paddles, but if you choose to put in on Lake Michigan, it’s best to keep to the bays and stay close to shore.

Lake Leelanau has several public access points. Find the public access boat launch nearest you using the South Lake Leelanau boat launch map and North Lake Leelanau map. Paddling through the protected narrows that connect North and South Lake Leelanau is our idea of a fun trip! Both sides are different and South Lake Leelanau is always a little warmer.

Glen Lake in Leelanau County is made up of two Lakes, Big Glen and Little Glen Lake.
South Lake Leelanau and North Lake Leelanau are connected by the Narrows.
Suttons Bay Marina in Leelanau County offers beautiful sunrises over Lake Michigan.

Don’t forget Glen Lake in Glen Arbor! Glen Lake also has public access points and is connected by Little Glen and Big Glen. Use this Glen Lake Boat Launch Map to help plan your trip. Little Glen is always the first to warm up, making it perfect for a paddle.

Plan Your Trip Ahead or ask a Local Expert:

  • Check for sunset time. The lights attached to your board will become brighter once the sun sinks down.
  • Always wear your life jacket.
  • Be sure to always keep the whistle provided with your PlayNorth boat rental on your person and always keep your lighting device on in order to be seen at night.
  • Assume others cannot see you and stay out of the path of other boats. Safety first! 

Leelanau Boat Rental Resources:

Suttons Bay Map including public access points and boat launches

Lake Leelanau MapSouth Lake Leelanau North Lake Leelanau

  1. Explore a Scenic Hiking Trail in Leelanau County!

Little Traverse Lake Hiking Trail –Swanson Preserve

This Leelanau trail is located between Glen Arbor and Leland in Leelanau County. Winding just around the back of beautiful Little Traverse Lake and opening up at the end of the wooded trail to a sandy, serene Lake Michigan Beach, this hike is easy and fun for all ages. Check out directions to the Little Traverse Lake trail and the trail map

Once you reach the end of the Little Traverse Lake trail in Leelanau County, it opens up to a beautiful Lake Michigan Beach. It’s a great little trail, perfect for an easy hike!

Tips for planning your Hiking Trip and Beach Day:

Depending on the route you take to get there, stop here to pack a Beach Picnic:

Market 22 (pizza, deli, bakery, booze) located right across from Little Traverse Lake!

NJ’s Lake Leelanau grocery store with to-go food, located by the Narrows.

Dick’s Pour House (casual restaurant, bar) in Lake Leelanau.

Stop and grab to-go sandwiches from Hannah’s in Lake Leelanau or grab a few to-go cocktails and food from Fiddleheads in Lake Leelanau, right down the road. Pack a picnic to set up on the beach at the end of the trail then relax and enjoy the view!

Please always respect the environment and be a good guest on the trails- the kids always remind us to brush off our shoes at the start of a hike to prevent the spread of invasive species. What’s a Boot Brush Station? There’s a station at the beginning of plenty of trails in Leelanau County, don’t forget to use it! Pictured: The brush station at the beginning of the Whaleback Natural Area in Leland, Leelanau County. Here’s some history behind the Whaleback Trail to know before you go!

  1. Live Music at a Leelanau Tasting Room, on the water!

Boat House Vineyards – Right on Lake Leelanau!

Watch the boats go by on the Leelanau Narrows at this tasting room on Lake Leelanau! Boathouse Vineyards is located directly on the narrows of Lake Leelanau. Our favorite part about the tasting room is that it’s an easy place to visit by boat. While you’re docked, you can run across the street to grab ice cream at Hannah’s in Lake Leelanau. Now relax, and enjoy a glass of wine on the lawn of the Boathouse Vineyards Tasting Room right at the waterfront. 

Check out Boathouse Vineyards events and their live music schedule here.

A Leelanau Wine Tasting is better when you are on Lake Leelanau!

45 North Vineyard and Winery

45 North is named after its unique location on Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula. The 45th parallel runs directly through the vineyard, marking the halfway point between the equator and the south pole! Visit and take in the beauty of this beautiful, permanently protected farm and winery that actively farms 35 acres of several varieties, including Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Vignoles, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. 

Check out 45 North events and their live music schedule here.

45 North is a centennial farm set in the beautiful Leelanau Peninsula. You won’t want to miss it!
  1. Northport Youth Sailing School

Located in beautiful Northport at the tippy tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, the Northport Sailing School offers summer classes to young people interested in experiencing the sport of sailing. Classes are limited, sign up for classes ahead of time!

Ahhh, Northport, Michigan. One of the best little towns in the world.

5. Music in the Park!

Music in the Park at the Northport Marina

Join this summer tradition and make a night of it with friends and a picnic! If you’re staying in Northport or Omena, you are right by the Marina Park in downtown Northport. Music in the Park typically runs through mid-late June through the end of August. Cost is free and donations are appreciated.

Music in the Park is hosted by the Northport Performing Arts Center. Visit the NPC for more information on Music in the Park and summer events in Northport!

You can see why summers here are the perfect opportunity to get outside, visit the beach, connect with nature on a hike and end the night with outdoor live music and a farm-to-table dinner.

Everywhere from Suttons Bay and Glen Arbor to Northport is full of kid-friendly parks, freshwater beaches, and summer activities. We hope you enjoy the awesomeness of the Leelanau Peninsula to the fullest!

We have more ideas coming to round out our top 10 summer activities in Leelanau County!

Visit Part Two of our List!

Looking for more things to do and places to see in Leelanau County? Our list of top things to do on the Leelanau Peninsula isn’t finished!

For more ideas, visit PART II to our Leelanau Peninsula Vacation Travel Guide here.

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