Things to Do in Manistee Michigan: 7 Highlights That Make it a Haven

We’re so excited to share our list of the best things to do in Manistee, Michigan with you! Michigan is known for its natural beauty, unspoiled coastline, and small-town charm.

Summertime in the the mitten state means warm, golden sand between your toes. Soothing, freshwater waves lapping at the shoreline. The gentle ripple and clang of a ship’s sail blowing in the breeze. There are miles of Lake Michigan coastline to explore during a summer-time stay in any one of Michigan’s beach towns — but there’s one hidden gem in particular that we don’t want you to overlook.

It’s a little town called Manistee. And it’s the ideal spot for a pure, unsalted Michigan vacation. But if you’re not familiar with the area, you might be wondering what there is to do. You’ve come to the right place! With a delightful downtown riverwalk, a gorgeous harbor, beautiful beaches, and much more, this self-proclaimed “Victorian Port City” has all you’ll need for a relaxing, entertaining, and memory-filled vacation.


The Most Popular Things to Do in Manistee, Michigan in Summer & Warmer Months


1. The Riverwalk

Strolling the Manistee Riverwalk is one of the most popular things to do in Manistee, Michigan because it follows the Manistee River through town. The walk winds behind the downtown businesses and ends at the beach, near the point where the river flows into Lake Michigan.

Along the way, you can take the stairs and pathways up to visit the restaurants and shops downtown. Or, you can stroll along and enjoy the boats gliding up and down the river.

And there’s a bonus for the history buffs— you’ll find 25 markers and plaques highlighting the history of the region as you traverse the riverwalk!

view of cement foundation and white north pier lighthouse in Muskegon, Mi

2. The North Pierhead Lighthouse

Another one of our favorite things to do in Manistee is to admire the lighthouse. Standing 39 feet tall and keeping watch over the shores of Lake Michigan, the North Pierhead Lighthouse protects and welcomes boats into the harbor.

Built-in 1869— and re-built in 1872 after a fire— it has a classic iron “catwalk” silhouette that we hear is rare in a working lighthouse. It also hosts some of the most breathtaking, Instagram-worthy sunsets in Michigan.

3. Visit Local Beaches (Among the Best Family-Friendly Things to do in Manistee, Mi!)

First Street Beach and Fifth Avenue Beach are both a short stroll away from some of our Manistee vacation home rentals. With playground areas, boat launch spots, food vendors, showers, picnic areas, and even free Wifi, these beaches have everything you need for a perfect day on the lake!

Douglas Park at First Street Beach, a grand beach and recreational zone in the region, boasts multiple amenities. It is well-equipped with numerous athletic fields, tennis courts, and basketball arenas.

You can find a longer list of Manistee beaches in our newly updated list of 11 Beaches in Manistee, Mi for Your Summer 2024 Bucket List .

4. Little Mac Suspension Bridge: A Must-Have for Your Manistee Bucket List in 2024

According to Manistee Tourism’s page for first-time visitors, the vision for the charming suspension bridge begin to unfold in the 19902. This delightful footbridge, tenderly known as “Little Mac,” was inspired by its much grander sibling, the Mackinac Bridge. Completed in 1996 by the U.S. Forest Service and Consumers Power Company, Little Mac is a 245-foot pedestrian haven gently urging you to explore its serene surroundings.

As you meander along its exquisite path, a stone’s throw from the enchanting suspension bridge, you’ll discover the Hodenpyl Dam. This remarkable feat of engineering forms part of Consumers Energy’s network of 13 hydroelectric dams, gracefully scattered throughout Northern Lower Michigan. Experience an unforgettable stroll as Little Mac guides you through awe-inspiring nature and serenity.


5. Arcadia Overlook aka ‘Inspiration Point’ in Manistee County

Last but not least, remember to stop and savor the views offered by the Arcadia Overlook! As you drive along the stunningly Scenic Highway M-22, you’ll find this popular scenic overlook at the highest point of the highway. (In fact, the steep incline with almost definitively cause your ears to pop!)

Once you reach the Arcadia Overlook by car, you’ll want to pull on your comfy walking shoes for the final 120-step ascent to the highest point in Manistee County.

Once atop the deck, there will be plenty of space to sit and relax, and there are even charcoal grills available.

Depending on the clarity of the skies, you might be able to see the North Pier Lighthouse and Manistee Harbor below. The gorgeous Arcadia and Onekama piers will likely be visible as well.

Once you make it to the top, there’s only one thing left to do – bask in the tranquil beauty of Manistee County.

Wooden platform built to overlook Lake Michigan
Arcadia Overlook, or ‘Inspiration Point’

Popular Things to Do in Manistee, Michigan Year Round

The following ideas are popular year-round, since they generally involve staying inside!

6. The Downtown Shopping District Offers Plenty of Thing to Do in Manistee, Mi During Winter Months

If you window shopping and dining out, then visiting downtown is sure to become one of your favorite things to do in Manistee, Michigan. Downtown Manistee has many quaint shops, boutiques, and cafes to explore. In fact, Manistee shopping is many vacationers’ favorite activity!

Take a peek inside Surroundings for candles, gifts, and fine cigars.

The Happy Owl Bookshop is the perfect spot to pick up a beach read— or for a lazy browse on a rainy day. The Outpost is a clothing shop and a full-service coffee, tea and espresso bar.

The recently restored 1930s-era Vogue Theater is the ideal spot to see the latest cinema releases. The Grand Theater seats 187, while a smaller screening room seats 45. The renovated lobby, lounge, and concession area combined with a state-of-the-art projection and sound system provide a truly amazing experience for film-goers!


What to Do in Manistee Michigan7. The Food: Add These Restaurants to Your Manistee, Mi Bucket List!

For a small town, Manistee has a variety of impressive restaurants to explore.

Most are located along picturesque River Street, allowing you to slowly meander and continue shopping or catch a movie after dinner.

Or, even better— find some dessert!

Be sure to check out a few of these local-favorite spots while you’re in town.


Blue Fish Kitchen & Bar

This riverside restaurant features an extensive wine and craft beer list, artisan cocktails and farm-to-table fare. They serve an impressive array of Great Lakes fish that is artfully prepared by their chefs.

Blue Fish will also cook your catch. In other words, they’ll take your fresh-from-the-lake catch of the day and serve it up pan- seared or Parmesan-crusted and baked to perfection.

How cool is that?

North Channel Brewing Co.

Their motto is simple— Great Food. Great Beer. Great People.

Sounds good to us!

The atmosphere is friendly and laid-back, and their beer and barbecue are outrageously delicious. The burgers are amazing, too. Try the Bacon Slaw Burger, the Animal Smokehouse with goat cheese and pork belly, or the Fried Green Tomato BLT. There are 12 taps behind the bar featuring house made beers and ciders, as well as two small batch taps for rotating special and seasonal beers.

North Channel also specializes in craft cocktails and carries various wines, so there is truly something for everyone.


Now That We’ve Covered Things to Do in Manistee, Mi: Let’s Find the Best Places to Stay!

There are so many reasons to visit Manistee, and so many things to do! Start your day savoring a cup of coffee in your private vacation rental. Spend a lazy afternoon at one of the three Manistee beaches, or get lost in time as you stroll through the local antique stores and cafes. BVW Unsalted Vacations offers multiple Manistee vacation homes, including Freshwater Cove, Bellavita, and Marina Place.  These serve as the perfect launch pads for exploring all that the city has to offer.

Book your trip to ‘must-see Manistee’ today! Hopefully one item from this list of things to do in Manistee, Michigan got you a little more excited to visit this charming beach town.

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