Things to Do in Manistee Michigan: 7 Highlights That Make It a Haven
In the following list, you’ll find our seven of the best things to see and do in Manistee, Michigan with plenty of variation and options within each. 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.
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 in downtown Manistee. 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!
2. The North Pierhead Lighthouse
Another one of our favorite things to do in Manistee, Michigan 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. Manistee, Michigan Beaches
Since the beaches in this charming Michigan town vary, you’ll find them grouped in two sections below. The first group includes beaches boasting of more creature comforts, such as WiFi and athletic fields. The second grouping contains quieter, more secluded beach options.
Popular Manistee Beaches with Multiple Amenities
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.
Despite pets being restricted on the beach during peak summer days (only from Memorial Day through Labor Day), the Douglas Park houses an exclusive enclosed park for dogs and an assigned waterfront space for dogs under the observation deck near the Lions Pavilion! Various picnic spots, complemented by charcoal grills, also dot the area, perfect for a leisurely afternoon.
Manistee’s Secluded, Smaller Beaches
Did you know that Manistee is home to the Man Made Lake beach? This pet-friendly beach welcomes dogs. It also offers a convenient designated parking area and picnic tables. Once you arrive at Man Made Lake Beach, a brief stroll will transport you into a delightful natural enclave where the water seems to be perpetually warm and inviting. Since it’s so small, this manufactured miniature lake is great for budding snorkel enthusiasts.
Because the City of Manistee recently acquired this petite park, it remains a protected, natural haven for beach lovers.
Arcadia Beach is another fabulous option. It’s owned by Arcadia Township and — thanks to the Grand Traverse Land Conservancy — it has remained protected. In addition to being a dog-friendly beach, the park offers many additional conveniences. These include restrooms, a picnic area, grills, and an emergency call station. There’s even a playground for the little ones.
Yet another pet-friendly beach in Manistee, Bar Lake Access, is a bit more rustic. That being said, the privacy adds a certain serenity to the experience, and it’s a wonderful environment in which to unwind and commune with nature.
Like Bar Lake Access, both North Beach Access and Pierport Beach are a hit amongst contemplative, quiet beach-goers and their four-legged friends. These are great places to sit and watch sunrises and sunsets in peace.
Portage Point Beach is nestled on Lake Michigan at the mouth of Portage Lake. Here, you can enjoy the views of the undulating sand dunes and amble along miles of sandy beach. Picnic tables and public restrooms are available, and this beach also welcomes pets.
Last but not least is Magoon Creek & Sundling Park. Like all of the aforementioned beaches in this section, dogs are welcome. Amenities include restrooms and picnic tables. According to the Manistee Tourism website, this is the ideal location for cross country skiing! So, if you’re visiting Manistee in the winter, consider bringing along snow shoes or skis.
Related: Interested in more pet-friendly travel accommodations? Check out this compilation of our Pet-Friendly Vacation Rentals Along the Lakeshore.
4. The Downtown Shopping District
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.
If you crave a little more speed, rent a bicycle or a moped from Boat, Scoot, and Boogie. It’s a great way to see Manistee quickly if you’re pressed for time.
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!
The Vogue also hosts 25-cent Family Matinees every Saturday and $2 Classic Matinees every Wednesday.
5. The Food
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.
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?
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 barbeque 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.
A short drive from downtown, the Bungalow Inn is a warm and inviting mix of tables and cozy booths.
Watch a game at the bar, or sit in the dining room and try one of their incredible burgers. Don’t miss their Slow-Roasted Prime Rib— voted Manistee’s best!
Try your hand at some blackjack, poker, roulette, or craps. Play the slots. See a concert or comedy show. Feast at one of the many buffets. Indulge and unwind at the Nectar Spa & Salon. The casino is just the thing to add a little extra zing to your vacay.
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.
Watch a sherbet-colored sunset light up the sky.
Dine on fresh-caught fish from the lake.
6. Little Mac Suspension Bridge
How often do you get to explore a historical suspension bridge?
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.
7. 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’ll 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.
Furnished Vacation Rentals in Manistee, Michigan
BVW Unsalted Vacations’ rental units like Freshwater Cove, Bellavita, and Marina Place are all located in Manistee. In other words, they serve as the perfect launch pads for exploring all that Manistee 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.