Your Perfect M22 Michigan Highway & Scenic Drive

The Ultimate Guide to a Breathtakingly Beautiful M22 Michigan Highway Adventure

Winding along northern Michigan’s coastline, the M22 Michigan highway offer’s a scenic drive, showcasing the countless picturesque views and adventures just bound to occur on this coastal adventure. In fact, you’ll pass over 21 points of interest and 11 quaint communities. Each and every one offers vineyards, eateries and lookout attractions galore. Furthermore, the four major seasons of the year highlight the unique beauty offered by Highway M22. In fact, travel during autumn, it’s a legitimate color tour! In fact, this stretch was once voted America’s Number One Best Scenic Autumn Drive!

M22 Highway sign near the side of the road

 

Overview: M22’s Scenic Route Along Lake Michigan & FAQs

Perhaps you’ve always been aware of the M22 Highway. But if you’re a newbie, it helps to have more information about route m22 before embarking on the classic M-22 drive with no prior instructions. First we’ll cover a few quick FAQs, and then we’ll begin the route planning and share our favorite spots along the way!

1 Where is M22 in Michigan?

The M22 scenic drive starts in Manistee and meanders along charming Lake Michigan towns for a whopping 116 miles until it “ends” in Traverse City.  Since the M-22 Michigan highway takes a U-turn. it’ll take you right back to Manistee. Furthermore, Traverse City connects easily to freeways leading the way back to southwest Michigan towns. In other words, you could plan a longer M 22 Michigan Vacation even if you live in Holland, Grand Haven, or even Saugatuck or South Haven.

2. Are there good places to stay along M22 in Michigan?

Without a doubt, there are plenty of hotels and motels along the M22 Michigan Highway. In fact, you’ll find some recommendations in the second half of this article. When you’re beginning in Manistee, we have several great vacation rentals for you.

3. Can you give me an M22 Michigan route map?

Of course! It’s easy to use this Google-approved Highway M-22 map. Additionally, the Manistee Tourism website offers a recommended route map. On the front page of their website, simply scroll down and click “Download a Printable Version.” They also have a ready-made map shown as an image on that first page. As an added bonus, this lovely tribute page to the M-22 Drive showcases a wide variety of photos taken by visitors. These photos capture the breathtaking beauty of the small M-22 towns, and they also span a variety of seasons.

M22 Michigan Route to Scenic Overlooks

4. What should I bring along for an M22 Road Trip?

First, make sure to print the Google M22 Route Map and print it as a backup. You’ll also want comfy hiking clothes, sun glasses, binoculars, a bathing suit, and adequate cash for the unique and varied shops. In other words, be ready for lots of climbing and hiking! Check out our list of helpful packing tips for more ideas.

5. When is the M-22 Color Tour?

Luckily, the M22 scenic drive is scenic all four seasons of the year. In fact, there are even igloos available in the winter in some villages. However, you’ll need to wait till the leaves start changing in Autumn. This will alert you to an opportunity to experience the color tour.

6. Where are the M22 Stores?

You’ll find an M22 store in Glen Arbor and Traverse City.

7. How long does it take to drive M22?

To be exact, the M-22 Michigan highway is 116 miles. Theoretically, you could compute the time based on how speedy you are behind the wheel. According to Lazy Trips,  you can drive the entire length of M22 in Michigan in just under three hours. That is, if you’re starting in Manistee and returning from Traverse City.

And according to Lazy Trips, it will take seven hours for you to drive  route m22 if you begin in Detroit.

 

BVW Unsalted Vacations’ M22 Michigan Highway Coastal Adventure

The M22 Michigan route is bursting with things to do, new foods to try, gorgeous michigan sky views to behold, and much more. But we’ve condensed the overwhelming volume of options into a concise list. You could definitely use the items below to plan the perfect “day trip” in Michigan, but one day is cutting it close. You might feel rushed! Instead, we suggest planning a weekend getaway. And if you’re traveling from southwest Michigan towns like Saugatuck or Holland, why not plan a week-long getaway?

Luckily, Manistee is a charming town to visit all year round. So, you can always begin with a couple days in one of our furnished rentals before beginning the drive.

Without further ado, it’s time to hit the trail!

Manistee to Onekama

Onekama is the first village on the M22 route after Manistee. Enjoy a leisurely lunch at the Onekama Village park. with its amenable picnic area, sandy beach, playground, and boat launch. With the allure of swimming, you may never want to leave!

One notable tourist attraction, “Old Facefall,” looks like a random pipe sticking up from the ground. But it’s actually an artesian spring with delightfully pure water.

From Onekama to Arcadia

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

After leaving Onekama, route M22 will nudge you along to the sleepy village of Arcadia. The natural beauty along the waterfront is perfect for a gentle, nature-filled walk.

It will be obvious when you’ve arrived at the Arcadia Dunes and Inspiration Point.  The Arcadia Overlook aka “Inspiration Point” is one of the highest lookouts over majestic Lake Michigan waters. Please note that he 120-step climb to the overlook is physically demanding. In fact, your ears will likely pop!

However, trust us when we say the view is truly worth it. And there will be plenty of seating and even grills for food prep when you reach the summit. Make sure to bring binoculars to this one-of-a-kind Lake Michigan overlook! During clear skies, you might catch a glimpse of the North Pier Lighthouse or the Manistee Harbor. Stunning vistas of the Arcadia and Onekama piers are typically visible no matter the weather.

Instead of rushing through the experience, try to truly revel in the pure beauty of Michigan. By taking time for yourself, you’re practicing a valuable form of self care. Simple steps like these are all part of the wellness travel movement, and these are small ways to improve your well-being without paying a cent.

Frankfort

After a leisurely mini-vacay at Inspiration Point, it’ll be time to get back on highway M22. Frankfort’s vibrant downtown with charming eateries will welcome you!  L’Chayim Delicatessen is a popular place for picnic provisions, bagels, and breakfast sandwiches. For a quick pick me up, Perks of Frankfort offer coffee, sweets, and gifts from local artisans. If it’s warm enough, you can visit Crystal Lake Beach for a refreshing plunge.

Frankfort is also home to the famous, and truly enchanting, Point Betsie Lighthouse.

Point Betsie Lighthouse

Due to Pointe Betsie Lighthouse’s rich cultural significance, visting this attraction could easily take an entire day! Since 1858, it has been a fully functional lighthouse, guiding mariners when needed.

But Point Betsie is so much more than just a lighthouse: daily tours are open to the public, the lighthouse associates are involved in community outreach, and there’s a fun gift shop on site. The daily tours are extremely affordable, making this a great family-friendly activity.

But that’s not all – the Point Betsie beach is world-class and open to the public.  In fact, tourists can even spend the night at the lighthouse! This is a fabulous way to learn more about life as a lighthouse keeper.

Point Bestsie sits between the awe-inspiring beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes’ Lake Michigan shoreline and Frankfort. As you can see, any M 22 Michigan ‘Day Trip’ could easily become a week-long adventure!

Lighthouse rests on the Lake Michigan Shoreline with blue skies in background and sandy beach.
Since 1858, Frankfort’s Point Betsie Lighthouse has been fully functional.


Sleeping Bear Dunes

After Frankfort, Sleeping Bear Dunes awaits you. Make sure to admire the sandy scenic bluffs that soar well above Lake Michigan. You’ll also want to explore the intricate system of over a hundred hiking trails along the lakeshore. Again, give yourself time to appreciate the pure Michigan beauty! Slow down and marvel in the beautiful inland lakes, unique plants and animals, and amazing views of Lake Michigan.

If you want to extend your highway M 22 trip even further, you can even camp for a night at Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Glen Arbor: Shopping, Eating, and Drinking

The M22 Michigan Highway will eventually lead you to Glen Arbor.  In addition to boutique shopping and local eateries, Glen Arbor is home to the M22 store. Of course you’ll want to pick up some swag while you’re there!

Here are four more must-visit places in Glen Arbor:

  •  The District vineyard offers an exclusive M22 Wine Experience. Sip on locally-sourced wine on the outdoor patio during warmer months. But don’t let the winter scare you away! An igloo is available on site during the Fall and Winter months.
  • Find your midday snack at Joe’s Friendly Tavern or the Shipwreck Cafe. Both offer an excellent array of highly rated burgers and sandwiches.
  • Looking for something sweet? Hit up Cherry Republic. This notable Michigan destination lets you shop 200+ cherry products or savor lunch and homemade pie selections. And you guessed it, all are cherry-inspired!

From Glen Arbor to Empire

The next stops on your M-22 drive are Empire and Leland. One of the best places to stay on M22 is the Empire Lakeshore Inn.  This nicely-appointed hotel is very close to Sleeping Bear Dunes. This Again, there are plenty of things to do and see in each town.

Consider the following highlights:

  • Wander the Empire Bluff Trail, a hike that towers above Caribbean-esque waters.
  • You can also rent a canoe and cool off at nearby Platte River.
  • Nearby, Pierce Scenic Stocking Drive takes you on a seven-and-a-half mile cruise around the region’s most popular trailheads and dunes, with unbeatable views of South Manitou Island. Try to take advantage of the observation deck and catch a view of Glen Lake, if you can!
  • The Verterra Winery in Leland offers a selection of Michigan wines to taste.
The Empire Bluff Trail offers breathtaking Lake Michigan overlook vistas.
Located near the Empire Bluff Trail, this M22 scenic bluff is stunningly beautiful!

 

Leland: Route M22’s One-of-a-Kind Fishing Village

Nest, you’ll head up the Leelanau Peninsula and arrive in Fishtown, USA aka Leland. Today, the weather-worn docks are filled with shanties, quirky shops, and excellent galleries. Without a doubt, you could spend days enjoying Leland. But consider the following highlights:

  • The Reelin Leland Fishing Charters will bring you out into the sparkling water of Lake Michigan and even allow you to “choose your own adventure.” This offers flexibility and honors everyone’s unique budget.
  • Leland also offers its very own Van’s Beach.
  • With lodging available at The Riverside Inn, why not spend the night?
  • Then, you’ll have ample time to explore Clay Cliff’s Natural Area –  not to mention the various stores and cheese shops.
  • Score a fresh catch (and tomorrow’s dinner) from Carlson’s Market, a sixth-generation family business built on fishery tradition.

 

M-22 Michigan’s Final Destination: Traverse City

 

Route 22 Michigan takes a U-turn after its final stop in Traverse City.  However, staying in Traverse City is definitely worth an extra day or two!

In the following list, hopefully at least one or two options stand out for your M-22 Michigan Vacation:

  • Perhaps you can time your Michigan getaway for Traverse City’s famous cherry festival in July. No matter the time of year, this vibrant city offers a large collection of wooded trails and pristine beaches.
  • The city is also a hub for vineyards and wineries. In fact, our handy list of can’t-miss vineyards and wineries in the area might be useful for you.
  • Additionally, tourists can arrange to visit local lighthouses!
  • Afterward, veer back south to Suttons Bay and the region’s thriving metropolis, Traverse City. You can end the day with a meal at one of the many award-winning eateries like Wren or Hearth & Vine Restaurant.
  • For a European flair and made-from-scratch specialties, be sure to stop at Martha’s Leelanau Table.
  • In Traverse City, trendy nightlife abounds and nightcap options are endless. Check out Little Fleet for delicious food trucks and a hopping bar scene.
  • In the mood for craft beer? 7 Monks Taproom or The Filling Station Microbrewery serve up some great local brews.
  • And of course, we won’t fail to mention the abundance of acclaimed wineries along the Leelanau Wine Trail.

And, last but not least, make sure to visit the M22 Clothing Store’s Traverse City location.

 

Coming Back Home: Places to Stay After Your M22 Michigan Highway Drive & Coastal Vacation

 

As you can see, picturesque M22 Highway offers countless opportunities for relaxation, adventure, and exploration. From the charming town of Manistee to the vibrant feel in Traverse City, every stop along the way provides delightful attractions, natural beauty, and unforgettable experiences.

BVW Unsalted Vacations will be waiting with open arms if you need a place to stay on your return home. Especially if you have a long drive leading you back to Holland, Saugatuck, South Haven, or wherever you call home. We offer vacation rentals in Manistee, Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Muskegon, and many other local cities. Simply visit the Unsalted Vacations website and use our handy search bar to reserve lodging.

Now that your lodging is covered, all you have to do is pick a day—and drive. You could make it a quick M22 Michigan day trip. But you could also plan a weekend getaway. In fact, it would be a very romantic getaway for two.

 

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M-22 is every man's launch pad for adventure and countless scenic views