Your Perfect M-22 Day Trip

Winding along northern Michigan’s coastline, M-22 is every man’s launch pad for adventure and countless scenic views. During summertime and peak fall colors, this highway drive is an absolute must-do. You’ll pass over 21 points of interest and 11 quaint communities, all saturated with fruit stands, vineyards, eateries and lookout points galore. Soon enough, you’ll discover why this stretch was once voted America’s Number One Best Scenic Autumn Drive.

The route leaves no shortage of activities, but we’ve put together a rough itinerary and called out our favorite stops along the way. So pack up, hit the trail, and don’t hesitate to wander off the beaten path to see the best Michigan has to offer.

Manistee to Frankfort

Departing just north of Manistee, weave your way up toward the sleepy village of Arcadia. Here, you can stroll along the waterfront, then hit the Arcadia Dunes and Inspiration Point, one of the highest lookouts over majestic Lake Michigan waters. Note of caution: the 120 steps to the top are not for the faint of heart. But, trust when we say the view is truly worth it.

Moving on to Frankfort, you’ll find Point Betsie, home to Michigan’s most photographed lighthouse. Frankfort boasts a vibrant downtown with charming eateries to help you fuel for the day ahead. L’Chayim Delicatessen is your place for picnic provisions, bagels, and breakfast sandwiches. For a quick pick me up, Petals & Perks offers coffee, sweets, and gifts from local artisans.

Empire to Leland

Swinging up to the infamous Sleeping Bear Dunes, you’ll pass through the artsy town known as Empire. Take your time wandering across the Empire Bluff Trail, a hike that towers above Caribbean-esque waters. Or, rent a canoe and cool off on the 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.

Following a few hours of recreation, venture into Glen Arbor, where more dining and shopping awaits, including the M22 store. Shop the apparel, then enjoy wine tasting on the outdoor patio (if weather permits). Find your midday snack at Joe’s Friendly Tavern or Shipwreck Cafe, both offering an excellent array of some of the best burgers and sandwiches in town. 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 as you guessed, all cherry-inspired!

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

Leland to Traverse City

On your last leg of the trip, head up the Leelanau Peninsula and arrive in Fishtown, USA. The historic fishing port of Leland was first home to Native Americans, now its weather-worn docks are filled with shanties, quirky shops, and excellent galleries. Score a fresh catch (and tomorrow’s dinner) from Carlson’s Market, a sixth-generation family business built on fishery tradition.

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 and Vine Cafe at Blackstar Farms. 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.

That’s a wrap! If you haven’t caught on, this famed roadway delivers excursions, excitement, and so much more. Now with your rental stay in place, all you have to do is pick a day—and drive.