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Glen Arbor, MI

PaddleWAG your way to The Homestead Resort!

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by Meghann

North.  The word is not just a compass bearing or a place on the map. Along the shore of Lake Michigan, up in Leelanau County, it's a state of mind. Here, the Northwoods and the Great Lakes meet.  Get away to a land of big woods and rustic lodges, big red barns and farm fields, orchards and vineyards, big backwoods lakes, and miles of sandy beaches. This is Leelanau county in a nutshell.  We've both spent the better part of our lives in Northern Michigan, and still we ventured to uncharted places this weekend.  This is the thing about North... there's always something new to discover.  Your True North is inside though, and there is no better place to find it than Leelanau County.

1. Try Stand Up Paddleboarding!

Standing on the water offers unique views of what's below the surface and an entirely new sensation.  We've wanted to try paddle boarding for a while so we headed to the local water sport hot spot, recommended by locals, called Crystal River Outfitters.  They offer canoe, kayak and bike rentals for full or half days in Glen Arbor for the Crystal River, Fisher Lakes, Glen Lakes and Lake Michigan. Tubing is not allowed by the national park so you can't tube. Crystal River Outfitters hax a bunch of big vans to transport you and your crew to the water.  If you already have a kayak or tube, they'll let you pull out at their beach and even hook you up with a ride back to your car for only $5! The staff was awesome and just shot the breeze with us explaining all the cool things to do and what's great about Leelanau - definitely our type of people.

The owners, Matt and Katy, are a young married outdoorsy couple who rented us two paddle boards, delivered the boards up river, gave us a mini lesson (see the video of Matt!) and sent us off.  Life jackets are optional for stand up paddleboarding because it is technically considered a "water toy".  A half-day rental plus a ride and a pickup the total was around $30 each.  Their boards are not allowed on the Crystal River so we headed upstream to the Fisher Lakes.  We had a great time, the water was super calm and our fellow water goers were very friendly and courteous.  Everyone was slowing their boats up or asking questions about the paddleboards from their docks.

Watch the How To Stand Up Paddle Board Video

We were a little worried about boats zipping by, but it was a very slow moving laid back crowd.  We started on the small Fisher Lakes, which flow from Little Glen and Big Glen where the water is a clear blue-green like the Caribbean.  It was gorgeous.  It was such a great day that we laid back on our boards in the middle of Big Glen Lake and took a snooze (seriously).  Napping on a paddleboard in a lake is the life!  After a couple hours and several jumps into the water we paddled back to the Crystal River, where Matt was a phone call away and ready to pick us up. 

After your paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing or biking, walk across the street and check out the M22 brand store.  M-22 was created to express a common passion for Northern Michigan.  However, M-22 shares this passion beyond Michigan's borders.  It is marked by the simplicity and appreciation for natural wonders, such as bays, beaches and bonfires, dunes and vineyards, cottages, friends and family everywhere.  You have our vote M-22!

2. Eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the WAG.  (The Western Ave Grill if you're not a local)

We got in to Glen Arbor late on Friday night and finding a good place to eat was no problem.  A few months back we found an awesome Authentic Mexican place in TC that we loved (we'll share at a later date!), anyway they happen to own what is known to locals as The WAG (Western Avenue Bar & Grill) in Glen Arbor.  We loved the Mexican place so we jumped right at this place.  We found an extensive wine and beer list with local grapes and hops, and a large menu.  We decided on a few different dishes so we could get a full taste of their menu.  One of our choices; Grilled Salmon topped with crab meat and grilled jumbo shrimp topped off with lobster sauce (seriously?!). I never thought so many amazing things could fit into one dish.  It was to... die... for!  We also got a Caesar salad and a jumbo shrimp and scallop skewer, which was equally as awesome as the first two.  Overall, the dinner was great.  The restaurant is set up into a few small intimate rooms with a large bar in the front and karaoke on weekends!

3. See the birth of the US Coast Guard at the Maritime Museum

Before we were protected by the US Coast Guard there was the US Lifesaving Service.  These tough men and women stood watch over our beaches and lakes ready to help when sailors became stranded at sea.  This museum is free but it's located inside the Sleeping Bear National Park so you are supposed to get a park pass which is good for a week.  The hours are 11-5 daily and at 3:00pm they have shoot off a canon with a long rope that was used for shore to ship rescues.

The best part of the maritime museum in Glen Haven is upstairs in the main building is a room that made up to be a vintage pilot house on a Great Lakes ship complete with panoramic photos and a captains wheel!

See the restored wooden rescue boats and equipment, walk the sandy beaches, play in Lake Michigan and experience life as an old time Coast Guard.

4. Stay at the Homestead Resort & Spa.

At The Homestead, you'll find every type of accommodation you can think of!  Yes, they have condo neighborhoods, Lake Michigan lakefront, riverfront lodging, boardwalk bridges to the dunes, lake views and forest view lodging.  We headed out to The Homestead in search of waterfront Cafe Manitou for Apr├Ęs dinner cocktails and a sunset and got more than we bargained for!  The Homestead sits right on Lake Michigan in the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Lakeshore.  Take of your shoes for the weekend and relax by one of several pools, the river or the sandy Lake Michigan beach.

The Homestead is located just a few minutes north of downtown Glen Arbor to it's easy to get to Fishtown, Leland, Suttons Bay, Northport and the sand dunes.  It's top notch, we totally recommend this place.

Watch the Homestead Sunset and Cafe Manitou Video

View PaddleWAG your way to The Homestead Resort! on Google Maps

What Do You Think about Glen Arbor, MI?

Adventure Rating: B+

Stand up paddle boarding will work your upper body and back. If you have a bad back I wouldn't recommend it. No helmets or life jackets are required which means if you can swim and feel comfortable on water then get after it! This sport takes some balance but it's great for anyone who like being on the water.

The Crystal River, Fisher Lakes and Glen Lakes are spring fed and a little chilly but it feels great to jump in the river or lake after getting sweaty paddling around in the sunshine.

Paddleboarding is a must do!

Locals Tip

Cell service is really spotty around Glen Arbor. Tmobile service was better than Verizon but not great. We were suprised not to have access to cell networks so close to Traverse City, which we usually rely on for Google Maps on our phones and Yelp to find new great restaurants.

Grab a deliciously flavored iced tea from the Tea & Spice shop on M-22 next to the Pine Cone ice cream shop! Cruise up M22 to Leland for Fishtown or drive out to Stocking Pierce.

up north michigan poster

"Paddleboards are great for doing water Yoga!" Meghann "Don't ask security guards for help, talk to the nice front desk service people who are always very accommodating!" Dylan

Geocache Winner

No one has claimed the gift certificate for Western Avenue Grill!  Send a photo or two of yourself paddle boarding in Glen Arbor to meghann@weareupnorth.com to win the $25 gift certificate to the WAG. 

Our newsletter subscribers receive the geocache or photo hunt location a full day before we post it on the site. Sign up todayso you can be an insider on the weekly treasure hunt!

The coordinates for the gift card are: 

N 44.898687, W -85.982158

Every week we add a photo hunt or new geocache (pronounced "geo cash") somewhere in the northern wilderness with the hope that we'll give other Up North explorers a reason to leave their couch and enjoy the inspiring beauty, history and excitement Michigan has to offer.

Learn a bit about geocaching over at Wikipedia