The population of Glen Arbor was less than 1000 in the 2010 census but the number of inhabitants triples in summer. The town is part of the South Manitoba Island township, two-thirds of which is water. It started as a trading post in 1848 and thrived during the 19th century due to the demand for lumber for constructing housing and fueling passing ships.
Increased traffic in the Great Lakes resulted in several shipwrecks so a US Life Saving Station was established in 1901. The primary economic activity now is tourism. Glen Arbor is reachable via the M-22, which is considered to be the USA's most scenic drive in fall.
1. Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a 35 mile stretch of the eastern coastline of Lake Michigan on the lower peninsula of the state. The heritage trail has been developed in sections. The stretch from Glen Arbor to the Dune Climb is four miles long and was completed in 2012. It provides pedestrian access to the campgrounds and other amenities. In 2014, the 5.5 mile section to Empire was completed and in 2015, a 3.5 mile section connected the trail to Port Oneida Rural Historic District. The last section includes a 600 meter boardwalk over wetlands.
6900 S. Dune Highway, Empire, MI 49630
2. D.H. Days Campground
© Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
This wooded campground is close to the Dune Climb in the northern district of Sleeping Bear. It is two miles from Glen Arbor and within walking distance of the beach. There are 81 sites, each with picnic facilities and a fire ring. There are vault toilets and fountains but no hot water. The harbor village of Leland, gateway to the North and South Manitou Islands, is 30 minutes' drive away. Nightly ranger-led activities include tales of folklore, talks on the environment and slide shows. The campground is open from April to November and is popular with residents of north Michigan.
8000 W Harbor Hwy, Glen Arbor, Mi 49636, Phone: 231-326-4700
3. Sleeping Bear Point Maritime Museum
© Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
The museum is housed in a disused life-saving station. The building was moved from its original position because sand dunes threatened to engulf it. The museum showcases the history of the US Life Saving Services, the US Coast Guard and Great Lakes shipping. The buildings and gardens are as they would have been in the 1930s. One of the rooms depicts the crew's bedroom, circa 1900. The upper floor is fitted out as a steamer wheelhouse and affords panoramic views of the heavily used Manitou Passage. At certain times, a buoy rescue, using life-sized dummies, is reenacted on the beach. This is popular with children.
Sleeping Bear Dunes Rd, Glen Arbor, MI 49636, Phone: 231-326-4700
4. South Manitou Island Lighthouse
© David Arment/stock.adobe.com
In the heyday of Great Lakes shipping, South Manitou Island was strategically important. It was the only fueling stop and safe harbor in the 300 mile stretch from Chicago to the Straits of Mackinac. In 1839, the first lighthouse was built on the island. It was a one-and-a-half story building that cost $5000. By 1858 it had deteriorated to such an extent that it had to be replaced. The second lighthouse had an even shorter lifespan and was replaced by the current structure in 1872. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1958 but is lit from May to November. The foundation has been reinforced and the staircase and lantern room restored.
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5. All About Water
© All About Water
This company offers guided kayaking tours within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The tours leave from Empire and are typically 3-4 hours long. They also advise on routes and rent out all that is needed for self-guided outings. They have single and tandem kayaks, stand-up paddle-boards and all the equipment needed for safety in the water, such as life jackets, paddles, paddle leashes and wetsuits. The company provides a comprehensive drop off and pick up service for the equipment and a shuttle service for customers. They can accommodate one way trips and groups with multiple points of departure.
5998 West River Road, M-22, Glen Arbor 49636, Phone: 269-214-4848
6. Art's Tavern
© Art's Tavern
Throughout the Depression, Frank Sheridan served beer in this tavern, The Blue Goose. He died tragically in 1934 and his son, Art, took over. He renamed the tavern after himself and ran it until his death in 1970. Tim Barr and Bonnie Nescott have owned it since 2000. There is a stained glass portrait of Art, holding a beer and a burger, hanging in the window. Tim is often mistaken for him. The entire space is decorated with college and other pennants and more are always welcome. The pool table is lowered underground in summer when extra space is needed for visitors.
6487 Western Ave, Glen Arbor, MI, Phone: 231-334-3754
7. On the Narrows Marina
© On the Narrows Marina
The Cahill family from Colorado had been spending their vacations in the Glen Arbor area for 20 years before they decided to settle there. They purchased this marina, four miles from town, on a narrow strip of land between the Big Glen and Little Glen lakes. They rent out jet skis, kayaks, power boats, pontoon boats and safety equipment. They run a store that sells everything that is needed for boating and an enjoyable day on the water. The marina is open from Memorial Day to Labour Day. Out of season, the boat rental operates for reduced hours, weather permitting.
8137 South Glen Lake Rd. (M-22), Glen Arbor MI 49636, Phone: 800-707-5921
8. Spa Amira
Located in the Homestead Resort on the shores of Lake Michigan, Spa Amira invites visitors to come and enjoy a soothing and rejuvenating spa experience in an outstanding setting close to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. The spa is a haven of serenity, surrounded by peaceful gardens, waterfalls and an outdoor pool. Spa Amira offers a selection of pampering treatments including various massage treatments, revitalizing body scrubs, foot treatments and rejuvenating facials, tailored to your particular needs. After your treatment you can enjoy relaxing pool side with a delicious beverage. Seasonal Spa Packages are available from time to time.
1 Woodridge Rd, Homestead Resort, Glen Arbor, MI 49636, 231 334 5000
9. Glen Arbor Wines
© Glen Arbor Wines
Glen Arbor Wines are scenically tucked between the beach and Glen Arbor’s busy M22 strip. The Tasting Room is the ideal place to relax and enjoy a glass or two of wine after a busy day on the beach. The Tasting Room grounds include a bocce court as well as various other lawn games and delicious deli snacks are available to enjoy alongside your wine. The wines are all made from grapes grown in the Leelanau Peninsula and include a Blanc de Blanc, a Sparkling Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Red wines include Liquid Beauty and Farmstead Red. They also make some delicious cider.
5873 South Lake St, Glen Arbor, MI 49636, Ph. +1 231 835 2196
Blu is perfectly located in Glen Arbor, offering sweeping views of the Manitou Islands and Sleeping Bear Bay. Endeavoring to provide guests with a memorable night out, rather than just a good meal, Blu marries the finest fresh seasonal ingredients with elevated European cooking techniques to provide an unbeatable dining experience. The menu changes daily in order to showcase whatever is fresh and delicious on the day and there is a carefully curated wine list including local and international vintners. A sample menu could include Blue Crab Puffs and Tuxedo Gnocci for starters and all time favorites like Dry-aged Prime Strip Loin, Confit Duck, Rack of Lamb or Wild Boar Tenderloin.
5705 South Lake St, Glen Arbor, MI 49636, 231 334 2530
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11. Cherry Public House
© Cherry Public House
Glen Arbor is widely known as the Cherry Republic and the Cherry Public House does its best to showcase the most famous product of the area, namely cherry pie. However, that is not all that’s on offer at this popular Public House. Visitors are invited to come and enjoy a hearty meal and wine tasting as well as stocking up with their favorite cherry pies – you can place your order in advance to be sure that they don’t sell out. There are daily specials on offer including old-fashioned comfort food on Thursdays, wings on Fridays and ribs on Saturdays. Guests are encouraged to enjoy a stroll through the attraction gardens.
6026 South Lake Street, Glen Arbor, MI 49636, 231 226 3033
12. Boone Docks
© Boone Docks
Boone Docks is a popular family restaurant which serves traditional American favorites. Guests can dine inside or out on the expansive terrace where you can enjoy live music as you sip and savor. The restaurant menu kicks off with a large selection of starters including chicken wings and tenders, coconut shrimp and parmesan-crusted asparagus. These are followed by soups and salads, at least 10 varieties of Backyard Burgers, sandwiches, steaks, ribs, fish and sea foods. There is a special menu for children. The restaurant has a great atmosphere and for many visitors, a meal at Boone Docks is an essential part of their Glen Arbor visit.
5858 S. Manitou Blvd, Glen Arbor, MI 49636, 231 334 6444
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