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. Be sure to call the attractions and restaurants ahead of your visit to confirm current opening times.

1.Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail

Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
© csterken/

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

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2.D.H. Days Campground, Glen Arbor, MI

D.H. Days Campground, Glen Arbor, MI
© 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

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3.Sleeping Bear Point Maritime Museum

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

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4.South Manitou Island Lighthouse

South Manitou Island Lighthouse
© David Arment/

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, Glen Arbor, MI

All About Water, Glen Arbor, MI
© 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

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6.Art's Tavern, Glen Arbor, MI

Art's Tavern, Glen Arbor, MI
© 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

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7.On the Narrows Marina, Glen Arbor, MI

On the Narrows Marina, Glen Arbor, MI
© 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

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7 Best Things to Do in Glen Arbor, MI

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