A travel guide to Northern Michigan including dining, shopping and water recreation in Traverse City and Suttons Bay.
If you follow me on social media or have been reading my blog for some time, you know that my passion for the state of Michigan runs deep. As much as I love traveling and exploring new cities, there is no place in the world I’d rather live than right here in #PureMichigan.
Earlier this month I traveled 3 hours north to Suttons Bay for an intimate blogger retreat put together by two of my closest friends, Rachel and Erin. Rachel and I became friends several years ago when we hosted Taste of Michigan together and I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Erin on several other blogging trips.
Similar to other retreats I’ve hosted and attended in the past, the premise of these types of get-togethers is to create a casual setting that is conducive to exchanging ideas, brainstorming, solving problems and learning from one another.
Food Styling by the beautiful and talented Kristen
As I touched on in my Eat Sea Retreat recap, most of us bloggers are self-employed and work alone out of our homes. We have built our businesses from the ground up, learning as we go, and making a lot of mistakes along the way.
By pooling together our knowledge and brainstorming with one another, we not only grow our own blogs but we help build up the blogging community as a whole. I am a firm believer that a rising tide lifts all boats which is why I believe in these types of retreats.
Of course, it’s also a special treat to finally meet the people you’ve long admired from a distance such as the incredibly talented and beautiful Deb pictured above.
The fact that this retreat took place in my own back yard was an added bonus. Before blogging full time, I was working in destination marketing promoting the state of Michigan to out of state travelers.
Needless to say, I was giddy with joy as I watched my friends from Florida, Utah, Texas and beyond dip their toes in our white sandy beaches and fresh, unsalted water for the first time. My girl Aggie who lives in Orlando immediately fell in love with the Grand Traverse Bay.
To make sure we had plenty of time with one another, we rented a house right in downtown Suttons Bay. Having a full kitchen to cook together and share meals was a nice change from the typical conference or blogger trip when we so rarely get to break bread in this manner.
It was even more special because one of my longest and dearest clients, Milk Means More, was the primary sponsor of our retreat. If you’re not familiar, the United Dairy Industry of Michigan represents the hundreds of dairy farmers throughout the state of Michigan that produce dairy products including milk, yogurt, cheese and more. As a Michigan resident, I am very passionate about the work these farmers do and it’s an honor to work for them.
A very special shout out to several of our other delicious sponsors including Door to Door Organics, Sabra, Bob’s Red Mill, Bonne Maman Jam, KitchenAid and many more. There is something so special about the rare opportunity to get in the kitchen and cook with your colleagues. None of that would have been possible without these generous sponsors whom I am lucky enough to also call clients.
If you’ve never traveled to Michigan before, you might be surprised to learn that the western half of the state (also known as the “fertile valley”) is lined with vineyards, wineries, distilleries and breweries. The growing climate in much of the area is similar to that found in France in Germany. In fact, Michigan is the 4th largest grape-growing state in the country.
If you love sparkling wine like champagne or prosecco, you must add Mawby winery and tasting room to your list of must-see sites in Northern Michigan. One of my favorite ways to spend a day is to follow the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail which is home to over 25 wineries all within a stones throw of one another.
Of course, you can’t visit Suttons Bay without making a stop in Traverse City. Located just 25 minutes south, it is also the home to the Cherry Capital Airport offering direct flights from several major US hubs including Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit.
Downtown Traverse City is lined with unique shops, eateries, theaters, book stores and more. For edible souvenirs or a quick lunch, be sure to visit Cherry Republic’s newly renovated and expanded location on Front Street. Not only is it home to my favorite dark chocolate covered cherries but their cafe offers a full menu of tasty treats.
After lunch, take advantage of Michigan’s fresh water recreation activities such as kayaking, canoeing or a private sailboat ride.
For a unique dining experience, I highly recommend dinner and drinks at Aerie Restaurant & Lounge located on the 16th floor of the Tower at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. They were so gracious to host us on the final evening of our retreat and it was the perfect atmosphere for our last night together.
Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly destination, a romantic escape for two or a fun girls’ getaway, you won’t regret adding Northern Michigan to your travel bucket list.
Don’t forget fall and winter – the foliage tours in October are breathtaking and the skiing in January is pristine. No matter what time of year, there is no place more magical than Pure Michigan.
I want to go back! I love spending the weekend with you ladies. You’re all the best :)
I want to go back too!! Thank God I have snapchat to fill my Nutmeg Nanny void!
I was totally blown away by Michigan, which I did not expect to be. SUCH a gorgeous place, and I can’t wait to go back one day to explore even more. It was a highlight to hang out with you, though, and to get to know you better. You are amazing! :)
I’m so glad you enjoyed your time in Michigan!! I know I hype it up a bit. ;) It was so wonderful spending time with you – I can’t wait to hopefully do it again soon!
I have to admit that I have been following along with your photos on Instagram, and I am pleasantly surprised by just how beautiful Michigan is! It is not at all what I would expect it to be. Oh, and if you ever need another food blogger to invite to a Michigan retreat, I am definitely your girl! ;) I would love to visit and explore those vineyards.
I hope you get out here one day – it is truly magical!
I seeeeriously need to make a trip to Northern Michigan, asap. Every time you guys post photos of the gorgeous blue waters..I’m thirsty to make a trip up there! So much fun!
Girl you MUST get out here one day!! You’ll love the waters!!
I went to U of M and I just love going back to Michigan. Such a fabulous state. Loved this post and taking a little trip back from my computer! Loved your post!
Oh that’s so cool you went to U of M!! A lot of my family went there!!! Ann Arbor is awesome isn’t it?
Wonderful piece, Liz! Come back soon and let’s do some adventuring!
Thanks for having us Mike!
GAH! There is so much about this post that makes me smile! You ladies are gorgeous and some day I will make it to MI!!!
Yes you will girl!! I’m determined to get you here!xo
Love your photos! Looks like you all had an amazing time. I love Northern Michigan, too!!
We are so lucky to live within driving distance girl!!
I pretty much want to move to Michigan during the summer! Amazing time of year .. and growing up in the midwest (in both WI and IL) I think that Michigan is the best of the Lake Michigan dwellers! Gorgeous! Great recap girl, it was so fun hanging out again! Can’t wait to see you in October!
You are welcome here any time my friend!! Come back!! Can’t wait to hang with you in October! xoxo
What a fun recap! Suttons Bay is one of my favorite places in Michigan- it is incredibly beautiful! I love your gorgeous pictures! What a great representation of our awesome state!
Thank you so much Jessica!!
I always love seeing beautiful new places to visit and recap posts, and this one is no exception, it’s awesome! Definitely need to make it out to northern Michigan stat!
You would love it here!! You must take the ferry when you come!!
Now that I’m in Chicago, I HAVE to head to Northern Michigan one of these days!!! It looks so gorgeous. I feel so lucky to have Lake Michigan right at my fingertips :)
Dude – you MUST head to Northern Michigan!! You would LOVE it!! There are also tons of great options closer to Chicago including Michigan City, South Haven and Holland!
What a wonderful retreat! I love the intimacy of a retreat versus a conference. Michigan is beautiful!
Yes I totally agree Jamie!! Thanks so much!
you should of hit the drive in Cherry Bowl
Oh my gosh how fun!! Next time!
The Traverse City area has been on my radar for awhile now, ever since my family stayed on Mackinac Island a few summers ago. It is definitely on my road trip bucket list – and to coordinate our visit with the cherry harvest. Some day. Hopefully soon!
Oh my goodness we must make this happen soon Brenda!! You’d love it so much!
SO happy you could join us Liz and beautiful recap! When are we going back???
Thank you so much for including me my friend!! Can we please make it annual?
Beautiful photos…and looks like it was a lovely time!
Thank you so much Julie! I hope you’re having a great summer! xo
Love the recap! And you are never going to believe this, but I have never been to Michigan and want to go so bad! The water always looks so gorgeous and I’ve heard great things about the foodie culture. Thanks for sharing!
Oh my gosh you must get here one day soon Ashley!!
I kind of regret not jumping in a kayak for a ride on the water while I was there! I guess I’ll have to come back for that ;)
Beautiful recap of a beautiful part of our country! I can understand the pride you have of where you live, it’s a gem! Miss you!
Dude. We MUST kayak next time!! For reals. I miss you so much!!
Okay, let’s go back….right now! Such a great recap — thank you for coming! xo
No serious – see you there by lunch time? ;-) Pretty please?