Ready to get out, explore, and appreciate one of the most beautiful
scenic drives in Michigan? There are plenty of charming towns to experience throughout the Great Lakes State, but one stretch of roadway here in our beloved Mitten offers a unique concentration of delightful communities. Whether you opt to enjoy this 110-mile drive in a day or two or to expand it into a weeklong journey with overnight stays at each location, you’ll be glad you made the trip. Hop in the car and explore some of the best M-22 towns in Michigan.
Note: While we’ve included eight great towns, we recognize that there are many more potential stops along the driving route that you might choose to explore. If you’d like to shift the road trip for your own needs and preferences, this adjustable map will come in handy.
Situated just south of the starting point for M-22 off US-31,
makes for an ideal beginning as you kick off your adventure along Michigan’s most beloved expanse of road. This small but breathtaking town along the shores of Lake Michigan offers a friendly, laid-back vibe that will set the tone for the rest of your trip northward. Head out for the first of many pier-walking experiences when you check out the Manistee North Pierhead or soak up the sun at Orchard Beach State Park. Fuel up with some grub from TJ’s Pub before hopping in the car to continue your adventure.
Your next stop along M-22 is
, which genuinely offers a little something for everyone – but brilliant nature views are the top feature here, as evidenced by the beauty that awaits at the enchanting Inspiration Point. From here, you’ll have the opportunity to gaze out upon the vibrant blue waters of Lake Michigan. Other visitors enjoy hitting a few balls at Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course or hiking along the Arcadia Dunes themselves. You’ll be rejuvenated by the combination of natural and manmade beauty this stop offers.
When you’ve wrapped up your adventure in Arcadia,
awaits. This charming lakefront community offers a sense of timeless delight, featuring an unfussy yet picturesque downtown area, plenty of dining options, and – of course – access to Lake Michigan. Just north of the town is the Point Betsie Lighthouse, which might just take your breath away with its beauty. Hunt for rocks along the accompanying shoreline or head back to downtown Frankfort for a meal at Dinghy’s Restaurant. If you’re a fan of inland lakes, rent a room or cottage along the shores of Crystal Lake, which offers a peaceful reprieve just down the road from Frankfort. What’s not to love?
If you’re ready to experience one of Michigan’s iconic destinations, the next stop on your M-22 road trip won't disappoint. Upon leaving Frankfort, you’ll head to the community of
and have the chance to fall in love with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. For a quick visit, enjoy Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. If you’re more of a hands-on explorer, follow the Empire Bluff Trail to enjoy sweeping views of the Lake Michigan shoreline and the gorgeous water itself. For a more history-focused activity, stop in at the quaint Empire Area Museum to learn more about what sets this region apart.
5. Glen Arbor
Depart from Empire and make your way to
, which is sure to delight even the fussiest of visitors. From wineries to campgrounds to shopping opportunities, there’s truly something in this waterfront locale for everyone to enjoy. We’d be remiss not to recommend Cherry Republic of Glen Arbor, where you can shop for Michigan-made cherry products to your heart’s content. Hunt for titles at The Cottage Book Shop, sip a few glasses at Glen Arbor Wines, or take in amazing views while dining at the Blu, an upscale eatery. You might just want to stay here forever.
The journey continues in
, where time seems to stand still. Leland is home to Fishtown, a collection of fishing shanties and other historic buildings situated along a canal that leads into Lake Michigan. Despite its tiny size, this community draws in countless tourists each year – and it’s easy to understand why. Few spots offer the sense of history and sheer simplicity offered by Fishtown and Leland as a whole. We recommend enjoying a meal at the Cove before heading out to shop at the ever-popular Village Cheese Shanty or the Dam Candy Store.
7. Suttons Bay
Suttons Bay, MI 49682, USA
While some adventurers might choose to head even further north into Northport, our route cuts across to
for another fun, scenic, and decidedly picture-perfect experience. Suttons Bay is certainly a bonafide small town, housing only about 600 residents – but it packs a major punch. Whether you’re exploring its tiny yet lovely downtown area, enjoying a drink at Hop Lot Brewing, or settling in for the night at the marvelous Black Star Farms, the sheer beauty of this area will take your breath away.
8. Traverse City
Last (but certainly not least) on our M-22 road trip is Traverse City, which reigns as one of the most popular destinations in the state of Michigan – and with good reason. This gem of northern Michigan is absolutely jam-packed with history, great food, amazing views of Grand Traverse Bay, cultural activities, shopping spots, friendly residents, and so much more. While you’re in town, be sure to check out Grand Traverse Commons, a historic psychiatric hospital that now houses everything from
to antique stores to residential facilities. No matter how you choose to spend your time in Traverse City, you’ll have a blast.
Now that you’ve explored our journey through some of the best M-22 towns in Michigan, you’re prepared to head out on your next great adventure. We know our list only scratches the surface when it comes to highlighting worthwhile attractions along Michigan’s most popular highway, so we would love to hear from you: are there any destinations we should include in a future piece? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a Facebook comment or recommend another scenic road trip route through Michigan by completing our
official nomination form.
Eager to explore the other side of the state? Be sure to check out our
Michigan Sunrise Coast road trip.
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