Another glorious Michigan summer is coming to a close, and I can’t help but sing “I’ve been everywhere, man, I’ve been everywhere” by Johnny Cash.
Well, I’ve been all around the lower peninsula this summer, anyway, as well as exploring my new hometown of Kalamazoo which is listed in Johnny’s famous song.
Fun fact: Cadillac, MI is also listed in “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash.
Trip 1: Summer Fun in Mid-Michigan
When school let out in June, we headed to Gladwin for two weeks. Haven’t heard of Gladwin? I’m not sure many have, but maybe you follow football? The Flying G’s of Gladwin High School won the state championship at Ford Field in November of 2022.
A very big win for a small town indeed; many of the businesses downtown are displaying their team spirit proudly in the windows! Speaking of Gladwin businesses, check out some of my favorites below.
Redeemed Marketplace – clothes, home goods, novelty items, and more. I especially love to spoil people with gifts from their unique inventory.
Bella Ray Boutique – clothing, shoes, and more. I like to hunt their sale racks for great deals.
Rugged Den Outfitters – men’s and women’s clothing, I love the variety of products they offer and many are made in the mitten! Check out the Spotted Cheetah Boutique while you’re there; they share the space and offer not-so-outdoorsy women’s wear.
Gladwin Food Spots
Backdoor Deli – This place has been run out of a literal backdoor until recently; their pizza is a hidden gem but won’t stay that way for long now that “The Front Store” has opened.
Riverwalk Grill – My mom and I like to sit down by the river with cocktails and let the kiddos have some water fun; they have a blast throwing rocks in the water, racing their sticks down the stream, and the like.
Northern Expresso Gladwin – yummy baked goods and specialty drinks with the most consistent hours I’ve ever seen for a small-town coffee shop!!! That’s a big deal!
If you’re in town over a weekend, be sure to check out the Gladwin Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9 AM – 1 PM from the second Saturday of May till the second Saturday of October at 200 North State Street.
The Lakes We Love In/Near Gladwin
This is an all-sports lake that is mostly known for its Winter Ice Fishing Festival (it’s SO much more than ice fishing!), AKA Tip Up Town USA. However, in the summer, we love this lake for its vast shallow waters that make it more kid-friendly.
We also like The Limberlost Restaurant and Bar because you can pull right up on your boat! The kids stay occupied here as they have a sandy beach to play on while waiting for food (or for their parents to be done socializing!).
This is an all-sports lake with quiet hours and it, too, has a sandbar that is great for our kids. We also like that is dangerously close to the Corner House Ice Cream Parlor. This place is a tradition for many and draws a big crowd for its many flavors and famous “Pig Platter.”
This lake is an all-sports lake with quiet hours, it’s pretty private with just two public launches. There are two playgrounds/sandy beaches/roped-off swimming areas my kids enjoy that you can access by simply beaching your boat.
Trip 2: ‘Thumbs Up’ to an M-25 Drive
I’d give it two thumbs up but, after all, Michigan only has one! My Dad and I were able to spend some time exploring from Port Huron up to Port Austin. No kids in tow meant we could take our time!
We stopped in just about every small town to explore a shop (or two), in addition to several roadside parks which, of course, are right on Lake Huron. Below are some highlights of our many adventures!
Perceptory Record Store – The shop may not have much of an online presence but if you are into music you should pop in for a cool experience. Great collection of old and new music, both vinyl and CDs. If you can’t find what you are looking for, just ask the owner, Jeff, who is friendly and knowledgeable. The best part for me was looking at all the iconic posters filling the walls.
Vintage Tavern – Great food, great drinks, great roof-top deck overlooking the St. Clair River and neighboring Sarnia, Canada. So much to try from the dill pickle soup to a rotating, delectable dessert menu.
Most of the towns along M-25 have lighthouses! Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron is just one of 130 Michigan light stations; the most of any U.S. state.
Shops and Dining on Huron Ave. – Lexington’s downtown has several noteworthy shops and dining ranging from touristy to more upscale. From the sliders at Wimpy’s Place to Weekends gift shop, you must check it out. This is one of the BIGGER, small downtowns along M-25 for sure. Can’t say enough good things.
If you’ve had one too many sliders or fancy coffees, consider walking the length of the break wall in Lexington’s State Harbor.
On our road trip, I had already had a coffee but I’ll be checking back in on Sanilac Coffee ASAP, I love a good local coffee spot! I will also need to go see Sandbar Studio which features Michigan-made art and oddly enough, ice cream. Sadly, it was closed when we popped through.
This led us to Karen’s, an overwhelming tourist shop with a truly impressive selection of M-25/Michigan clothing (among other things). In fact, I bought one of my new favorite crewneck sweatshirts there!
White Rock Roadside Park
We stopped here for a packed lunch as there were many picnic tables and quick walking trails. For the limber and adventurous types, take the steep trail all the way down to Lake Huron for shoreline views.
Otherwise, keep to higher ground and read more about White Rock from plaques explaining its significance. Either way, you will most definitely take pleasure in the sounds of lapping water and the smell of the cedar trees.
I must say, all these little towns along M-25 seem to have nice harbors and coinciding playgrounds which makes me believe this trip would be possible with kids! Granted, a lot more work. But still, doable.
I stopped at a cute little shop here, Wildflower Custom Clothing & Decor, and bought some color pop bracelets and shoe charms for clog sandals – I’ve searched online and Google says it is temporarily closed, I hope it is temporary because it’s worth checking out!
There is a very cool-looking antique shop (Port Hope Antiques) here but it was closed the day we passed through. Silver lining? We went to Buck’s Port Hope Diner for homemade pecan pie! This is not your typical diner out of the 50s, it is newly and stylishly renovated.
As I sat eating this pie that reminded me very much of my grandmother’s pecan pie, and this gave me goosebumps, I looked behind the counter. Family legacy photos sat on the shelves (Buck is the owner’s grandfather) and apparently, we share a familial last name!
It was a very sweet moment, both palatable and sentimental, for me to see my grandma’s maiden name displayed there as I ate this nostalgic treat.
Did you know? Any road that dead ends on water is public access.
Our destination! The one and only Port Austin. We saw the sights at Port Crescent State Park, shopped at Pak’s Bike Shop (more than a bike shop, it’s a marketplace with one-of-a-kind vendors), imbibed at The Bank 1884 Food & Spirits, devoured a fine farm-to-table meal at Bird Creek Farms, and marveled a talented musician at Pak’s Backyard.
Basically, we did it all other than the one thing most people do when they visit Port Austin; see Turnip Rock. I know, I know, it’s a must-see. I wanted to save this natural wonder for my husband and me to see together. Sorry, Dad!
Trip 3: Top O’ the Mitten
My sister-in-law, cousin and I went to Lake Leelanau for a weekend for some girl time. What an excursion! Read on for the high points.
Fiddleheads Sandwich Shop – This is more than a sandwich shop. They offer breakfast, salads, craft cocktails, Michigan beer, and wine. All their ingredients are sourced locally or within our state whenever possible (LOVE that!). Intangible feels in all the right places here. I bet spinning vinyl melodies has something to do with that!
Tubing the Manistee River in Mesick – This was relaxing and fun! Be sure to tie on to one another and bring some tunes!
Nittolo’s Seafood & Pizza – We thought this was just an up-north pizza place and we had never been so wrong! Don’t make the mistake we did, you’ll need a reservation if you want to have your pick from their sizeable and varied food and drink menu. Another thing they are doing quite differently here is their members-only speakeasy/jazz club. We may have gotten in (😏)…
Bistro Polaris at Black Star Farms – We concluded our weekend with a ticketed 3-course farm-to-table brunch set on a beautiful, 160-acre estate that features a winery, no less. Such a stellar culinary experience begs the question, what would their tasting room be like? I can’t wait to go back and find out!
Trip 4: West Coast, Best Coast
Trust me, I’m not talking about California. I’ve lived there, too, and could not wait to come back to Michigan. Don’t take this “West Coast, Best Coast” heading too seriously either. I’m new to the west side of Michigan and still in my honeymoon phase over Lake Michigan. I will always proclaim “Fresh Coast, Best Coast” to show ALL my Michigan shoreline the love it deserves.
My family and I took a day trip to South Beach to take in the views and play in the sand. Having young kids, we appreciated the conveniently located playground and splash pad. We had lunch at Admiral Jack’s Bar & Grill – SO good. We could not get over the atmosphere, it felt a lot like when we lived in Florida’s panhandle. HEY! Don’t question my loyalties. Fresh Coast is the best coast.
Spring Lake / Grand Haven
The kids and I spent a quiet day here catching up with old friends. We watched (and heard!) a large freighter come into the Grand Haven South Pier and learned about the migration habits of Purple Martins. Check out their beach houses; they really know how to summer!
More Michigan Summer Trips Ahead
Watch out, Upper Peninsula, I’ll be coming for you in the summer of 2024.