M-22 was recently voted America's Number One Best Scenic Autumn Drive for 2015 by 10Best and USA TODAY!
M-22 is a 116-mile stretch of road that winds through the scenic countryside of Manistee
counties. Though very pretty in spring and summer, the fall season is when you really must take this drive along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Along the way you can visit wineries, art galleries, and experience small-town friendliness. It's by far one of the most beautiful drives in America, and it's right here along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Northwest Michigan.
M-22 in Manistee County
The southern-most section of M-22 starts in Manistee County off US-31.
Manistee is a charming Victorian port city, best known for the historic Ramsdell Theater,
the 1.5 mile Riverwalk,
gorgeous beaches and golf courses, and the popular Little River Casino. Two of Manistee's biggest festivals are the Forest Festival
over July 4th and Old Christmas Weekend
in early December. The fall season is a gorgeous time to drive through the Manistee area, or walk downtown and browse the variety of stores and restaurants. During the month of October, dare to get scared in Manistee's very own Ghost Ship
, otherwise known as the S.S. City of Milwaukee
the rest of the year. Read more about Manistee
After visiting the city of Manistee, follow the winding M-22 up to the village of Onekama
, just 20 minutes north of Manistee. Onekama is commonly know as the "Two Lake Town," offering the combination of Lake Michigan shoreline and peaceful Portage Lake.
Less than 15 minutes north of Onekama, and you'll come across the small town of Arcadia
, home of Arcadia Daze
in July and Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course.
For more information, read our story about M-22 in Manistee County
M-22 in Benzie County
Continuing up M-22 you'll arrive in Benzie County
. Five minutes north of Arcadia on M-22 is the local gem Inspiration Point, a place to take a break from driving and see fantastic views of the Lake Michigan shoreline and surrounding land. It truly is inspiring...the combination of a fresh Lake Michigan breeze and the scenery will take your breath away, especially after making the climb to the top of the stairs!
After taking a break and enjoying the spectacular view, head north on M-22 and in about 15 minutes you'll come across the town of Elberta
. Visit the clean beaches along Lake Michigan, try your hand at fishing, and stop at Elberta's Waterfront Park.
Less than five minutes north and around Betsie Lake, you'll come across the small town of Frankfort. As you head out north of Frankfort, visit the Point Betsie Lighthouse
, one of the most famous lights along the lakeshore. If you're looking for a detour or another road to explore, follow the 22-mile Betsie Valley Trail from Frankfort through Elberta, Beulah and Thompsonville...excellent for hiking and biking. It goes east and then south through Benzie County. As you're enjoying your color tour, be sure to stop throughout the towns of Benzie County for their Fall Festival in October. More information on Frankfort
M-22 in Leelanau County
Photo by Advantage Marketing
After visiting the Point Betsie Lighthouse, your scenic trip along M-22 will bring you into Leelanau County
The first place you will come across will be the small village of Empire
, headquarters for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore,
named the most beautiful place in the United States by the viewers of Good Morning America. Fall is an excellent time to visit this National Park...you'll still be able to take in its magnificence, but without all the crowds. It's a place you must visit to appreciate how history and nature come together to form spectacular sand dunes.
and Glen Arbor
(15 minutes north of Empire) give you a glimpse into the past with their numerous museums...and you'll enjoy the quaint shops and variety of restaurants.
Continue along M-22 up through the Leelanau Peninsula to Leland
, a cozy little town about 30 minutes north of Glen Arbor. Discover the history that Leland holds. Within Leland, visit historic Fishtown, a working waterfront with cute shops right along the docks. Grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants or fisheries.
Another 20 minutes north of Leland, and you have reached the peak of M-22. Northport
is an historic town known for its fine marina, beautiful parks, friendly downtown shops, scenic beaches, and the annual Northport Dog Parade and Wine Festival.
Work your way south along the Grand Traverse Bay and in about 20 minutes you'll reach Suttons Bay
. And then the last leg of the trip is about 25 minutes south on M-22 and continues until you reach the end in Traverse City.
Known as the "Cherry Capital of the World," Traverse City is one of America's Top 10 beach towns. Championship Golf Courses, world-class spas, pristine beaches and exquisite food make this the perfect ending to your M-22 fall color tour.
It's well worth an afternoon drive in October to travel the M-22 route. The vibrant colors will amaze you...and the towns will welcome you.