by Guest Blogger, Mark Bain
The 45th Parallel is midway between the balmy equator and the icy cold of the North Pole. And for a large chunk of the year, those frigid conditions are the norm in northern Michigan.
But during an August road trip up north, my wife and I crisscrossed this latitude six times, gawking at rolling hills, verdant farms and opalescent waters in every direction. We also observed an evolving design vernacular in the upper part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
We spent our first night in Petoskey, a resort town on Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay. A whitefish dinner at Stafford’s Pier restaurant in nearby Harbor Springs was perfect. And the view from our room at Stafford’s Perry Hotel, a Petoskey institution since 1899, was expansive until a heavy rain shower passed through.
From Petoskey, we drove south on M31 to Bay Harbor, a newer resort with massive hotels, houses and stables. We sipped coffee at the home of a friend, who enjoys a million-dollar view at a fraction of Bay Harbor’s price, since his cottage is just 300 yards outside the resort’s boundaries.
In clear weather, we continued south through Elk Rapids, where fields of sunflowers and cherry trees kept our heads on a swivel. We traversed Traverse City, then drove north on the Old Mission Peninsula – a cross between Napa Valley, for its vineyards, and Vermont, for its farms and rolling hills. Views of Grand Traverse Bay are constant on the peninsula.
We visited two Old Mission wineries and were delightfully surprised by 2 Lads, which offers wine tasting at their stunning contemporary facility set on 58 hilltop acres. The winery lives up to its motto, “Bold, Modern, & True,” in every way. From 2 Lads’ six varietals on offer, we added the fresh, floral Rieslings to our cellar.
At The Boathouse restaurant, we sampled local pinot grigio from Bowers Harbor Vineyards with our delicious lunch of fresh mussels and salads. The view from the patio enhanced the experience. Based on this vanity plate, this is where wine geeks go to relax.
After a quick wine tasting in an old schoolhouse repurposed by Peninsula Cellars, we drove to the Leelanau Peninsula. Along M22, an iconic state highway, we saw waterfront homes of all ages, styles and sizes, each with gorgeous views. We drove north to Northport, where celebrity chef Mario Batali vacations, and then stopped briefly in Leland, where the old shacks and shops in “Fishtown” continue to draw crowds.
Our final stop was Glen Arbor for two days of great food and fun. From our prime table at Blu, a world-class restaurant with picture-perfect views of Lake Michigan, we paused to enjoy this gorgeous sunset. The same spot offered different light and colors the following morning.
On our last evening in Glen Arbor, we attended the art association’s annual show, where dozens of artists auction paintings of local landscapes, all at reasonable prices. Near the exhibit was this modest stage for weekly open-air performances.
On our return to Grand Rapids, we took a shortcut – County Road 677 – with more rolling hills, fine vistas and tunnels of trees. It was nice to shave a few minutes off this long Sunday morning drive – and even better to experience the scenery of this rural route. We will definitely return to the 45th parallel soon.