Northwest Michigan After Tourist Season? Magic!

A couple of weeks ago I took a couple of days to venture into Northwest Michigan for the first time in several years and I was reminded just how fantastic that area is, particularly after the major tourist season comes to an end.

Of course, this area is beautiful year round, but it was fun to have a November day with nearly all the leaves still in place. If I wasn’t so busy gawking at the fall colors I would have snapped a photo. But dammit, sometimes you’ve gotta keep your hands on the steering wheel. The first stop of the trip was Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Rainy dunes are still a site to see

sleeping bear dunes

Unfortunately, the Thursday in question was a bit rainy and dreary, so there was no extensive hiking to be done around the dunes. However, having not been to the dunes since I was a kid it was still an impressive site. So impressive, that I even remembered to pull out the ol’ camera. Interestingly, for the entirety of my time in the park, I only saw a few other people. While the weather wasn’t perfect, it sure was nice to be surrounded by nothing but nature.

Reservations? Who needs them?

After the dunes it was off to our AirBnB in Northport. After getting settled in it was time to walk around town. Being my first time in Northport, I was up for anything and I found a couple of drinks and a plate of nachos at The Garage really hit the spot.

9 bean rows suttons bay mi

When it came time for dinner, I had gotten an insider tip that 9 Bean Rows in Suttons Bay was the place to go, so I called for a reservation and might as well have gotten laughed at. Needless to say, there wasn’t a line at 8:30pm and I was seated immediately. I have been to Suttons Bay a few times and was surprised to see that this restaurant had taken over the old Baker’s Bar location on the main drag that I had visited a few years earlier. Anyhow, it was a nice step up as I enjoyed a delicious bolognese that came out almost too fast for my liking (I like to enjoy a drink and some conversation, I’m not a Philistine). But, the place wasn’t too busy so it certainly showed the efficiency of the kitchen staff!

After dinner, I grabbed a nightcap at the Mitten Brewing Company which was a short hike from my AirBnB and chatted up a couple of locals (including my bartender from The Garage) before calling it a night. Mitten is a taste of home for me as a Grand Rapids native and they definitely had some hearty, and tasty, stout beers to enjoy.

The best breakfast I have ever eaten

Friday morning started out with breakfast at the Tribune in Northport. First off, I need to preface this next bit by stating that I am in fact friends with the owner of this establishment, but that doesn’t make what I’m about to say any less true. I would have done what Andy Dufresne did to escape prison to eat the biscuits and gravy at the Tribune. I sat at the counter and watched the biscuits get rolled out and the whole dish assembled into the magical, life-altering plate of food that it briefly was. The gravy had a kick and the biscuits…dear God the biscuits. They were slightly griddled so that they were slightly crispy and never got soggy. I will never enjoy any other biscuits and gravy again.

While I was eating, a woman came up and asked the kitchen if she could buy the biscuits in bulk to take home. The response, “Sure, we get orders for them all the time.” As you can see, I was not alone in my astonishment towards these biscuits. I would have taken a picture, but they didn’t exist long enough to allow for such trivialities.

Wineries with no lineries…I mean, lines

One thing I love about Northwest Michigan is the wineries. I’ve spent a few long afternoons doing wine tours and enjoying the many tasty stops to be found in and around Traverse City and Leelanau Peninsula. However, I really struggle with having my afternoon get bogged down in big lines and crowded spaces which is often the case. On November 5th? Not so much. After a few too many dark beers the night before there wasn’t much in the way of tasting but it was extremely convenient to make a couple quick stops and stock up on a couple of bottles from Shady Lane and a few other favorites in the area.

shady lane winery


Finally, a beer at Shorts Brewing

This past July I was with some friends and we tried to stop into Shorts Brewing Company for what I was assured would be the best pretzels I’d ever eaten. I was a tad skeptical, I mean, it’s pretzels, right? Well, that stop was ill-fated as we ran into a throng of humans who also wanted beer and we chose not to wait for several hours to try said pretzels.

shorts pretzels

On November 5th? You guessed it, I was able to walk right in and grab a beer, some pretzels, and dinner. None of which disappointed.

The moral of this story?

What it comes down to for me is that there are a lot of great things to visit in Michigan’s Northwest corner, it’s just difficult to get around and get access to everything when the weather’s at its finest. However, if you don’t mind some colder climates, the whole area’s your oyster once the tourists head home for the season, so go visit!

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