North of Traverse City, Michigan, on the little finger that sticks out into Lake Michigan, lies the community of Leland. A portion of this quaint hamlet is also known as Fishtown because of the commercial lake fishing that has gone on here for over 100 years. Depending on the time of year, the visitor can dine on salmon, perch, smelt or a local favorite like smoked chubs.
The commercial fishing district has long provided a livelihood for area residents. Fishtown has been designated as a Michigan Historical Site. There are buildings along the inlet to Lake Michigan that have been around since 1900. In the late nineteenth century Leland was also the home to lumbering and iron smelting. Some remnants of those days still remain.
While the historical aspects of Fishtown are interesting, this is no ghost town. Leland is very much alive today. Artisans have taken over some of the old fish shanties. Local restaurants and shops dot the main street through town. You can even catch the ferry to the Manitou Islands. South and North Manitou are part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The ferry trip to South Manitou Island takes 90 minutes and runs once a day. The visitor can head out to the island for a day trip or an overnight camping excursion. The islands are rustic with minimal services, so be sure to pack in whatever you’ll need for your stay.
As with all coastal towns in this area there are plenty of sandy beaches. With the National Lakeshore nearby, many of these provide pristine examples of the Great Lakes dune ecology. Once you get away from town it’s common to see more wildlife than people on the beach.
The Traverse Bay area of northern Michigan is one of the most beautiful parts of the state. With the big lake, fresh fish and beautiful scenery, Leland is an excellent place to spend a day when you’re “up north”.