Who knew there was so much to see in Michigan? Being from Southern Ontario, right next door to Michigan, we usually see it from the highway on our way to more Southern destinations. The highway doesn’t give the best perspective when judging what a place has to offer. Getting off the beaten path can prove to be a rewarding and surprising experience for the whole family.
We had planned a much longer trip to the Mid-West for this summer but life always throws curveballs. My husband ended up starting a new and exciting chapter in his work life but it meant we had to shorten the vacation and the purse strings to allow him to build his credibility and repertoire in his new position. There were some groans from the peanut gallery, aka my 10-year and 14-year old sons, when I mentioned the thought of vacationing closer to home in our neighbouring Michigan. I knew from experience, when you pick a place to visit and keep an open mind, you can be surprised by the unexpected jewels that you find that you would otherwise never experience. Once of those gems was Old Mission Peninsula.
I have to admit, I secretly had a selfish reasons for heading to Michigan. I am a BIG fan of The Curse of Oak Island on the History channel. If you are into anything Knights Templar, pirate treasure or lore you may have heard of it. If not, I suggest you look up Oak Island on Google – there’s A TONNE of stuff. Basically, it’s a 200 hundred year old hunt for treasure on a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia in Canada. Two brothers from Michigan, Rick and Marty Lagina, are invested in the search for this infamous treasure. So much so, they are part of a reality series on the History Channel. On the side, Marty and his son Alex, have a winery in North Western Michigan that I’ve been dying to visit since they aired an episode about it a couple seasons ago. I love wine, I love Oak Island, I need a relatively close place to vacation ~BOOM ~ vineyard in Michigan owned by the Lagina’s heading up the Oak Island treasure-search. I’m in.
Before reaching my destination of preference, we travelled to Traverse City, Michigan to spend the night. I didn’t know what to expect in Michigan, except for the area around Birch Run as I have been known to frequent the Premium Outlets back when our dollar was much stronger. I chose to stay at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa because it had a 4.9 star rating out of 5. It certainly lived up to its rating. There was an indoor water park for the kids, shopping, golf, restaurants and lots of other things to enjoy. And we were only there for the night but we had a great time. Not-to-mention there were breath-taking views and nature all around. The kids wanted to have a longer stay but we had a full agenda and needed to move on. I will certainly mark this beauty of a resort for future excursions.
We hit our destination early on the second day and it was wasn’t quite open so we headed along Old Mission peninsula for a scenic drive to fill the time. We ended up at the point and visited old “Mission Point Lighthouse“. It was a perfect spot to stop with some parking, a heritage cabin, a shallow beach and of course, the lighthouse itself. This was our first opportunity to get up-close and personal with Lake Michigan. It’s a marvel. The water was crystal clear. One of my “bucket-list” items is to set my feet in all 5 of the Great Lakes and I was able to mark this one off. It was a bit cool for the morning but definitely would have been excellent for a dip in the heat of the early afternoon. My youngest and I skipped some stones on the smooth water before heading up to check out the lighthouse itself. I must also mention there is a cabin These are the things that have the most impact for me. Finding those little off-the-beaten-path treasures that end up finding a place in the memory bank of your mind.
Cherry orchards are plentiful on Old Mission peninsula as well. Where I come from, apple orchards are the norm so seeing so many trees with small red cherries as opposed to larger round apples, was a bit unique. My husband is a cherry lover so we stopped at a road side stand and got some cherry juice and other cherry treats while there.
Upon doing a little reading of one of the local tourism publications before heading out in the morning, my husband learned of a little craft brewery hidden away on Old Mission peninsula and suggested that since we were here we might as well check it out. We stopped in the Jolly Pumpkin. There were so many beers to try. My husband had a couple of samples before deciding on a pint of a pale and citrusy ale. Myself, I opted for more variety and went for a flight of their “sours”. There were some darks, a red and a couple of others. My favourite was a paler ale, much like the one my husband chose, with a sour but refreshing citrus after taste. The kids got to enjoy a summer drink too! They relished in some ice cold and fresh squeezed lemonade and learned a little about about the pub from the super-cool bartender.
By this point in the day, our destination of choice, Mari Vineyards, would be open and ready to accept visitors so off we went. It was the highlight of my trip. The grounds for the winery were magnificent. It felt like it was right out of a Tuscan post card. My husband and I tasted a few different varieties of wine while our boys enjoyed juice boxes outside on the patio. Our wine expert was Debbie whose energy was contagious. She (seemed to) shared my enthusiasm for the Oak Island adventure and mentioned that Alex was her General Manager. I could hardly contain my excitement – I am such a celebrity geek (I even get excited meeting local radio dj’s – it totally embarrasses my kids and husband). She showed us the chainmail tunic over the fireplace in the main lobby and said, “you must know all about our owner’s (Marty Lagina) enthusiasm for the Knight’s Templar and such”. She didn’t have to complete the sentence, I was nodding my head wildly in acknowledgement. We ended up leaving with 2 bottles of wine, a souvenir glass and 3 Oak Island T-shirts. If I didn’t see anything else in Michigan, I would have been completely satisfied with this visit. And here’s the thing, they have a whole tour of underground caves where they store the wine. We didn’t even get to that because we had the kids with us. Although they enjoyed their complimentary juice boxes they weren’t nearly as impressed with the winery as my husband and I were. They did enjoy the view and the Oak Island connection more than made up for it.