To us locals, spring in northern Michigan is all about the conflict between the sun and the north wind. This age old battle plays out on the dunes and orchards and woods and water. And then every year, to us warm-blooded human’s delight, the sun wins!
Spring is especially nice. The crowds are thin and and even the best restaurants have a table available. The sun returns to warm the earth, giving way to leafing trees, vibrant wild flowers, and lively wildlife; ideal conditions for a long hike or paddle. And everyone you meet is in the best spirits because winter is gone.
To celebrate spring and all it offers northern Michigan, we’ve created a list of our top 10 favorite springtime activities. If we forgot something, leave us a comment below!
1. Bike the Blossoms
A favorite spring activity for us Sutherland’s is bicycling through the orchards during blossom time. There’s a simple and stunning beauty to the bright green grass gently waving under pure white cherry blossoms all set against a cloudless blue sky and warm sun. To boot, the roads are winding, not too challenging, and open, as the summer visitors have yet to arrive.
Our suggestion: Start biking at St. Wenceslaus Church and bike to an early dinner at Knot Just A Bar in Omena. You’ll find yourself singing every Sound of Music melody as you pedal through the petals. It’s 11.2 miles roundtrip.
2. Sip Wine on a Peninsula
Give Momma an extra Mother’s Day gift with a drive through the vineyards and orchards of either the Old Mission or Leelanau Peninsulas. We recommend Two Lads Winery on the Old Mission Peninsula, which sits in the middle of agricultural heaven.
3. Take the First Plunge
Why wait till summer? Take your first lake plunge a bit early this year. The first day the temperature is over 70 degrees, run in place for 5 minutes to warm the body up then jump in Lake Michigan, Glen Lake, or Torch Lake. From experience, it’s best if it gets deep fast like at the end of Bay Street in Glen Arbor.
4. Hike for Wildflowers & Wildlife
The first week of June should be perfect for seeing wood lily’s, wild rose, and Hairy Puccoon. Our advice? Hike to the National Park Overlook, then take the steep trail north in to the dunes. Head to the grassy plain east of the dune blowout and you will find a field of which dreams are made. And if you’re not up for a big hike, do a little walk around all the gardens in Glen Arbor. Wildflowers, Cherry Republic, Time Out are a great start.
Local Tip: Keep an eye peeled for the abundance of wildlife that comes alive with the arrival of the sun. Birds, amphibians/reptiles, deer, foxes, coyotes, and even the rare black bear can be found if your patient.
5. Paddling the Backwoods
One of the best ways to see northern Michigan is right on top of the flowing rivers, streams, and lakes. In spring, all the northern Michigan rivers are deep and swift. The Boardman, Platte, Crystal, and Jordan rivers are easy to access and offer beautiful views of northern Michigan landscapes that can only be seen from the water. Just don’t forget to hop out and take a plunge every now and then.
6. Stroll Ideallyic Downtowns
Northern Michigan is well-known for it’s ideallyic small towns, smothered by natural beauty and great shops and businesses. From Traverse City to Glen Arbor, to Charlevoix and Petoskey, and everywhere in between, it’s impossible to go wrong. If you desire great customer service, be one of the first customers these store owners greet after a long winter. Don’t be surprised if you get a few hugs and see a few tears of joy.
7. Treasure Hunting for Morels
Don’t bother asking for morel hotspots. Veteran hunters hold those cards closer than the last piece of cherry pie at Thanksgiving. We certainly aren’t going to do it here (sorry). But here is the trick; walk the woods steadily looking for differences in vegetation and landscape. Edges of fields, aspen trees, grassy knolls… You’ll find the best mushroom spots more with your legs than your eyes.
8. Browse the Beaches
The best petoskey stones are always found in spring. The snow, ice melt, and strong winter winds shuffle up the rocky shoreline each winter and reveal things that have been buried for who knows how long. Petoskeys are tops on most peoples list, but this year keep an eye out for the super rare and elusive chain coral.
Volunteering is great in the spring. Cherry Republic recommends the Friends of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, or go directly to the top by enlisting at The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The Leelanau Conservancy has a volunteer team that is great. So does Father Fred and of course, Big Brothers, Big Sisters is always looking for a few good people to partner up with a good kid looking for someone to take them hiking or biking in the great north.
10. Shorten the School Day
Think of the place you know least. Steal your kids from school and go explore. After 180 days of school, your kids are dying for a day outdoors. And the weather is great. Hey, admit it, you too need a day exploring some remote place in the deep woods.