GPS: 44°45'N, 85°35'W
Take a slice of the rural Midwest and plop it onto a beach-bum location, and you’ve got Traverse City. The resort town is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away from a nice stretch of sand along Lake Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, in the state’s northwest corner.
Of all the 400-foot (122-meter) sand swells in Sleeping Bear Dunes, the Dune Climb summit is the place to start. Clamber up the behemoth’s slope, just off M 109, eight miles (13 kilometers) north of Empire, and get expansive views of Lake Michigan and the National Lakeshore. From the top, you can access a number of other hiking trails, too, including the 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) Dunes Trail to Lake Michigan and back (www.sleepingbeardunes.com). For even higher aerial views of the dunes, sign on with Broneah Kiteboarding for a one-day crash course; lessons are held seven days a week in spring, summer, and fall ($450 per person; www.broneah.com). Uncommon Adventures runs paddling trips throughout the upper Midwest from its homebase outside Traverse City, in Beluah. “We have so many kayaking options right here,” says guide and owner Michael Gray. “We’ll cruise along the dunes, play in a surf zone, or skirt beneath the tall Arcadia Bluffs in crystal clear water. It’s a breathtaking spot.” Gray hosts the weekend at his own home on 40 acres (16 hectares) of hardwood forest beside the Betsie River—another paddling possibility ($495 per person for four days; www.uncommonadv.com).
In the tart cherry capital of the world (which, incidentally, also happens to be one of the Midwest’s largest wine-producing regions), some things are a must: Cherry Republic, housed in an old-fashioned hotel, offers all things cherry—as a nod to the wine makers, don’t forget to sample the cherry wine (www.cherryrepublic.com).
The Chateau Chantal is a B&B and winery, and offers stunning views of East and West Grand Traverse Bay, Power Island, and surrounding vineyards. Spend your mornings hiking and then indulge in a late afternoon visit to the tasting room to sample one of the Chateau Chantal’s award winning vinos (doubles from $155; www.chateauchantal.com).