Mission Point Lighthouse#9 in Best Things To Do in Traverse City
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Visit this 19th-century lighthouse for a taste of history and a little bit of rest and relaxation. The Mission Point Lighthouse enjoys a scenic location on the tip of Old Mission Peninsula, sitting at the water's edge and backed by rows of lush trees. The lighthouse was originally built in the late 1800s after a ship crashed into a coral reef and sank before it could reach the shore. Its good looks and scenic location have been a draw for years, even when keepers still lived there, and the site has been outfitted to accommodate visitor foot traffic with a fence separating the beach from the lighthouse and a pathway to access the water. Today, the site is listed on the National and State Historic Register and visitors can enjoy a self-guided tour and climb to the top for spectacular views of Grand Traverse Bay. Steps away, visitors can also access a small beach with calm waters, as well as hiking trails that lead to woodlands and additional views of the lake.
Recent visitors described the Mission Point Lighthouse as "cute" and the surrounding scenery – including the beach and corresponding views of the lake – as "absolutely beautiful." Others remarked that the drive to get there is pretty spectacular too; on your way up, you'll pass by wineries, estates and more. Travelers did note that the small area can get pretty crowded and that if the tide is high, there isn't much room on the beach for anything other than dipping your toes in the water. Those who ventured inside the lighthouse were fascinated with the information about its history and did note that if you want to climb to the top, you'll have to pay a modest fee.
The Mission Point Lighthouse is open seasonally from May to November. From May to October, it's open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and in November it welcomes visitors from noon to 4 p.m. Friday to Sunday. There is no admission fee to enter the park or the first floor of the lighthouse, but if you want to venture to the second floor and the top of the lighthouse, you'll have to pay $5 for adults 13 years of age and older and $2 for kids ages 6 to 12; children 5 and younger enter for free. You'll find the Mission Point Lighthouse on the northernmost point of Old Mission Peninsula, a little more than 19 miles north of Traverse City. For more information on the Mission Point Lighthouse, visit its website.
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#1 Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the few places in the world that visitors can see perched dunes. The lakeshore's towering dunes, which stretch 35 miles long Michigan's eastern coast, were formed by glaciers. The slopes left behind by the glaciers turned into dunes as a result of Lake Michigan's tide pushing sand up onto the shore overtime. It's this unique phenomenon that garnered the park National Lakeshore status in 1970.
Today, Sleeping Bear Dunes is enjoyed by more than a million visitors per year, who flock to the park to experience the dunes and enjoy an eyeful of the lakeshore's vibrantly colored waters, forested hiking trails, beaches and bevy of outdoors activities. First-time visitors won't go wrong starting their journey with the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, a 7 1/2-mile drive that takes travelers through forested landscapes and along sand dunes to various overlook points. For hiking, you're spoiled with more than 100 miles of trails. For an easy trek, check out the Empire Bluff trail, a 1 1/2-mile round-trip hike that takes visitors directly to the edge of the dunes. The Pyramid Point trail is a more moderate, hilly option, while the 9-mile Alligator Hill trail takes hikers away from the dunes and higher up to provide sweeping views of the lake and the forests that flank it. If you're looking to do more than just hike, know that you can also bike, kayak, canoe and even scuba dive here. During the winter, the park is open to visitors for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding and more.
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