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A Local's Guide on Things to Do in Leland

A Local's Guide on Things to Do in Leland

Leland, Michigan, offers visitors and residents a myriad of activities to enjoy in a small coastal community. Leland is in the northwest of Michigan‘s lower peninsula, between Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau. The Leland River crosses through the community and connects the two lakes. The community’s central location along the water allows people to enjoy water sports, fishing, and outdoor activities, among other things. Despite its size, the charming small town offers a wide variety of attractions and things to do.

Spend a day at the beach

Leland residents have ample lake access as the community is along the eastern coast of Lake Michigan and just west of Lake Leelanau. Lake Michigan is one of North America’s Great Lakes and the world’s fifth-largest lake. As a coastal community, Leland has many beaches for people to enjoy the lakes. Beachgoers can visit Van’s Beach along Lake Michigan. Van’s Beach is located along Lake Michigan in downtown Leland. It is a publicly accessible beach that is a favorite among locals. There are also beaches on the edge of Lake Leelanau, such as Bartholomew Park, also known as Nedow’s Beach. This location is a public beach and park in one. The park is situated in the northern portion of Lake Leelanau. Schneider’s Beach & Park also offers a publicly accessible beach and picnic area along northern Lake Leelanau. Leland’s beaches are great whether beachgoers want to swim or simply enjoy the beautiful views of the lakes.

Learn about Leland’s unique history

Modern-day Leland is located at the site of the oldest and largest Ottawa village on the Leelanau Peninsula. The community was built with the river’s power, using dams to create a water-powered sawmill. Other families, including Cook, Porter, Bryant, Buckman, Pickard, Cordes, and Thies, joined the Leland community. They built wooding stations and docks used by steamers and schooners. Leland continued to grow, becoming the beautiful town that it is today. To learn more about Leland’s local history, people can visit the Leelanau Historical Society Museum, where collections and archives of more than 20,000 items preserve the history of the maritime town.

Visit the local harbor

Leland’s coastal location is significant in the town's history. The harbor has always been the heart of Leland. Residents store their boats at the Leland Harbor, which is located on the coast of Lake Michigan. The lake’s water is great for boating, fishing, and swimming. The full-service marina has a boat launch and picnic area open to the public. The harbor is near the Historic Fishtown, meaning fantastic shops, restaurants, lodges, and beaches are easily accessible. The harbor is a unique feature of the community’s lakeside location that attracts many visitors year-round.

Hike scenic trails

Take in the natural beauty of Leland while getting your steps in on one of the numerous hiking trails in the area. Experienced hikers can take on the trails around the 40-acre Whaleback Natural Area. The trail leads to a picturesque view of Lake Michigan. The Houdek Dunes Natural Area is home to trails where adventurous outdoor enthusiasts can explore the 337-acre area. During Leland’s snowy winter, people snowshoe and cross-country ski the Houdek Dunes trails. The Leelanau Conservatory maintains 28 natural areas and preserves in Leland and the surrounding areas where people can hike, bike, ski, and snowshoe, among other activities. Active nature lovers will be amazed by the natural beauty of Leland’s trails.

Eat some fresh seafood

A major benefit of Leland’s lakeside location is the ample access to delicious seafood. Several Leland restaurants serve fresh seafood caught locally. The Bluebird Restaurant and Tavern is Leland’s most popular and oldest restaurant. The riverside restaurant was founded by the Telgard family in 1927. The Bluebird serves an array of locally-sourced fish dinners and a regional wine and beer menu. Diners can enjoy the outdoor patio alongside the Leland River during the summer months. Located in the Leland Lodge on Leelanau Lake, Bogey’s 19th Hole offers a pub-style menu featuring locally-sourced food. The Cove and Rick’s Cafe overlook Lake Michigan offering dishes created with local ingredients. Serving famous seafood chowder and fresh Lake Michigan whitefish, The Cove was named Michigan’s best waterfront restaurant. In Leland, there is no shortage of delicious seafood to enjoy.

Explore local wineries and distilleries

Leland is home to several wineries and distilleries offering locally-sourced wine and liquor. Amoritas Vineyards makes its wines from grapes grown on Leelanau Peninsula. The family-owned and operated winery hosts vineyard tours and tasting events. Aurora Cellars offers a boutique wine experience serving wines created from locally-produced grapes. The winery pairs its drinks with foods created using local ingredients. People can enjoy wine by the glass in the tasting room or rent the beautiful venue for events and weddings. If wine is not your thing, the Grand Traverse Distillery serves award-winning liquor made with local grains and regional glacial water. The Grand Traverse is Michigan’s oldest grain-to-bottle and certified craft micro-distillery. The wineries and distilleries in Leland offer tasty drinks produced by locals.

Read to explore Leland today?

If you are considering making your trip to Leland longer than a visit, an experienced realtor can help you explore Leland, Michigan, real estate. Robin Vilter is a Leland local with a love for real estate. Before being a realtor, she was a sailing teacher and a waitress at Leland’s beloved restaurant, The Cove. Robin is a Leland, Michigan, real estate expert as well as a community member who can guide you to the town’s best activities, eats, drinks, and more. She is dedicated to helping her clients find the best fit in the small coastal community.

Robin Vilter

Robin Vilter


About the Author

I was raised in Cincinnati but always summered on the lake in Leland. Being able to spend my summers up here was such a gift. Starting at the age of twelve we were able to drive the boat into town or to the yacht club or to a friend's house. My days were jam-packed. I would wake up and teach sailing school at the Leland Yacht Club from nine to one, then take a nap on the dock or the beach, shower, then drive into Leland in the late afternoon where I had a job as a hostess. My sisters and I did this every summer and when we had a driver's license we had more options for employment. I started teaching sailing school in Omena and working at night waiting tables at The Cove in Leland. We stashed away thousands of dollars every summer. Yes, we worked our tails off, but it really did not seem like it since we were enjoying all the beauty of Leelanau at the same time.

I attended Miami University in Ohio and chose creative writing since that was my easiest subject. I’ve not yet written a novel, but have started about five. After graduation, I bought the Riverside Inn with my mother and my sister. I later sold my shares when I realized that being a single parent and working late nights did not pair well with my mental health. It took a decade to raise my kids and go through two divorces.

I Earned My Real Estate License in 2016

By that point, I had bought and sold houses seven times over the course of twelve years. I had to be a real estate expert by then, right? The simple truth is I love real estate! Why did I even bother going to college? I felt like I should have been doing this since I was eighteen. What I love most about real estate is establishing great relationships. Each new client is a wonderful surprise. We live in such a small community, yet I get to meet new people all the time and usually, they turn out to be great friends. The other thing I love is the variety. Every house is different, every client is different, and it all comes with its own unique challenges.
I decided to separate from Coldwell Banker in 2021. Real estate boomed in 2020 and 2021. I managed a huge amount of volume pretty much by myself. Coldwell offered the power of a big brand, but I figured I could somehow make up for that. I took a big leap and joined Five Star Real Estate. The marketing group with Five Star encouraged me to build on my familiarity with the area. Many of the residents have heard of me in some way shape or form and I could build on my good reputation.
I chose Robin Vilter Group as the name of my business. We chose the robin bird as the logo for my name but also because of the symbolism. The robin is Michigan's state bird. It symbolizes hope, renewal, rebirth, new beginnings, and new projects, and is a sign of good things to come.

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