Can those two words exist in the same sentence? When we travel to Glen Arbor, Michigan, the answer is ABSOLUTELY!! If you haven't seen the beauty that is the small town of Glen Arbor and the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore Park, you need to put this place on your travel bucket list!! We first visited last summer when covid put a halt on our vacation to Florida. If you haven't read my blog from last summer, check it out! https://www.jenniferkurzphotography.com/blog/definitely-worth-the-drive/
So, now this is chapter 2 for our family this year. We loved it so much we couldn't wait to come back.
It was colder and more rainy than last year but we still accomplished everything we wanted to do and more!
It is a bit of a drive from Pittsburgh, but totally worth it in my opinion! There is something to do for all ages, activity levels and budgets. We split up the drive by stopping in a town called Muskegon, Mi. We walked the small, eclectic town and had some outstanding barbeque at Rolf's. The kids had the chance to unwind in a giant sand pit after a 5 hour drive. The next morning, we stopped for breakfast at Toast and Jam's and it exceeded our expectations with a delicious start to the rest of our drive into Glen Arbor. We also got to tour the LST 393 ship which is a WW2 ship that was on the beaches of Normandy. Walking though such a great piece of history made us stop and be truly thankful for everything we have in this life.
When we arrived in Glen Arbor, the first thing we did was grab some lunch at Cherry Republic. If you like cherries, they have cherry EVERYTHING!! The weather was beautiful enough to sit outside at the wooden picnic tables and just enjoy our time together. We checked into our condo complex and stood in awe of the views again. We couldn't help but stare at the turquoise blue waters against the white sand and colorful stones lining the beach. We made a plan for the week that included kayaking, bike riding, dune climbing, family photos, hikes and some relaxation time! We stopped by the locally owned Glen Arbor Winery for a wine tasting and fun for the kids. They had badminton and volleyball outside for the families to enjoy while relaxing with a glass of their delicious wine. We also stopped by the Cottage Book shop for some local favorite stories and a bug book for Ethan. Another favorite local shop is Bay Lavender Trading. Their scent of their homemade soaps draw you in and the beach house like atmosphere make me want to spend an afternoon in a hammock!
We loved everything we did last year so much, we had to fit it all in again!! This year we also added a new hike in called Pyramid Point Trail. It was about 3/4 mile up a sloped forest hill. When we reached the sandy top, we had the most beautiful views of Lake Michigan below. It was beautiful to see but we decided to move on to our favorite trail, Empire Bluff. Again, it's about 3/4 mile through a forest. I reminded the boys to just stop and listen...listen to the sound of the birds in the trees and the crickets close by. We were truly surrounded by nature. And when the trail comes to an end, the views of Lake Michigan are unlike any other view we have ever seen (these view are comparable to the Caribbean you guys!!). We packed a picnic lunch and sat on the bench of the little boardwalk that runs the length of the cliff. The sky was beginning to darken which only made the water look more beautiful. We stayed as long as we possibly could before the rain moved in. We made our way back "home" and took a rest before we met our family photographer Josh at the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. If you visit this area, I highly recommend Josh Hartman Photography for family photos. I admitted to him that his website absolutely drew me in with his creativity and style. His candid, playful style had the boys (and us) running all over the dunes. It was such a great experience that I never could have captured with all of us in the photos! I am truly grateful for the experience with him and these memories. We may have NO wall space left when I'm done framing and hanging these!
The next few days were filled with so much fun outdoors including paddleboarding at Glen Haven Beach in the glass-like water. It's so clear we could see at least 15 feet to the bottom. I won't lie though, it is freezing! We learned our lesson last year and I made sure we had wetsuits this time. One of our favorite activities is an 11 mile bike ride (with me towing Mr. Ethan as he yelled "go faster...come on!") We also took a 3 hour kayak trip on the Crystal River. Aiden worked hard when he sat with Eugene. Ethan on the other hand, sat with his little feet up, trying to catch dragonflies and loving every bug that we saw. Myself on the other hand, I tried to keep us from not hitting the riverbank or any trees! You would think that all of my childhood years canoeing with my grandpap on the Connequenessing would have better prepared me for this. I'm sure Pap John had a few smiles from heaven that day.
Anyway....Crystal River Outfitters is the best rental place for all things outdoors. They provide all of the equipment and their staff is so friendly and helpful to "non outdoors people!!" Seriously, I feel like we did my version of extreme sports this week!! Pretty sure the Olympics won't be coming to seek me out anytime soon!
We had quite a bit of rain this year which meant more downtime inside. I'm not even embarrassed to say that the boys got their fair share of screen time this trip. But it let us have downtime as well. They had their moments of bickering too...but that's life in close quarters I guess. We love being "busy" on vacation but we needed some built in rest. We took naps. I read a book this week. An ENTIRE book. In a week!! Eugene read a book too!! They both had some spending money and bought model tanks to put together and dinosaur bones to dig which were great rainy day activities. We sat on the the deck and enjoyed the serenity of this nature that we don't have at home.
The last day and a half were very rainy but we had to get outside. We took a drive on Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. It's definitely a better drive when it's NOT foggy out but it was still pretty! On our last night, there was break in rain. After dinner, we decided that we were going to the beach. It was our last night and we were spending it rock hunting on the beach. My goal for the week was to find a treasured Petoskey Stone. Last year, some of the locals were talking about them and how special they are to the area. They are stones that are over 250 million years old. Corals with a black eye were fossilized into limestone and the glaciers broke the rocks and dispersed them all over Michigan. They look like a regular rock when dry but in the water, they have distinct hexagonal patterns in the stone. Our whole family waded in the cold water to see if we could spot one. We decided to call it quits because it was getting dark and we were all cold. And then....there it was. In the wet sand along the water line I found one!! It was small but it felt so good to finally find one!!
If you're looking for a fun filled week with beautiful nature, sandy beaches, calm waters and so much more, Glen Arbor and the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Lakeshore Park is JUST the place for you!! And maybe, just maybe, you will find a Petoskey too!