Traverse City Fall Colors: The Most Beautiful Drive through Northern Michigan

Today I’m bringing you one of my biggest joys: FALL FOLIAGE!!! In my opinion, October is the prettiest and best month of the year. While planning my annual fall road trip, I knew I had to see the Traverse City fall colors in Northern Michigan.

The abundance of color that takes over Traverse City and the nearby towns is just breathtaking. I forever want to take it in. That’s why I plan these life-giving getaways. It gives J and I a chance to relax, enjoy nature at its prettiest, and explore a new city.

Traverse City Fall Colors

Traverse City is my favorite place in Michigan, but I’ve only visited a handful of towns in that area so far. The city is a good base if you want to explore the nearby parks or do some wine tastings in Old Mission or Leelanau Peninsulas.

Traverse has a lot to offer, but the colors are worth the visit alone. You’ll find the peak fall colors in Michigan are around mid to end of October. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan hits peak sooner than that. In this post, I share how I track all fall foliage for my trips.

Lodging Near Traverse City, Michigan

We’ve been to Traverse City twice already, and each time we loved our stays, but one of the hotels is now closed. If you plan to visit Michigan during the fall season, make sure you book way ahead of time because those are popular dates. I’ll link the remaining one below.

Tamarack Lodge My favorite stay so far. Tamarack is near everything, including the road that leads to the Old Mission Peninsula. We didn’t stay here during our fall trip, but we did visit to take advantage of their in-room fireplaces in the wintertime.

Tamarack is situated right along the lake. Each room is a condo with a full kitchen, fireplace, and balcony. The condos look like mini cabins, the staff is friendly, and free parking is available. Check availability here.


Unique Places to Stay in Michigan

Airbnb Another option is staying right along the Old Mission Peninsula. You can book a farm stay on Airbnb or even stay in a winery guesthouse with views of the vineyards like Brys Estate.

The photos on this post are half of the Old Mission. It’s a beautiful area and a simple drive up one single road. 

Places to Eat in Traverse City 

Mama Lu’s It’s a modern-day taco shop. I’m usually not into these places, but the reviews were excellent, so we gave it a shot. All the food we had was delicious! So much so that we went back the next day (for takeout) and revisited when we returned to Traverse in the winter. Their tacos change often but don’t miss the street corn; it’s some kind of wonderful.

Morsels Espresso + Edibles Definitely get their biscuit sandwiches. And, don’t leave without getting some of their morsels. They’re bite-sized pieces of goodness (think tiny cupcakes).

Higher Grounds Coffee Jorge is always seeking out the best coffee shops in any city, and he loved this one!

BLK MRKT Another great cafe with fantastic interiors. There’s also a cute shop connected to it where you can browse and pick up something for your home.

Trattoria Stella We didn’t get a chance to try this place, but we want to if we head back to Traverse. It’s a well-rated Italian restaurant inside a former insane asylum. Interesting right?

Northern Michigan Road Trip

After checking into our cabin, we drove from Kingsley to Sleeping Bear Dunes but had difficulty finding anywhere to pull over for photos. The drive sure was beautiful, though. We then drove up to the town of Leland and back down and around Lake Leelanau. I stopped here for some photos:

If we had more time, we would’ve driven up to Northport and down past Sutton Bay as well.

Old Mission Peninsula

My favorite part of the whole drive has to be the Old Mission Peninsula. It’s just a straight shot up M-37 from Traverse City’s main Front Street. You can likely drive the entire way straight in 20 minutes, but with all the great stops, it will take a lot longer than that.

It took us hours to drive the road. I couldn’t stop taking photos, and that’s a good problem to have. In the spring, the peninsula fills with beautiful cherry blossom trees.

The town has a cool festival (sometime in May, depending on the bloom) to celebrate the arrival of nicer weather, and you can join wine tours making stops along the road.

In the winter, you can join the locals on the frozen lake and do some ice fishing, or go sledding, snow tubing, possibly even winter hiking.

Best Winery in Traverse City

As mentioned, Old Mission Peninsula (which runs right out of Traverse City) is lined with fantastic wineries. You can also find some great wines in nearby towns like Bel Lago Vineyards in Cedar, MI, or Rover Estate near Traverse City, MI, or drive up the Leelanau Peninsula for way more options.

So far, we’ve only tried a few on the peninsula, but Northern Michigan is a place we’ll be returning to again and again, so I’m sure this list will grow.

Bowers Harbor VineyardsWe started by supporting this dog-inspired winery. They have different wines named after all of their dogs and tons of dog-loving stuff in their shop. We tried cider for the first time and bought one too many bottles of wine to bring home.

We even brought back a treat for our good friend Wallace (a terrier mix we’re both kinda in love with). The lovely lady teaching us about the wines also told us about the views at Brys Estate Vineyards, so we had to head over there as well! Keep in mind most wineries close at 5-6 pm.

Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery She wasn’t lying about these views.

We found great seats and ordered some drinks, a cheese platter and just sat back to take it all in. It was the perfect end to our foliage-filled weekend.

If you want to do several tastings, it may be best to check out the wine tours available. There are actual shuttles that will drive you from Traverse City up and down the peninsula. You can check out more of those options HERE.

Love fall drives as much as me? Check out these guides next:


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  • Reply jackiebrowngately September 12, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    It’s funny, I think we in New England are the only ones with foliage—clearly, northern Michigan is just as vibrant and picturesque! (Plus, I’d love to stay at The Tamarack.)

    • Reply Lily September 12, 2020 at 1:41 pm

      New England is the capital of fall foliage for sure! I was trying to visit this year but we’re not really allowed in lol. It’s still high on my fall list, it looks absolutely gorgeous!

  • Reply josypheen August 10, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    I loooooove autumn leaves too. The fall does seem like the best possible time to visit Michigan! Brys Vineyard looks like a great place to stop too. Pretty views +cheese = joy.

    Lovely relaxing post.

    • Reply Lily August 10, 2019 at 7:15 pm

      Just something about autumn, right?! And yeah Michigan offers a lot during that season, it’s beautiful!

      • Reply josypheen August 10, 2019 at 8:31 pm

        I think its the light, the colours aaaand there are so many veggies and mushrooms in season – it’s probably the food too! I love it anyway…

  • Reply nclaesen August 10, 2019 at 11:18 am

    Such a great post! I love Michigan and Fall is my favorite season. Brys Vineyard looks beautiful.

    • Reply Lily August 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

      Fall is my fave too <3 Great taste!

  • Reply thattexascouple2015 November 18, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    I love the fall colors as well and you captured them beautifully. Those wineries look great. I could just spend all day at one!

    • Reply This Darling World November 20, 2017 at 11:00 pm

      Thanks so much 🙂 I can’t wait to head back there in the spring for more wining!

  • Reply gettheregetlost November 18, 2017 at 10:37 am

    Yes October is the best month! And yes, can’t stop taking pictures too if see those classic VW bugs!

  • Reply Sarah November 18, 2017 at 10:32 am

    What beautiful fall pictures!

  • Reply Hanan Van Dril November 18, 2017 at 9:53 am

    Lovely post!

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