Leland Michigan aka Fishtown MI: One of the Best Michigan Vacation Spots. Top Things To Do, Shops and How to Find Famous Leland Blue Rocks

Leland Michigan (Fishtown) One of the Best Michigan Vacation Spots. Top Things To Do, Shops + How to Find Famous Leland Blue Rocks | By Sherry Trautman | Traveling Michigan

Leland Michigan, located in the northwest of the Leelanau Peninsula is one of our favorite vacation spots in Michigan. It is such a unique place to go in Michigan.

Why?  Well for starters, it's an active fishing village with picturesque fishing shanties, iconic nets can be seen drying on racks and lots of docked fishing boats as just begging for creative photography.

Leland is fondly called, "Fishtown" and offers tons of things to do!

Oh and did I mention the tiki huts? Yeah, they have those...Right next to the dam.  

  • Fishtown Historic District, Leland Township was listed in the National Register in 2022!

"My Biggest worry is that when I'm dead and gone, my wife will sell my fishing gear for what I said I paid for it."

- Koos Brandt

Whats in Leland Michigan?

Leland is a wonderful beach town located in northwest Michigan.  It's a fantastic town to visit to see the iconic fishing village, nets hanging to dry, fishing vessels, fun shops and great restaurants.

Plus, the beaches are definitely worth an afternoon of swimming and sun bathing.

Where is Leland Michigan?

Where is Leland Michigan?  Leland MI is located north of Traverse City in the Leelanau peninsula.  You can see Leland's location on the map of Michigan above.

How Cute is the Leland Michigan Sticker?

I always see these fun stickers on cars!  I love this Leland MI sticker, it's on Amazon so you can get it quick!

Where is Leland Michigan?

  • Leland Michigan is 26.3 miles, 37 minutes from Traverse City
  • Leland Michigan is 282 miles, 4.5 hours from Detroit
  • Leland Michigan is 161 miles, 2 hours, 45 minutes from Grand Rapids
  • Leland Michigan is 144 miles, 2 hours, 40 minutes from Mackinaw City

What lake is Leland Michigan on?

Leland Michigan is located on Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau

As soon as you arrive on the weathered docks, you can imagine what it would have been like to live and work in this small fishing village in the early 1900's. 

  • Be sure to check out the weathered fishing shanties, smokehouses, racks of drying fishing nets, and the fish tugs bobbin on the Leland River.  There are so many things to do and see in Leland Michigan!

Can you see why Leland is one of the best vacation spots in Michigan?

Leland Michigan's History...Just the Cool Stuff

Fondly called “Fishtown,” this village still operates as one of the only working commercial fishing villages in the state of Michigan. 

Wikipedia says Fishtown was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1973 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. 

A few Fishtown shanties are still used today to support the current, active commercial fishing operation.

Leland is built on the site of one of the oldest and largest Ottawa villages on the Leelanau Peninsula. Settlers began arriving in the 1830's and took advantage of the location as a fishing settlement.

A dam and sawmill were built on the river in 1854, causing the water level to rise 12 feet. What had been three natural lakes all became a single lake now known as Lake Leelanau.

From 1870 to 1884, the Leland Lake Superior Iron Co. operated an iron smelter north of the river mouth, supplied with ore from the Upper Peninsula and charcoal made from local maple and beech timber; the charcoal was produced in fourteen beehive kilns near the smelting furnace, which produced up to 40 tons of iron per day.

Commercial fishermen sailed out of the harbor to catch trout and whitefish, building wooden shacks where they processed their catch and serviced their fleet.

Up to eight powered tugs once sailed out of "Fishtown," as the buildings came to be known. Today, the historic fishing settlement and two fish tugs, Joy and Janice Sue, are owned by a non-profit organization, Fishtown Preservation Society.  You can spot Joy quite frequently!

The Beauty of Leland Michigan

Most of the fascinating shanties in Leland Michigan now house gift and clothing boutiques, art and specialty food shops but the flavor of the village is alive and well.

It’s rather busy during the warmer summer months and winter brings peaceful tranquility.  Visiting Fishtown Mi during all the seasons is sure to delight as the village brings different experiences each time you visit. 

Hot Tip: Be sure to walk over the dam, it makes incredible photos!

Things to Do in Leland MI

Leland Michigan is home to lots of great shops downtown, including great cheese and smoked white fish.  Wander though the shops and grab lunch at a variety of great spots! There are several Fishtown Mi shops to explore.

Leland is a great walking town. You can park once and walk to all the restaurants and sites. Parking is free!

  • Be sure to walk across the dam and visit the beaches!

Visit Van's Beach and Hall Beach in Leland Michigan

Visit Hall Beach and Van's Beach! 205 Cedar St, Leland, MI 49654.  

These beautiful beaches feature crashing waves, blue skies and soft sand that's perfect for toes! 

Best Leland Michigan aka Fishtown Restaurants

We love eating at Rick's Cafe it checks off all the boxes:

  • Super sweet thatched tiki huts 
  • Unparalleled views of the dam and waterway
  • Outside eating 

I mean seriously, doesn't it look like the Caribbean? Have you packed the car yet?

If you prefer to eat inside, request a table overlooking the dam so you have an awesome view while you eat!  It's also perfect for when you visit Leland Michigan in the fall with cooler temperatures.

Leland Blue

Where can I find Leland blue?

The Leland Chamber states the Leland Blue Stone is actually slag – a waste product from the smelting process used in the late 1800s by the Leland Lake Superior Iron Company.

After the smelting industry failed, the slag was dumped into the harbor. You can still find these bits of blue slag. 

If you want to find your own Leland Blue, just search along the shoreline of Leland! The blue stones are especially prominent while wet, so just keep your eyes open!

YouTube Video of Leland Michigan 

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JOY! Leland's Fishtown! I love walking along the docks, amongst the weathered fishing shanties, smokehouses, racks of drying fishing nets, and fish tugs on the Leland River. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Fishtown still operates as one of the only working commercial fishing villages in the state of Michigan!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Many of the original weathered fishing shanties composing Fishtown, now house small shops. However, these historic shanties were once used primarily for commercial fishing operations, including net-mending sheds, ice houses, smoke houses, and storage. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ A few Fishtown shanties are still used today to support the current, active commercial fishing operation.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Today, the historic fishing settlement and two fish tugs, Joy and Janice Sue, are owned by a non-profit organization, Fishtown Preservation Society. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Have you visited Leland this summer? You just gotta!!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ SOOO I have a wild hair to paint this...what do you think? It was actually my Mom's idea. She says, "that looks like a painting!"⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #fishtown #leland #lelandmi #lelandmichigan #photooftheday #traveling #adventureislife #travel #travelphotography #welivetoexplore #familytravel #thegreatoutdoors #nature #explore #smalltown #travelblog #puremichigan #michigander #michigan #thegreatlakesstate #greatlakeslocals #greatlakes #michiganders #summer #august #naturalmichigan #unsalted #puremichiganpride #puremittigan #onlyinmichigan

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About the Lead Author | Sherry Trautman

Thanks for stopping by!

Our Words of Wisdom: “Never follow anyone else’s path. Unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path, then by all means follow that path.”

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We're Sherry and Chris the founders of one of Michigan's most comprehensive and Top Travel Blogs!

    Sherry Trautman is a seasoned business owner and a multifaceted content creator, deeply entrenched in the world of travel in Michigan. With her extensive background in writing, editing, photography, marketing, website design, web mastering, social media, and publishing, she is the driving force behind the acclaimed Michigan Travel site "Travel-mi.com." A lifelong Michigander, Sherry's journey began in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan led her to St. Joseph during her formative years, and further to Kalamazoo for her higher education. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design and Fine Art from Western Michigan University. Her career initially blossomed in Battle Creek, where she contributed significantly to aviation, marketing, and the art industry.

    In 2018, Sherry, alongside her husband Chris, embarked on a passionate endeavor with the inception of Travel-MI.com. This venture was not just a business but a full-time commitment to exploring and celebrating the diverse landscapes and communities of Michigan. Together, they tirelessly traverse the state, curating unique experiences, capturing stunning visuals, and weaving engaging narratives that showcase Michigan's rich cultural tapestry and natural beauty. From her early experiences in different Michigander locales to her extensive professional background, Sherry's life and work epitomize a deep-rooted expertise in Michigan travel, making her an authoritative voice in this niche.

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