13 Best Michigan SMALL TOWNS Perfect For Michigan Getaways! | Quaint, Cute Downtowns | Small Cities with Great Shopping, Kayaking, Biking, Exploring, Fun Things To Do | Clare, Alpena, Grayling and More!

13 Best Michigan SMALL TOWNS - Perfect For Michigan Getaways! | Quaint, Cute Downtowns | Small Cities with Great Shopping, Kayaking, Biking, Exploring, Fun Things To Do

By: Sherry Trautman | Travel-Mi.com | Last updated: August 1, 2023

Chris and I absolutely LOVE visiting small, quaint towns in Michigan!  In fact, we prefer idyllic destinations in the Great Lakes State such as Clare, Harbor Springs, Alpena, and Grayling as these small cities stand out as hidden gems waiting to be explored.

  • So...get ready to embark on a journey of discovery as you immerse yourself in the warm hospitality, rich history, and natural beauty that these towns offer.

Whether you seek a tranquil escape or an adventure-filled retreat, Michigan getaways promise an abundance of scenic wonders, outdoor activities, and cultural delights to make your visit an unforgettable experience. 

NOTE: Each town listed below (at least most of them) will have a link to a travel guide for that particular small town with lots of:

  • Photos of the city
  • Specific information of things to do and see in the city
  • An interactive map of the restaurants, sites and activities

So be sure to click the link!

Table of Contents

  1. Clare Michigan
  2. Grayling Michigan
  3. Gladwin Michigan
  4. Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie
  5. Alpena Michigan
  6. Oscoda Michigan
  7. Marshall Michigan
  8. Cheboygan Michigan
  9. Glen Arbor Michigan
  10. Harbor Springs Michigan
  11. Midland Michigan
  12. Tawas Michigan
  13. St. Ignace

Interactive Map of the Best Michigan Small Towns Worth Visiting!

  • Click on the plus and minus in the left corner to zoom in or out of the map.
  • Click on the icons for more info, addresses and photos of the stops.
  • Click on the map to drag and move it to view surrounding areas.
  • In the Header, click on the rectangle in the upper left of the map to see a menu of all of our stops. Click on anything that looks interesting to see where it is on the map. To hide the menu, click the rectangle in the header.
  • In the Header, click on the "square" icon in the upper right side to expand the map for better viewing.

1. Discover Clare Michigan: One of Our Favorite Michigan Small Towns to Visit!

Let me just say, we have been visiting Clare Michigan on repeat this year.  It's becoming one of our favorite cute towns in Michigan to visit because the downtown area is so friendly and vibrant.  You can tour the inside of a bright red historic caboose, see a cool dam, wonderful lakeside park, and shop at many of the local Amish owned business

  • Oh and you can eat at several wonderful downtown restaurants including the Herrick House, Whitehouse diner, or 505 Café which are my favorites.  It's definitely one of the best small towns in Michigan. 

Clare Michigan is perfect for Michigan getaways as it is close to:

2. Check Out Grayling Michigan: Cute Towns in Michigan

If you are looking to visit small cities in Michigan with lots of outdoor things to do, check out Grayling Michigan!  Grayling has a bustling downtown area with fun restaurants and shops. It's definitely on our list of the best small towns in Michigan to visit as you can kayak, tube, hike, and explore.

Whenever I visit this northern Michigan city I LOVE to visit the Grayling Fish Hatchery, especially if they have Grayling fish! 

  • FYI!!!!!  I also found one of the BEST WALKING TRAILS in Michigan (it's listed in my guide above). 
  • Oh, and you will want to visit Wellington Farm Park too.  Freakin' awesome.

Plus, Grayling is not far from Traverse City!

3. Explore Gladwin: Bring a Bike and Check Out This Cool Town in Michigan!

Gladwin Michigan, located in Northern Michigan, is great city to visit.  I think it's growing and will definitely be a vacation hotspot in the future.  We LOVE eating at the Riverwalk Place (Dining, Shopping, Hotel & Spa) as it's right on the river and you can eat outside! Definitely a plus in my book for this cute small town in Michigan.

My friend and I also brought bikes so we left our vehicle at the Riverwalk Place parking lot and biked to the nearby campgrounds-super scenic area with shade trees where we watched people swing across the river and jump in! Grab our guide of fun things to do in Gladwin!

Gladwin Michigan is perfect for Michigan getaways as it is close to:

This is one of our favorite quaint towns in Michigan!

4. Michigan Small Towns: Tour the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie

Ever wondered what is the oldest small town in Michigan?

Well, it's Sault Ste. Marie! It was settled as early as 1668, which makes it Michigan's oldest city and among the oldest cities in the United States!

  • Be sure to check out the Soo Locks and take a boat ride through the locks.  You will learn so much!

5. Tour Alpena - One of Our Favorite Northern Michigan Small Towns

I have to say, I absolutely love Alpena Michigan located in Northern Michigan! If you love quaint Michigan towns, this is it!

  • Rockport State Park is a state gem as you can find fossils and bike or hike to the quarry! It's like another world!
  • Explore a nearby Dark Sky Park for unparalleled views of constellations and the breathtaking Milky Way!

We LOVE taking glass bottom boat shipwreck tours, kayaking under the cute covered bridge at Island Park, dining in several of the great restaurants in Alpena's downtown area, wine tasting, or listening to live music at the band shell.  

Other Nearby Cool Towns in Michigan:

6. Discover Oscoda: Breathtaking Natural Areas Such as Lumberman's Monument and Largo Springs!

OMG you guys, if you haven't explored Oscoda, you gotta check it out!

First off, be sure to take a fall cruise/fall color tour on the AuSable River Queen. I went with my parents on a lovely fall day and we had a BLAST!

  • We LOVE visiting Lumberman's Monument in both the winter and summer. It's exquisite any time of year!
  • Also, be sure to see Largo Springs, it's just about a mile away.  VERY COOL. SEROUSLY.

Oscoda Michigan is very close to Tawas Michigan which is a great place to visit too. 

7. Visit Marshall Michigan! One of the Best Small Towns to Live in Michigan

If you love boardwalks along the river, historic home tours, wandering a downtown filled with shops and museums, fountains, walking tours, night life, great restaurants (and ice cream), you will find that Marshall Michigan is one of the best small towns in Michigan to visit. 

In fact, Chris and I believe it's one of the best small towns to live in Michigan! You are super close to Kalamazoo and Battle Creek for work too. 

8. Check Out Cheboygan Michigan: Quaint Town in Michigan!

Cheboygan Michigan is a great Northern Michigan Vacation Spot!  See scenic lighthouses, wander across sandy beaches, check out historic bridges and listen to live music on warm summer weekends. 

9. Glen Arbor: One of Our Favorite Cute Towns in Michigan!

You can't help but smile while touring Glen Arbor.  It's one of our favorite Northern Michigan small towns. Not only is it along the famous M22 roadway, it's also home to the famous Cherry Republic store where you can go wine tasting, enjoy lunch AND shop! What's not to love about that!

I love wandering downtown Glen Arbor as it's small enough to visit all the shops (including the M22 shop!), wander along the marina and grab lunch without moving your car. 

Other Nearby Cool Towns in Michigan (with travel guides of fun things to do):

10. Harbor Springs: We Love this Quaint Town in Michigan! Beaches, Shopping, Golf, Boardwalks!

If you love Northern Michigan small towns, Harbor Springs is a great place to visit in Michigan! We love visiting in the fall as the shops are all decorated for Halloween. Tourists also love the exquisite golf, 

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve: This preserve offers hiking trails through lush forests and has a scenic overlook of Lake Michigan. Check out our guide!

Be sure to visit Harbor Springs Vineyards and Winery to enjoy wine tasting and tours at this picturesque winery.

Winter Sports in Harbor Springs: During the winter months, Harbor Springs becomes a popular destination for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing at nearby ski resorts like Nub's Nob and Boyne Highlands.

Day Trips: Take a short drive to nearby attractions like Mackinac Island, Petoskey, or Charlevoix for additional adventures.

Remember that the availability of activities might vary depending on the season, so it's a good idea to check local event listings and websites for up-to-date information. Enjoy your time in Harbor Springs!

11. Let's Explore Midland Michigan: Home of the Longest Canopy Walk in the United States!!

While visiting Midland, be sure to go to:

  • Dow Gardens to see the longest canopy walk in the United States!
  • Enjoy a Loons baseball game at Dow Diamond!
  • Go Kayaking along the Chippewa river and pass under the Tridge (a famous three way bridge in Midland Michigan!)
  • Visit the farmers Market in the Dow Diamond parking lot
  • Explore the fun downtown area! Lots of restaurants and you can rent scooters!

12. Discover Tawas: Lovely Michigan Lake Town Along Lake Huron!

Located along the shores of Lake Huron in Michigan, Tawas or East Tawas is one of our favorite Michigan small towns.  I ADORE the downtown region and can spend hours wandering the beautiful marina across the street while eating a Pronto Pup hot dog. 

Other things to do and see nearby:

  1. Visit Largo Springs: Take a short drive to nearby Oscoda and hike the scenic staircase at Largo Springs, which leads to a viewing platform overlooking the AuSable River.
  2. See Lumberman's Monument: Explore the Huron-Manistee National Forest and visit the Lumberman's Monument to learn about the area's logging heritage.
  3. Explore, Camp and Hike at Tawas Point State Park: This beautiful Michigan state park is known for its sandy beaches, picturesque lighthouse, and excellent birdwatching opportunities. 
  4. See the Gorgeous Lighthouse: Be sure to tour the lighthouse (check for the lighthouse schedule and hours) and stop in the gift shop!

13. Visit St. Ignace!

There's SO MANY THINGS TO DO in St. Ignace! Of course, you have to visit:

  • St. Ignace Mystery Spot
  • Castle Rock 
  • St Ignace Beach
  • St. Ignace Lighthouse!
  • Straits State Park 
  • Oh and of course, the famous St. Ignace Car Show is a not-to-be-missed event. 

....and so much more! Grab our St. Ignace Guide!

Grab Our Michigan Map!  

Grab our Michigan Map chuck full of fantastic Michigan cities, small towns, beach towns and fun places to visit!  Each destination has its own itinerary, interactive map and TONS of THINGS TO DO during your Michigan vacation.

We've done all the hard work for you!!  

Sherry Trautman Bio Picture

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.”

"Sherry & Chris"

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.

Sherry & Chris are at the Inn at Bay Harbor and looking out at the lake.
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