Main street in Leland, Michigan. Image credit Frank Setili via

6 of the Most Overlooked Towns in Michigan

Michigan is fantastic to explore with its waterways, natural landmarks, historical sites, and the Great Lakes. Whether you are a resident or a visitor, big towns offer many activities but don’t overlook the smaller ones. They can surprise you with their charm and numerous fun things to do. Here are six of the most overlooked towns in Michigan.


Looking north along St. Clair River Drive in Algonac, Michigan
Looking north along St. Clair River Drive in Algonac, Michigan

Algonac is a fabulous town to visit, especially in the summer. Right on the St. Clair River, this town offers a perfect getaway during the warm months. With cool breezes along the waterfront, you can sit and watch the freighters go between the United States and Canada. Yes, you can see to Canada from Algonac. The Algonac State Park is lovely to see birds and other animals. It also has an archery range and trap shooting range. And if you love biking, the Bridge to Bay Trail passes through the park. The Algonac Clay Historical Museum explains how Algonac is the birthplace of power boating and ChrisCraft. The must-do event is the Pickeral Tournament over the 4th of July weekend. This festival has fishing contests, boat parades, amusement rides and games, and one of the best fireworks displays in Southeast Michigan.


Armada, Michigan Public Library
Armada, Michigan Public Library, By Darren56brown - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Armada is a small rural town 50 minutes north of Detroit filled with tree-lined streets and historic homes, a beautiful Memorial Park, and near the Macomb Orchard Trail. The downtown has several places to stop in to get a bite, including the Kozy Korner Saloon and the Creamery on Main where you can get a giant ice cream treat to share or keep for yourself. All year, family fun can be had at Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill. The children’s play area and petting farm will delight the little ones. Plus, it is a sight to watch the apple cider-making process. In the warmer months, you can pick seasonal fruits and vegetables like strawberries, apples, and pumpkins or enjoy the many on-site festivals, like the Lavender or Sunflower festivals. Before you go, stop into Blake’s Tasting Room to try the latest hard cider. Other things to do in Armada are to visit the Armada Flea Market and the Armada Fair. The Armada Fair has amusement rides, tractor pulls, animals, and more fun than you can enjoy.


Leland, a quaint fishing community in Michigan.
Leland, a quaint fishing community in Michigan.

Leland, a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan in the Leelanau Peninsula, has plenty to offer visitors in this overlooked town. Leland is extremely picturesque, with the blue waters of Lake Michigan, a crystal-clear river, and the Carp River waterfall in the center of the historic Fishtown. This 1800s historic site has several fishing shanties for you to discover and enjoy the Fishtown Heritage Festival. Leland has plenty of areas to explore, like the historic district and the harbor, where you can do birding, strolling on the Leland River Walk, or experience the unique Leland Tree House.

In addition to the beautiful scenery, this is a fabulous wine area. The August Leland Wine and Food Festival is a fantastic event to sample the area’s cherry wine. You can enjoy a fabulous weekend getaway with all the numerous wineries and craft breweries. Also, don’t miss the Great Lakes Water Festival, where your family can enjoy food, art, and music. Other activities to experience are taking a scenic ferry trip to the Manitou Islands or driving 30 minutes to the scenic Sleeping Bear Dunes.

New Buffalo

New Buffalo, Michigan: People explore the quaint downtown area, passing Casey's Diner.
New Buffalo, Michigan: People explore the quaint downtown area, passing Casey's Diner. Editorial Credit: Page Light Studios / Shutterstock.

New Buffalo is another small town on the shores of Lake Michigan, a little over an hour away from Chicago. From water sports, the Four Winds casino resort, art galleries, plenty of dining and brewery options, and nature parks, New Buffalo is a great small town for a summer vacation. Galien River County Park offers a unique view of the Great Lakes in its 86 acres of wild marshland. You can walk through the park on elevated walkways or climb the 60 feet tower to get a birds-eye view of the entire marsh. Some other water activities you can enjoy in New Buffalo are sailing excursions, paddling on the Galien River, or renting a boat or jet ski from Oselka Marina. More activities can be found on land by exploring New Buffalo’s Railroad history at the Train Museum on land or enjoying the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. New Buffalo is in a prime location of Michigan’s premier wine region for you to take tours and wine tasting throughout the area. Come for a weekend or a week in this lovely beach town in Southwest Michigan.


Beautiful summer at the town square in Northville, Michigan.
Beautiful summer at the town square in Northville, Michigan. Editorial credit: PQK /

Northville is another small town in Michigan that is often overlooked. It has a lovely, walkable downtown filled with art galleries, theaters, boutique shops, breweries, and wonderful restaurants. Make sure to look out for the little fairy doors throughout the town. The Mill Race Village is a great area to explore. Run by the Northville Historical Society, it features late 1800s homes, a school, a church, a gazebo, and a blacksmith shop covering 11 acres. The Guernsey Farms Dairy offers visitors quality dairy products, including some of the best ice cream in the area and a restaurant on-site. During the fall, Northville has two cider mills for you to explore. Visiting Three Cedars Farm will put you up close with apples, pumpkins, and a fun barnyard playland. Since 1873, Parmenter’s Cider Mill has been offering visitors caramel apples, apple butter, and apple cider. There is even a winery and brewery for the adults visiting Parmenter’s Cider Mill.

St. Ignace

St. Ignace is a small town in northern Michigan by the Mackinaw Bridge.
St. Ignace is a small town in northern Michigan by the Mackinaw Bridge.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has some wonderful small towns, but one is often overlooked due to its closeness to Mackinac Island. St. Ignace is a great small town, especially in the summer. There are many family activities to enjoy, especially if you love the outdoors with the beaches, nature trails, and water activities like kayaking on the Straits of Mackinac or scuba-diving shipwrecks. The Garlyn Zoo Wildlife Park has native and exotic animals in a well-cared-for, animal-friendly environment where you can feed many beautiful animals. Other places to visit are Castle Rock, the Mystery Spot, or bike or walk along the North Country Trail. There are also numerous places to explore if you want to take a day trip from St. Ignace, like the Cut River Bridge, the Soo Locks, Oswald’s Bear Ranch, and Tahquamenon Falls.

From nature parks, historic villages, water sports, cider mills, cherry orchards, wineries, and craft breweries to the rugged beauty of the extensive shoreline along the Great Lakes, which offers epic sunsets and sunrises, Michigan’s small overlooked towns deliver big getaway adventures. No matter what time of the year, these downtowns put out the red carpet for visitors, offering fantastic dining options, art, culture, festivals, and enough charm to make you want to extend your vacations. On your next vacation, consider visiting one of these overlooked towns in Michigan; you won’t be disappointed.

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