Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Day Trip No. 1

There are so many great beaches and hidden treasures to find in Northern Michigan. My first Day Trip takes us to Sleep Bear Dunes National Park.

Before you leave Traverse head to West Front Street & Maple to Mary's Kitchen Port. This delectable specialty foods and kitchen store makes amazing fresh sandwiches, salads and desserts to go. My personal lunch favorite is their Tuba Pasta- pesto, roasted turkey, tuba pasta and other yummies and a homemade carmel found at the checkout counter. Make sure to pick up a couple bottles of artisian lemonade and a giant Rice Krispe treat for the road!

Photo courtesy of Larry Page via Flickr

From Mary's head west on Grandview Parkway then west on M-72 toward Empire. Along the drive you will be sure and find many great roadside stands stocked with fresh fruit and snacks for your day trip as you pass from Grand Traverse into Leelanau County. Once in Empire, M-72 ends. Make a left at the light and head south on M-22 about a quarter of a mile and you'll reach a chocoholics paradise, Grocer's Daughter Chocolate.

This isn't your ordinary chocolate shop. Grocer's specializes in rain forest protected certified chocolate and uses organic and natural ingredients grown in their own gardens and shop or locally throughout Leelanau County. Mimi Wheeler, the chocolatier behind this culinary treat, was the daughter of a grocer in a small town in Denmark. It was her mother, the beautiful women that graces the label of her chocolates, that inspired her to create such mouthwatering treats. One of my favorites is their Wally Bar chocked with great dried fruits, nuts and sesame seeds.

For the bite size lover try their truffles. Their heavenly flavors ensure that these morsels of love will be gone before you leave the store! And, if you are looking for an authentic Northern Michigan party or wedding favor, Grocer's will work with you to create the flavor you are looking for!

Photos above provided by Grocer's Daughter Chocolate.com

Careful not to overindulge but grab a few more chocolates to go and stash them in the cooler! Leaving Grocer's, head north on M-22 and continue on S Lacore Street (stay left at the fork) to Sleeping Bear Dunes N L. When you've hit a dirt road on the left you are almost there.

Welcome to North Bar Lake!!

Once in the parking lot make sure to pull around near the access walk and grab an envelope to fill out and deposit your Park Entrance Fee in the self pay canister. Parking for 7 days is $10 and this allows you entrance into all Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore entry points. The best time of day to enjoy North Bar is mid morning/early afternoon or late afternoon/early evening.
Many year ago when my family and I first began coming to North Bar it was still a hidden secret, very few people except the locals new about it. This isn't the case any more, the secret is out!

Be sure and load up on lots of sunscreen since there is no natural shade and bring the floaty rafts! North Bar has great sand and an awesome shore... once you step into the water the bottom drops from under you. You can literally shallow dive from the shore and surface where the water is well over your head! North Bar is also connected to Lake Michigan via a small stream. You have beautiful views of the Dunes and can enjoy body surfing on the Lake if the wind's just right! (For some more pictures of North Bar click here.)

With a good book in hand, sunscreen applied and your picnic lunch awaiting enjoy the calm and peace of North Bar and this hidden gem in Sleeping Bear. Beware, once you visit you'll be coming back for decades!!


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