By Charlene & Richard Mixa
A Retreat for Sports Enthusiasts, Couples and Families
Miles of pure white sand dunes, shimmering blue waters, rustic towns, verdant forests, and a fresh water resort all combine to create a breathtaking travel destination with plenty of activities for families, sports enthusiasts and couples. Voted the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a fantastic escape and retreat for travelers. Nestled adjacent to one of America’s most natural and beautiful settings, The Homestead Resort is a premier four season resort. Wonderfully blending into the unique and fantastic landscape, visitors are greeted with the warmth, charm and sense of “coming home.”
ESCAPE to a Rustic Retreat!
Set right on the Lake Michigan shores forested enclave The Homestead has options galore for accommodations of private homes, condominiums and four fabulous hotels. Our one bedroom suite in the Stony Brook Lodge sits on a ridgeline overlooking Lake Michigan with magnificent views of Sleeping Bear Bay, the Crystal River Valley and the Manitou Islands. A fresh yet rustic lodge style décor the suite gives a sense of stepping back in time to a place where sportsmen found a warm and welcoming stone lodge. A gas-fired porcelain stove, comfy chairs, and couch in rich deep tones enhances this lodge style setting. Relaxing in a rocker while enjoying the scenic views, the suite is a comfy place to unwind and reenergize after an active day. Modern touches include a two-person steam shower, king size bed and a handy kitchenette. A small porch adds to the charm and the private pool for Stony Brook Guests is lushly landscaped while offering more spectacular panoramic views.
Encompassing over 500-acres The Homestead is completely surrounded by the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Park in Glen Arbor, Michigan. The resort carefully separates it neighborhoods along the ridgelines of Lake Michigan and the heavily timbered forests maintaining its natural serenity.
DISCOVER The Homestead’s Activities
A few miles from The Homestead is the Manitou Passage Golf Club where we arrive for a round of golf on a beautiful sunny summer day with mild temperatures. An Arnold Palmer Signature Course designed by Palmer in 1997 and redesigned by him in 2009, Manitou Passage Golf Club was GOLFWEEK’S “Best New Course of 2010” award winner. Playing as a twosome it is a fun, yet challenging round of golf. The course is in excellent condition with strategically placed hazards, plenty of fescue, and lush fairways in one of the region’s most spectacular natural settings. The greens are exceptional and very demanding. Major elevation changes greet us on the front nine. From the par-5 eighth tee has a sweeping vista of the Manitou Passage, North Manitou Island and the Shoal Lighthouse. The terrain changes on the back nine as the course winds along a meadow. Fabulous views of meadows, hardwood forests, expansive ridges, sparkling ponds and Manitou Passage are found as we play this exhilarating course. The ever-present wind off Lake Michigan and its topography create ongoing challenges at Manitou Passage Golf Club. Wow, the Par-3’s have dramatic drops to postage stamp greens. Finishing with pars, we head to Arnie’s Grill for a hearty homemade lunch at this friendly clubhouse with its multi-tiered patio overlooking the 18th green. Manitou Passage Golf Club is truly a one-of-a-kind destination course in the golf-rich region of Northern Michigan.
After golf it is time to explore more of The Homestead. Relaxation, rejuvenation or recreation, The Homestead has it all. Touring the property we watch as youngsters and a few “oldsters” laugh and giggle as they tube the shallow, clear waters of the Crystal River. At the Beach Club are tennis courts, a huge pool situated on the lakeshore with plenty of chairs for sunning, a mile of lakeshore for walking and even some private “adults only” patios for relaxing. In The Village are several specialty shops as well as a full fitness center and a fun par-3 golf course along the ski area -which tests both golf skills and hiking skills. Following the road up the mountain, we locate the secluded and intimate Spa Amira. A most elegant spa where guests relax, refresh and rejuvenate amidst the stunning views of the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan. More summer activities are the renowned Dave Pelz Scoring Game School that works on short-game techniques and putting, as well as the Orvis Fly Fishing School.
EXPLORE Leelanau Peninsula!
Are we there yet? How far is it? A sea of steep, rolling, white sand dunes stretches for miles. Each step in the soft sand equates to a half step as our foot slides backwards. At Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore we first tackle the “Dune Climb” a strenuous yet rewarding climb up a huge sand dune. Kids and adults are having a great time climbing this massive dune. At the peak we are rewarded with great views of Sleeping Bear Dunes and Big Glen Lake. Our progress is slow as we continue our hike across the sand dunes to Lake Michigan. So glad we brought water and take our time as we climb up and down the steep dunes. Hurrah! We finally see the shimmering blue waters of Lake Michigan. At the lake we enjoy a refreshing, cool dip before making the return trek. It’s about a 3.5 mile round trip hike over rolling dunes for adventurous souls. Hikers must have lots of water, snacks, comfy shoes, and plenty of time as the hike can take 3-4 hours.
For more leisurely exploration of Sleeping Bear Dunes, we drive the Pierce Stocking Trail that winds through the dunes. Stopping at the parking area, trails take us along the top of the dunes to phenomenal walkway perched on the dunes and above Lake Michigan. In one section we walk along the very edge of a shear dune that is almost a vertical descent to the lake 450’ below where the people look like ants. A sign warns this is a “strenuous” descent and ascent to the lake and back. Listening to some adventuresome teenagers as they reach the top, we agree we’ll just cherish the view from the top.
Cheers! MICHIGAN’S Leelanau Peninsula can brag about being home to the fresh waters of Lake Michigan, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and is the largest producer of wines in the state. With our handy “Leelanau Peninsula Wineries and Wine Trail Guide” we take an excursion from The Homestead to the quaint village of Fishtown for lunch and shopping. Stopping along the way to sample the local wines, we visit Gill’s Pier, a favorite winery of ours from the past. In Fishtown we have a great brown bag lunch from the Village Cheese Shanty. A unique village, Fishtown is a collection of weathered fishing shanties, smokehouses, overhanging docks, fish tugs, and charter boats along the Leland River in Leland, Michigan. It offers unique shops and some excellent cozy eateries.
SAVOR the Flavors
Dining options at The Homestead are varied. In The Village, CQ’s Cabin features a hearty breakfast buffet, Beppi’s is a laid back sports bar, and Nonna’s has a classically inspired contemporary Italian cuisine. Café Manitou overlooks Lake Michigan for lunch under an umbrella or casual dinner watching the sunset.
Celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary we are dining at Nonna’s our final evening at The Homestead. In a three level, timber-framed structure of natural stone fire places Nonna’s has adults only dining in the Tavern, a family area, and outdoor dining in an elegant natural setting. Arriving at Happy Hour we find the full service bar offers cocktails, select wines and appetizers at the bar for only $5.00. With its classically-inspired contemporary Italian cuisine, Nonna’s allows guests choices of five courses to seven course meals or ala carte. The staff is excellent and most graciously assists with our dining choices and recommendations. Opting for the ala carte menu, we start with the Brussel Sprout Celery Root Salad and the Roasted Beets Salad each a tasty tantalizing twist from traditional salads. The entrees of grilled Scallops and Lavarello, a pan fried fish, are both superb. Each dish is beautifully presented and perfectly prepared with fresh and local ingredients. Topping the evening for our anniversary celebration we share a scrumptious Tiramisu. As evening rains arrive, we return “home” to our cozy suite for a relaxing evening.
If you go:
The Homestead Resort, www.thehomesteadresort.com
Manitou Passage Golf Club, 4600 Club Drive, Cedar, Michigan 49621, 888.656.7572