Day Four: Point Betsie Lighthouse and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Today was not only a fun day, but a long day. The sun sets at 9:30pm and it doesn’t get dark till after 10:00pm which makes you feel like it’s earlier.

When I started researching things to do on our trip I found there was an area close to where we would be staying that had the name Betsie (spelled just like our Betsie) in almost everything!

Today we basically made one large circle when the day was complete. We left the campground around 10:00am to head to the furthest point of our drive, which was Point Betsie Lighthouse. It was also our first view of the incredible waters of Lake Michigan. I can not begin to tell you how incredible the color of the water is!

First view of Lake Michigan

Here is a little snippet about Point Betsie Lighthouse from their website: The name Point Betsie originates from the Native American people who were in the area and communicating with the French at the time. The French “Pointe Aux Bec Scies” comes from the Indigenous word “Ug-Zig-A-Zee-Bee” which People of the Three Fires [Tribal] Council gave to a river flowing into Lake Michigan just a few miles to the south, where sawbill or Merganser ducks thrived. Translated, Point Betsie means Saw Beak Point. [1] Construction of Point Betsie began in 1854 and was completed in 1858, with service beginning in the shipping season of 1859. The lighthouse was constructed at a cost of $5,000. The light was the site of one of the earliest Life-Saving Stations, built in 1875. The cost of the Life Saving Station was $3,000.

After visiting the lighthouse (it was closed inside due to covid hours) we continued our drive along M-22 (one of the main roads around the coast…think 30A in Florida). You come upon one little town after another. Point Betsie Lighthouse was in Frankfort and the next little town we drove through was Empire. It was approaching lunchtime and we knew the next a long scenic drive was in our future, so we decided on an early lunch.

AC and Will
Betsie at Point Betsie
Eli wanted to bring some driftwood home

Shortly after making this decision we came upon Riverside Canoes on the Platt River in Honor, Michigan. They had this huge outdoor seating area with a grill. We stopped and placed our order. As soon as we placed our order it got really windy and looked like a storm was going to blow through. We ended up eating in the car to keep warm as it was very chilly! As soon as our bellies were full, the sun came out and we continued on our way up M-22 to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Right off M-22 we took 109 to the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive through Sleeping Bear Dunes. It was around a seven mile drive that loops through the forest and beach dunes. Since it is registered with the National Parks Service we were able to get in free with the National Parks Disability Pass we got last summer with Anna Cate.

The scenic drive was gorgeous and I believe we got out four times for the overlooks. The one we had to climb a mini sand dune for was by far the best! Again, we can not get over the color of the water! And it’s so clear. Sleeping Bear Dunes did not disappoint and we highly recommended! All overlooks were handicap accessible, minus the one with the sand dune climb. Anna Cate walked up it and we pretended we were on her treadmill on an incline going up and a decline going down.

Here is some information about Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Scenic Drive: One of the most spectacular views in the Lakeshore is at the Lake Michigan Overlook on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. Take the short walk from the parking lot at # 9, 10 and you too can enjoy the view. Bring a chair if you want to stay a while or just sit in the sand. Sunsets from here are outstanding.

The observation deck at the Lake Michigan Overlook is about 450 feet above the lake level, and the angle to the lake is very steep. The dunes are perched on top of a moraine bluff made of a mixture of rocks and sand deposited by the glacier when it melted.

Although going down the bluff is not prohibited, you are encouraged not to do so. Running down to the lake can be dangerous for yourself and for others below you, and erosion of the bluff face is obvious as you look down to Lake Michigan where others have climbed the bluff.

Driving in
First overlook
Explanation of this view
Second overlook
Second overlook
Second overlook
Mini hike up to the third and best overlook!
This view!
Anna Cate was too into watching everyone
What it’s like when we try to take our own pictures, lol
Last overlook

Who was Pierce Stocking? Pierce Stocking spent his youth working as a lumberman in Michigan’s forests. He loved the woods and spent most of his spare time there, developing a self-taught knowledge of nature.

He used to walk the bluffs above Lake Michigan, awed by the views of the dunes, Lake Michigan and the islands. He wanted to share this beauty with others and conceived the idea of a road to the top of the dunes.

As a lumberman, he had built roads in difficult terrain before. The planning for the road began in the early 1960’s, and in 1967, the road, then known as the Sleeping Bear Dunes Park, first opened to the public.

Stocking continued to operate the scenic drive until his death 1976. In 1977, the road became part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

The Story of Sleeping Bear: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore gets its name from one dune in particular—the Mother Bear. Perched along the edge of the large dune that towers about Lake Michigan, this dune, at one time, resembled a sleeping bear. The Ashininaabek used the Mother Bear as a landmark and tell a story about how she came to be there. Two different versions of the story are commonly told. These stories are an Anishinaabe (Odawa/Ottawa, Ojibway/Chippewa and Potawatomi) oral tradition of a sacred place within their homelands in the Great Lakes.

I am not going to paste the two stories here; however, if you are intrigued to read more click this link. History Of Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Once the drive was complete we headed to the town of Traverse City. It was adorable! We walked around, got ice cream, sorbet and shakes from this cute place called Milk & Honey and then ran into the local grocery store before heading back to the RV. My step-mom, Joyce, got us hooked years ago in these cherries from Cherry Republic and guess where they are from!?!? Of course we stopped in for some deliciousness!!!!! We had Pawley with us all day since it was his second birthday and we needed to leave him at the RV while we went back into Traverse City for dinner and the sunset.

When we were in Milk & Honey we asked for some restaurant recommendations for dinner and Little Fleet was given to us. It’s an area of different food trucks and it was perfect for all our taste buds! Eli and Will split bbq from one food truck and brisket tacos from another; AC and Betsie shared a small Margherita Pizza and I started with a shrimp taco but it was so spicy I had to swap out for one of Will’s brisket ones. It was amazing!

Food truck area
These fries were amazing we got to tie us all over since it was 8:15pm while we were waiting for our orders
And what’s left of all the tacos….nothing

After dinner we headed to watch the sunset at Traverse City Marina. It was beautiful and a little chilly. Then we headed back and came upon this ice cream shop that reminded us of Carl’s in Fredericksburg. We couldn’t believe it was fifteen minutes to ten and still light out! Anna Cate and I had baby cups (one little scoop), Eli and Will smalls (5 swirls) and Betsie a medium (her eyes are always bigger than her belly!). It was the perfect ending to a great day!

The baby cups to the….
….small and medium cones
This is two….happy birthday Pawley

I think we all passed out around midnight and had a great nights sleep! Ever up in this area we HIGHLY recommend everything we visited.

2 thoughts on “Day Four: Point Betsie Lighthouse and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

  1. So beautiful! I have never been there and now need to go. Your food pictures look amazing – another talent of yours. Happy 2nd Birthday to Pawley. xo


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