Michigan isn’t just all about Motown and cars in Detroit! Oh no – in fact there are many small towns in Michigan left to be explored. It’s those places where the population is low that charm and beauty await.
Amid stunning natural landscapes, explore unique cultures and heritage, each town with its own traditions and fun summer festivals. In towns like Holland, Petoskey, and Traverse City it’s easy to forget about time as you wander through quaint downtowns, indulge in local cuisines, and engage in authentic experiences.
From peaceful getaways to off-the-beaten-path adventures, these small towns in Michigan offer a refreshing break from city life. Whether you’re coming from Lansing, out of state, or even from abroad we’re here to uncover our favorite small towns where you can create lasting memories in Michigan’s most delightful hidden gems.
Fun Small Towns in Michigan
In Michigan’s picturesque Upper Peninsula, just around 30 miles south of Copper Harbor, lies the charming small village of Calumet. This village town might be small, but it has a big personality.
Home to 800 residents, Calumet is popular for its copper mining history and has been recognized as a National Landmark District. The town is also known for its outdoor adventures, especially during the winter months.
A week in the town gives you access to amazing hiking trails, with the magnificent coastline always on the horizon. Make sure to check out the Calumet Theatre, Keweenaw National Historical Park, the Swedetown Nordic Ski Trails, and the legendary Art District.
Michigan is full of small-town havens and Mackinac Island is their crowning jewel. With no cars on this island, you can get to places using horses, carriages, and bikes. You can also take lovely strolls around the island and enjoy the classic small-town charm, where all 500 welcoming residents know each other.
Don’t skip out on Fort Mackinac, Butterfly House, Sainte Anne’s Church, and a tour of the Mackinac Island Carriage. Once you have admired what’s within the island, look outwards towards the crystal blue waters along the rugged landscape and all the hiking, biking, walking, kayaking, and paddling opportunities it has to offer.
Saugatuck might be a small town in Michigan, but its 12 miles of shore and six Michigan beaches bear a striking resemblance to the Mediterranean coastline. The town is heavy on the art scene, and knows how to cook delectable food and brew fine wines. We find it one of the most romantic places to visit in Michigan, especially in the summer when the whole town comes alive!
If you want to see the artistic hub of the town, visit the artists’ favorite Saugatuck Center for the Arts, Waterfront Invitational Art Fair, and Ox-Bow School of Art.
Make sure to get some memorable pictures at the Peterson Mill and wander along Butler Street.
Charlevoix is your classic American small town along the beautiful Lake Michigan. It offers the best of both worlds with the nature surrounding it and the whimsical man-made wonders within it.
For a fairytale experience, visit the Mushroom Houses — also known as the Hobbit Houses — designed by architect Earl Young. Where the mushroom houses will make you feel like a hobbit, the Castle Farms will have you feeling like royalty.
As far as nature goes, there’s a network of trails entwined around town that will allow you to experience hiking, running, biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
Petoskey is a small resort town that will take all the weight off your shoulders and help you unwind and relax. The historic architecture at the Gaslight District will take you back in time.
The Bear River Valley Recreation Area will help you reset your mind and soul with its natural beauty. Downtown Petoskey Trolley will allow you to experience Victorian-era charm. Then there are the watersports galore at the beach for the summers and the Petoskey Winter Sports Park for the Winters.
Regardless of the size of this town, Petoskey makes sure that every visitor has the time of their life in its multifaceted beauty.
It’s hard to pick which Michigan small town gives the best access to the beach, but South Haven is somewhere in the lead. This lakefront small town, with its lighthouses, piers, dune-filled beaches, manicured lawns, and beach activities is the byword of a small American beach town.
You can enjoy a majestic view of the water from the South Haven Lighthouse or bike through the trail at Kal Haven and take in the breathtaking views along the path.
As you enjoy one of the many beaches of this small town, don’t miss out on the Bumbleberry Acres to get up and close to the town’s farming side.
Munising, a hidden gem nestled in Michigan, might technically be a small city, but it effortlessly exudes the charm and warmth of a small Michigan town. The bountiful nature that envelops this picturesque destination is so astonishingly diverse that it promises a grand exotic getaway.
The crystal-clear waters, widespread beaches, dunes, thick green forests, waterfalls, and psychedelic sandstones ensure endless adventures. Fans of the great outdoors will have a grand time hiking to the Munising Falls, taking pictures at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and trying to stay afoot at the Grand Sable Banks.
The small town of St. Joseph is a well-crafted oyster for summer tourists. From miles of soft sandy beaches to fine dining experiences, this town seems to have everything needed for that breezy summer where new stories unfold.
When you are in St. Joseph, your itinerary must include the highlights of the town such as sailing, a game — or more — of volleyball, a visit to the lighthouse, and a day spent in wineries and craft breweries.
The small Michigan town of Frankenmuth remains a hotspot all year. Although it is mostly popular for its winter shenanigans and Christmas extravaganza, there isn’t a single spot in town that isn’t alluring. Known as Little Bavaria due to its heritage, Frankenmuth wholeheartedly embraces its history and allows us all to have a taste of food, clothes, and lifestyle.
In the small town of Michigan, the tourists get to experience the fairytale lifestyle of old Bavaria, making them feel as though they were in Germany. When in town, make sure to make your stops at the Frankenmuth Historical Museum, the Bavarian Inn, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, and the Heritage Park to name a few.
Frankenmuth is well known for its annual festivals, so make sure not to miss a chance to attend one.
Just an hour’s drive from hustling and bustling Detroit, Tecumseh offers a striking contrast. The town of Tecumseh is small, relaxing, and chock full of attractions. A visit to Tecumseh must always begin with a stroll down the Art Trail, a free-of-cost outdoor exhibit that showcases the artistic talents of the locals.
If you love cars and bikes, you will have a grand time at the Classic Car and Bike Show which brings all the gearheads together. Readers and fairytale enthusiasts may skip the car show but never turn down the opportunity to embark on the Fairy Door Adventure.
The name of this small Michigan town is a big giveaway that it was established by Dutch settlers. Decades later, Holland still maintains a European flavor, evident from the towering Dutch Windmill on Windmill Island.
If you want to tap into the history of this town, what could be a better place than the Cappon and Settlers Houses, where the first settlers resided? Make sure you write down DeGraaf Nature Center in your itinerary so you can lose yourself in the 18-acre nature preserve.
Most importantly, leave ample time to enjoy the beautiful beaches of Little Holland in Michigan.
Grand Haven is one of the best small towns in Michigan with a grand view of the coast, and it embodies the essence of a charming beachside community.
The most buzzworthy spots in Grand Haven include the two lighthouses, the Musical Fountain, and the subliminally breathtaking Rosy Mound Natural Area.
Of course, we can’t forget the beautiful widespread beaches that offer the most mesmerizing view of the setting sun.
It’s the perfect beach destination in Michigan and is a popular place to head during a Michigan summer weekend. After spending your day at the beach or enjoying the famous Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival make sure to walk downtown and eat at Snug Harbor, one of the best Grand Haven restaurants.
Small but mighty, Traverse City is known across the country for being the Cherry Capital of the world. This small Michigan town perfectly encapsulates the cute and uplifting ambiance with its beauty.
The town is brimming with upscale eateries, wineries, cafes, and microbreweries. In addition to the many attractions within the town, Traverse City is surrounded by nature that captures the changing seasons in the most ethereal way possible. If you’re visiting Michigan during September or October, it’s one of the best places to experience autumn in Michigan.
Be sure to witness the area yourself by visiting the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Logan’s Landing, and the Grand Traverse Bay.
A very small town with only 500 residents, Leland has a lot to offer visitors. A trip to this quiet and quaint town is incomplete without visiting Fishtown, a fishing village with an impressive collection of shanties, charter boats, tugs, etc.
The town is also a walking distance from the exceptional Van’s Beach, we say exceptional because this beach has nearly white sand.
Harbor Springs is a tiny town with beautiful views of the coast, mesmerizing colors of leaves, and the kind of shops and cafés Wes Anderson would be proud of. This is the kind of town that will inspire you to bring your cameras and paintbrushes and capture its beauty forever.
In addition to strolling around and admiring the magical views, there are a lot of fun activities at Harbor Springs. Though, many people head here to drive the famous Tunnel of Trees, a famed driving route through nature parks & rustic towns, an excellent place to witness the vivid fall colors.
Make sure to visit the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society, try out the fudge from Howse’s Fudge, enjoy deer sightings at Deer Park, and check out the whimsical art at the Hanni Gallery.
Introverts, socially anxious people, quiet individuals, and anyone who hates crowds but loves adventure will be enamored by Port Austin. Starting Saturday mornings with a visit to the Farmer’s Market is a must in this town.
You can spend the rest of your day kayaking through the water trails and enjoying some of the many sea caves and rock formations along the way. Stargazing below the Lake Huron horizon is another popular activity at Port Austin.
The highlight of this town, however, is Turnip Rock, an extraordinary rock formation at the tip of Pointe aux Barques peninsula that can only be reached by a kayak.
Located 32 miles off the coast of Charlevoix, Beaver Island is the largest island on Lake Michigan and is worth every effort it takes to reach it, which is either by flying or by ferry.
Beaver Island has a wealth of nature that guarantees promising adventures and history and fun attractions that promise unforgettable times.
Learn all about the Native Americans of Beaver Island at the Mormon Print Shop Museum, take a hike through the forest to reach the Toy Museum, and don’t forget to check out the two lighthouses built in the 18th century.
Marshall, a small Michigan town with a big architectural history, is truly a hidden gem. Not only does it boast stunning natural beauty, but it’s also home to iconic restaurants (make sure to try Schuler’s Restaurant & Pub) and unique museums.
Among the must-see attractions are the enchanting Honolulu House Museum, a captivating blend of Italianate and Gothic styles from the 1860s, and the majestic state Masonic Temple Building, constructed in 1913. Don’t forget to explore Marshall’s historic downtown steeped in history and indulge in a visit to any of the town’s eight remarkable museums.
For a delightful stroll, the Riverwalk along the Kalamazoo River awaits, offering scenic views of bridges, boat launches, and abundant wildlife.
Suttons Bay, nestled on Michigan’s northern coast, is a charming village that punches well above its weight. Despite its small size, this beachside community offers an abundance of delights.
Picture-perfect rolling landscapes and crystal-clear turquoise waters create a breathtaking setting for several activities. Embrace the unspoiled beauty at the Bahle Farm Golf Course, while enjoying a round of golf.
Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the region’s renowned wineries, each offering a unique and delightful tasting experience. And of course, a visit to Suttons Bay Beach is a must, where you can partake in a game of volleyball or unwind with a beachside picnic on its well-manicured lawns.
Most people pass right by Empire, on their way to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. If they stopped, they would find out that the small town of Empire with a population of 350 has a lot of pre-adventures to offer.
First off, visit the Manning Memorial Lighthouse in the town, and then pick up some artisanal chocolate from Grocer’s Daughter for the rest of your road trip. The Pierce-Stocking Scenic Drive in the town is another not-to-be-missed activity.
If you have some time to spare, enjoy beautiful sunsets, views of the dunes, and lush greenery by taking the Empire Bluff Trail and the Dune Climb Trail.
Perhaps one of the most idiosyncratic of all the small towns in Michigan, Colon is titled The Magic Capital of the World. This is where the magicians foster their talent, and as a visitor, you can have the most unique appearance watching the mages hone their craft.
The title came to be due to the Abbott Magic Company that first started here. It is also the final resting place for many magicians.
That’s not all, in addition to the magic, the small town is bordered by two lakes on either side, offering an unmatched view of the water. Top attractions include Nelis’ Dutch Village, Abbott Magic Co, Sterlini Theater, and of course, waterfront activities.
Hillsdale is a small town that cultivates big dreams. The gothic charm of this college town comes to life with its Victorian-era architecture and the historic Hillsdale College. Make sure you step inside the campus that was first built in 1844 and stroll down the Liberty Walk to look at the statues of famous historical figures.
The cute town is built on ardent grounds and rolling hills, which gives access to some amazing trails such as the Baw Beese Trail. Almost as a finishing touch, many areas of the town overlooks the water, and visitors can enjoy the front-row seat from Sandy Beach Park.
A hideaway nestled between two great Michigan lakes– Lake Mitchell and Lake Cadillac; Cadillac’s hypnotic beauty attracts tourists throughout the year. Families must not miss the great fun that awaits them at Adventure Island, and a lakeside stroll in Keith McKellop Walkway is a must to ground the mind and soul.
Down the walkway is the Rotary Performing Arts Pavilion where you can catch a live performance if you are lucky. A vast array of hiking and biking trails and swimming spots are open to the public for adventures of a lifetime.
The name of this small town in Michigan aptly hints at its serenity and breathtaking beauty. Paradise is a playground for outdoorsy people and offers hunting, backpacking, fishing, camping, and a chance at many more outdoor activities.
It is also one of the largest producers of wild blueberries. Its top attractions include the Crisp Point Light, Hiawatha National Forest, Oswald’s Bear Ranch, Seney National Wildlife Refuge Paradise, etc.
For thallophytes and campers, the idyllic town of Honor is an absolute paradise. This quaint riverfront village may have a small population, but it offers boundless stretches of land to embrace the beauty of nature.
You can immerse yourself in the great outdoors by embarking on Riverside Canoe trips, where you can navigate the serene waters. Golf enthusiasts have choices with Champion Hill Golf Course and the Pinecroft Golf Course, both offering stunning views and challenging fairways.
Don’t miss the chance to visit St. Ambrose Cellars. For camping enthusiasts, a visit to Esch Beach and the Platte River Point is a must, so you can pick your ideal camping spot. And for a truly unforgettable experience in Michigan’s natural splendor, venture to Mackinac Island State Park and surrender yourself to nature’s warm embrace.
READ MORE MICHIGAN TRAVEL TIPS
I hope you enjoyed this guide on the best small towns in Michigan to visit. Here are a few relevant articles for more travel around Michigan.
- 5 Amazing Lansing Breweries to Try!
- 15 Best Restaurants in Lansing
- Things to do in Saginaw
- 41 Getaways In Michigan For Couples
- 30 Facts About Michigan to Share With Friends
- 20 Best Michigan Breweries For A Great Craft Beer
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