19. Fishtown, Michigan
Located in the northern lower peninsula along the waters of Lake Michigan, this fishing town is comprised of shanties and overhanging docks. Not surprisingly, its biggest industry is fishing and guests can take charter boats out onto the nearby waters of Lake Michigan to try it out for themselves or even bring home dinner for the night.
Fishtown is actually an area in the small unincorporated community of Leland, Michigan, which is a short drive from another cool small city – Traverse City. Fishtown is one of the only communities in the country with a still vibrant commercial fishing scene – but the town itself was in jeopardy just a few years ago when many of the top commercial fisherman announced they were getting out of the business.
According to the Traverse City Record Eagle, Fishtown was put up for sale in 2006. But, thankfully, the aura of the area trumped any one person’s desire to get out. A massive “Save Fishtown” campaign was launched and today the coolest part of the Leland area is still going to this day.
Yes, you can charter a boat to experience the fishing aspect of it for yourself in Fishtown – but there’s so much more that the cool shanty town offers. In fact, many of the dockside shanties are gift shops and art galleries, allowing tourists to take a little bit of Fishtown home with them. But there are also great restaurants to dine at, ice cream parlors and – perhaps the most hidden gem of all – cheese!
According to the website of Leland County, Michigan, Fishtown has been a thriving commercial fishing destination for over 150 years – and with the preservation movements at work, there are likely no signs of it slowing down anytime soon. So the next time you’re in the Traverse City area, take a little detour north about 45 minutes to Fishtown. You won’t be disappointed.