The Northport Renaissance

Here’s a nice feature on Northport by Mike Norton of Traverse City Tourism

Perched at the very tip of Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula, the village of Northport isn’t on the way to anywhere else. You have to want to go there. Fortunately, there are a great many reasons why you should.

A picturesque resort town at the mouth of Grand Traverse Bay, Northport was founded in 1849. With its clapboard houses and busy harbor, nestled in a hilly landscape of orchards and small vineyards, it has the look and feel of a New England fishing village.

Just a few years ago, Northport seemed to be on the ropes, its population dwindling and many businesses closing their doors. Out-of-towners might drive through while exploring the local wine country or visiting the nearby Grand Traverse Lighthouse, but there was little (except, perhaps the cinnamon rolls at Barb’s Bakery) to persuade them to stop. But that’s all over now.

Today, the little village is undergoing a boom of sorts. Over the past year, new restaurants and shops have been springing up all over town – some moving into vacant storefronts, others building brand-new digs. Northport now has its own wine-tasting room, its first microbrewery and a nine-hole, solar-powered golf course.

“There’s a lot of good stuff going on here,” said Lisa Drummond, president of the local chamber of commerce. “We want to preserve our small-town feel, our uniqueness, because that’s crucial to us. But it’s exciting to see all this activity.”

Drummond believes the village’s remoteness has preserved it from inappropriate development over the years. But it wasn’t until the village replaced its aging sewage system in 2009 (a move that generated considerable controversy at the time) that business owners began investing in the downtown area again.

“It doesn’t hurt that this is an astonishingly beautiful, relatively undiscovered place, and that the people who live and work here care about it very passionately,” she added.

(It also doesn’t hurt that Northport has some very prominent admirers, including celebrity chef Mario Batali, who has a summer home nearby and is frequently heard singing the region’s praises.)

Among the new and recent businesses are…