Tourist spot on Lake Michigan has a lot to offer visitors

Manistique’s iconic East Breakwater Lighthouse is located in the city’s harbor. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. (Courtesy photo)

MANISTIQUE — In the south central Upper Peninsula, about an hour east of Escanaba, is the small tourist town that’s growing each year — Manistique.

The town stretches 3.51 square miles, and has a reported population of roughly 3,000 residents.

The majority of Manistique’s employment comes from the paper mill, Manistique Papers Inc., which closed in spring of 2015 before opening again one year later under UP Papers LLC ownership.

The mill helps support a tourist town that has a variety of attractions, including the East Breakwater Lighthouse on the town’s harbor, a Bishop Baraga shrine and the scenic Lakeview Park.

Manistique is home to many original dining businesses, none of which are more iconic to the town for tourists and locals than Clyde’s Drive-In.

Crowds flock to Mackinaw Trail Brewery. The brewery opened in the summer of 2014, to accompany the winery. “Currently including fourteen taps, a rotation of fresh beers is always occurring,” the brewery’s website reads. (Photo courtesy of Mackinaw Trail Brewery)

The Clyde’s located in Manistique is one of the three branches across the U.P., with others in Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace.

The business was founded by Clyde VanDusen during 1949 in Sault Ste. Marie, with fresh ground beef burgers that have won numerous awards from media outlets over the years.

The infamous “Big C” burger is the shop’s most famous item, along with fish, shrimp, hot dogs, fries, milkshakes and many more items in the classic setting.

Clyde’s famous motto “Wear a Smile” is one that owner Gail Blose said rings true in Manistique.

“We have amazing people in this town,” Blose said. “It’s a good representation of the people in the U.P.

The Manistique Boardwalk, offers a shoreline trail for walkers amid spectacular views. (Courtesy photo)

“Everyone supports each other, especially businesses. Everyone has a friendly face when they walk through our door. They help keep us in business, and we appreciate them and are glad to give back to them.”

The Manistique Clyde’s is the only one of the three that are open all year, with the Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace locations closing each winter.

Blose said this gives them the opportunity to see all tourism seasons in the town.

“The summers are huge,” Blose said. “We get a lot of snowmobilers in the winter and it’s a good time, but we get a ton of tourists passing through who stop by in the summer and the town is much more busy.”

The town is home to numerous bars, including The “40” Bar and Grill, Wheaty’s Pub, Christy’s Bar and Tap21.

One of the most unique businesses in Manistique is Mackinaw Trail Brewing Company, which operates both a winery and a brewery.

The bar currently holds 14 taps at the Manistique location, and the business was such a success, owner Laurie Stabile and her husband opened a sister brewery in Petoskey, where the headquarters resides.

But Stabile, a native of Naubinway, said Manistique will always be the unique brewery.

“This one is my baby and special to me because we started it in the U.P.,” Stabile said. “When we decided to start this business, I made my husband promise we would do it in the U.P. to create jobs. I’ve always wanted to give back to the area as much as possible.”

The new Lakeshore Campground recently opened in on June near the intersection of U.S. 2 and Trader’s Point Drive, adding more lodging to existing hotels and campgrounds for travelers, and Stabile added more shops are on the horizon for the area.

Stabile said the town is becoming a perfect spot for future businesses to open shops.

“The residents support us year long and couldn’t be any better,” Stabile said.

“The tourist seasons are great, and we’re very happy about the campgrounds and businesses moving to the area.”

Manistique is getting growth instead of heading in the other direction.

And with the town growing more each year, Stabile said the rest of the country will soon learn why Manistique is a special place to visit.

“Manistique is one of the friendliest towns in the U.P,” Stabile said. “When you go there, you arrive a stranger but leave as a friend. To me, it’s the epitome of what Michigan is all about.”