Fishtown may sound like the home of an over-muscled, greens-eating cartoon character, but it is very real. As opposed to many tourist attractions that are reproductions of historic buildings and sites, Fishtown is the real thing, salvaged, restored, and waiting for visitors. The wild west has ghost towns and Michigan has Fishtown, a collection of unique shops and historical displays lining the docks of this once bustling 1800’s fishing village.
Starting as far back as the 1870’s, Fishtown was a thriving commercial fishing village. Located along the banks of the Leland River in Leland, Michigan, fishtown supplied Great Lakes fish to a large part of the country. Then, in the mid-1900’s the market for local fish began to decline and by the 1950’s the collection of buildings, docks and boats had begun to earn its living catering to tourists and offering a glimpse into the past.
Today, the buildings and boats of Fishtown are still there; inviting visitors to enjoy the atmosphere and get a feel for life on the Great Lakes in the early 1900s. Fishtown is also known for the eclectic collection of shops that line the docks. Exquisite candy stores, upscale clothing stores, stores providing handmade jewelry (often made from native Petoskey stones that cannot be found anywhere else in the world), wonderful pottery shops, art galleries and even a store specializing in exotic cheeses. There are also several charter boat services available for those wanting to try fishing themselves.
Fishtown offers a chance to revisit the past and learn about the economic importance of fishing on the Great Lakes, while still enjoying a bit of shopping and a relaxing day on the edge of Lake Michigan. This little known tourist stop is well worth a visit and is also near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, which is known as one of the most scenic places in the world. If you are visiting Northwest Michigan, a visit to Fishtown and Sleeping Bear Dunes is well worth the stop.