Manistee County holds countless opportunities for exploration within its 1,281 square miles. In fact, there’s so much to see and do that it’s a good idea to develop a plan. Fortunately, the Manistee County Visitors Bureau offers lots of good trip-planning resources, including the Manistee County Self-Guided Tour series

Kathryn Kenny, executive director of the Manistee County Visitors Bureau, said the tours are popular. “People love them,” she said. “The tours are one of the more popular items on our website.”

The Manistee County Self-Guided Tour Series includes 14 tours, 375 sites and 835 miles of roads/trails covered. It’s all there: historic sites, attractions and natural wonders.

Vogue Theatre
Credit: Visit Manistee County

For instance, take the Lake Michigan Coastal Tour/M-22 Scenic Drive and you’ll experience some of the most picturesque landscape Mother Nature has to offer. 

Find snowmobiling, skiing and snowshoeing opportunities on the Winter Sports Self-Guided Tour.

“The tours give the user a chance to take a drive with a purpose,” Kenny said. “You see the sights, which are spectacular, and with the pandemic, there’s the opportunity to social distance, because they’re self-guided.”

Over the last 12 months, Kenny said many people have used the tours for armchair travel to Manistee County. She hopes those same people will take an in-person road trip when they feel safe.

Historic Manistee

Water Works Museum
Credit: Visit Manistee County

History buff that I am, I was drawn to the eight Historic Self-Guided Tours in Manistee County.

The tours cover everything from the theater where James Earl Jones got his acting start to the largest wooden suspension bridge in the Lower Peninsula. Tours feature historic and current-day photos, written narrative and 25 videos showcasing the interior and exterior of Manistee’s most prominent historic sites. Manistee native and Hollywood television/film actor Toni Trucks, who stars in the CBS drama “Seal Team,” provided voice-over for the videos.

Mark Fedder, executive director of the Manistee County Historical Museum, worked with the visitors bureau to develop the tours. He went to school with Trucks and reached out to her for the project.

“Reaction to the historic sites tours has been all positive,” Fedder said. “The tours allow people from all over to take a closer look at the people who built the community and their importance to the community — and the importance of history.”

Holy Trinity Church
Credit: Visit Manistee County

The tours also document the county’s structures from a historic preservation angle, Fedder said.

“When you virtually tour these residences, churches, buildings and bridges, you discover their beauty and craftsmanship and learn how Manistee residents used to live and work,” he said.

Coming soon, according to Kenny, is a new tour and video sharing the Native American tribal story of the county.