LELAND — The Grand Traverse region is receiving more national tourism accolades, this time with USA Today deeming Leland the second best place in the nation to watch a sunset.
Leland, nestled on the west side of Leelanau Peninsula, received the designation Thursday in the USA Today online poll. The tiny, upscale village follows in the famed footsteps of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” in a Good Morning America online poll in 2011.
Results were published online Thursday, but weren’t included in the newspaper’s print edition. Voters had 20 sunset sites to choose from, including the international tourist destinations of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and Vancouver, Canada.
Clearwater, Fla., ranked first in the nation. Third place went to Key West, a fact that tickled Linda Lindquist-Bishop rosy pink. She races sailboats in Key West and gloated a bit that Leland came out on top.
Leland’s beaches, she said, look outward to Lake Michigan with an amazing vista of Good Harbor, the Whaleback, and North and South Manitou islands. The views make it a stand-out over Florida beaches that face a mere ocean.
“All those elements make for an extraordinary sunset that changes every night and changes with the seasons,” she said. “ … We have brilliant oranges and purples and golds and blues and the clouds reflecting on the water. It’s very, very dramatic.”
Lindquist-Bishop, board president of the Leland Chamber of Commerce, conceded she sent out lots of email blasts asking for online votes. The chamber’s Facebook and website visitors were urged to weigh in on the poll.
But this goes beyond online clicks; residents and tourists alike flock to the beach in summertime with cameras in hand, she said.
“Even in the fall, it’s amazing to see people run down with their cameras,” Lindquist-Bishop said. “A lot of us do. It’s a common residential occurrence.”
Alan Priest, a Leland fisherman since 1970, has enjoyed sunsets for decades.
“The water, the rocking of the boat, to me it makes the sunsets more intense, but it’s pretty awesome sitting on the beach,” he said. “I can see it from my house too. It’s pretty cool.”
And fall seems to bring even lovelier sunsets.
“Maybe because it’s the crisp, fall air, the clouds and the sun—partly cloudy, partly sunny. It’s just awesome this time of year,” he said.
Amanda Holmes, executive director of the Fishtown Preservation Society, said she likes to dash down to the beach before heading home from work.
“It’s one of the perks of my job,” she said. “Leland is known for its sunsets. People will make a pilgrimage every day—you’ll see dozens of people there gazing. There’s a tiny pause in the day to appreciate it. This is where we live. We hope they’re not just seeing the color, but appreciating Lake Michigan, the national park, Peterson Park, what people have heard in the national news about lake levels, protecting the environment. When I look at it, I’m thinking of all those things.”