3 Macomb County cider mills and orchards you won't want to miss this season

It's hard to think of a more fitting autumn treat than cider and donuts. And when it comes to apple orchards, Macomb County has a lot to offer. Here are three great orchards to check out next time you get a hankering to stroll among the apple trees.

Blake's Orchard and Cider Mill

Blake's Orchard and Cider Mill is certainly one of the most well-known orchards in Southeast Michigan. It's located on an 800-acre working farm in Armada that includes a cider mill, outdoor barnyard amusement center, tasting room, and Hard Cider production facility.

Blake Farms got its start in 1946, when Gerald and Lovey Blake moved from Detroit's suburbs to a 100-acre plot located in the Macomb County village. They raised their 13 children — who provided the farm's labor — in a three-bedroomCider being made at Blake's Orchard (Steve Koss) farmhouse there. After attending Michigan State University, their twin sons, Pete and Paul Blake, returned home to continue the family legacy, while also expanding the farm's offerings. Pursuing his interest in fermentation, Andrew Blake, Paul's son, founded Blake’s Hard Cider in 2013.

"We're a hard cider company as well as a farm. Really the highlight, what people drive out here for is our U-pick farm," says Jacqlyn Bradford, marketing director for Blake Farms. "We're one of the first U-pick farms in Michigan."

The U-pick farm offers over 40 varieties of apples, including Gala, McIntosh, and Northern Spy. A variety of other produce, from berries to pumpkins, are also available at various times of the year. U-pick (and pre-cut) Christmas trees can also be purchased during November and December. No special preparations are needed to participate in the U-pick experience. Staff at the gate provide customers with a bag and directions on how to navigate the orchard and fields.

Visitors to Blake Farms can watch apples being pressed in cider and buy fresh donuts at its cider mill. The Funland area features a petting zoo, straw bale maze, sports zone, and play structure. Wagon and train rides are available for those who want a scenic experience of the site. The tasting room allows visitors to enjoy craft cider, beer, and Blake's own branded wine 

There's live music every weekend, and the farm is also a popular site for school trips, parties, campfires, and adult tours. 

The farm is open all year round, seven days a week, with various activities and special events geared towards specific seasons. Autumn features spooky attractions, pumpkin carving, haunted hayrides, and zombie paintball, while winter offers a chance to experience igloo dining, ice skating, and a holiday extravaganza. Tours of the hard cider production facility take place twice a week between November and August.

"Right now, we're in the heart of our fall seasonality with cider and donuts," says Bradford. "I highly encourage folks to come out. This is a great place to make memories with your family."

Westview Orchard's winery has a wide selection of Michigan wines. (Westview Orchard)
Westview Orchards and Winery

Westview Orchards and Winery in Washington Township is another Macomb orchard with a whole lot going on. It's a great place to pick up apples, cider, and a variety of baked goods. The 188-acre farm is home to several historic buildings, a playground area, and a winery.

The farm that would become Westview Orchards was first founded in 1813 by Michael Bowerman, a veteran of the War of 1812. As a reward for his wartime service, he was awarded some land in Detroit. He decided the then-swampy plot didn't work well for farming, so he relocated to the Romeo area where he found the rolling hills much more suitable for growing. 

Bowerman cleared the land and set up a small garden and orchard. Over time, the farm grew and diversified, becoming a  successful wholesaler of fruit, produce, andWinetasting at Westview Orchard (Westview Orchard) cows for dairy and beef in Detroit. During the Great Depression, Harvey Bowerman — a descendant of Michael — was forced to rethink the farm's operational model after getting word from Eastern Market that there was no room for his peaches. He began selling farm goods at a Detroit Urban Railroad trolley stop at what is now the intersection of Van Dyke Avenue and 30 Mile Road.

"Not only Romeo, but the whole of Southeast Michigan was flooded with peaches, too many to market wholesale," says Katrina Roy, co-owner of Westview Orchard & Winery. "So he had the great idea to turn the truck around and see if the people in the area would buy them, so that was the start of our direct marketing concept, from that point on it was retail." 

Later the family purchased a nearby one-room schoolhouse, relocated it to the intersection and converted it into the Westview Orchards' farm market and grading room. In the 1990's the family remodeled the schoolhouse into a concession area and educational space.  

In recent years, there have been other changes as well. Today the farm is a popular U-Pick destination. Depending on the season, visitors can pick up a variety of flowers and produce, including strawberries, asparagus, sunflowers, peaches, and sweet corn —  and, of course, apples and pumpkins. 
Westview also sports an expansive bakery, with donuts that won a judge's choice award at Donutfest Detroit in 2019. It also has a great selection of pies, flips, and other offerings. For families with young children, there are lots of fun attractions at the orchard, including a three-acre playground, rope mountain, corn maze, and plenty of farm animals.  

The winery is another big highlight there. Located on the top floor of the farm's historic barn, it's accessible by a spiral silo staircase or wheelchair ramp and features an ample selection of Michigan wines, including Westview Orchard's own brand. 

Like Blake's Orchard, Westview also sponsors plenty of exciting events like live music, dueling pianos, country line dancing, craft classes, sip and shops, and even goat yoga. The last weekend of October this year will be especially exciting with a pumpkin destruction event, where candy-filled pumpkins will be launched out of cannons, as well as a 5K race.

"We aim to please our guests," says Roy. "Our whole goal is to provide a safe farm environment for people to go with their family and friends. We want them to enjoy themselves and have a good time."

Apples are ripe for the picking at Stony Creek Orchard and Cider Mill. (Stony Creek Orchard)Stony Creek Orchard and Cider Mill

If you're looking for an old-fashioned farm experience, Stony Creek Orchard and Cider Mill is the way to go. Located in Romeo, the orchard is part of a family owned and operated farm that's been running for over 80 years.

"It's a traditional orchard and cider mill. You get a ride out to the orchard to pick your own apples," says Carol Ross, who owns Stony Creek Orchard with her husband Roger. "We've tried different things over the years. We had some bands playing and our traditional customers wanted the quiet. So it's laid back, rather than a lot of hoopla."

Roger's grandfather, Henry, and his father, Loren, originally owned farms in Rochester, Michigan. They relocated to Romeo in 1939 to start their new venture.A barn at Stony Creek Orchard (Stony Creek Orchard) At first, their farm was dedicated to growing wheat and other crops, but they eventually added the orchard and cider mill. Ross, herself, has a long connection to the farm; she began picking apples there at just ten years old and later married into the family. 

Driving past the farm from the roadway, one might not realize there is an orchard there. Visitors must take a long scenic drive lined with tall locus and pine trees to reach the apple trees and cider mill. The buildings on the property are steeped in history, with barns dating before the founding of the current farm and a farmhouse that's over 100 years old. Those walking through the sales center will see antiques and the heads of wild game mounted on the walls.

Throughout the season, visitors can pick from more than a dozen varieties of apples as well as pumpkins and raspberries. They can also purchase these items pre-picked at the orchard's sales room, where fresh cider and donuts and other products are available.

Stony Creek's bare bones approach is intentional. The no-frills apple picking there is meant to encourage families to engage in a common activity. According to Ross, this strategy has been a hit with local customers for generations and there are no plans to change that anytime soon.

"It's a quaint farm," says Ross. "My husband, Roger, wants to keep it as a farm. He feels that once people come out and experience the country life, [everything] is a little bit quieter and laid back." 

Members of the Wolcott Riding Club get equestrian at Wolcot Mill Metropark. (Macomb County/Wolcott Riding Club)Other fun fall activities in Macomb County

In addition to these, there are several other orchards and ciders mills to visit in Macomb County, including Brookwood Fruit Farm, Hy’s Cider Mill, Middleton Farms Cider Mill and Verellen Orchards. Beyond apples, there are also plenty of other options for autumn fun. 

For those who want to enjoy the fall colors on horseback, Wolcott Mill Metropark, with its special equestrian trails, is a great location to enjoy the pastime. Interested riders can get in touch with the Wolcott Mill Trail Association to learn more about the trails and the community that uses them. 

Those looking for something a little more frightening can check out Scarefest Scream Park in Lenox Township. For a somewhat more subdued Halloween experience, check out the Halloween Hoopla in Macomb Township on Oct. 21 or the “Neighbor-Haunt” free Halloween yard tour in Clinton Township from Oct. 22-30.

The Macomb Parks & Trails series seeks to capture the story of the outdoor recreation, greenspace, placemaking, and emerging outdoor assets that are shaping Macomb County's future. It's made possible with funding from Macomb County.
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Read more articles by David Sands.