Leland is built on the site of one of the oldest and largest Ottawa villages on the Leelanau Peninsula. Where the Leland (Carp) River flows into Lake Michigan, there was a natural fish ladder which was a traditional Native American fishing grounds. The settlement was called Mishi-me-go-bing, meaning "the place where canoes run up into the river to land, because they have no harbor" or alternatively Che-ma-go-bing or Chi-mak-a-ping. Leland is the departure point for ferry service to both North and South Manitou Islands. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is nearby and Traverse City is about 25 miles to the southeast.