Weekend getaways are a great way to put the stress of adult life behind you. You can plan them out or take off at the spur of the moment. We’re always looking for tips about places to go and things to do. Figuring you might like the same, we’re starting a new series of some of our favorite places that are easy drives from major metro areas. The first is a place I used to travel to as a kid with my family and still get back to every few years.
Known for its million dollar sunsets, Petoskey is an idyllic harbor town on Little Traverse Bay four hours north of Detroit and six hours from Chicago. The area is a year round vacation playground for residents of both cities. The drive to and from can be a little dreary, but once there, the options for recreation and interesting drives are endless. If you’re heading there in the summer, beaches, boating, tennis, golf, hiking, biking and fishing will keep you busy. You can charter boats for deep water salmon and lake trout fishing on Lake Michigan or rent a small boat on one of the many inland lakes. In winter, the air gathers moisture as it comes over the lake and dumps over 100 inches of snow a year on average, making the area a mecca for skiers, both downhill and cross-country, snowmobiling and other outdoor activities.
Head north out of town, past the State Park and through the town of Harbor Springs to MI-119, aka The Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route. Once through the trees, this winding road offers great vistas of Lake Michigan. Time your trip for a lunch stop at Pond Hill Farm which features a farm-to-table menu with both a winery and microbrewery on the premises. After lunch continue on 119 up to the Village of Good Hart and stop at the town’s quaint General Store for water, coffee or homemade baked goods if you still have room after lunch. You can then head inland on Robinson Road winding your way on a series of back roads to the town of Brutus where you’ll head south on Highway 31 back into Petoskey. If time allows you’ll want to stop at the Oden Fish Hatchery, where the Michigan DNR raises brown and rainbow trout to release into the area’s lakes and streams.
A second drive is a tour of some of the area’s iconic resort communities including Charlevoix and Boyne City. You’re likely to encounter a bit of traffic on this drive, but it’s worth it to see beauty of the lakes, small towns and resort neighborhoods. Head south on US 31, if traffic is really heavy, you can veer off onto old Highway 31. Once in Charlevoix, find a place to park and enjoy a stroll along the town’s main street where you’ll find great food and shopping options. From Charlevoix you can continue south on 31 until you hit MI-66. Once on 66 you have a choice. You can continue all the way to East Jordan or take the Ironton Ferry across the south arm of Lake Charlevoix and follow the roads to Boyne City. Home to Boyne Mountain, one of the area’s better ski resorts, you’ll also find activities like zip lining and bike trails in the area. If you’re still up for a fun drive after that, continue north on MI-75 to County 81 where you’ll cross US 131 and find River Road which winds along the Bear River all the way back to Petoskey.
Options abound from affordable national hotel chains to northwoods lodges, historic inns, condos, home rentals and camping. Here are a few of our favorites.
The Perry Hotel
Located in Downtown Petoskey, this historic hotel sits on a bluff overlooking Little Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan. Built in 1899 it is one of the few resort hotels from that era still in operation. It’s an easy walk to shopping, restaurants and the marina.
The Terrace Inn
Sitting high on a hill in the center of the historic Bay View Association, The Terrace in is a 38-room Victorian country inn with everything from standard rooms to Jacuzzi suites. Even if you choose not to stay there, dinner on their grand porch overlooking the bay is highly recommended. One caveat, Bay View was built as a Methodist community and retreat and as such, is still dry, so the restaurant does not sell wine. You can bring your own bottles to the table.
Elvyn Lea Lodge
This lodge is 10 miles south of Petoskey just outside of Boyne City. With Walloon Lake just across the street, this 40-room lodge offers the quintessential northwoods experience. Situated on 44 wooded acres the lodge offers hiking on site. As a side note, Walloon lake was home to a young Ernest Hemmingway and his family’s summer cottage
Petoskey State Park
If camping is your thing, the Petoskey State Park is about as good as it gets. Two areas for tents, trailers and RVs offer a total of 180 campsites and both are within an easy walk of the park’s beautiful sand beach. And while you can stop at a supermarket for your supplies, just across the street from the park’s entrance is Toski Sands Market which offers prepared foods and more upscale picnic options along with the staples.
There are a lot of great food options in the area. Here are three we’d put on your must visit list.
American Spoon Café
413 East Lake Street, Petoskey
Founded 34 years ago, American Spoon Foods began as a small operation jarring high quality jams, jellies and relishes from Michigan fruit producers. As their operation grew, they opened this signature cafe as a spot for people coming to the area to enjoy their products and buy their wares. It’s great for breakfast or lunch and make sure to save room for the best gelato in America.
Petoskey Brewing Company
1844 M-119 (Harbor-Petoskey Rd.), Petoskey
Proof that what goes around comes around, Petoskey Brewing Company opened in 2012 in a building that was originally built as a brewery in 1898. Using the local artesian spring as its water source, the brewery produces award-winning beers. It also offers a great pub menu that features burgers from Angus beef that fresh-ground daily at Toski Sands market just down the road.
Dam Site Inn
6705 Woodland Rd. Brutus, MI
Overlooking the Maple River Dam, this restaurant is an “up north” classic. Opened in 1953, the Dam Site Inn continues the supper club tradition with decor and a menu that takes you back in time. They’re famous for their pan-fried chicken dinners but everything on the menu is delicious and the atmosphere is casual. It’s about a half-hour north of Petoskey, but well worth the drive.
There are more things to do in Petoskey than you can possibly experience in one weekend. You can walk the shoreline looking for Petoskey stones (this is the only place in the world you’ll find these fossilized rocks), enjoy live music performances and lectures at Bay View Association and take stroll downtown to visit the shops and art galleries that line the streets of the city’s gaslight district. If you have some time here are a few of the things we’ve enjoyed there over the years.
Rent a boat
Enjoy a day exploring Michigan’s inland waterway as you navigate from lake to lake. Pick up your boat at Windjammer Marina in Oden on Crooked Lake and you’ll be able to tour through a series of lakes and rivers all the way to Michigan’s eastern coast and Lake Huron. Or if you prefer, trailer the boat to Harbor Springs where you can spend the day exploring Little Traverse Bay or the Lake Michigan coast.
Zip Line through the trees
Between Petoskey and Boyne City you’ll find Wildwood Rush, a fantastic Zip Line facility with nearly a mile and a half lines traversing hills and ridges through a hardwood forest. The entire tour takes nearly two and a half hours as you glide along nine different zip lines using six towering platforms and five sky bridges.
See all the stars
Just an hour north of the city of Petoskey is Headlands International Dark Sky Park. In 2011 became one of the first 10 International Dark Sky Parks in the world, a prestigious designation bestowed by the International Dark Sky Association in Tucson, Arizona. Bring a blanket, a picnic and enjoy the best light show this world has to offer.