For unparalleled access to this Lake Michigan inlet's coziest coves and shores, consider a kayak. The perfect place to push off? Harbor Springs, where calm, shock-you blue water and stellar scenery make for an unforgettable trip.
First things first - don't start the day with an empty stomach. Just beyond the intersection of M-119 and U.S. 31 past Petoskey, turn right into the Toski-Sands Plaza and prepare to carb-load to your heart's content at Crooked Tree Breadworks (2264 M-119, 231-347-9574, breadworks.com). The goodies here are crafted with organic grains, so you can feel good about indulging in the housemade scones in flavors like cheddar scallion, mixed berry and white chocolate cherry.
In town, mosey into The Outfitter (153 E. Main, 231-526-2621, outfitterharborsprings.com) where you'll find all the essentials for your kayak adventure, from paddles to life preservers. Talk to the staff members about your experience level and they'll set you up with the appropriate boat. Still unsure? Lessons are available, too.
The Outfitter's rental hours start at 10 a.m., which is prime for paddlers of all experience levels. Boat traffic is low, the water is usually still and the air temperature is comfortable. Push off and thread your way through buoy-secured sailboats and small patches of mist still burning off the water, then dawdle in the open water awhile. Head back to the heart of the harbor and hug the shoreline along Harbor Point; round it and spy the red brick Little Traverse Lighthouse, built in 1884.
Up for some lunch post paddle? Head out of town on State Road to where it meets Stutsmanville Road for fresh steamed mussels or a tuna niçoise salad at The Fish (231-526-3969, thefishrestaurant.com). Or, go dessert-only with the cider-apple fritters and raise a cocktail to your day on the bay.
Emily Bingham is assistant editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
Note: This article was first published in April 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.