Wind up the coast of Lake Michigan from Bay Harbor north and you'll find everything from boutique shopping, to great eats, historical stops and the stunning Tunnel of Trees. Any one of these spots is a destination in and of itself, for a day or a week. If you're touring and want to see it all, here are a few suggestions for stops in each location.
That tony enclave of shops, yachts and posh summer cottages along the Lake Michigan shoreline just south of Petoskey? That’s Bay Harbor, home to the most extensive land reclamation in North America. Formerly a 1,200-acre wasteland of abandoned mining and cement operations, the once-scarred landscape has been revitalized into a beachside haven for golfers, equestrians and boaters. The public is welcome at the Village at Bay Harbor, a mini Main Street of awardwinning restaurants and boutiques.
Spend the morning brunching and shopping, then spend the afternoon on the shore watching the sailboats and awe-inspiring yachts putter in and out of Bay Harbor’s marina and deep-water harbor, or head to the Bay Harbor History Museum (4245 MAIN STREET, 231-439-2620) to trace the area’s evolution—via photos, stories, artifacts and videos—from its late-1800’s industrial zone days.
Come evening, toast the sunset at the waterside Knot … Just a Bar (820 FRONT STREET, 231-439-2770), and then indulge in your own big finish: an elegant dinner at Latitude (795 FRONT ST., 231-439-2750). Don’t want to leave this place? You don’t have to. The Inn at Bay Harbor, named one of the 500 best hotels in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine, sits just a short stroll away. Head North just a few miles to Petoskey.
Turn off 131 into the heart of the Gaslight District of Petoskey. Fill a few hours with some ideas from this snapshot of a day in Petoskey. Then head North again to Harbor Springs.
Tuck a credit card in your bathing suit when you head to this four-block downtown on Little Traverse Bay known for its upscale boutiques, antiques stores and art galleries. If the choices leave you overheated, slurp down an old-fashioned malt at Mary Ellen’s Place (231-526-5591, MARYELLENSPLACE.COM) or cool off in the harbor at Zorn beach. Dip into this town’s cache of Native American history at the Andrew Blackbird Museum (368 MAIN ST., 231-526-7731), then find more history across the street at the Harbor Springs History Museum (349 MAIN ST., 231- 526-9771, HARBORSPRINGSHISTORY.ORG).
You’ll also want to know that Ephraim Shay, inventor of the Shay locomotive, built the curious hexagonal house on the edge of downtown in the 1880’s. Learn more about him at the town’s Shay Days festival the third weekend of July. But truth be told, this town is pretty enough just to sit and look at—make your perch a kayak in the harbor, or kick back under a leafy tree on the bluff above town for a languorous look down on rooftops, church steeples and sailboats on Little Traverse.
The M-119 scenic drive begins right from Harbor Springs. This is not only a beautiful route, it is filled with interesting stops along the way. Check out some ideas here.