Northern Michigan Vacations: The beach is where you want to be in Northern Michigan come summer, so we’ve put a twist on the B&B. Try these sand-centric getaways when you want to add a beach to your bed (not literally, of course)—and perhaps some birding, biking, boating or a craft brew.
Among the many miles of sandy beaches in Ludington, no stretch is more popular than Stearns Park, convenient to town, view framed by lighthouses, mini-golf close at hand. Snyder’s Lakeshore Inn isn’t the fanciest place in town, but it’s clean, comfortable and just steps from the beach—close enough, even, to hear the waves from your bed (from $101/night, snydersshoreinn.com). Fuel up with an Ethiopian blend French press coffee and some family-recipe Norwegian baked goods at Rolencia Coffee, then pick from a range of boating options. Hamlin Lake Boat Rentals offers a daily sunset cruise ($25/adult); it also rents pontoons, jet skis, fishing boats and lakeside cabins (hamlinlakeboatrentals.com).
Biking can add a perfect element to a day at the beach in Marquette, where more than 12 miles of paved trails stretch along the shores of Lake Superior, past beaches, to beautiful Presque Isle, a 328-acre peninsula park with bluff-top water views and many deer and other wildlife. Book at the new Hampton Inn Marquette/Waterfront, located directly on the shoreline bike path (hamptoninn.hilton.com/Marquette). Bike rentals start at $10/hour at Marquette Bike Rentals (mqtbikerentals.com). Ask for a basket to store beach gear, then head for McCarty’s Cove, where a cherry red U.S. Coast Guard Station lighthouse sits on a peninsula that juts into the bay, lending to the cove-like feel and adding interest to your view.
You’ll find your bed for the night, a knotty pine cabin at Wayfarer Cottages, tucked cozily behind the bluffs of Elberta, bluffs from which both birds and gliding enthusiasts love to soar. Built by a Lake Michigan ferry captain as lodging for his ’20s-era passengers, the cottages are rented by the night or week (wayfarerlodgings.com). The beach is a memorable reward at the end of a 10-minute meadow hike or 1-minute drive. The beach-erati say the surf at Elberta beach always seems a bit wilder, beach strolls more private. Also … pack the binoculars. The cottages and bluff sit along Michigan’s first birding trail; the new Sleeping Bear Birding Trail connects 35 recommended birding sites along 123 miles of M-22. sleepingbearbirdingtrail.org.
Viewers of the Weather Channel voted Petoskey State Park, along Lake Michigan, one of the six best beaches in the United States in last year’s annual survey. Pure sugar sand is guaranteed, sprinkled liberally with the prized Petoskey stone. You’re also minutes from the Petoskey Brewing Co., which first opened back in 1898, making Sparkle beer until 1915. Re-opened in the original building, the brewery’s historic feel blends well with modern microbrews like P-Town brown ale and the popular triple IPA. Book the fireplace suite at the conveniently nearby Best Western of Harbor Springs (231.347.9050), or stick with the historic theme at pretty Stafford’s Bay View Inn (staffords.com/bayview).