Northern Michigan is home to breathtaking views of the Great Lakes, numerous inland lakes, relaxed winery experiences and much more. The summer weather here is optimal for vacationers from all over—the cooled breeze coming off the lakes is the area’s own air conditioning and humidity is nearly non-existent. The small town charm with the natural wild side of Traverse City and the fascinating history and vibrant community of Petoskey offer endless opportunities for every kind of visitor.
Artsy & Wild
Off the beaten path is where Traverse City created a thriving area for tourism without spoiling the natural wonders that make the area so remarkable. The city blends effortlessly with the scenery that surrounds it, says Mike Norton, media relations manager with Traverse City Tourism.
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has several summer activities of which visitors can take advantage, and the formation of the area is rich with history and legend. Long deep lakes and rolling hills were formed by ancient glaciers, carving out the landscape along the west coast of the Leelanau Peninsula. Spectacular beaches curve 64 miles along the coast. Coves, islands and dunes can be viewed from overlooks or by hiking the trails.
“Sleeping Bear best lends itself to what you might call ‘soft adventure’—hiking, backpacking, swimming, sightseeing, camping and beachcombing,” says Norton.
Norton also says that the scenic drive allows motorists to access major viewpoints, and while cyclists can ride on the road there is the new Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail that is also paved. Additionally, he says wilderness lovers will want to take the ferry out to the remote Manitou Islands where there is great camping and solitude.
Another fascinating way to experience the lair of the Sleeping Bear is the “ghost port” of Glen Haven. It was founded in the late 19 century as a fueling port for the many steamships that were on the lakes, says Norton. A lifesaving station was built there to rescue survivors from the many shipwrecks that took place nearby.
“It was dangerous, thrilling work and visitors can get a look at what the day-to-day lives of the Lifesaving Servicemen were like [at the museum],” says Norton. “There are also lots of relics from the ships that went down in the Manitou Passage, and in summers the rangers organize visiting kids into rescue crews who pretend to rescue a shipwrecked Raggedy Ann doll.”
The Grand Traverse Bay has its own captivating history and geography. The bay is unique because of its extreme length, narrowness and depth, says Norton. Created by an ancient glacier, it is a freshwater fiord—protected from storm and wind by the land that surrounds it on three sides.
“Because of its sheltered waters, it’s a perfect place for boating, sailing, paddle boarding, kayaking, kite boarding and other water sports,” says Norton. “At its southern end where Traverse City is, there are miles of sandy beaches for swimming and sunbathing.”
When visitors walk along the beach in Traverse City,they may not realize that this quiet parkland was once a bustling industrial port, Norton says. The Great Lakes Maritime Academy is one place to learn about that history. It is one of the nation’s six maritime academies, and the only one where deck and engineering officers on the US merchant fleet can be certified for both freshwater and ocean ships.
Surrounded by 480 acres of wooded parkland is the city’s most distinctive architectural treasure. The Grand Traverse Commons was once a mental asylum where patients were treated with fresh air and beautiful scenery.
“There’s a lot going on at the Commons all year,” says Norton. “In addition to shopping, dining and even wine tasting, they have a weekly farmers market, lots of musical and social events, a festival honoring Traverse City’s most famous cow—who belonged to the asylum—an annual bocce tournament and all kinds of other things.”
The Cherry Festival in July celebrates Traverse City’s most famous agricultural product. Delicious cherry-based dishes and snacks are in abundance for tasting, and free daily trips to working cherry farms teach visitors about the history of the industry. Norton also says that this summer celebration brings big names to the city.
“There’s always an opening air show and a lot of big name bands and acts, and Weird Al Yankovic is one of this year’s headliners,” says Norton. “The best thing is that while there are admission charges to some of the events like concerts and dinners, most of the festival is free and family-friendly.”
The Hemingway Connection
Four resort communities, treasured landscapes and the history of a legendary author makes the Petoskey area a vibrant and lively destination. Harbor Springs is a charming community that offers art galleries, shopping and cuisine. Upscale shopping and outstanding dining options abound in the luxury resort community of Bay Harbor. The renowned trails of Boyne Mountain can be discovered in Boyne City, and there is a wide selection of independently owned shops and stores.
For the literature lovers there is a great deal of history in Petoskey; Ernest Hemingway spent his first 22 summers at his family summer home on Walloon Lake. The home is now a private residence, but the Little Traverse Historical Museum houses an exhibit about Hemingway’s life and the people from the area. A minimal donation gains visitors access to the museum through October.
Readers of The Torrents of Spring by Hemingway will recognize landmarks that still stand in Petoskey today. Some of the businesses frequented by a young Hemingway—according to Petoskey’s website—still grace the area such as Horton Bay General Store, Jesperson’s and Stafford’s Perry Hotel. The Michigan Hemingway Society also operates readings and exhibitions about the author. Petoskey Yesterday gives guided tours to follow the footsteps of Hemingway.
Newer to the area are the wineries and breweries taking root in Petoskey and Harbor Springs. Harbor Springs Vineyards and Winery at Pond Hill Farm, at 5581 S. Lake Shore Drive, pairs wines and hard ciders with farm-raised meals. Tastings are offered by the glass or bottle, and brews from the Tunnel Vision Brewery are available onsite.
Situated three miles east of downtown Petoskey is the Petoskey Farms Vineyard and Winery on Atkins Road. A stunning view of 22 acres of rolling hills and countryside on the 60-foot deck is the perfect setting to sample a plethora of wine. Falling in between a dry Chardonnay and a sweet Late Harvest Riesling is the Petoskey White, something special created here at the vineyard and winery. Family-owned and -operated, the Petoskey Farms Vineyard and Winery says creating these delicious wines is a labor of love.