109 Mason St.
Charlevoix Michigan 49720United States
A double waterfront (Lake Michigan and inland Round Lake), plus art galleries, T-shirt shops and fudge samples, make this northern Michigan town a sure-thing for families.
Charlevoix is uniquely positioned on an isthmus between Lake Michigan and Round Lake. That means you can look at boats in an inland harbor or walk a few hundred yards to a swath of sandy Lake Michigan beach (complete with playground). A channel connects the two. When the drawbridge rises, Charlevoix grinds to a halt. Cyclists brake, traffic slows and pedestrians back up respectfully. A 45-foot sailboat comes through, heading for Lake Michigan. The skipper waves and, in unison, the crowd waves back, waiting for the bridge to creak back down. That ability to toggle between fast and slow, to balance bustle and relaxation, defines Charlevoix. The town sits on US-31, the main highway along the Lake Michigan shore, and cars rumble through all day, especially in summer. Although it's not a tourist trap, per se, you can't really call Charlevoix "sleepy." But tucked right behind the businesses on Bridge Street, you'll find immaculate residential neighborhood with tidy flower beds and beautiful old vacation homes. (Among them, the fit-for-a-Hobbit "mushroom houses" designed by early-20th-century architect Earl Young. Ask for a driving-tour brochure in the visitors center.) A beautiful green lawn fronts the harbor, with a splash fountain for spontaneous cool-downs and a tiered amphitheater for outdoor concerts. An abundance of fudge shops and T-shirt stores as well as a slew of affordable condo rentals make Charlevoix a great fit for families, though couples and girlfriends will enjoy poking into the handful of art galleries and upscale gift shops on Bridge Street. No matter your age, take time to drive over to Fisherman's Island State Park, a hidden gem outside town; it offers miles of untamed Lake Michigan beach, perfect for picnics, hikes or bird-watching.