Fall Getaway to Michigan's Little Traverse Bay
Nature and culture commingle during a fall weekend of gallery hopping, boutique shopping and eye-popping fall color in Harbor Springs, Petoskey and Charlevoix, strung along Little Traverse Bay.
Healing waters lured steamship tourists to Harbor Springs in the late 1800s, but today it's known as a first-rate gallery and golf destination. The area is also prime color-tour country, its bluffs featuring vistas of fall leaves and long views of Lake Michigan. M-119, the main road that connects Harbor Springs and Cross Village, twists north over rolling hills to form the famed Tunnel of Trees.
If an autumn rainstorm sweeps in off the bay, weekend visitors can catch an art flick at the newly restored Lyric Theatre or sip champagne and eat escargot at The New York's 100-year-old bar.
When you go
Legs Inn Servers wearing embroidered Polish folk dress deliver cold pints and huge platters of pierogi at this Cross Village eatery with an outdoor garden.
Art galleries Harbor Springs' Main Street is lined with shops exhibiting the works of renowned local artists. Visit Boyer Glassworks for handblown baubles.
Tunnel of Trees Twenty-seven miles of snaky two-lane run from Harbor Springs through a colorful canopy of autumn hardwoods to Wilderness State Park.
Tom's Mom's Cookies Dense confections, each the weight of a deck of cards, boast flavors like chocolate with dried cherries or oatmeal butterscotch.
Pond Hill Farm The Spencer family's hilltop farm features an on-site cafe, winery, brewery and hayrides, plus a squash rocket for kiddos to use to feed the goats.
No one does shoreline like Charlevoix, where three lakes (Round Lake and lakes Michigan and Charlevoix) connect like big blue pearls. Autumn light warms downtown's boutique-lined Bridge Street, where visitors peek at bronze sculptures and works of art hung in the windows of galleries, such as Elements and North Seas Gallery. Moms browse designer kids' clothes at Ga Ga for Kids.
At the downtown marina nearby, sailboats bob at finger docks. In East Park at the water's edge, shop the shelves of Harwood Gold Cafe before picking up an al fresco lunch of Australian-style meat pies or savory crepes from That French Place. Cap the day with a pint of Michigan Beach Blonde at Lake Charlevoix Brewing Company, on Round Lake's shores.
When you go
Castle Farms Castle Farms, a historic farmstead with accents of French Renaissance architecture, invites families to tour its network of gardens with reflecting ponds, play structures and a model railroad.
Earl Young Houses Sloping roof lines and fairy-tale flourishes mark an enclave of 26 stone "mushroom houses." The Charlevoix Visitor's Bureau supplies maps of the whimsical stone homes built by Earl, a local architect.
Fisherman's Island State Park For a serene walk in the woods, try the trails at this state park west of town. Maple leaves light up hiking trails that traverse 5 miles and 2,678 acres of Lake Michigan beach.
Beaver Island The Emerald Isle offers a two-hour ferry ride to this remote island. Visitors can rent bikes or kayaks from Happy Paddle to explore the island's secluded trails and rocky lagoons.
East Park Relax at the park's picnic tables, then take a short walk to watch yachts cruise beneath a drawbridge. Check out nearby galleries, boutiques and waterfront bistros.
Petoskey's Victorian steeples and charm-soaked Gaslight District perch above Little Traverse Bay's fiery autumn hillsides. Climb up the observation tower at the Bear River Valley Recreation Area to overlook a steep, tree-lined river valley, where whitewater kayakers ricochet through rock chutes. Migrating salmon vault over a low dam upstream from Waterfront Park, which features a ¼-mile-long breakwall extending into Lake Michigan. Families picnic on the park's lush lawns or watch kids climb at the Fred Friedli Playground.
Petoskey's waterfront provides ample parking for cyclists to access the Little Traverse Wheelway, a paved trail tracing the shoreline. A trailside ice cream boost awaits north of town at Kilwins Chocolate Kitchen (with flavors like Double Peanut Butter Pie and Blueberry Waffle Cone). Thirsty cyclists can pull off for a pint of Juicy IPA at Petoskey Brewing before stopping to comb the beach for fossils at Petoskey State Park.
When you go
Little Traverse Wheelway Bring your own bike or rent wheels at Latitude 45 to cruise 23 miles of paved path connecting Petoskey to Charlevoix to the west and Harbor Springs to the north.
American Spoon Local sugar bushes and berries reincarnate as salted maple caramel and wild blueberry spoon fruit (try samples!) at Petoskey's artisan jam house.
Sturgeon River Pottery Visit the artisans collective at this cozy studio, where makers turn clay cookware or craft jewelry from Petoskey stones (fossilized coral clusters).
Crooked Tree Arts Center In an ornate former Methodist church, stained-glass windows illuminate photo exhibits, plein air paintings and rotating sculpture installations.
Petoskey State Park Waves wash Petoskey stones within easy reach on a mile of sandy beach surrounded by two campgrounds and a network of trails.
Weathervane Terrace Inn and Suites Rooms housed in a building featuring stone turrets with steep copper roofs have a view of Charlevoix's Pine River Channel.
Inn at Bay Harbor Bay Harbor's yacht basin and shopping district surround this luxury property, with a spa, wine bar and panoramic lake views.
Stafford's Perry Hotel Built in 1899 in Petoskey's Gaslight District, the Perry Hotel's 76 rooms offer handmade mattresses and views of Little Traverse Bay.
Ernest Hemingway spent his childhood summers hunting, fishing and exploring the woods and waters around Petoskey. Driving along the shore of Walloon Lake, Hemingway fans can relive scenes from the author's early works, like The Nick Adams Stories. A newly dedicated statue of young Ernest stands in Petoskey's Pennsylvania Park, steps away from the City Park Grill (one of his favorite watering holes), where Hemingway-inspired cocktails are served at the 19th-century mahogany bar.
More information: michigan.org