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.
Pond Hill Farm
Pond Hill Farm
| Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux

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.

What to Do in Harbor Springs in Fall

Legs Inn
Legs Inn

Legs Inn

Servers wearing embroidered Polish folk dress deliver cold pints and huge platters of pierogi at Legs Inn, a 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

At 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
Pond Hill Farm

Pond Hill Farm

The Spencer family's hilltop Pond Hill Farm features an on-site cafe, winery, brewery and hayrides, plus a squash rocket for kiddos to use to feed the goats.

Downtown Charlevoix
Downtown Charlevoix

What to Do in Charlevoix in Fall

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.

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.

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 the Earl Young houses, 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 Fisherman's Island 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 the remote Beaver Island. Visitors can rent bikes or kayaks from Happy Paddle to explore the island's secluded trails and rocky lagoons.

East Park
East Park

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.

Gaslight District
Gaslight District

What to Do in Petoskey in Fall

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 Bayfront 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.

Little Traverse Bay
Little Traverse Bay

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 that's now an arts center, stained-glass windows illuminate photo exhibits, plein air paintings and rotating sculpture installations.

Petoskey State Park
Petoskey State Park

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 at this state park.

Where to Stay in Fall

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.

Extend Your Fall Stay

Just an hour south of Charlevoix, Traverse City offers a wealth of restaurants, museums, wineries and outdoor adventures.