Discovering a Summer Playground in and around Northern Michigan Resort Area

Discovering a Summer Playground in and around Northern Michigan Resort Area

Discovering a Summer Playground in and around Northern Michigan Resort Area

By Katherine Rodeghier
Daily Herald Correspondent

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Don’t let the design of the Inn at Bay Harbor fool you. It may look like a grand old hotel from the Victorian era, but it’s relatively new. (Courtesy of Katherine Rodeghier)
Charlevoix’s Weathervane restaurant is one of many buildings designed by self-made architect Earl Young. (Courtesy of Katherine Rodeghier)
Visitors enjoy shopping and dining in downtown Harbor Springs, Michigan. Fast-food restaurants are banned in the affluent community. (Courtesy of

They came by the thousands every summer.

Wealthy city dwellers from Chicago and cities as far as the East Coast traveled to Northern Michigan to escape the choking smoke, stifling heat and industrial grit plaguing urban areas at the end of the 19th century. 

The preferred mode of transport isn’t a boat or train these days, but the family auto loaded with golf clubs, beach blankets and other gear needed for a summer getaway in one of Northern Michigan’s most popular resort areas.

Take Bay Harbor, for instance. The Inn at Bay Harbor, part of Marriott’s prestigious Autograph Collection, looks like a grand Victorian hotel sprawled along the shoreline, but it and its rental cottages sit squarely in the 21st century. Travel & Leisure magazine lists it among the top 500 hotels in the world.

Victorian cottages dot the grounds of historic Bay View, founded as a Methodist campground in the 19th century. – Courtesy of Katherine Rodeghier

Petoskey’s larger downtown takes a step back in time at its Gaslight Shopping District where real gaslights illuminate summer nights. Independent shops and boutiques beckon, including the Rocking Horse Toy Company, Symons General Store housed in the town’s oldest brick building, and Ward & Eis Gallery where the fine handicrafts of Native American artisans figure prominently in displays.

Inviting storefronts draw visitors inside boutiques and galleries in Petoskey’s Gaslight Shopping District. – Courtesy of

Of course, summer means trips to the beach and in the Petoskey area vacationers divide their time between lolling in the sand and hunting for Petoskey stones. Michigan’s official state stone looks like the surface of the moon in miniature, but the circles on its surface aren’t craters, but bits of fossilized coral. One of the best places to search for them is the 1,000 feet of Little Traverse Bay shoreline at Magnus City Park Beach, walking distance from downtown Petoskey.

Beach lovers hunt for Petoskey stones, bits of fossilized 350 million-year-old colony coral found along the shores of Little Traverse Bay. – Courtesy of

Visitors who leave Little Traverse Bay behind for other forms of recreation find a pair of ski resorts, Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands, that turn to horseback riding, hiking, biking and, of course, golf in summer. 

When August rolls around, the grounds around Lavender Hill Farm are a sea of color. Visitors are welcome to explore the lavender beds, gift shop and barn. – Courtesy of Katherine Rodeghier

Lavender Hill Farm makes a worthwhile stop in July and early August when its 25 varieties of lavender usually reach full bloom. Guests tour the grounds, walk a seven-circuit labyrinth, sip lavender lemonade and enjoy scoops of lavender ice cream. The gift shop stocks all manner of lavender items, including essential oil made with a still on site.

• Information for this article was gathered during a writers’ conference sponsored by the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau.

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