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Petoskey/Charlevoix/Traverse City area, Michigan

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Did You Know … ?

  • At one time, Traverse City’s (now-defunct) asylum held more inmates than the town had residents.
  • Petoskey stone, Michigan’s state stone, is fossilized coral that is about 350 million years old.
  • Michigan produces 70% to 75% of America’s tart cherries, mostly in the Traverse City area.
  • Michigan counts more than 950,000 registered boats, more than any other U.S. state.
  • Charlevoix was home to America’s first nuclear plant, Big Rock (operated 1962-1997).

Resorts on Lake Michigan

Petoskey, Charlevoix, Traverse City and other area communities are resort towns that offer summertime diversions, with emphasis on lakes large and small, as well as winter sports that depend on snow. They are in an area that also boasts of up-and-coming local wines and a major fruit-growing industry (cherries).

As to aesthetics, the region is characterized by numerous lakes including Lake Michigan, sandy beaches, skiable mountains, brilliant autumn colors, strings of lighthouses, a countryside defined by its vineyards and orchards, and in-town architecture evocative of an earlier, slower way of life.

With so much variety, the region appeals to a wide range of travelers — and it is a destination for all seasons.

Petoskey and its neighbors are in the northwest corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, which places them at the northeast end of Lake Michigan and almost as far north of Chicago as they could be while on the same lake.

The region is fairly compact — Petoskey, at one end, is 67 miles from Traverse City, at the other, but each destination has its own personality:

  • Petoskey faces that part of Lake Michigan’s convoluted shoreline called Little Traverse Bay. It is noted for its historic architecture and beautiful setting. The local visitors bureau promotes Petoskey along with two nearby lakeside resorts, Boyne City and Harbor Springs.
  • Charlevoix, like the other towns, is a destination for boaters, only more so. Yachting Magazine voted it the world’s second-best boating community in 2011. It sits on a small isthmus with Lake Michigan to the west, Lake Charlevoix to the east and tiny Lake Round in town.
  • Traverse City, the southernmost of this group and the largest with around 15,000 people, sits at the head of Grand Traverse Bay. Wine country is centered on Leelanau Peninsula, which forms one side of Grand Traverse Bay, and on Old Mission Peninsula, which nearly bisects the bay. The five-county area around Traverse City is cherry country. The city is known for its physical charms, the chefs who make it a foodie town and its access to beaches and the dunes in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Travel the Charlevoix Snowmobile Trail — plus other connected trails if you have the time.
  • Try your skills as a volunteer lighthouse keeper at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse and Museum at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula or the Old Mission Point Lighthouse at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula.
  • Enter a pie-eating contest at the summertime National Cherry Festival in Traverse City.
  • Hike in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Leelanau County near Traverse City. Hike through the dunes all the way to Lake Michigan, an excursion that can take three or four hours and involves walking up and down in loose sand all the way.
  • Head out onto Lake Michigan in a sailboat; sailing charters are available. Or, get closer to the water in a canoe or kayak.
  • Make use of all 29 miles of the Little Traverse Wheelway, a bike path on the site of abandoned rail corridors. The path connects Charlevoix and Harbor Springs. Also, there are several paths in and around Traverse City that call for a mountain bike.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Watch the boat parades that cap Charlevoix’s weeklong Venetian Festival in July. Or, at around the same time, choose the Little Traverse Yacht Club Annual Regatta at Harbor Springs and Petoskey.
  • Ski or ride your snowboard at Boyne Mountain at Boyne Falls or Nub’s Nob at Harbor Springs. Both sites have free learn-to-ski areas.
  • Plan a wine tasting tour to wineries on the Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas. The region also produces ice wines.
  • Climb the dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and run back down and make use of the picnic area at the bottom.
  • When the season is right, pick and eat all the sweet cherries you want. Orchards are in the Traverse City area.
  • In Charlevoix or Petoskey, book your trip to fish for salmon or trout in one of the area’s rivers. Or fish on Lake Michigan or Lake Charlevoix where the catch will likely be more varied.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Choose from several winter sports at the small Mount McSauba ski facility a half a mile from Charlevoix, overlooking Lake Michigan. Ski downhill or cross country, or go sledding or snowshoeing.
  • Play golf. Several area resorts are beautifully set up for this.
  • Have lunch at Sleder’s Family Tavern, a Traverse City landmark, built by 19th century Bohemian immigrants.
  • Do you swimming at Lake Charlevoix. Settle in for the day at one of the lake’s sheltered coves.
  • Check out the goods — and buy what you like — in the shops at Petoskey’s Gaslight District.
  • Take a sunset cruise, starting on Lake Charlevoix and ending on Lake Michigan. Other choices at Charlevoix include dinner cruises and those, in autumn, focused on fall colors.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Travel Michigan at