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By Jennifer McKay
Overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay on the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, you’ll find Petoskey, a quaint resort community with unmatched beauty and charm. This Great Lakes playground is a four-season destination, luring thousands of visitors to Little Traverse Bay every year.
It is where “light shines through the clouds” in the language of its original inhabitants, the Odawa. Living between Harbor Springs and Cross Village, they once represented the largest concentration of natives in Michigan. The region’s splendor attracted settlers and resorters, including the United Methodist Church, who in 1875 founded Bay View. As many as seven generations of original members maintain these Victorian-era cottages at the colony, and the Bay View Association has earned a designation as a National Historic Landmark. The family of American literary icon Ernest Hemingway was also among early vacationers. Hemingway spent his youthful summers exploring woods and waters and later used those experiences in his Nick Adams stories.
Among the attractions are the historic Gaslight District in downtown Petoskey, home to art galleries, restaurants, cafes, taverns and shops. Petoskey offers one-of-a-kind shops with handmade jewelry, natural foods, rustic furnishings, a wide array of apparel, antiques, locally-produced art, literature, some of the finest confections and jams, restaurants and coffee shops.
A short walk away is Bayfront Park, where a historic train station has been converted into the Little Traverse Historical Society Museum. Bayfront Park is also the setting for the Festival on the Bay, the biggest event of the year, held every August. Among the multitude of activities, music lovers can enjoy an extensive slate of live performances, children can play at the Children’s Area, and everyone can watch the street performances during the Sunset on the Bay.
At the heart of Bayfront Park is the City’s 100-slip marina offering all the amenities a boater could want. Other marinas found along Little Traverse Bay include Bay Harbor Lake Marina at Bay Harbor; Walstrom Marine, Irish Boat Shop and the Harbor Springs Municipal Marina in Harbor Springs. Of special note, all of these marinas in Little Traverse Bay are designated as Clean Marinas. Having all of the marinas on the Bay receive the designation shows that these marinas understand that good stewardship of our water resources directly impacts not only the economic vitality of these Northern Michigan communities, but the future of recreational boating as well.
There are also plenty of marinas on the numerous inland lakes in Northern Michigan. On special interest is the Inland Waterway. The 38-mile waterway has been called “one of the most beautiful small boat trips in the country.” It begins in Crooked Lake, connects via Crooked River with Burt Lake to Indian River, then to Mullet Lake. Finally, it connects to the Cheboygan River out to Lake Huron. Whether you prefer the serene inland waters, the sparkling bay or the open waters of the Great Lakes, the Petoskey area offers boating at its best. And for those who can’t bring their own boat, rental options are always available.
Recreation and natural resources go hand-in-hand in the Little Traverse Bay area. The “Up North” outdoors provides some of the finest recreational opportunities known. In addition to boating, summers are full of golfing, picnicking, Frisbee golf, waterskiing, camping, fishing and more. The Little Traverse Wheelway, a 26-mile paved multi-purpose trail, provides a scenic and safe route for walking, inline skating and biking. From the northern expanse of Wilderness State Park and Petoskey State Park to smaller gathering places such as Magnus Park and Bear River Park, wide open beaches and fishing spots are easy to find and enjoy. Or you could just spend time at the shore and enjoy the summer breezes that skim across the bay. You may come across a Petoskey stone; this unique, 350-million-year-old fossilized coral and the state stone of Michigan can be found scattered along beaches throughout the area. Whenever you visit, don’t miss the Petoskey sunset. Coined the “million dollar sunset,” it is guaranteed to be one of the most breathtaking, magnificent sunsets on earth.