Fall Color Tours: Mackinaw City – Charlevoix – Petoskey
October 9, 2007
The above photo is of the St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church of East Jordan (link) and is part of Casey’s Fall in East Jordan set.
While the autumn color is still in full bloom in the Upper Peninsula, we better head south across the Mighty Mac and spend some time on color touring Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Our first tour of Mackinaw City – Charlevoix – Petoskey (as designed by Travel Michigan) begins just on the other side of the Mackinac Bridge in Mackinaw City. They encourage you to stop in at the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, a beautifully restored 1892 structure that serves as a museum and is part of Mackinac State Historic Parks. You might pop for the MSHP day pass and check out Colonial Michilimackinac and/or Mackinac Island, but we better not get sidetracked.
Travel Michigan suggests getting off I-75 (a suggestion with which we heartily concur) and heading south down US-31. Just a few miles down, take Gill Rd. west to Just a Plain Farm, which features a full farm market & bakery plus all kinds of activities including hay rides, pumpkin picking and corn mazes. Then it’s back to 31 to Levering Rd. where you’ll want a map to navigate to Petoskey State Park, featuring 300+ acres on Little Traverse Bay, sandy beaches and one of the many dunes named Old Baldy on Lake Michigan. If you like views like the one to the right of Harbor Springs by Latitude45, continue on because this area is full of them! Martin has great photos of fall color from all over the Petoskey area as well!
You’ll want to keep that map handy (or turn to Google maps) as you head through the city of Petoskey (and maybe stop for lunch or a coffee at Roast & Toast). You may also want to wind through historic and tree-lined Bay View and check out the scenery & fishing on the Bear River. Up the Bear River is Walloon Lake (it’s a town and a lake). You can’t say Walloon Lake without also saying “Ernest Hemingway”, so here’s the Hemingway Resource Center’s page on the family cottage Windimere on the shore of Walloon Lake. The cottage is privately owned, but there’s a wealth of detail about the history of the area.
Assuming you avoid the temptation to brood moodily at Hemingway’s favorite barstool, it’s on to Charlevoix. On any of several ways, you can pass through a large number of small towns which are well detailed by the Petoskey – Harbor Springs – Boyne Country Visitors Bureau. There’s a lot of beautiful scenery here and even the back roads have back roads.
Like Petoskey, Charlevoix is full of all manner of shops and stores. If you’re in the mood for a more extended color trip, consider the ferry to Beaver Island. It’s known as America’s Emerald Isle, but in the fall, there’s all kinds of color to be enjoyed. Near Charlevoix there are two state parks, Young State Park on Lake Charlevoix and Fisherman’s Island State Park on Lake Michigan.
Assuming you head back north, take M-32 out of Petoskey to Harbor Springs. North of Harbor Springs on M-119 is the “Tunnel of Trees” a gorgeous stretch of narrow road along the shore that is lined with maple and other trees.
The Legs Inn in Cross Village is a textbook example of the “It’s my darn place and I’ll do whatever the heck I want with it” style of architecture for which northern Michigan is justly celebrated. The picture to the right of the door by artbabee is just the barest sample – she has more in her Charlevoix, Cross Village, and Walloon Lake, Michigan set! Their Polish food is also justly celebrated – here’s what they have to say about the whole thing:
Located in historic Cross Village, Michigan, Legs Inn is a “monument to nature.” Built on a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, it is unique and mysterious as seen in its architecture and decor. The fantasy-like atmosphere of this medieval looking stone, timber and driftwood landmark was created by one man, Polish immigrant, Stanley Smolak. He fell in love with Northern Michigan and its people, many of them Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and decided to settle in Cross Village in 1921.
Authentic Polish cuisine is our specialty, but delicious American dishes, including local fresh Whitefish, are also served. The Smolak family and staff are dedicated to making your visit to Legs Inn an unforgettable experience, which will have you returning often with family and friends throughout the years.
In a perfect world, you might arrive at Wilderness State Parkin time for sunset over Lake Michigan. In an even more perfect world, you’d be at the top of a multi-year waiting list for a cabin at the park!
Just so it’s clear, these fall color tour entries are produced by Absolute Michigan & Michigan in Pictures using the great information compiled in Travel Michigan’s Fall Color Tours as a starting point. We’re trying to add to what they’ve put together – not rip them off! As always, if you have links to information or photos that we missed, comments or reports, post them in the comments below!