North Lake Michigan – Alluring Coastal Towns

Charlevoix, Michigan

Charlevoix, Michigan...

Charlevoix, Michigan and charm

Charlevoix, Michigan Harbor

Charlevoix's Harborfront park

Charlevoix, Michigan fountain

Summertime !!

Charlevoix, Michigan painted park bench

Lighthouses on a park bench

Charlevoix, Michigan lighthouse

Charlevoix Lighthouse

Charlevoix, Michigan lighthouse

A boat waits for the drawbridge to open.

Charlevoix, Michigan lighthouse sailbot

The channel leads from Lake Michigan to Charlevoix


Charlevoix, Michigan lighthouse sailboat and drawbridge

The drawbridge lets sailboats pass through.

Charlevoix, Michigan beach

The town sports a beachside playground.

Lake Michigan's clear water

Lake Michigan's clear water: turquoise and inviting.

Lilacs were in bloom.

Petunia beds escorted us out of town for miles.

Harbor Springs, a sparkling gem on Lake Michigan

Harbor Springs, a sparkling gem on Lake Michigan

Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan sailing lessons

Local kids drop their bikes and bags to take sailing lessons.

Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan sailing lessons Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan wooden boat

Beautiful wooden boats were everywhere.

Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan wooden boat

Harbor Springs' waterfront park

Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan

Have a seat and stay a while...

Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan

Large equestrian estates fringe Harbor Springs.

The Tunnel of Trees scenic drive Michigan

The Tunnel of Trees

Macinaw City, Gateway to Macinac Island.

Macinaw City, Gateway to Macinac Island.

Charlevoix, Harbor Springs & The Tunnel of Trees

Mid-June, 2009 - We continued our tour along the beautiful Lake Michigan coast, leaving

Traverse City and making our way to Charlevoix.  I was amazed at how many quaint,

peaceful and picturesque villages perch along these shores.  Charlevoix has a lovely park

along the harbor in the center of town, and it was lined with bright petunias in beds along

the ground and in hanging flower baskets.

A small stretch of grass leads to a small marina,

and we walked along the docks soaking up the sun

and talking to whatever boat owners we could find.

There is an outdoor concert pavilion as well, and we

could imagine many a balmy summer night sitting

there listening to music.

Some kids were making the most of the park's fountains, trying to

stomp out the various spigots of water as they shot up and then

clustering around the big fountain.  I could sympathize with the little girl

on the edge who was freezing.

There is a

sense of

whimsy in this

town, and one

park bench is

adorned with


paintings of




We found the


lighthouse at

the end of a

very long

channel that

leads from the open lake waters to the tiny inner harbor.  It was a perfect

day for strolling along the channel's boardwalk and, as we walked, a few

sailboats made their way in and out of the harbor.

A drawbridge separates the channel from the inner harbor, and when it is

scheduled to open all the sailboats scurry to get through.

At the end of

the channel

there is a town

beach with a

playground.  I

could easily

imagine many

happy summer

days spent


Everywhere we

went I was startled by the clarity of the water.  Lake Michigan's water is

turquoise, much like the Caribbean, and is extremely clear.

Lilacs were in bloom.  They are one of my favorite spring flowers, and

they had already faded down south around Detroit.  We both buried are

noses in their fragrant clusters.

All of these

towns were

places where

we could have

easily stayed

for the

summer, but

we pushed

north on our

tour.  The

charming, whimsical air of Charlevoix stayed with us for a long time.  The

road out of town was lined on both sides with beautiful petunia beds.  It

made for a lovely drive.  After watching this continuous flower bed escort

us for at least three miles, I just shook my head in amazement.  That's a

lot of flowers.  This town is truly loved by its residents.

The next stop was Harbor Springs, a tiny village on the

water's edge.  It is an upscale town that boasts some

beautiful Victorian homes that were meticulously


We arrived just as the

kids were running down

from the yacht club to

prepare their little

sailboats for sailing


The area was lined with bikes and backpacks, and the

kids made quick work of getting the sails up and getting

the boats off the dock.  What a priceless, fun filled

summer lay ahead for those kids.

One thing we had noticed in every harbor in our travels was the large

numbers of wooden boats, all in beautiful condition.  Harbor Springs was

no exception, and this boat really turned our heads.  The woodwork was

pristine, with shiny varnish that was deep and lustrous.

We didn't realize until a few days later that one of the nation's three

major wooden boat schools was just a hundred miles north in the

Upper Peninsula.  No wonder the many gorgeous wooden boats here

in Harbor Springs were so beautifully crafted and maintained.  There

was plenty of skill and knowledge about wooden boats in the area.

Like so many other waterfront villages along this coast, Harbor Springs has a pretty park

overlooking the bay.  Yet again we felt we could stop and spend the rest of the summer right

here in blissful tranquility.

This town is very posh, and not only do

the fortunate residents spend time on

their boats, but they also enjoy

equestrian entertainment, tennis and

other country club pursuits during their

leisure time.

We passed some beautiful country

estates on the way out of town.  In many

ways it felt like we had just spent a few

hours observing a way of life that may

be fast disappearing in this oh-so-busy

workaday world of ours.  It felt like a

gentleman's town from

another era, especially with

so many stunning wooden

boats dating back to the mid


Route 119 leading out of

town is one of Michigan's

scenic byways called the

Tunnel of Trees.  For an

hour we drove along

through this winding,

green one-lane tunnel,

weaving our way under a

thick green canopy of

leaves.  Occasionally there were glimpses of the lake on our left or of small log cabins tucked

back into the woods on our right, but for the most part it was a curvy, narrow road, encased in

tree limbs.

At first the trees

were all deciduous,

but as we drove we

came across a few

clusters of skinny

pines.  Some historic plaques explained a little about the

area.  One spot, Devil's Elbow, had been a spring in a

ravine where the Indians believed local spirits made their

presence known in the wee hours of the night.  Another,

L'Arbre Croche, was the name the French gave to this

whole Tunnel of Trees region, so named because of a

huge crooked tree that towered above everything.

We emerged into daylight and made our way towards Macinaw City, the northernmost point of Michigan's mittened southern

peninsula.  It is the "Gateway to Macinac Island," the famed island where only foot and bicycle traffic are allowed.  However, we

took the other road and headed over the Macinaw Bridge to Michigan's Upper Peninsula instead.