In this Charlevoix travel guide, I’ll give you the rundown on why this stunning, waterfront community in Northern Michigan is worth driving or flying to, no matter where you’re from. Experience incredible views, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and enjoy the changing of the seasons here in a quintessential Northern Michigan experience.
Charlevoix, Michigan, located in Northern Michigan along the beautiful, freshwater Lake Michigan, is one of the most beautiful cities to visit in the state. While it is a smaller town than some I’ve written about in the past, with a population of around 2,500 year round residents, it’s one of the most visited places in Northern Michigan due to its beautiful white sand beaches, fantastic opportunities for sailing, boating, fishing, hiking, swimming, paddle boarding and recreating on the water, and because of the abundance of fun and sophisticated things to do in the area, like award-winning wine tastings, unique architecture, and many beautiful outdoor activities and events all year long, all of which I’ll discuss in this Charlevoix Travel Guide.
When to Visit
Since Charlevoix is located in Northern Michigan, it has a shorter warm season than the rest of the state, and like other northern states, cold weather arrives earlier and lasts longer than most places. This means that it’s the perfect place to go skiing, snow shoeing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, making it a wonderful place to enjoy the cold weather and get a jump on snow sport seasons before most other places in the country, and after other parts of the country warm up.
In the spring and summer, which is roughly April through Late September, the weather is beautiful and warm, but never too hot, as the cool breeze from Lake Michigan keeps temperatures lower than other places in the state, making it the perfect place to escape intense summer heat.
Autumn in Northern Michigan attracts visitors from all around the world who come to marvel at the incredible colors as the leaves begin to change colors from greens to bright yellows and deep reds. Charlevoix is the perfect place to view the leaves, as the abundance of trees, hiking paths, and shorelines means you’ll get incredible views of the fall colors that can’t be found anywhere else.
Things to Do
There’s always an abundance of things to do in Charlevoix, no matter what time of year one visits. Some of my favorite seasonal activities include jet skiing, sailing, paddle boarding, swimming, visiting local beaches, snorkeling, going apple picking at Friske Orchards, wine tasting and exploring the castle gardens of Castle Farms, and golfing at the Charlevoix Country Club.
If you’re into architecture, Charlevoix is famous the world over for its unique “Mushroom Houses”, which look like something straight out of Lord of the Rings. The city offers various tours, or you can explore them from a respectful distance on your own, but keep in mind they are private residences and therefor you should always be respectful, and stay on the sidewalks.
It may sound silly, but one of my favorite parts of visiting Charlevoix when I was growing up, and even as an adult, is watching boats and sailboats float through the Pine River Channel, and seeing the city’s draw bridge raise and lower for passing vessels. It’s still exciting to watch, even after all these years.
As an avid, although admittedly not very skilled golfer, I love golfing at the Charlevoix Country Club, or one of the other area golf courses, because they are suitable for all skill levels, and offer beautiful views of the wilderness around Charlevoix.
My Charlevoix travel guide would be incomplete if I didn’t mention all of the incredible outdoor activities as well. Aside from what I mentioned earlier, there are great hiking, biking, and walking paths, plus there are lots of areas for canoeing, kayaking, and the like, making it a fantastic place to get out of doors and explore the world around you.
If shopping is more you’re speed, there are lots of great boutiques and markets in the area that sell everything from handmade furniture and boutique clothing to decor and outdoor goods down the main strip of Charlevoix.
Where to Eat
As I mentioned earlier, Charlevoix is a relatively small place, but what it may lack in size, it makes up for in incredible food, shopping, and outdoor activities. Some of the best food we’ve ever had in Northern Michigan can be found at our new favorite Charlevoix spot, That French Place. Specializing in French crêpes, coffees, and pastries, That French Place is run by two of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, Brian and Emily, and they bring a beautiful touch of France to Northern Michigan that is greatly appreciated. I can’t recommend their egg, cheese, and caramelized onion crêpes enough! If you’re ever in Charlevoix, stop in for incredible French pastries, wonderful conversation, and to support a fantastic family.
The Weathervane Restaurant, owned and operated by Stafford’s Hospitality, is another great place to eat if you find yourself craving seafood and fresh lake caught fish. I recommend reservations for this, especially in the spring, summer, or fall, as it fills up very quickly. Weather permitting, ask to sit outside – the waterfront views alone are worth a visit!
The Salad Fork is a fantastic place to grab light bites or healthier fare, like açai bowls, smoothies, salads, and healthy sandwiches. Everything we ate here was absolutely incredible, and I can’t wait to visit again when they re-open in the spring.
The Cantina, which is the city’s only Mexican restaurant, just so happens to be the best Mexican food in Northern Michigan. They are currently closed for the season and will re-open in May. Keep an eye on The Charlevoix Travel Guide for updates featuring more great places to eat in 2020!
Where to Stay
Hotel Earl will be Charlevoix’s premiere luxury property, once it opens in the next few months. Until the building is complete, or if you’re looking for something a bit cozier, there are many other excellent hotel and Airbnb options in the Charlevoix area. We recently stayed at the Edgewater Inn for a few nights while visiting over the fall, and while it isn’t technically a luxury property, it was a fantastic place to look out over Round Lake Harbor, and our 2 bedroom 2 bath bi-level condo was the perfect place to base our explorations out of while we explored the area. The Edgewater Inn is also perfect for anyone seeking a cozy, cabinesque “Up North” experience, without leaving the main strip of town.
Having grown up in Northern Michigan, you may think I’m biased to say it’s the best part of the state to explore, but since so many other Michiganders and out of state visitors agree with me, I stand by my opinions. Some of my favorite places to visit nearby are Petoskey, Mackinac Island, and Traverse City. The following are great day trips from Charlevoix!
15 Mile Drive
This beautiful lakeside town is one of Northern Michigan’s premiere resort towns. Find everything from a yacht marina to clothing stores and fine dining.
19 Mile Drive
This small, lakeside community is full of idyllic, colorful cottages that overlook Little Traverse Bay.
26.6 Mile Drive
Arguably the best place to sail out of in Northern Michigan, Harbor Springs is a quaint little town with great food and even better views, plus gorgeous lakeside hiking and biking trails. Visit the Tunnel of Trees in the fall for truly spectacular color displays.
52 Mile Drive + 7.2 Mile Ferry Ride
My very favorite place in Michigan, this island doesn’t allow cars or motorized vehicles (save for the islands ambulance and fire truck). Bike, walk, or ride a horse around this beautiful piece of historic land that overlooks the Mackinac Bridge and the crystal clear, vibrant blue waters of the Straits of Mackinac.
17 Mile Drive
My hometown is famous for its fossilized coral, Petoskey Stones, which are the state rock. This gorgeous town has beautiful stretches of pristine, white sand beaches, massive sand dunes, breathtaking natural springs and woodland hiking paths that transport hikers to a sylvan wonderland.
50 Mile Drive
Famous the world over for its abundance of juicy, red cherries and cherry derived culinary specialities, Traverse City is one of the midwest’s premiere wine producing regions, and boasts beautiful beaches along Lake Michigan, as well as a thriving art, cinema, and music scene.
23.3 Mile Drive
This small town is home to Hotel Walloon, one of the most luxurious hotels in the state. Get away from it all, enjoy drinks on Walloon Lake, or take in the natural beauty of the north by spending an evening or two in this charming village.
Thank you Visit Charlevoix for collaborating with us on this post, and helping me share one of my favorite places in my beautiful home state with you in this Charlevoix Travel Guide!
Until Next Time!
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