Petoskey is one of my favorite places globally, and it will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s where I was born and where I grew up. I loved life on the beautiful sandy shores of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay, and my childhood was punctuated with million-dollar sunsets, unbelievable firework displays, evening walks on the beach, and spending time out on the water. If anyone asks me where my favorite place to visit in Michigan during the summer, I never hesitate to tell them why I love my hometown so much.
The Petoskey Area is comprised of eight resort communities and includes Bay Harbor, Bay View, Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Alanson, Boyne City, Boyne Falls, and Walloon Village. In this guide, I will group Petoskey, Alanson, Boyne City, and Boyne Falls in one travel guide for the sake of convenience. Bay Harbor already has its own travel guide. Find the travel guides for Harbor Springs, Bay View, and Walloon Village by clicking on the hyperlinked cities since they are larger areas with more to see, eat, and do.
Famous for its incredible sunsets, pristine freshwaters, unmatched natural beauty, as well as for being a favorite haunt of the famous author Ernest Hemingway, home to Michigan’s state rock (which is really a fossilized coral called the Petoskey Stone), and springtime morel mushroom hunting, my hometown has so much to offer year ’round.
When to Visit Petoskey
Petoskey is beautiful 365/24/7. If you are looking for pristine white sand beaches (with the occasional Petoskey stone!), turquoise blue waters, sailing, swimming, jetskiing, and blue sunny skies, visit May-September. If you’re looking for world-famous fall colors, unbelievably vivid sunsets, world-class wineries, and delightful fall brews, visit October-November.
If a winter wonderland with fantastic skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing, is more your speed, visit December through April. Sometimes, if the lake freezes over solidly enough, people even ride snowmobiles around Lake Michigan over into St. Ignace or Mackinac Island. Our winter may last a little longer than most places, but it’s one of the most beautiful winter wonderlands in the world.
Parking & Transportation
What Petoskey lacks in public transportation, it makes up for in walkability and natural beauty. There are no trains, subways, or bus systems in Petoskey, but the city is convenient to walk, and riding bikes makes the area very easy to traverse without a car. Bikes are available for rent for a modest fee from Latitude 45º, or you can, of course, bring your own.
The city does have a cool, retro trolley that runs around Petoskey and makes shopping and dining convenient. If you’re a guest of Odawa Casino and Hotel, they have a bus system that can take guests around town to make their stay even more convenient.
There is ample free parking around the city, and several paid meters around the city. They recently upgraded many of the coin-only parking spots to now accept credit and debit cards, which means you don’t have to worry about carrying cash. My favorite free parking area is up by the Catholic Church on Howard St., pictured above, but space is limited. To park closer to downtown, you will need to arrive early in the day and pay for parking.
Where to Eat in Petoskey
American Spoon Café
American Spoon got its start here in my hometown and was the original American Spoon store and café. They serve 24 housemade flavors of authentic Italian gelato, and their artisanal preserves, made from locally grown cherries and other fruits and dip mixes, are absolutely delicious. It’s a great spot to grab a snack or a light lunch.
Beach House Restaurant on Deer Lake
Not far from Boyne Mountain Resort, Beach House Restaurant on Deer Lake is a beautiful dining experience. The inside is spacious and cozy, and the view from the restaurant is positively splendid, especially as the sunsets over the lake—Drop-in any time of the year for excellent service, fresh, inventive dishes, and beautiful views.
Home to more than 100 local, unique brews, Beard’s Brewery is an excellent spot to sample local drinks. They also serve a full menu and mixed drinks. I love their power green quinoa bowl!
This classic European-style café serves delightful Belgian beers, wood-fired pizzas, authentic pasta dishes, and fresh seafood. They donate 5% of their sales to local food pantries to ensure everyone gets to eat.
We love visiting Chandler’s when we are in town. Al fresco dining, fine wines, snacks, and a full menu and bar. What more could a person need? Check out my full review of Chandler’s here.
City Park Grille
Home of the bar where Hemingway wrote many of his famous works, City Park Grille is a great spot to meet up with friends for lunch, dinner, or drinks.
Grain Train Market Café
This café was inspired by the massive demand for healthy foods in the area. Grain Train Market, a small organic grocery, owns and operates this café, which is perfect for those who have special diets or those who prefer organic food options. Everything here is made fresh daily.
H.O. Rose Room
We enjoyed a beautiful brunch here during one of our most recent visits to the Petoskey Area, and we loved the old-world charm and elegance of the H.O. Rose Room. Located inside the Perry Hotel (the large, pastel yellow building downtown on Bay St. and Lewis St.
As someone who doesn’t like raw tomatoes (I know it’s weird), I didn’t think I’d like a place with a name like Julienne Tomatoes, but it was fantastic! They have so many fresh, vegetable-based dishes that it was easy to find something we loved and lots more we didn’t have room to try.
J W Fillmore’s
This cozy, casual breakfast spot is popular with the locals, and their French toast is famous all over the state.
Mim’s Mediterranean Grill
The best place to enjoy Mediterranean food in Northern Michigan, Mim’s has everything from traditional Mediterranean fares like grape leaves, falafel, and gyros to more modern dishes such as pasta salads, Greek-inspired sandwiches, and lots more.
Mitchell Street Pub
This place is unique in that they encourage guests to enjoy peanuts at their tables and then toss the shells on the ground with reckless abandon. I don’t really get it; however, they have the best jalapeño poppers and French onion soup I’ve ever had, and their nachos are amazing. It’s also the home of my favorite take on my favorite drink, the Caribou Lou. If you venture in, expect lots of laughter, a retro jukebox, and some of the friendliest servers in the state. It goes without saying that if you have a peanut allergy, this place isn’t for you.
My family and I go here to listen to live music, and the food is great too! I love their oak-planked whitefish, which is a Petoskey specialty. The fish comes straight from the bay!
Palette Bistro has gorgeous al fresco dining, upscale brunch, and a pretty gorgeous view of the bay as well. Their roasted root vegetable salad and seafood paella are spectacular.
Petoskey Pretzel Company
Since I can’t eat bread, I’ve never actually tried this place, but my husband always makes a point to stop in and grab a freshly baked soft pretzel with nacho cheese dipping sauce, and he swears it’s the best pretzel he’s ever had, and he’s not one to exaggerate.
A newer addition to downtown Petoskey, Pour is popular with locals and visitors alike because of its massive wine selection and incredible food. We love their Som Tom Salad, Tuna Poke Nachos, and lobster Pelmeni.
Roast & Toast
This is the first “restaurant” I ever visited alone when I was about 6 years old. I was so proud of myself for going to buy a hot chocolate with my own money, and it was a very short walk from our home (as I said, Petoskey is very safe). I love their hot chocolates and expansive coffee drink menu. Try one of their candy-inspired coffee drinks, and you won’t be disappointed! They also have a small bakery and a rotating, seasonal snack menu.
Located within Odawa Casino, Sage is one of the best places to enjoy fresh seafood and fine wines in Northern Michigan.
Tap 30 Pourhouse
You may be wondering why there is such a fantastic selection of wines in the area or why so many restaurants offer so many different varieties. The answer is simply because Northern Michigan is home to some of the most productive and tastiest wineries and vineyards globally. Tap 30 Pourhouse is another spot in Petoskey that offers a wide range of different brews and wines from Northern Michigan, along with amazing food like their Grilled Kimchi Salad and Curried Lobster and Shrimp Rolls.
I absolutely love Thai food, and Thai Orchid is one of my favorite Thai restaurants. We make a stop here whenever we are in town. I highly recommend their drunken noodles and Lard Na with extra vegetables.
The Strand at Summerset Pointe
Located on Lake Charlevoix, this waterfront dining experience is one of the best in Northern Michigan. The food is delightful, and the atmosphere encapsulates all that is excellent about summers in Northern Michigan.
Technically in Harbor Springs, but located close enough to Petoskey that I included it in this guide, Vernales has beautiful al fresco dining, a fun indoor sports bar, and more upscale dining rooms as well. Enjoy a beautiful meal with European wines and desserts while sitting outside on their garden patio or while watching the big game.
This is also technically not in Petoskey, but rather in Bay Harbor, which is such a short drive away that I would be remiss not to mention Vintage inside The Inn at Bay Harbor hotel. It was one of the best meals we’ve ever had, and my husband still talks about how much he loved his soup and crab cakes from Vintage. Please read all about the restaurant in my post here.
Where to Stay in Petoskey Area
Petoskey has an abundance of gorgeous lodging options, from cozy inns and intimate hotels on the water to casino hotels and one of the top 500 hotels in the world!
Stafford’s Bay View Inn
One of the most charming Inns in America, Stafford’s Bay View Inn has been welcoming guests for more than 100 years and has won dozens of prestigious awards during its long and storied history. Read more about our stay and why we loved this hotel here.
Located in Walloon Village, just outside of Petoskey, Hotel Walloon is a gorgeous, peaceful hotel right on the shores of Walloon Lake. We stayed here last fall and absolutely fell in love with the beautiful fall colors, the cozy, soundproof rooms, and the hotel’s warm hospitality. Owned and operated by a former Ritz-Carleton manager, Hotel Walloon is the height of Northern Michigan hospitality. Please read all about our stay in this guide to the hotel here.
Inn at Bay Harbor
We loved our stay at the Inn at Bay Harbor. We were right on the water in a suite overlooking the bay, with a cozy fireplace, massive jacuzzi, and lots of on-site food. Read all about the hotel in my guide here. This hotel has also been voted one of the top 500 hotels in the world!
Odawa Casino Hotel
I once spent a weekend here with my mother the summer before I began blogging, and we absolutely loved it. The hotel and casino are owned and operated by the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. The funds from both support the preservation of their tribal interests and culture. You can also learn quite a bit about their fascinating history here. Request a room on the top floors to enjoy an incredible view of the sunrises and sunsets over Little Traverse Bay.
One of Petoskey’s oldest and most popular downtown hotels, Perry Hotel is located on the corner of Lewis St. and Bay St. The H.O. Rose Dining Room and Noggin Pub mentioned above are located within the hotel, and it’s a popular place to have weddings and receptions in the warmer months.
What to Do in Petoskey
Just about anything imaginable is available in the Petoskey Area, from parasailing, hot air balloon rides, and skydiving to fishing, sailing, jet-skiing, paddle boarding, and so much more. If you’re looking for places to do things outdoors, head to Bear River Recreation Area for hiking, Petoskey Marina for sailing or walking along the water, or visit Petoskey State Park for beautiful sand dunes, white sand beaches, and pristine blue waters, perfect for swimming. There are also camping and hiking trails within the state park.
Spas & Salons
The Spa at Boyne Mountain Resort is Michigan’s largest spa. It has a large fitness area, an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, whirlpool hot tubs, steam rooms, saunas, and a full menu of spa and salon services, as well as fitness classes and nutritional counseling. In the wintertime, the ski slopes are just a short walk behind the spa, so skiers can come in from the cold and care for sore muscles and relax. Spa and gym memberships are available.
The Spa at the Inn at Bay Harbor is one of the best spas we’ve ever been to. If you’re in the market for a fantastic, relaxing massage, manicure, pedicure, or facial, I can’t recommend The Spa at Inn at Bay Harbor enough. Read my entire spa guide and a complete review of the salon and spa here.
Trillium salon and spa also does an excellent job with pedicures, manicures, and massages in a more casual setting.
Festivals & Events
Petoskey has lots of wonderful festivals and events. One of my favorites is always the 4th of July fireworks. Looking out across the bay, we could always see Harbor Springs’ fireworks, Bay Harbor’s fireworks, and even fireworks off in the distance. Even if not on the same day, there were even more opportunities to see fireworks throughout the 4th of July week.
Petoskey’s farmer’s market happens every Friday from 8 am until 1 pm from June until the end of September, on Mitchell Street near J.C Penney.
Petoskey’s sidewalk sales happen every summer, and it is a time when local shops set their wares out on the sidewalks and have a city-wide sale on everything from clothing and shoes to home decor and dishware.
Lavender Hill Farm in Boyne City always has lots going on, especially in the summer, where they host lunches amongst the lavender fields, yoga, tai chi, or painting events.
Blissfest, which happens every year in Harbor Springs, is a huge event that draws in local and international musical acts. It’s a fun experience that takes place in the middle of July each year.
Boyne Thunder is a gathering of speedboats in Boyne City’s waters that shows off the speed and maneuverability of speed boats from around the world each Saturday in the summer.
Petoskey is an extremely safe area. There is almost no crime, and there aren’t many natural hazards to watch out for. Like all of the Great Lakes, the water is full of beautiful freshwater, which means it’s salt-free and shark-free. Swimming, however, can be dangerous if rip tides are present or the waves are high. Always wear a life vest and swim with multiple people when recreating on the water. Should a riptide pull you out away from the shore, don’t fight it or swim against the current; you will only exhaust yourself, no matter how strong of a swimmer you may be. Instead, swim parallel to the shore, and you will eventually break free of the riptide and be able to successfully swim back to the shore once you’re out of it.
Day Trips from Petoskey
4.4 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, plus one of the top 500 resorts in the world, The Inn at Bay Harbor, which is a world-class retreat on the shores of Little Traverse Bay.
2.2 Mile Drive
Bay View is a neighborhood in Petoskey, Michigan, home to a cottage village of beautiful, ornate homes. May through October, cottagers from around the world flock to this historical region of Northern Michigan to enjoy the beautiful bay breeze off of Little Traverse Bay, sailing, tennis, and other facets of the great outdoors, as well as an atmosphere of excitement that visitors can only be found in Northern Michigan.
Boyne City is one of Michigan’s favorite anytime getaways! Find world-class skiing in the winter and beautiful outdoor recreation options in the warmer months.
17 Mile Drive
Known as “Charlevoix the Beautiful,” this small Northern Michigan town is a lovely lakeside retreat. Explore the arts and culture of Northern Michigan, head out on gorgeous Lake Charlevoix, or take the ferry to stunning nearby Beaver Island to feel as though you’ve been transported to another world of pristine waters and beautiful swatches of the forest. If you feel like stepping back in time, visit Michigan’s most stunning castle, Castle Farms, and take a walk through gardens inspired by European castle gardens.
185 Mile Drive
Grand Rapids, MI, is the art and beer capital of the midwest and is home to the world’s largest art competition, Art Prize. With more than a dozen incredible museums, an abundance of festivals, pop-up restaurants, and proximity to Lake Michigan, as well as more breweries per capita than just about any other U.S. city, Grand Rapids is a wonderful place to spend a weekend or longer. If you’re craving a taste of nature, head to Frederik Meijer Gardens’ Japanese garden to walk about a garden that is expertly replicated from gardens in Japan.
10 Mile Drive
This stunning lakeside resort town peaks spring through fall, although there’s something to do all year long. My personal favorite place to sail into in Northern Michigan, Harbor Springs, has some of the best food in Northern Michigan. Grab a bite to eat at the New York Restaurant, The Depot Dining Club, The Paper Station Bistro, and Stafford’s Pier Restaurant.
36 Mile Drive + 20 Minute ferry ride
One of my very favorite places in Michigan, and my favorite out of the 20 Midwest travel destinations, this island doesn’t allow cars or motorized vehicles (save for the island’s 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. The best time of year to visit the island, in my personal opinion, is during the Lilac Festival each June when all of the flowers on the island are in full bloom. Stay at Grand Hotel’s Masco Cottage to experience the epitome of luxury in Michigan. Read this guide to 5 of Michigan’s Most Incredible Flower Festivals.
67 Mile Drive
Famous the world over for its abundance of juicy, red cherries and cherry-derived culinary specialties, 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. Visit nearby Torch Lake, Leland fishing village, or Point Betsie Lighthouse for the perfect week in the Traverse City area.
8.6 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. Walloon Lake is the coziest of all of these fantastic Midwest travel destinations.
Until next time!
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Very beautiful area for travelers. Landscapes are worth such a long journey for me here in Germany. Thanks for sharing, we will visit next spring and we are excited.
Riptides in little traverse bay? Lol when
Annie Fairfax says
Hello, thank you for your comment. Unfortunately rip currents are not uncommon in Little Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan and it is a common reason people drown in the lake. There are signs up on some of the beaches about how to spot and avoid them. Here are a few news articles you can read about it. If you’re asking for a specific explanation on how exactly riptides form in a lake, the last two articles explain it. I hope this helps.
Wal Coffey says
Growing up in Harbor in the 1960’s, I couldn’t go downtown without stopping at Juilleret’s. Sadly nothing to this day can ever replace it or continue to attract loyal customers like the old Juilleret’s once did… nothing against the bevy of fine Restaurants that are near there now.
I have been a Petoskey visitor for the better part of 40 years. It is wonderful with great golf, sunsets, dining and winter sports but winter comes early and unfortunately can be gloomy and gray during the winter months. Also, I know you write about luxury and these aren’t by any means luxurious, but two of the best restaurants in the Petoskey area : Douglas Lake Bar and The Dam Site Inn. SO. GOOD.
Danny Sarns says
Love your article so much, your photos are absolutely stunning! You sure are super talented! Growing up and living in the Harbor Springs area l can’t believe you don’t mention Cross Village in your day trips, but I guess you focus on nicer areas haha. Still, it’s such an amazing area to explore and of course the Tunnel of Trees is pretty too. Leggs Inn and Three Pines Gallery are wonderful to visit.Miss the area like crazy and hope to be back soon.