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Picnic Picks The Top 10 for Charlevoix & the Little Traverse Area

Kristi Kates - June 13th, 2011
With its many open spaces, parks, waterfront destinations, and nature trails, it’s no wonder that “Up North” is thought to be the perfect spot for both al fresco restaurant dining and picnicking. Scott Herceg, executive director of the Harbor Springs Chamber of Commerce, perhaps says it best:
“We’re so fortunate to live here, you can be ‘on vacation’ five minutes away from your house.”
We asked Herceg and several other local experts from north of Traverse City which places they’d choose “Up North” to take a blanket and a picnic basket - and these were their picks. 

BAYFRONT PARK, PETOSKEY
“I love the Bayfront Park,” says Jessica McGeorge, business manager for the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce. 
It’s easy to find a terrific picnic spot at Bayfront Park, with its plethora of wide lawns and pavilion; views range from the constant parade of arriving and departing boats, to the local baseball teams, to quiet benches surrounded by trees and shrubs.
“It’s also the trailhead for the Bear River Recreation Area,” McGeorge says.

BEAR RIVER RECREATION AREA, PETOSKEY
Recently remodeled with $2.4 million of improvements, including picnic shelters, restrooms, event areas, stairs and footbridges to the river, and both paved and unpaved trails, McGeorge’s second pick to accompany Bayfront Park has a more rustic feel.  With craggy rocks and sloping riverbanks to add variety to your picnic spot, even getting to your chosen locale for lunch will be more interesting.
  
ZORN PARK, HARBOR SPRINGS
“Zorn Park, down by the cannon, is where I usually end up eating my lunch, especially on the 4th of July,” explains Herceg. 
The park is in a protected cove overlooking Little Traverse Bay and Harbor Point, giving picnickers a view of both the water and some of Harbor Springs’ most extensive waterfront cottages.

AVALANCHE MOUNTAIN PARK, BOYNE CITY
“The top of Avalanche Mountain,” is the immediate answer of Jim Baumann, executive director of the Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce.  “It’s 320 acres, it used to be a ski hill, and there are stairs right up the front of it, so you can walk up the front or take a more leisurely trail route of about 45 minutes.”
There’s an “absolutely stunning” view from up on top of the hill, Baumann explains, pointing out that an observation deck overlooks the whole of Boyne City, and that on clear days, visitors can even see all the way to Charlevoix.

PETOSKEY STATE PARK, PETOSKEY
“That’s one of my other favorites,” McGeorge says, “the beach is great, you can climb Old Baldy - which is the big sand dune in the park - and it’s a good place to take a walk after you have lunch.”
This is perhaps one of the best-known picnic spots in the region, with its extensive beach area and several dedicated picnic spots. 

ELM POINTE, EAST JORDAN
“I took a vote in our office, and we’re all saying Elm Pointe,” chuckles Mary Faculak, executive director of the East Jordan Area Chamber of Commerce. “It is a beautiful beach for starters, but also a shaded area, and it’s also home to the Elm Pointe Estate house, one of our historic homes.  The Portside Art and Historical Society has their museum there at that same spot. So there are a lot of options.”
   
M-119 IN HARBOR SPRINGS /WILDERNESS STATE PARK
“I like that you can start in Harbor Springs and take that drive up the coast on M-119,” Herceg says. “The drive is actually my favorite part, driving through the tunnel of trees. You go up through Good Hart and Cross Village, you can pick up food along the way, and then it’s just a nice peaceful setting up there around Wilderness State Park. Then you can drive back to Harbor Springs, stopping at Legs Inn along the way, and make a whole day of it.”

WATERFALL/ SUNSET PARK, PETOSKEY
“The waterfall at Bayfront Park is one of our most popular areas,” enthuses Lisa Denoyer, administrative assistant for the City of Petoskey, “the waterfall is right across the street from the bay itself, and is nicely landscaped. A wooden stair tower goes from there all the way up to Sunset Park, which is another popular place.” Denoyer further explains that the view from Sunset Park is one of the biggest draws - showcasing Petoskey’s “Million Dollar Sunsets” - and that the waterfall is the only one in the immediate area.
 
EAST PARK, DOWNTOWN CHARLEVOIX
“East Park is right in downtown Charlevoix, right next to Round Lake. It’s just really nice,” says Amanda Wilkin, director of the Charlevoix Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. 
Also named one of the top “Great Places in America Public Spaces” by the American Planning Association, East Park offers a bandshell, an interactive water fountain, and a trout pond.


MICHIGAN BEACH, CHARLEVOIX
“Of course it’s beautiful because of where it is,” Wilkins says, “but it also has a pavilion area that is set up with tables, so it’s all ready for picnicking. It’s also the best spot ever to hunt Petoskey stones - I shouldn’t have told you that, because now people are going to steal them all! - so that’s a great thing, as well.”
 
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