A Harbor Towns Special
By Rachel Pasche | July 3, 2021
Rock-strewn coasts and windswept beaches rightfully claim much of the fame for our corner of Lower Michigan’s vast shoreline. But amid the miles of Petoskey stones and golden sand, there blooms an idyllic series of civilizations, tiny harbor towns that offer shelter from Lake Michigan’s occasional storms and a much-needed escape from the usual landlocked 9-to-5 grind. Whether you’re a landlubber on a daylong escape or a boater on a weekend tour, most any one of the region’s lake- and bayside hamlets are worth setting your engine to idle and exploring. Here, a tour of one of our favorites, Northport.
Sitting on the point of Lower Michigan’s pinky is Northport, a tiny town full of hidden gems to uncover. Miles of waterfront along Lake Michigan to the north, east, and west means you’re never far from a stunning view or peaceful beach. This artsy community is full of adorable boutiques and whimsical stores that are worth perusing if you have an afternoon. Surrounded by lush greenery and the grandeur of Lake Michigan, this Northern outpost is more than worth the sail (or drive) to get there.
Bring a tent if you've got one; the Leelanau State Park is one of the best campgrounds in the state, if only because you get the best of many worlds: verdant greenery, quiet beaches, an on-site lighthouse and kids playground, plus ultra-easy access to town. It’s super affordable at only $17 per night. No tent? Reserve one of the heated cabins for fall. Search “Leelanau State Park” at www.michigan.gov.
Treat yourself to an experience akin to time travel with a stay at the Wauban Cottage, a historical bed and breakfast located right downtown. www.waybancottage.com
Nine rooms, an event space, and fitness center are all part of the modern The Northport Inn, centrally located for easy exploration of nearby shops and restaurants. www.northportinn.com
Musts for Your Mouth
One treat locals cannot recommend enough is a cinnamon twist from Barb’s Bakery — they have perfected this pastry, and it is delectable. Each twist is $2.
The New Bohemian serves up fresh breakfast options, deli sandwiches, and some great espresso drinks. www.newbohemiancafe.com
For a true Northport dining experience, grab a bite at the always casual, always yummy Garage Bar and Grill. Tip: Their dog-friendly patio is a great place for a beer with your best friend, furry or otherwise. northportgaragebar.com.
Don’t Leave Town Without …
Eating a pretzel the size of a cocktail table and washing it down with one of The Mitten Brewing Company’s beers inside their cozy pub or their perfect-people-watching deck perch. www.mittenbrewing.com/northport
Appreciating the works at downtown’s Wright Gallery, refreshingly full of contemporary abstract pieces created by both local and international artists. wrightartgallery.com
Slipping off to one of Northport’s many beaches for rock-hunting, sandcastle-building, picnicking or shoving off in your SUP. With several options available along and beyond the village shoreline, it’s easy to find one that suits your Lake Michigan mood. northportomenachamber.org/best-beaches
Climbing the laddered steps to look out from the top of The Grand Traverse Lighthouse like so many keepers in centuries past. The view of the Manitou Passage is worth the price of admission ($5), but the chance to explore the lower levels’ well-preserved keeper’s quarters makes a visit to this iconic landmark unforgettable. www.grandtraverselighthouse.com
Trekking the forested trail to Leelanau State Park’s Observation Platform for the sublime view of North and South Manitou Islands. Note: You’ll need a Recreation Passport to enter the park: $7 daily, $34 for an annual pass.
The Northport Marina — aka G. Marsten Dame Marina — features 67 transient slips, access to a local beach with a playground and picnic area, restrooms and showers, gasoline, ice, pump-out services, water, electricity, laundry, and a dog run. Walking distance to downtown Northport (and its well-appointed grocery).
Click to read about three other harbor towns highlighted this issue: Petoskey, Charlevoix, and Suttons Bay.