Tired of the same old destinations?
Feel like you've seen everything Michigan has to offer? Here are four alternatives to the standard go-to locations that will refresh your view of weekending in the Mitten!
A Great Lakes Gem
Photo courtesy of Christian Giannelli Photography.
Lake Michigan seems to get all the love, doesn't it? How can you resist a sunset sparkling on the water as you settle into the night?
But have you ever taken in a sunrise from your private, on-deck hot tub while a gourmet breakfast is delivered right to your room? If not, Huron House, located between Tawas and Oscoda along the Lake Huron shoreline, has a treat for you. Recently named one of the 20 best bed-and-breakfasts around the country by PureWow, this luxury accommodation is the ideal couple's escape. Rooms include an indoor jacuzzi or outdoor hot tub, fireplace, private deck and a host of other special amenities. Guests can even add an in-room massage package to their stay. Dining favorites in the area are Tait's Bill of Fare, Boathouse Beer Co. & Boozery and the Charity Island Dinner Cruise. During your stay, explore the breathtaking Iargo Springs, drive the River Road National Scenic Byway, or enjoy a two-hour tour or live music on the weekends on the AuSable River Queen—an authentic paddlewheel-powered riverboat.
Wine in the Wild (South) West
Photo courtesy of Deb Murdoch.
Did you know there are more than 20 wineries along Lake Michigan's beach towns and surrounding areas? That's a lot of sippin'! Spanning from Holland to South Haven to St. Joseph to New Buffalo, the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail—known as the Napa Valley of the Midwest—is a must-do for casual and serious oenophiles alike. In addition to a wealth of wineries, there are lodging, dining and specialty shops galore along the 80-mile stretch. Standouts for overnight stays include The Kingsley House Bed & Breakfast in the Fenn Valley area, The Hotel Saugatuck (which shares a co-owner with Huron House), Carriage House at the Harbor in South Haven and Dove Nest Bed & Breakfast in St. Joseph. Those trekking the trail will want to fuel up at Lucy's Little Kitchen in Saugatuck, Clementine's in South Haven and Tosi's in Stevensville—or indulge in some sweets at The Blueberry Store in South Haven and The Chocolate Garden in Coloma. Safe transportation is a must, so be sure to find yourselves a tour service to make your travels stress-free.
A Trip to the Thumb Tip
Photo courtesy of Kay Kelso.
Lovers of the outdoors will be in their element in adventure-friendly Port Austin. Known for northern lights sightings and stargazing at the dark sky preserve and kayaking to Turnip Rock—one of Michigan's great natural wonders—the Thumb area is considered to be fairly undiscovered territory. That's exciting news for crowd- and bustle-weary travelers! If you like the idea of quaint mom and pop establishments, you'll be charmed to know that Port Austin has no chain hotels. Instead, visitors will find accommodations ranging from upscale B&Bs, like the elegant, historic Garfield Inn, to waterfront properties like the Beachcomber, to group lodging like Little Yellow Cottages, to campsites at Port Crescent State Park on the Saginaw Bay. Ready to get out and explore? There's no need to bring your own gear! Port Austin Kayak rents bikes, stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) and kayaks for day-trips to Turnip Rock. When you've had your fill, relax on the patio at PAK's Backyard, feast at The Farm Restaurant or dine in style at The Bank 1884. Port Austin also has an emerging art scene and an artist-run boutique and gallery: The Cove.
A Boat Ride to Beaver Island
Photo courtesy of Frank Solle.
About 25 miles off the coast of Charlevoix is Beaver Island, a laid-back, quiet (and proudly fudge-free) alternative to Mackinac. After a leisurely, two-hour boat ride with Beaver Island Boat Company, you'll arrive on "America's Emerald Isle," where connection and disconnection meet. You can bring your car—if you so desire. But for a weekend excursion, you don't necessarily need to. For a short visit, bikes, which you can bring or rent, will get you around to many areas. Downtown St. James offers all the modern amenities you desire, including grocery and convenience stores, gas stations, gift shops and dining; that's if you want to stay plugged in.
Many visit the island to enjoy nature and get off the grid—and its secluded beaches, scenic overlooks, hiking trails and rustic campgrounds will make you feel like you have the whole place to yourself. Popular eateries include Shamrock Bar & Restaurant and Dalwhinnie Deli, as well as Beaver Island Lodge, which has guestrooms and an on-site restaurant, all overlooking Lake Michigan.
Allison Kay Bannister, a West Michigan resident since 1987, professional writer since 2002 and GVSU alumna, recently launched her own freelance writing business. Allison enjoys travel, art, dance, food and exploring world cultures—and, of course, writing about all these and more.
Main image courtesy of Christian Giannelli Photography.