Monday, August 3, 2020

Travel Diary | Harbor Springs, Michigan

Like most people, our summer travel plans completely changed this year because of the pandemic.  We had momentarily resolved to just stay home until I was persuaded to check out Harbor Springs, MI by one of my girlfriends who has vacationed there for many years.  It is an easy drive for us, so no flight or over night in a hotel required.  We were able to find a rental on somewhat short notice (thanks again to the same friend) and were excited to explore someplace new.   We all welcomed a much needed change of scenery and a bit of a summer adventure. What we weren't  prepared for was how utterly charming and beautiful we would find Harbor Springs to be!

There is a classic Americana feel to the town, full of Victorian era summer homes with lush lawns and sprawling front porches.  Wicker chairs, gardens full of white hydrangeas and American flags fluttering against the lake breezes everywhere you turn.  A historic downtown with a Main Street full of local treasures, like the sandwiches from Gurney's Bottle Shop, the handmade cream caramels from Howe's Fudge (which I'm eating as I write this!) and the ultra quaint American Spoon with the prettiest jars of Michigan grown produce turned into jams, salsas and honey.   The town is set against the backdrop of the harbor with glimpses of turquoise blue water and sailboats down every side street.  There are art galleries and antique shops and a Farmer's Market a couple times a week in front of the church that smells of dried lavender and fresh crepes.  

We started and ended each day with a bike ride along the water.  Our favorite was biking through Wequetonsing, a historic summer resort community built in the 1800's full of the dreamiest homes.  It is semi private, so you are allowed to walk and bike through this part of town.  There are quite a few private clubs, associations, communities, etc. in Harbor Springs, something I saw less of in other towns.   We had 6 straight days of picture perfect weather - I don't think that's ever happened to us on a trip before, so we spent every moment outside.  We spent a lot of time in the water, which is warmer and easier to swim in than the Atlantic Ocean, we also did a lot of biking and hiking too.   Throughout the course of the week we rented a boat on Crooked Lake, kayaked to the point in Harbor Springs (which is the only way to see the light house because it sits on private grounds), and rented a wave runner on Walloon Lake. We hiked the bluff in Harbor Springs, which is must for a pretty sunset, keep walking all the way to the high school once you reach the top, a tip the police chief gave us (friendliest police chief we've ever met.  He really takes pride in his town and goes out of his way to make visitors feel welcome).  We picnicked several times at the park along the harbor, dinner from Turkey's Pizza one night and lunch from Gurney's one afternoon.  We picnicked on the beach at Petoskey State Park and the on the village green in Petoskey's historic gaslight district.  We also had more meals at "home" than we normally would on vacation because we weren't comfortable eating inside a restaurant, but it worked out great since we had a grill and a cute little patio area at our rental.   I think the only time we were inside was when it was time to go to sleep, which we did very well since we were so busy during the day.  We've retuned with lots of happy memories of sunny days spent along the shores of Lake Michigan, visits to old fashioned small towns that made us momentarily forget we were in the midst of  pandemic and evenings chasing sunsets. 

Here are our recommendations, some we didn't get to on this trip, but were suggested by others:


Bike rentals: Bahnhof Sports

Boat rental: Marooner's Rock Marina, 231-373-2265, Angela is the owner and very sweet!

Kayak rental: The Outfitters of Harbor Springs

Harbor Springs Places to Eat:
Gurney's Bottle Shop: The BEST sandwiches, the white bread and Gurney's sauce are the stuff of dreams.  Don't wait too long to order, they will run out of bread!

Tom's Mom's Cookies:  The original chocolate chunk and the cinnamon sugar were our faves!

Farmer's Market Crepe Truck - get the honey crepe! Think they are there on Wednesdays and Saturdays but you might want to double check!!

Turkey's Pizza - Really charming pizzeria and good pizza!

(Suggested but we didn't go: The New York, The Depot Club (private, membership required), Stafford's, Small Batch,  Bar Harbor for burgers, Little Traverse Bay)

Outside of Harbor Springs:
The Back Lot Food Trucks, Petoskey - Get tacos from Happy's Taco Shop, best we've ever had!!

The Douglas Lake Bar and Steakhouse - very limited outdoor seating, make reservation, really good!

Toski-Sands - small grocery store, to buy white fish.  Their meat was good too! Close to Petoskey State Park.

Bills Farm Market - didn't go but was recommended, close to Petoskey

Places to Visit:
Petoskey - We loved it here too.  Bigger than Harbor Springs, but great small town feel.  Loved Symons General Store - a must visit!

Pond Hill Farm - Go for lunch during week or dinner on Saturday night.  Known for their Parmesan grilled cheese.  My favorite was their kale salad.  We also hiked their Gnome Trail.  Probably meant for younger kids but it's really well done and a fun hike.  We all got a kick out of it.

Lavender Hill Farm - Another pretty place to hike.  The Lavender Lemonade was yummy!

Petoskey State Park - for beach and hiking

Skate Park in Harbor Springs - Charlie went three times and had a BLAST.  Can rent everything there!

If we would have had more time...
Mackinaw Island for a day trip
Sleepy Bear Dunes for a day trip - 2 hours drive south

note: All pics taken with my iPhone. I wish I would have used my camera but the phone is just so easy.  The one picture taken with a good camera is the one of Jimmy and I that Andrew snapped.  Next trip (whenever that may be) I will be better about using my proper camera!! ;)

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