Lakes in every direction and sunsets that look like a postcard setting are just a couple hours north of us Grand Rapidians. A perfect weekend, or really an any day, getaway!
This West Michigan gal finally decided to experience Charlevoix…for 72 hours. Three days of breathtaking blue water, wonderfully weird architecture and THE friendliest residents and businesses owners you’ll find anywhere.
Coming from the second largest city in Michigan, sometimes I wonder if “small towns” have enough activities to curb potential boredom. To my surprise there were plenty of big-city amenities right alongside Northern feels, to make our time in Charlevoix one for the books.
This ‘land of lakes’ quickly became a favorite Northern Michigan city for my guests and I, and here’s why:
Stop #1 | Bentley Hill Bakehouse – 113 Antrim St
Those with a sweet tooth will want to make a point of stopping by the Bentley Bakehouse. Using locally sourced ingredients to create mouth watering breads, pies, cakes, cookies and pastries, this bakehouse prides themselves on offering top notch customer service and the tastiest treats around. Delivery and pick up options are available.
Stop #2 | View of Lake Michigan + Lake Charlevoix
With borders touching Lake Michigan, Lake Charlevoix, Round Lake and Pine River Channel, Charlevoix is perfect for boating, kayaking, fishing or just losing yourself in the raw beauty of the waves.
“The town is situated between Lake Michigan and the western end of Lake Charlevoix, which drains into Lake Michigan through the short Round Lake/Pine River complex in the heart of downtown Charlevoix. The Charlevoix South Pier Light Station marks the opening of the channel onto Lake Michigan. Charlevoix’s Round Lake has been called the best natural harbor on Lake Michigan. The only way to get from Lake Michigan to East Jordan, Boyne City and other sites on Lake Charlevoix by boat is via Charlevoix. As a result, much commercial, industrial, and recreational boat traffic passes through Charlevoix.” Wikipedia
Stop #3 | Mushroom House Tours – 211 Bridge St
Think Lord of the Rings but in a residential setting. These fungi houses are unlike anything we’ve seen before. Earl Young, the rock obsessed creator of the Mushroom Houses, made mid-century Mushroom Houses famous and his architecture can be seen in many parts of town. A tour is the BEST way to get around and admire these Smurf-esque dwellings. They’re constructed of materials Young sourced straight from northern Michigan: limestone, fieldstone, and even boulders.
Mushroom House Tours offers 50 minute GEM car tours of all 28 magical stone structures built by architect Earl Young. Tours run daily from 10 AM to 5 PM and can be booked online. Private tours are available as well. The experience has been voted as ‘#1 Thing to Do’ on Trip Advisor for the area and we can see why!
Bare in mind they are privately owned so renters galore. DO NOT do what I did and accidentally walk in on a renter thinking your tour group had gone inside. Yes, you can laugh at our mistake but make sure you are respectful when you visit!
Stop #4 | Cherry Republic – 221 Bridge St
Cherry Republic is a gift shop devoted to all things cherry and I mean EVERYTHING has cherries in it! They offer a variety of savory to sweet and salty. You’ll find chocolate covered cherries to HOT cherry salsa and even queso. It’s a great place to buy a gift or get a unique food item for your home. We snagged items to take back to our AirBNB for those late night munchies and were not disappointed.
Stop #5 | Smoke on the Water – 103 Park Ave
Smoke on the Water is a Charlevoix barbecue joint that is known for slow smoking their meats with fruit and maple woods that give them a unique taste. Their smoker sits outside to give that hometown feel and all their food is made from scratch. In addition to their fall-off-the-bone meats, guests should also try their Challah bread Drunken French Toast. Smoke on the Water is a great lunch stop before eating up all your energy on the trails.
Stop #6 | Hiking
Charlevoix is known for its beaches, parks, and most importantly–for us–hiking trails!
Want a shorter hike? Take the Lake to Lake Trail, a 3-mile path that connects Lake Charlevoix to Lake Michigan. You’ll find awe-inspiring views for only a little effort. For those that crave more adventure, Little Traverse Wheelway is a longer, yet approachable trail that will take you from shoreline through the wetlands. There are parks along the way with views and, as you’d expect, wildlife.
A good sleep in is required on vacation, ammiright?! Luckily, the Airbnb we stayed at had both a house and camping site, so we had the best of both worlds. We chose the ZEN retreat and pretended we were at Electric Forest for the night.
Staying just a mini ferry ride away from Charlevoix we ventured over the South Arm of Lake Charlevoix via the Ironton Ferry. This was a FUN experience! Just drive your car up on the ferry, pay a couple dollars and enjoy the view.
Stop #1 | Harbor View Café – 100 Antrim St
The Harbor View Café is a great place to enjoy breakfast and lunchtime meals. They are located in the heart of downtown Charlevoix. The Harbor serves breakfast favorites like delicious omelets, burritos and griddle favorites all day. Lunch is served from 11 AM to 2 PM. Our favorite part, besides the great food, was the beautiful Charlevoix artwork on the walls–above the booth spaces.
Stop #2 | The Clothing Company – 339 Bridge Street
Across the street from Harbor View, you’ll find a third generation-owned retail store. I was very impressed to see the latest eco-fashion and camping attire trends in small town, USA.
The Clothing Company offers high quality items that are suitable for various occasions. It’s a great place to shop if you are looking for something that can be worn for a day on the beach or a hike in the woods but they also carry clothing that is perfect for the office and formal events. The Clothing Company collection includes men’s and women’s clothing, accessories and footwear.
Make sure to check out the interesting wall decor–and say hi to the moose!
Stop #3 | Castle Farms – 5052 M-66
On the way back to our AirBNB in Ironton, right outside of Charlevoix you’ll find a historic property that will transport you to a fairy-tale land. Castle Farms is a French Renaissance style estate built in 1918 with great gardens and even a dragon installation that will have your imagination running wild.
Castle Farms is a great place to host a wedding, a private event or stop by to stroll the gardens and learn more about the history of the area and the property. It’s a common stop for tour groups, bus companies and charter groups or you can call to schedule your own tour.
Stop #4 | Oleson’s Food Stores – 112 Antrim St
Since we were partially camping, we needed to pick up supplies at Oleson’s Food Store. This market has all your grocery needs and specialty items–even items from ‘local to Charlevoix’ vendors.
Stop #1 | Tour of the *NEW* Hotel Earl – 120 Michigan Ave
Even though we stayed at an AirBNB, we would still recommend staying at Hotel Earl—which we received a sneak peek of during the first week they were opening.
Hotel Earl is a 56 room luxury boutique hotel and has everything you would want in high-end lodging, including amenities, panoramic views and balcony rooms. It is conveniently located near Lake Michigan, Round Lake and the downtown area’s best shops and eateries.
“Hotel Earl of Charlevoix – named after original architect, Earl Young, is a historic hotel with a chic, cosmopolitan vibe. More than a hotel, our mid-century modern getaway offers contemporary luxury just one block from Round Lake and minutes from Lake Michigan.” Hotel Earl website
We will be making a reservation for Winter so stay tuned for more information and a closer look at Hotel Earl.
Stop #1.5 | That French Place – 212 Bridge Street
This café offers crepes that will transport you to the streets of Paris and we were lucky enough to have them served up right in Hotel Earl’s BEAUTIFUL lobby. Next time we fully plan on making the cafe a priority. In addition to sit down crepes, they also offer crepe cones that you can eat while strolling the streets of Charlevoix. Delicious coffee and pastries are also on the menu.
Stop #2 | Boutique Emmanuel – 229 Bridge St
Boutique Emmanuel is a great place to catch up on the latest in fashion. With locations in Charlevoix and the heart of Grand Rapids, it has a large selection of handbags, accessories and clothing that ranges from sizes 2 -16. It has trendy and unique items that are perfect for shoppers who are looking to take their style up a notch.
Thanks to BE, they gifted us that sweet looking Bee Sweatshirt in our video and we couldn’t love it more!
Stop #3 | Grey by Tori – 101 Bridge Street
At a glance, I KNEW Grey by Tori was my aesthetic! Grey is a woman’s boutique that offers the latest in fashions. It has a wide variety of styles that are made to encompass all facets of a woman’s life. In addition to having regular store hours, private shopping events and appointments can also be scheduled. I couldn’t leave without snagging a warm piece because it is sweater weather after all!
Stop #4 | Views of the Channel
What better way for a city send off than to appreciate its beauty…just one more time. The draw-bridge dinged while raising as we walked back to the car. So long for now, Charlevoix!
Exhausted, belly full, and bags on bags, we jumped in the car to take the scenic way back to Grand Rapids. While heading south, we were already planning our next trip to Charlevoix this Winter. Make sure to check back for our 72 Hours in Charlevoix | Winter Edition later this year!
More on Charlevoix
Things to Do in Charlevoix
During the colder months, Boyne Mountain is great for all things winter –snow shoeing, skiing, snow tubing and fat-tire biking.
Places to Stay | Edgewater Inn – 100 Michigan Ave
The Edgewater Inn is Charlevoix’s premier hotel condominium building. It is located on the north shore of the Round Lake harbor and Pine River channel making for rooms with great drawbridge views. It is conveniently located near the town’s terrific boutiques, beaches, restaurants and galleries. With one and two bedroom units, it is ideal for extended vacations, short getaways and wedding celebrations.
Places to Stay | Charlevoix Inn – 800 Petoskey Ave
The Charlevoix Inn offers scenic views of Lake Charlevoix and is adjacent to the Charlevoix Golf Club. Amenities include a continental breakfast, wireless internet access, an indoor pool, a hot tub and a fitness room. All rooms come with 39” LED TV’s, coffee makers, irons and ironing boards.