Special Port Cities
By Rachel Pasche | July 3, 2021
Rock-strewn coastlines and windswept beaches rightly claim much of the fame for our corner of Lower Michigan’s expansive coastline. But amid miles of Petoskey Stones and golden sands, flourishes an idyllic series of civilizations, tiny port towns that provide shelter from the occasional Lake Michigan storm and a much-needed escape from the usual 9-to-5 grind without. littoral. Whether you are a landlord on a day trip or a weekend boater, most of the area’s lakeside and bay hamlets are worth idling your engine and exploring. Here, a visit to one of our favorites, Northport.
At the tip of the little finger of Lower Michigan lies Northport, a small town full of hidden gems to be discovered. Miles of waterfront along Lake Michigan to the north, east, and west mean you’re never far from stunning views or a peaceful beach. This arts community is full of adorable boutiques and whimsical stores that are worth a visit if you have an afternoon. Surrounded by lush greenery and the grandeur of Lake Michigan, this northern outpost is well worth the sail (or car) to get there.
Bring a tent if you have one; Leelanau State Park is one of the best campgrounds in the state, if only because you get the best of several worlds: lush greenery, quiet beaches, an on-site lighthouse, and a children’s play area, as well as super-easy access to the city. It’s super affordable at just $ 17 per night. No tent? Reserve one of the heated cabins for fall. Search for “Leelanau State Park” at www.michigan.gov.
Treat yourself to an experience akin to a trip back in time by staying at Wauban Cottage, a historic lodge located in the heart of the city. www.waybancottage.com
Nine guest rooms, event space, and a fitness center are all part of the modern The Northport Inn, centrally located for easy exploration of nearby shops and restaurants. www.northportinn.com
Must-haves for your mouth
One treat the locals can’t recommend enough is a cinnamon twist from Barb’s Bakery – they’ve perfected this pastry, and it’s delicious. Each twist is $ 2.
The New Bohemian serves fresh breakfast options, deli sandwiches, and excellent espresso drinks. www.newbohemiancafe.com
For a true Northport dining experience, grab a bite to eat at the always casual and always delicious Garage Bar and Grill. Tip: Their dog-friendly patio is a great place to have a beer with your best friend, furry or otherwise. northportgaragebar.com.
Don’t leave town without …
Eat a cocktail table-sized pretzel and wash it down with one of The Mitten Brewing Company’s beers inside their cozy pub or deckhouse perch perfect for people-watching. www.mittenbrewing.com/northport
Appreciating the works of the downtown Wright Gallery, filled with contemporary abstract pieces created by local and international artists. wrightartgallery.com
Slip onto one of Northport’s many beaches to hunt among rocks, build sandcastles, have a picnic, or take a ride in your SUP. With several options available along and beyond the village shore, it’s easy to find the one to suit your Lake Michigan mood. northportomenachamber.org/best-beaches
Climb the steps to the ladder to admire from the top of the Grande Traverse lighthouse like so many keepers in centuries past. The view of Manitou Passage is worth the price of admission ($ 5), but the chance to explore the well-preserved Guardian Quarters on the lower levels makes a visit to this iconic landmark unforgettable. www.grandtraverselighthouse.com
Hike the forest trail to the Leelanau State Park observation deck for sublime views of the Manitou Islands to the North and South. Note: you will need a leisure passport to enter the park: $ 7 per day, $ 34 for an annual pass.
Northport Marina – aka G. Marsten Dame Marina – features 67 transitional slides, access to a local beach with a playground and picnic area, restrooms and showers, gasoline, ice , emptying services, water, electricity, laundry and a dog course. Walking distance to downtown Northport (and its well-appointed grocery store).
Click to read about three other port cities that have highlighted this issue: Petoskey, Charlevoix and Suttons Bay.