Petoskey sits in the northwest area of Michigan’s lower peninsula on Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay. The charming Victorian-era town, slightly more than a 4-hour drive from Detroit, is reminiscent of a bygone era. If you want to disconnect and relax, beautiful Petoskey is the place to do it. Here are some of our favorite things to do, sips to sample, foods to experience, and places to stay.
Things To Do In Petoskey
While Petoskey has activities like cross-country skiing in winter, morel mushroom foraging in spring, and fall harvest, we think the best time to visit Petoskey is in the summer with its beach fun and associated water sports. Petoskey, known for Petoskey stones, Ernest Hemingway, and art, is the perfect getaway for rockhounds as well as literary and art enthusiasts.
Hunt For Petoskey Stones
The Petoskey stone, Michigan’s state stone, is fossilized coral. Two places where the stones are plentiful are Magnus Park and Petoskey State Park.
With 1,000 feet of rocky shoreline, Magnus Park is the best place to find Michigan’s sought-after state stone. Petoskey State Park’s beach is sandier, but the stones are still easy to find. Since the stones are easiest to spot when they’re wet, bring a spray water bottle to wet stones in dry areas.
Spend Some Time At Petoskey State Park
While the beautiful 303-acre Petoskey State Park, located on the north end of Little Traverse Bay, is one of the best beaches to search for Petoskey stones, it offers many other activities, like swimming, metal detecting, and cross-country skiing. The Old Baldy Trail is a half-mile loop to the top of Old Baldy dune, prized for its scenic views if you enjoy hiking. A slightly longer hike, the Portage Trail is a mile out-and-back trail through a wooded dune area.
While you won’t find boat launches in Petoskey State Park, both Petoskey and nearby Harbor Springs have them.
Explore Hemingway’s Haunts
From when Ernest Hemingway was an infant until age 22, he spent his summers in Walloon Lake and Horton Bay, near Petoskey. He missed one year, and that was the year he spent in Italy during World War I. Some of the Nobel Prize winner’s haunts were the Noggin Room in the Perry Hotel, now Stafford’s Perry Hotel. Wanting to escape his parents and do some serious writing, he stayed at Eva Potter’s rooming house. In 1921, Ernest married his first wife, Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, in Horton Bay. Take a self-guided tour using the guide found here.
Hemingway’s first published fiction, written in Paris, is a group of short stories referred to as The Nick Adams Stories. These stories feature a variety of places around Petoskey and Walloon Lake. A statue of the young Hemingway stands in Petoskey’s Pennsylvania Park.
Petoskey Yesterday offers two tours featuring Hemingway. Hemingway’s Petoskey is a 90-minute tour covering places that he and his family would have known. They also discuss how Petoskey inspired his first novel. This 1-mile walking tour has gentle hills. A second 2-hour tour requires transportation as it goes to Horton Bay and Walloon Lake. These places are part of Hemingway’s stories, and the guide explains how Hemingway’s personal experiences inspired them.
Visit The Little Traverse Historical Museum
Located in the restored Pere Marquette train depot, the Little Traverse Historical Museum opens seasonally. Exhibits include displays depicting the Little Traverse Bay region's history, including the Odawa Indians, where the museum has some of their rare artifacts. Some exhibits provide more detail on Ernest Hemingway’s life in Michigan.
Forage For Morel Mushrooms
Mid-May to mid-June is a popular time with foodies foraging for morel mushrooms, a popular pastime with Michiganders. Morels have an earthy, somewhat meaty taste. Local restaurants also feature these delicacies on their spring menus.
Tour Kilwins Chocolate Kitchen
The first thing we noticed when we walked through the door was the smell of melted chocolate transforming to fudge. It reminded me of grandma’s kitchen at Christmas. Kilwins Chocolate Kitchen offers a multi-sensory experience that includes more than just chocolate. The aroma of freshly made waffle cones made us order some as our afternoon snack. Hearing the paddle mix in the copper pot made us anticipate the brittle. We watched as they made caramel apples. Of course, you’ll have to sample some of their treats. Kilwins provides guided tours of their facility regularly throughout the day.
The Petoskey Wine Region grows robust grapes that grow well in cold temperatures. Located on 30 acres of hilly country, Mackinaw Trail Winery and Brewery produces 15 acres of grapes, and this family-owned winery and brewery includes a bistro. The Petoskey area Wine and Brew Guide outlines the complete trail.
Best Restaurants In Petoskey
In summer and early fall, local area restaurants offer a bounty of the harvest. You’ll find dishes made from local ingredients, like cherries and whitefish caught in the Great Lakes. Breweries make craft brews from locally grown hops, and vineyards feature wine from estate-grown grapes.
Located in the Gaslight District, Chandler’s Restaurant features three dining areas, so you’ll have the perfect setting, no matter your mood. In the summer months, you’ll enjoy their patio. Inside, you’ll find the Symon’s wine cellar’s intimate space or the main dining room featuring a full bar.
The upscale menu features seasonal ingredients and local fare. For example, they feature dishes with Michigan apples throughout their menu in the fall, both in main dishes and desserts. You may find a duck breast with roasted apples and an apple cider gastric, a cider-braised pork entree, or a warm apple crisp. In any case, the meals are fresh and seasonal.
Duffy’s Garage And Grille
Located in downtown Petoskey on Lake Street, Duffy’s Garage and Grille has two decks overlooking Little Traverse Bay, making for a beautiful place to have a casual dinner on a summer evening. Though the views are stunning, the inside is a fun spot for car lovers, where the unique decor features old car parts, front and rear ends, hoods, camshafts, and hubcaps suspended from the walls. You’ll even find spark plug chandeliers. How fun!
We enjoy the pizza as it has ample amounts of cheese. However, they’re also known for their gourmet burgers and grinders. The French onion soup served in a bread bowl is also a comforting warm dish on a crisp fall evening.
City Park Grill
City Park Grill, built in 1875, was initially a male-only billiard hall called McCarty Hall. Today City Park Grill serves everything from hamburgers to filet mignon. You can also enjoy a catch from the Great Lakes, with their whitefish and walleye.
City Park Grill teaches a bit of literary history with your meal as Ernest Hemingway drafted some of his Nick Adams stories at the bar.
Where To Shop In Petoskey
The Gaslight District has been Petoskey’s shopping area for more than 100 years. The historic gas lights illuminate downtown Petoskey by night, adding to its Victorian charm. In summer, a complimentary old-fashioned trolley continues the Victorian theme downtown. The Gaslight District covers three streets and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition to locally owned shops and boutiques, you’ll find galleries and restaurants. It’s fun to take a break along these streets and enjoy the view of Little Traverse Bay. If your hunt for Petoskey stones wasn’t fruitful or you want a polished stone that shows off the pattern, check out Grandpa Shorter’s Gifts. If you’d like to try your hand at polishing your own Petoskey stone, stop by NorthGoods, to purchase a polishing kit.
Best Hotels In Petoskey
In Petoskey proper, the best places to stay are local inns and hotels. If you prefer to sleep under the stars, camping in Michigan’s Petoskey State Park is a great overnight option.
Stafford’s Bay View Inn
Located two miles south of the Gaslight District, Stafford’s Bay View Inn, built in 1886, offers some rooms with Little Traverse Bay views. The inn features two wheelchair-accessible guest rooms that include walk-in showers. The inn doesn’t allow pets.
The inn has on-site dining in the Roselawn Dining Room, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Stafford’s Perry Hotel
Stafford’s Perry Hotel, located at the corner of Bay and Lewis Streets in downtown Petoskey, overlooks Little Traverse Bay. The hotel, built in 1899, has 75 guest rooms, each with unique decor. The hotel offers two on-site dining options. The H.O. Rose Dining Room features bay views and a hot breakfast while the Noggin Room Pub offers pizza and other pub-style meals.
Petoskey State Park
If you prefer camping over hotels and inns, Petoskey State Park, located on the northeast end of the bay, offers two beautiful modern campgrounds. The Dunes Campground has 80 campsites, and the Tannery Creek Campground offers 100 sites.
Pro Tip: Summer and early fall are the best times to visit Petoskey, while the weather is warm. When visiting Michigan state parks, you’ll need a Recreation Passport. If you don’t have one, buy one at the park.
While in Michigan, enjoy some of our other recommendations!