What if I were to tell you of a place where lavender fields bloom, vineyards line winding roads, morel mushrooms wait for you in the woods, cute waterside villages dot the land, and summer festivals abound. Thinking maybe the South of France? Napa Valley?

How about if I add towering white sand dunes that spill down into fresh azure water located only a few miles from numerous golf and ski resorts and brand-new casinos.

The Petoskey Public Marina on Little Traverse Bay

The Petoskey Public Marina on Little Traverse Bay

Where is this magical land?

Well, the title of this article already gave it away, but it is indeed Northwest Michigan, a land that I’ve been lucky enough to visit every summer since I was little.

Are you like my East Coast friends who discreetly roll their eyes while thinking: “Michigan? Isn’t that flyover country? I don’t have time to go there.”

I’d suggest you make the time, at least once. Summer in northwest Michigan is pretty special.

And I’m giving you the heads up about what the natives call the “up north” region now, in springtime, because there’s a lot going on there starting in June – including a rolling series of big festivals and fairs celebrating cherries, wine, art, boats, outdoor concerts and the Traverse City Film Festival in July (run by Michael Moore). Pick your favorite and plan your “summer in northwest Michigan” vacation accordingly.

summer in northwest Michigan

Summer in northwest Michigan means the Traverse City Film Festival

Our stay in Hemingway Country, Petoskey, Michigan

Last June, my husband and I headquartered ourselves at the new deluxe Hotel Walloon, a lakeside boutique hotel within a 90-minute drive of the most far-flung thing we wanted to do (a day trip to famous Mackinac Island) and lots more special destinations closer by.

Gorgeous sunset over Walloon Lake, one of northern Michigan’s many lakes

Hotel Walloon in Michigan

Things to do in summer in northwest Michigan

The hotel left a list of “50 Things to See and Do” on our pillows causing me a brief spell of Vacay Paralysis. (What to do first? Farmer’s market or sailboat ride? Which scenic road should we take? What restaurant serves the best local lake fish? Should we walk along the Lake Michigan shoreline or bike it?)

We ran out of time to do most of the things on the hotel list (leaving us hungering to go back), but we did manage to have a “perfect day” leisurely wandering around Petoskey, a charming town filled with Victorian homes and a picture-perfect downtown filled with a nice assortment of alfresco dining options.

Petoskey’s cute main street shopping area.

Petoskey’s cute main street shopping area

The town sits on a bluff above Little Traverse Bay (which leads into Lake Michigan), so there was some up and down hill walking, but nothing too taxing, and lots of nice overlook benches to rest on.

After a city walk, my husband and I went hunting along the rocky bay shore for a souvenir Petoskey fossil stone.

Took an hour, but the author's search for the elusive Petoskey stone paid off!

It took an hour, but the author’s search for the elusive Petoskey stone paid off!

Our only regret is that we didn’t leave enough time to take a leisurely bayside bike ride to the even more picturesque town of Harbor Springs, where art galleries and wine tastings abound. We did learn about Harbor Springs’ famed 4th of July small-town celebration complete with parade, art fair, and fireworks, however, so we put that top of our list for our next summertime visit up north.

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • Hate steamy summer humidity? At the height of summer, the lake region of northern Michigan has more dry warm days and cool nights than much of the rest of the midwest. That’s why it’s been a high-toned summertime resort destination since pre-AC years.
  • Foodies will be in heaven. Mario Batali has his summer home on the Leelanau peninsula in Northwest Michigan, and his influence is well reflected in the region’s restaurants and culinary schools. (Look for all the creative uses of delectable dried cherries.)

Take note

  • If you’re going further than Traverse City, the verdant small city where the area airport is located, you’ll need a car to get around. (Some people spend their whole vacation in Traverse.)
  • Michigan is at the furthest western point of the Eastern Standard Time zone, so days seem extra-long, with summer sunsets happening around 9:30 or so.
  • If you’re looking for big city culture and attractions for your summer escape, keep looking; there’s no nearby major city up north. But if you’re a water and nature lover, you’ll be in heaven. Bring your camera.



About things to do around Lake Walloon:

Be sure to get the whole scoop on Laura’s visit to Northwest Michigan on MoreTimeToTravel!

Day-tripping around Walloon Lake and Hotel Walloon                  

*All photos credits: Laura E. Kelly (except Traverse City Film Festival photo, © Traverse City Film Festival, and lead photo)


The author was hosted by Hotel Walloon.

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