Discover Michigan: Petoskey

By: Jennifer Sigouin | Online Only | Published June 24, 2016

Located at the top of the mitten on the shores of Little Traverse Bay, Petoskey offers visitors a true Up North experience.

“Ever since the days of passenger trains, guests have flocked to Petoskey to take advantage of its scenic beauty, relaxed atmosphere and northern Michigan hospitality,” said Diane Dakins, Assistant Director of the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau.

Whether your vacation style is action-packed or ultra-relaxed, Petoskey’s got you covered.

“This is where you can have busy times from sun up right through to our famous million-dollar sunsets, or spend the day lazing on a sun-drenched beach while reading a good book,” said Dakins.

Here are some tips if you plan on visiting:

Approximately 270 miles — a 4 1/2-hour drive.

• Biking
The Little Traverse Wheelway offers 23 miles of dedicated trail spanning from Charlevoix to Petoskey to Harbor Springs. According to the Top of Michigan Trails Council website, “The part between Petoskey's Bayfront Park to Petoskey State Park follows closely the path of the original LTW that stretched from Petoskey to Harbor Springs in the 1880s and ’90s.”

The trail is mostly asphalt and offers scenic views of Lake Michigan and Little Traverse Bay.

“The Little Traverse Wheelway is a huge part of what makes the Petoskey area popular,” said Dakins, noting that it’s just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to trails for biking and hiking in the Petoskey area. (Click here for a brochure/trail map from the Trails Council)

No bike? No problem. Shops like Latitude 45 Bicycles and Fitness offer bike rentals, with four-hour, 24-hour, three-day and weekly options.

• Hunting — for Petoskey stones
The most fitting souvenir from any trip to Petoskey is, of course, a Petoskey stone — and it’s even more special when you find one yourself.

“Once you start, you’ll be surprised at how quickly the time will pass talking, laughing and searching for these famous pieces of history that are the state stone of Michigan,” said Dakins, noting that the stones are made from fossilized coral that’s over 350 million years old.

On its website, the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce lists Petoskey State Park (recreation passport required for entry), Magnus City Park Beach, Bayfront Park and Sunset Park as stone-hunting hot spots. For more on the state stone, including its history and how to polish them, visit petoskeychamber.com/pages/petoskey-stones.

• Shopping
Downtown Petoskey is often called the “Light of the North,” and for good reason. WIth more than 170 shops and restaurants in the city’s downtown Gaslight District, it's a huge draw for visitors of the area’s many resort towns.

“Downtown Petoskey has authentic charm and vitality that is unmatched by almost any city its size,” states the Petoskey Downtown Management Board’s website, petoskeydowntown.com. “Named one of the Best Small Towns in America by the Smithsonian Magazine, Downtown Petoskey will brighten your Up North experience with unparalleled shopping, dining, and entertainment.”

According to Dakins, a number of the downtown businesses are longtime fixtures in the community, with second- and third-generation owners.

“Pick up a souvenir from Grandpa Shorter’s — be sure to check out their mural too —  a special gift from Cutler’s or a locally crafted item from Northern Michigan Artists,” she advises.

Beyond downtown, Dakin added, Sturgeon River Pottery on US 31 and Indian Hills Gallery on M-119 are other great stops for visitors to add to their shopping itineraries.

In Petoskey, kids activities are all about hands-on experiences.

In addition to Petoskey-stone-hunting, young vacationers can enjoy fishing at the kids-only Lime Kiln Pond, visit the playground at Bayfront Park, sit in on a program at the Petoskey District Library, shop at the Rocking Horse Toy Company or play a round of mini-golf at Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf.

Many of the city’s snack shops and restaurants, like Kilwin's and Murdick's Fudge, are also kid-friendly.

“Kids love the décor at Mitchell Street Pub, and the Bob-In Again is a big winner with the youngsters too, in a '50s-style atmosphere that should always end with a frozen custard treat,” added Dakins.

According to the Michigan Hemingway Society, author Ernest Hemingway spent part of his first 22 summers at his family’s cottage on Walloon Lake near Petoskey. There are a number of sites in the Petoskey area where you can follow in Hemingway’s footsteps and learn more about the author’s connection to Michigan, including the Little Traverse History Museum, Stafford’s Perry Hotel, Jesperson’s Restaurant, the Bay View Association and the Horton Bay General Store.

For more locations across northern Michigan, check out michigan.org’s guide to Hemingway’s Michigan.

Petoskey Rocks — Every Friday, July 1-Aug. 10.
Art in the Park — Saturday, July 16.
Festival on the Bay — Aug. 19-20.
Hemingway Harvest Festival - Oct. 14-16.

Other destinations that are just a Petoskey-stone’s throw away include Boyne City, Harbor Springs and Charlevoix.

For more information on Petoskey, including a free downloadable vacation guide, visit www.PetoskeyArea.com.


Our Discover Michigan web series explores Michigan’s most road trip-worthy destinations and events. Where’s your favorite place to travel in the mitten? Leave us a comment or email jsigouin@cangnews.com. We may use your suggestion in an upcoming feature.