There are plenty of things to do in Petoskey for all visitors, especially in the summer when it seems something is going on every day! Heading to the charming Victorian-era town of Petoskey is one of the most romantic getaways to have in Michigan.
With its charming downtown core, great restaurants, enchanting B&Bs, and lovely beaches along Lake Michigan, Petoskey is sure to win over visitors.
Where Is Petoskey, Michigan?
Petoskey is in northwestern Michigan and sits right on Lake Michigan. It’s about three hours away from Lansing, one and half hours away from Traverse City, and three hours from Grand Rapids. It’s a popular vacation destination and is one of the most charming small towns in Michigan. Now let’s dig into the best things to do in Petoskey!
Best Things to Do in Petoskey
Look for Unusual Petoskey Stones
Unique to the shores around the Great Lakes, hunting for the unusual Petoskey stones is a popular activity for visitors to the area. The state stone of Michigan, the pebble-like rocks are actually a combination of a rock and a fossil.
Created by glacial activity, huge ice sheets lifted stones from the lake’s bottom, covering corals with sediment. Over thousands of years, the result was the smooth, pale stones with a distinctive pattern that you can find today. Keep your eyes peeled for the ancient rocks as you wander across the beaches and through dunes.
They are particularly abundant in the spring. Fun fact – although they share the same name, Petoskey stones are not named after the town. Both the stones and the city were, in fact, named in honor of an Ottawa chief.
Explore the Bear River Valley Recreation Area
Covering 36 acres along the edges of the picturesque Bear River, the Bear River Valley Recreation Area is a terrific destination for nature lovers and fans of the great outdoors. The scenic terrain offers great summer hiking and winter cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. The beautiful river features lots of small waterfalls.
Follow the paths and boardwalks to immerse yourself in nature fully, and look out for the diverse flora and fauna that call the area home. Birds are particularly abundant, and keen ornithologists can have fun spotting many different species in the water and the trees.
There are various adventure activities to suit thrill-seekers, including the only whitewater rafting course in the lower part of the peninsula. Alternatively, get your tackle ready for a day of relaxing fishing.
Ride the Vintage Downtown Petoskey Trolley
The charming red and dark green Downtown Petoskey Trolley is a lovely way to save your legs when you go sightseeing. The old-fashioned trolley exudes nostalgic vibes as it trundles along the downtown streets.
It runs between Petoskey State Park and the Village at Bay Harbor, making stops at places like Magnus Park and the elegant Perry Hotel. Operational in the summer months, the trolley is free to ride.
Play Golf at Petoskey – Bay View Country Club
Established in 1915, the 18-hole golf course at Petoskey – Bay View Country Club offers beautiful views of the greenery-clad hills and bay. The undulating terrain features sweeping greens nestled in trees of all shades.
There are full practice facilities, including a driving range and putting green, and visitors can enjoy tasty food and drinks in the welcoming clubhouse. Various membership options are available.
Relax at Bayfront Park
Popular with both locals and visitors, the 25-acre Bayfront Park stretches along the shore of Little Traverse Bay, occupying what was once industrial land. A terrific place to spend a few hours with the kids, the park has lots of open space for fun and games. Little ones can also enjoy the colorful play area and a fishing pond. There’s a softball field for sporting enthusiasts.
Take a stroll along the central promenade and admire the handsome clock tower. Enjoy the peaceful sounds from the waterfall, see interesting sculptures, unwind over a picnic, soak up the bay views, and discover the diverse collection of trees in the arboretum.
Taste Local Wines of the Petoskey Wine Region
Wine aficionados will be thrilled with the excellent wineries and vineyards around Petoskey. The area boasts 14 individual wineries, each offering plenty of character, terrific experiences, and, of course, delectable wines.
There’s a combination of traditional wineries with a rustic ambiance and stylish tasting rooms that give off an upmarket vibe.
Visit Maple Moon, the first maple winery in the country. Delicious wines are produced using maple syrup sugars in the fermentation process for a truly unique flavor. You can also buy a vast assortment of other maple syrup produce, such as ice cream, jam, and sauces.
The family-run Petoskey Farms Vineyard boasts a stunning covered terrace with incredible vistas over the idyllic vineyards. It’s the perfect place to sip on a glass of tasty wine while soaking up the scenery.
The award-winning Mackinaw Trail Winery also offers amazing views in a pastoral setting. The boutique Walloon Lake Winery has an attractive wooden tasting building where you can sip on local wines while savoring artisan cheeses and tangy salsas. Check out Resort Pike Cidery and Winery to enjoy sparkling wines and delectable apple-based beverages with unique flavors in the friendly American flag building.
Uncover the Past at Little Traverse History Museum
Housed within a quaint historic railroad building, Little Traverse History Museum is a great place to learn more about the city from times gone by. There are three main exhibits relating to the people, places, and events of the local area.
Pieces include photographs, documents, office equipment, clothing, basketwork, and art. There’s also information about and artifacts from Ernest Hemingway, who spent many years living in the local area.
Catch a Movie at Petoskey Cinema
Film buffs can head to Petoskey Cinema to watch a range of movies, ranging from new releases to old favorites. It’s also a top place for entertainment on cold and rainy days when you want to unwind indoors. Snacks and drinks are available, and ticket prices are reasonable.
Cycle along the Little Traverse Wheelway
Running for 26 miles between Charlevoix and Harbor Springs, part of the Little Traverse Wheelway passes through Petoskey. Some sections closely follow the route of the original cycle path from the late 1800s.
The eight-mile stretch between Little Traverse History Museum and Magnus Park is particularly popular, offering awesome views along the well-maintained designated track. The trail is also suitable for walking, jogging, and roller skating.
Get Creative at Crooked Tree Arts Center
Founded in 1971, Crooked Tree Arts Center seeks to support local artists and inspire creativity in the community. There are various ways to experience art and stimulate your imagination, including seeing the frequently changing paintings in the gallery, watching a performance in the theater, attending a discussion or workshop, and taking part in various classes.
Classes are available for people of all ages, including ballet lessons, ceramic workshops, painting guidance, music sessions, dance groups, and cooking classes. Take home a unique souvenir from the gift shop.
Stroll around the Gaslight District
Petoskey’s downtown core is also known as the Gaslight District due to the olde-worlde gas lights that cast a warm glow over the streets at night. The historic district has been a major retail area for more than a century, and today’s visitors will still find a terrific assortment of shops selling a wide selection of goods. There’s also a fantastic selection of places to eat and drink.
Walk through the streets and call into charming one-off stores and boutiques for some excellent browsing and buying. You’ll quickly realize why Petoskey is often voted as one of the prettiest cities in the US.
Pop into shops like Threads, Harbor Wear, and Expressions for attractive clothing, and buy cute apparel for the kids in the Circus Shop. Bookworms will certainly fall in love with the cozy McLean and Eakin Booksellers, while NorthGoods boasts a top selection of beautiful art. If you’re looking for cool gifts and souvenirs, visit the Katydid, Back to Nature, and Shorter & Son.
There are tempting delicatessens and food stores, like Symons General Store, Petoskey Cheese, and Julienne Tomatoes. If hunger gets the better of you, enjoy tasty meals and treats in establishments like Palette Bistro, American Spoon Gelato Café, Roast & Toast, and Chandler’s A Restaurant.
Hike the Skyline Trail
The challenging Skyline Trail is part of the longer North Country Trail system. The steep and windy walk leads through wildlife-rich areas, with tall trees all around. It’s wonderful during a Michigan fall when the leaves take on hues of russet and gold. Peek through the foliage and visit the lookout platform to be rewarded with lovely views of the bay.
Sample Craft Beers at Petoskey Brewing
Housed within the four-level 1898 Old Brewery building, Petoskey Brewing started operations in 2012. The microbrewery uses pure water from an artesian spring to create its delicious brews. Take a seat in the friendly taproom to try a tasty range of hand-made beers. The brewery also offers an exciting menu of bar bites and meals. Outside, you can enjoy the views of Mud Lake.
Spend a Day at Petoskey State Park
One of Michigan’s most-loved state parks, the 33-acre Petoskey State Park is a fantastic place to spend a day outdoors. There’s something for the whole family here, from hiking trails and sandy beaches, to sporting facilities and water activities. Open all year round, the cross-country skiing trails are popular in the winter months.
Splash around in the waters of Lake Michigan and sunbathe on the sandy shores, or get active on the water with kayaking and paddle boarding. Hike along wildlife-rich trails or cover more ground with an exciting bike ride. There are plenty of open spaces where kids can let off steam, and you can watch as your children have fun in the play area.
If you want to stay for more than just a day, the park has two well-equipped camping areas – Dunes Campground and Tannery Creek Campground. Picnic areas and bathrooms are located throughout the park.
Witness a Magical Sunset
Petoskey is known for its glorious sunset vistas. Watching the sky changes through shades of red, orange, and pink and seeing the sun slowly dip in the sky, casting its dying rays onto the shimmering water, is one of the most romantic things to do in Petoskey. You’re all but guaranteed to get amazing photographs too.
While you can see beautiful sunsets from almost any point along the waterfront, Sunset Park (on top of the cliffs) and Bayfront Sunset Park (beneath the bluff) are two of the hottest spots. If you were to ask, catching the sunset is one of the most important things to do in Petoskey. It’s the cherry on top of a great day in the town.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at Kilwins Chocolate Kitchen
Call into Kilwins Chocolate to stock up on sweet treats. Many delicious goodies are made on-site, including fudge, ice cream, craft chocolates, cakes, cookies, and truffles. It’s not only a place for buying through – you can take a brief tour of the kitchen to see just how your favorite items are made.
Stimulate several senses as you watch goods being made by hand, smell the tantalizing sweet aromas wafting through the air, and taste sumptuous products. You’ll learn more about traditional processes too, such as how fudge is paddled on marble tables and how apples are dipped for the perfect caramel finish.
Check Out the Ernest Hemingway Statue
Covering a little less than three acres, Pennsylvania Park is in a terrific downtown location. The formal park is a perfect place to stop for a quick break and simply indulge in a spot of people watching. It has a number of interesting memorials and statues, including a Vietnam War memorial, a Civil War memorial, and an Operation Desert Storm memorial. A historic cannon stands at one end of the park.
You can also pose for a selfie next to the life-size statue of famous writer Ernest Hemingway. The figure is wearing a flat cap and carrying a briefcase. The statue was created by sculptor Andy Sacksteder.
Pay Your Respects in Greenwood Cemetery
Overlooking the scenic Little Traverse Bay, Greenwood Cemetery is a peaceful and pretty final resting place. While it may seem odd to recommend touring a cemetery on your vacation, the tranquil setting, lovely views, and beautiful funerary architecture make this a worthy addition to your itinerary when in Petoskey.
Place Your Bets at Odawa Casino Resort
The hilltop Odawa Casino Resort is operated by members of the Odawa indigenous group. The large and modern gaming area has card tables for diverse games, roulette tables, electronic games, and slot machines. You can also place your bets on sports matches. There are several restaurants and bars onsite too, ideal for refueling.
Forage For Morel Mushrooms
Try your hand at mushroom foraging. Morel mushrooms come into season every spring, and locals go out in search of the delicious fungi! The Petoskey Visitor Bureau has a great blog post on what you need to know for mushroom foraging. If you’re not keen on hunting them down yourself, you can always head to one of the local restaurants!
Where To Eat In Petoskey?
Petoskey has some great local restaurants that take advantage of local Michigan products. It’s no wonder one of the best things to do in Petoskey is to enjoy all of the fabulous restaurants. Here are a few of our favorites.
- Palette Bistro — If you’d like dinner with a view, head to Palette Bistro. The two-story restaurant has bay views and serves Mediterranean food and wine.
- Chandler’s A Restaurant — The upscale new American restaurant makes use of local specialty products. They also serve up some sushi and have a fabulous patio in the summer months.
- Roast & Toast — Local cafe & roastery that has some wonderful coffee and lunch fare.
- Mighty Fine Pizza — This little hole-in-the-wall pizza joint serves the best pizza in the region. It’s takeaway only and has more to offer than a pizza.
Where To Stay In Petoskey?
- Inn at Bay Harbor, Autograph Collection — Located four miles outside of Petoskey, Michigan, the resort sits along Lake Michigan. The hotel grounds are lovely, and they have awesome activities like s’mores at sunset. The hotel is grand, and the rooms are very comfortable with views of the water.
- Stafford’s Bay View Inn — This charming inn was built in 1886 and had plenty of character!
- Stafford’s Perry Hotel — The elegant hotel is situated in a grand historic hotel that dates back to 1899. They have 75 well-appointed rooms and grounds are located on a bluff that provides excellent views of the lake.
READ MORE MICHIGAN TRAVEL TIPS
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