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Charlevoix Michigan Travel Guide: Best Things to DO

Visit Charlevoix, MI

Looking for the perfect Lake Michigan vacation spot that mixes stunning natural beauty and upscale leisure on the shores of Lake Michigan? Look no farther than the summer resort town of Charlevoix, MI located on the shores of Lake Michigan near Little Traverse Bay in northeast Michigan.

Charlevoix, MI is one of the Midwest’s swankiest vacation destinations, combining gorgeous waterfronts and a quaint downtown. You’ll find filled with boutiques, art galleries, eateries and more, including sandy swimming beaches, hiking trails and even a nature preserve. In short, everything you need for a weekend getaway or vacation.

charlevoix lighthouse

Charlevoix MI: A Perfect Vacation Getaway

From shopping and dining to boating and swimming in the summer to taking in spectacular fall colors in autumn to cross-country skiing and hiking, you’ll find many fun things to do in Charlevoix every season.

There’s just so much to do here both indoors and out: boating, playing leisurely rounds of golf, splashing on endless beaches, and shopping farm markets in the summer or visiting nearby ski resorts, hiking or finding other winter fun, Charlevoix is a year-round vacation destination and tourist attraction that you won’t want to miss.

Read on to discover MORE about Charlevoix, MI…

About Charlevoix Michigan …

It’s called “Charlevoix the Beautiful,” and with good reason.

You really can’t walk around this charming northern Michigan resort town without a smile on your face.

It’s just THAT pleasant. Whether you’re walking along the shore of the sparkling bay at Fisherman’s Island State Park or strolling the downtown boutiques and cafes, Charlevoix is just a lovely and relaxing place to be.

Charlevoix Michigan Channel

Where is Charlevoix, Michigan?

Charlevoix is set between two lakes: Lake Michigan and Round Lake, a Great Lakes natural harbor within the Charlevoix city limits.

This picturesque resort town near the tip of Michigan’s “mitten,” is just west of Petoskey, Michigan and the bay shore communities of Charlevoix County.

For those visiting from areas out of driving distance, the Charlevoix municipal airport is available. The larger Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, MI is just about an hour south of Charlevoix.

What is Charlevoix Known For?

Charlevoix, MI is known for…

  • The week-long Venetian Festival in July featuring a dazzling evening boat parade, music, parades, children’s activities and fireworks. Charlevoix’s Venetian Festival is  the highlight of the summer here. 
  • Stunningly beautiful Fisherman’s Island State Park, with more than 2500 acres of unspoiled Lake Michigan shoreline
  • A truly beautiful downtown shopping area filled with overflowing petunia baskets and a lovely waterfront park complete with a spectacular water fountain
  • The historic drawbridge connecting Round Lake to Lake Michigan via the Pine River channel 
  • Mushroom Houses designed by architect Earl Young, who used local stone and unique roof shapes to create fascinatingly fun “Gnome Homes”
  • The Charlevoix South Pier Light Station welcoming boaters into safe harbor
  • Charlevoix Apple Fest is a weekend-long celebration featuring a 5K,
  • tons of family activities like face painting, pony rides, and a petting zoo. There’s also an arts and crafts show and opportunities galore to sample fresh apple baked goods.

Charlevoix Weather

Charlevoix, MI weather is typical northern Michigan: cold and snowy in the winter and delightfully warm in the summer. Expect temperatures to range from 70 F to 80 F during the day from June-September. During the summer months, mornings and evenings may be cooler; typically lower 70 – 60 F.

Charlevoix MI bridge from Round Lake to Lake Michigan
Charlevoix MI bridge from Round Lake to Lake Michigan

Plan a Vacation in Charlevoix the Beautiful

Charlevoix is a vacation-land paradise for boaters: Round Lake Harbor is Michigan’s largest (and arguably the most picturesque) natural harbor. With two stunningly beautiful inland lakes nearby – Lake Charlevoix and Torch Lake – this area is a must for water-lovers.

The nearby towns of East Jordan and Horton Bay (a favorite haunt of author Ernest Hemingway in his youth), are located on the banks of Lake Charlevoix, which rivals Michigan’s famous Torch Lake for beauty.

Upscale Lake Michigan Beachtown

The bustling city of Charlevoix, MI heats up in the summer months when visitors from around the world flock to this scenic Michigan vacation enclave. 

Boutiques and art galleries, fudge shops and sidewalk cafes line the well-manicured streets as boaters and other visitors enjoy the town’s resort-like atmosphere, similar to that of Harbor Springs and Mackinaw City.  

Flower baskets filled with brightly colored petunias and abundant greenery spill from planters and line the streets, adding to the beauty of the downtown area.

The Charlevoix Circle of Arts works to cultivate a more inspired and educated community through the arts, holding juried art and other events.

The U.S. Coast Guard has a station in the city of Charlevoix, located between Lake Michigan and Round Lake.

Fisherman's Islands State park in Charlevoix

Discover the Charlevoix Beaches

The white sand beaches of Charlevoix offer opportunities for everything from walking and beachcombing to water sports such as paddle boarding and power boating to just plain relaxing.

Charlevoix’s crystal-clear water takes on such a beautiful turquoise that Lake Michigan seems almost tropical.

It’s not just Lake Michigan, either: both Lake Charlevoix and Torch Lake (ranked by National Geographic as the third most beautiful lake in the world) have the same aqua hue.

Use our guide to Charlevoix MI beaches for more information on the beaches of Charlevoix including: Depot Beach, Fisherman’s Island State Park, Ferry Beach, Michigan beach Park, Mt. McSauba Beach,  and a Torch Lake Public Access.

Downtown Charlevoix Mi

Downtown Charlevoix Shopping

Shopping in downtown Charlevoix is a fun event, in part because of the friendly boutique and gallery owners offering tasteful treasures.

The beautifully landscaped sidewalks along pristine Bridge Street make for a very pleasant day of shopping; the waterfront parks add to the aura of relaxed luxury.

Try these five favorite Charlevoix shopping spots

  • The Clothing Company features quality brands that stand the test of time in men’s and women’s clothing and accessories
  • Ga Ga for Kids and Women too offers unique clothing, accessories, toys, gifts, and more in a fun and friendly atmosphere
  • The Lake House captures the essence of easy living, and life on the water shines through in an assortment of gifts and home decor for the home, cottage, or boat
  • Round Lake Gallery offers a vibrant atmosphere; showcasing local, national, and international artists whose work is unique, fascinating, creative, fashionable, and fun
  • The Taffy Barrel has literal barrels of gourmet Salt Water Taffy in every flavor imaginable…what’s not to love about this?

Charlevoix Restaurants

With restaurant options ranging from high-end fine dining to casual cafes and everything in between, Charlevoix has something for every taste.

There are so many really good places to eat in Charlevoix; you really can’t go wrong.

Don’t miss these favorite Charlevoix restaurants:

A Matter Of Taste at Tapawingo is an elegant, waterfront venue that hosts weekly dining events open to the public in addition to private events. Don’t miss an opportunity to experience delicious, farm-to-table food in this stunning setting.

The Charlevoix Dairy Grille– a favorite fast food stop featuring some of the best burgers, fries and shakes in the area.

Brian’s Ice Cream Experience offers small-batch made-from-scratch ice cream in a delicious variety of unique flavors…the fresh mint ice cream is a must-try.

Cantina Tacos and Tequila serves fresh, seasonal Mexican cuisine and made-from-scratch salsas. The Loaded Carnitas Nachos, with pork carnitas, queso, house-pickled jalapeño, corn salsa, lettuce, mexican crema, and raw salsa verde, is a favorite.

Harwood Gold Store and Café is a cozy restaurant best known for their amazingly delicious maple syrup, made at their nearby maple syrup farm. This Bridge Street favorite features a farm-fresh, seasonal menu, as well as espresso drinks, fresh baked goods and smoothies, plus our hand meat pies both hot and frozen. The menu includes vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. The store side features all of the Harwood Gold maple syrup and made-with-maple products, with a tasting bar so you can try before you buy.

Pigs Eatin’ Ribs is a smoke-house style restaurant serving some of the best ribs in the north. Slow-smoked over fruit wood, the St. Louis-style ribs are delicious.

Stafford’s Weathervane is a longstanding Charlevoix staple offering lovely waterfront views and a lovely fine dining experience. You can’t go wrong with the planked white fish – it’s served perfectly every time.

Scovie’s Gourmet offers home cooking with a small town atmosphere; lunch, dinner, and desserts are available. Try the Tree-Hugger grilled Panini with grilled zucchini, squash, spinach, roasted red peppers, carrots, sweet red onion, pesto, & Swiss cheese.

Charlevoix Stone

Charlevoix MI Craft Beer

Local craft breweries – complete with tasting rooms and full-service restaurants are abundant in the Charlevoix area. Don’t miss these five awesome beverage experiences:

  • Biers Inwood Brewery
  • Bridge Street Tap Room
  • East Park Tavern
  • Shorts Brewing Company
  • Stiggs Brewery and Kitchen

Charlevoix MI Wineries

Wineries are abundant all along the Lake Michigan coast; some with full-service restaurants others with tasting rooms. Don’t miss these six Charlevoix are wineries:

  • 1918 Cellars
  • Chateau Lake Charlevoix
  • Esperance
  • Royal Farms
  • Spare Key Winery
  • Torch Lake Cellars
Lake Michigan beach in charlevoix

Things to Do in Charlevoix, MI

Surrounded by natural beauty, this favorite vacation destination offers multiple opportunities for fun for beach-goers and fans of water sports of all types, including kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, power boating, and more.

Mt. McSauna Recreation Area

Mt. McSauba Recreation area, near the North Point Nature preserve is a must in both the summer and winter months, and Ferry Beach and Depot Beach are two don’t miss spots near Charlevoix.

The gently rolling coastal landscape provides not only spectacular sight-seeing, but also great hiking, biking, golfing, and more.

Charlevoix Historical Society Harsha House Museum

Located in a stunning 1891 restored Queen Anne-style home donated to the society in 1979, the Harsha House is listed on the State Register of Historic Places. Permanent exhibits focusing on local history as well as displays include Ernest Hemingway’s original marriage license with first wife Hadley Richardson, an 8-foot-tall Petoskey Stone tower made for the Bicentennial of 1976 and other artifacts from the area. It’s a unique opportunity to glimpse into Charlevoix’s rich history as a summer retreat for the wealthy.   

Mushroom House in Charlevoix MI

Charlevoix Mushroom Houses

The famed “Mushroom Houses of Charlevoix,” are 26 residential and four commercial dwellings designed by architect Earl Young starting in 1918.

Alternately called “Gnome Homes” or “Hobbit Houses,” these structures get their fairy-tale likeness from the natural stones and thatched roofs used in their design.

The Charlevoix Historical Society  provides both tours and information on Earl Young’s Mushroom Houses as well as other interesting information about Charlevoix.

Visit Beaver Island

The largest island in Lake Michigan, Beaver Island is also known as “America’s Emerald Isle” due to its large population of inhabitants of Irish descent.

With just 600 year-round residents, this quietly beautiful freshwater island is a popular vacation destination offering a natural space for hiking, biking, birding, sightseeing and more.

Both cars and bikes are allowed on the island, you can bring your own or rent one at the docks. Take a ferry from Charlevoix for a day or longer trip and spend relaxing time touring this beautiful island.