Perched on a bluff above Lake Michigan's Little Traverse Bay, 240 mi/385 km northwest of Detroit, Petoskey has long been a resort town: Many affluent Chicagoans passed their summers in the area at the turn of the century, among them the young Ernest Hemingway, who set several of his early short stories in the surrounding countryside.

Among the attractions are the historic Gaslight District in downtown Petoskey, home to art galleries, restaurants, cafes, taverns and shops. A short walk away is Bayfront Park, where a historic train station has been converted into the Little Traverse Historical Society Museum.

Adjacent to Petoskey is the community of Bay View which boasts a collection of Victorian-era "cottages." They range in size from relatively modest two-bedroom houses to spectacular 10-bedroom mansions, and many have incredible views of the bay. Also nearby is the Bay Harbor Golf Club. Designed by Arthur Hills, it is said to have more shoreline holes than any other course in the U.S.

A half-hour drive away, on the other side of Little Traverse Bay, is Harbor Springs, a popular destination for boaters and home to more art galleries, restaurants and shops. Among the events on Petoskey's calendar is the Little Traverse Historical Festival (June). North of Harbor Springs is Boyne Highlands Resort, which offers accommodations and activities year-round. In the summer, the resort is best known as a golf destination. It is home to The Donald Ross Memorial, a course that has 18 of the best holes ever designed by Ross. In winter, the resort is one of the prime downhill sites in the Lower Peninsula, known for its steep terrain and long runs (at least in comparison to other Midwest resorts).

Highway 31 heads west, then south, from Petoskey, a scenic route that leads to Charlevoix, a resort town located on the narrow strip of land between Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan. There's a good harbor there, and a lot of yachts make use of it. A working drawbridge raises and lowers to let the boats through, occasionally delaying highway traffic. An enjoyable drive out of Charlevoix follows Highway 66 south along the western shore of Lake Charlevoix to the village of East Jordan, home of the East Jordan Iron Works (which makes the steel sewer grates that can be found throughout the Midwest). Boyne Mountain Resort is east of the village in nearby Boyne Falls, home to The Monument golf course and 52 downhill ski runs.

Charlevoix is also the departure point for the ferry that runs to Beaver Island, 35 mi/55 km northwest in Lake Michigan. The island has a colorful history: In the mid-1800s, a group of Mormons led by James Jesse Strang settled on the island. Strang proclaimed himself king, but his reign didn't last for long: He was murdered by one of his subjects, and the Mormons were forced off the island by an armed group from the mainland. Today, visitors can see the Mormon Print Shop in the town of St. James. The island is a good spot for mountain biking, camping and fishing.

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