Up in the northern corner of the lower peninsula of Michigan is a little town called Petoskey. Situated on the waterfront of the Little Traverse Bay, it’s mostly a resort town for tourists looking to settle in on Lake Michigan.
As some of you may know, I haven’t lived in Michigan my whole life. I only moved here a decade ago, and in that time, I’ve only experienced a handful of places in the southern lower peninsula. So, when my partner asked if I wanted to go up north, I was already on board, even before he mentioned the Tunnel of Trees.
The Tunnel of Trees is a highway through a forest that winds its way along the coast between Harbor Springs and Cross Village. Along the way, it passes by a handful of landmarks and small towns, along with a bunch of nature preserves. And, since it’s autumn, we expected it would be spectacular.
Well, unfortunately, we missed the peak fall colors. They’re hard to predict, as it turns out, and they don’t last very long. Still, we had a fun time, and I took plenty of pictures. Let me tell you about our trip. It wasn’t as long or as intense as our Oklahoma trip earlier this year, but it was still more than I’m used to.
Day One: Driving Up and Settling In
We decided to leave in the early afternoon since the hotel check-in wasn’t until 3 pm. The drive up to Petoskey was surprisingly uneventful. Light traffic most of the way. Even driving though Grand Rapids was pretty painless. Not that it was really needed, but we stopped at a rest stop halfway there to stretch our legs and begin to admire the autumn-colored leaves. We got to the hotel around 4 in the afternoon, feeling pretty good, though a bit hungry.
On our road trips we’re used to feeling much more worn out, so we grabbed food from the cafe downstairs and planned on just relaxing in the hotel room for the night. Once 5 pm came around we were both feeling antsy and it just felt wrong to waste the rest of the daylight. A quick internet search showed the beach was closer than I expected so we decided to explore a bit.
First impressions were that downtown Petoskey is very clean and pretty quiet. We didn’t have too long before it was going to get dark, so we wandered the pier and walked along the lake for a bit. We happened to come across a section of the beach with a bunch of people looking for Petoskey stones (fossilized rugose coral) and decided to give it a try. It started getting dark before too long and our search was put on hold for another day.
Day Two: Hiking and Rock-hounding in Petoskey State Park
Day 2 brought morning rain, even though my weather app said otherwise. It cleared up slightly around noon and we decided to take our chances. We picked up a couple of emergency ponchos and decided to move forward with our planned hike. A little rain won’t hurt, right? We pulled into the state park and the downpour began. We waited for the worst to pass, then donned the ponchos and started hiking.
Most of the hike was easy enough and the rain stopped after about 10 minutes or so. Partner in the lead, we ended up on what he claimed to be “intermediate” difficulty trails. Some of the hills we encountered were fairly steep and super scary to traverse. Luckily our shoes had enough traction to keep us going and to keep us from sliding down the wet and sandy hills.
We eventually made our way to the beach, the main goal of the hike. It was finally time to get serious about our Petoskey stone search. Had the beach practically to ourselves for a few hours. Petoskey stones are pretty difficult to spot when they’re dry. Most of them look like any other gray-white stone. The coral pattern shows up when the stone is wet. Having a cup of water on hand was very useful. It briefly rained during our search and it was actually helpful too.
Apparently the state limits you to taking no more than 25 pounds of stones per year. Some beaches (like Sleeping Bear Dunes, which I still haven’t visited) you aren’t allowed to take anything. We didn’t come anywhere close to 25 pounds, though, so we’re good.
Day Three: Driving the Tunnel of Trees
The weather predicted that our third day would have the nicest weather for driving the Tunnel of Trees. That was true, but it still wasn’t perfect. It was overcast, and the fall colors weren’t entirely out yet. Still, it was quite pretty, and definitely worth enjoying. Oh, and sorry for the car hood in a lot of these pictures. It’s not easy taking photos from a moving vehicle, and I’m still figuring it out.
Our first stop was Pond Hill Farm. Place was much larger than we thought it would be. Vineyard, cafe, shop, play area, and some walking trails. We didn’t linger too long because we had only just started the drive, but we did have time to stock up on some snacks: fresh made lime tortilla chips, chocolate strawberry muddy buddies, some dark chocolate covered cherries, and a boxed mix of Ultimate Cherry Chocolate Brownies that I might write a review post for later. Also, the shop had a huge orange cat. Very important to mention.
We continued on for a bit, stopping to walk down some of the forest trails. We also stopped at Broken Buddha’s Tea House. Sadly, I had a coffee from the hotel cafe that morning and don’t like overdoing it on the caffeine if I can help it. Partner got a small hot chocolate and a new stone orb to add to his growing collection, while I got a caramel apple cider.
A bit further and we ended up in Good Hart. It’s a small historic town with only a handful of buildings including a small general store. The general store was extremely crowded and hard to move around, and the other two stores didn’t seem to have much that really interested me.
The end of the Tunnel brings us to Cross Village. The plan was to eat dinner at the Legs Inn. However, the day we chose happened to be the first day they reopened since they shut down temporarily this fall. We overheard two and a half hour wait and decided to change plans. I did manage to find a new medallion for my walking stick at the gift shop, so I was happy. Onward to Sturgeon Bay Beach! This one was much more sandy and didn’t have much in the way of any rocks. Was nice for a short stroll, though.
Back to the dinner problem. Google recommended loads of restaurants in Harbor Springs, so that’s where we decided to go. We didn’t really have a place in mind, so we walked up to the first restaurant we came across (Stafford’s Pier) and looked at the menu. Lots of fish and a few sandwich options that appealed to us. We went in with the intention of getting a couple of fish sandwiches.
Things changed once we saw the Specials menu. I ended up ordering a Reuben that came with home made salt and pepper potato chips. It was amazing. Partner decided to go all out once he saw the $70 Wagyu steak. Was cooked perfectly and he seemed to savor every bite. It was a pound sized steak, and he somehow managed to only eat half. We then decided to do something we don’t normally do and ordered dessert. Peanut butter pie. I loved every bite.
Overall, this spur-of-the-moment Petoskey was incredible. The only downside was the little bit of rain. I forgot how much I love being near the water. We didn’t get a chance to explore too much in the way of downtown, but I suppose that’s something to save for another trip. I feel we’ll 100% be back.
As always, thanks for reading! I’ll be back with some seasonal goodies and treats in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for that.
Imagine riding a bicycle through the Tunnel of Trees. 🙂
Very gorgeous up there, I’ll have to see that for myself some time.
It’s really nice! And hey, I can speak from experience that the drive from OKC to MI isn’t THAT bad…