Roll down the windows, turn up the tunes and head toward Charlevoix along U.S. 31, veering right onto M-66. A few miles up the road you'll enter Ironton, a teeny burg with a big secret – the quaint four-car Ironton Ferry, which holds bragging rights as one of the world's shortest ferry rides. Before checking out this local marvel, make a quick pit stop at Ironton Market (3619 N. M-66, 231-547-2444). The chocolate chip cookies baked here are heart-shaped, slightly melty and loaded with handfuls of chocolate chips.
Pull up to the ferry's loading dock and get ready for a winsome little ride. The Ironton Ferry has been puttering back and forth across the south arm of Lake Charlevoix since 1876. Ernest Hemingway had an uncle who once owned a tree farm here, so it's quite possible the writer himself made a few cruises on the ferry. All food for thought as your car glides to the opposite shore.
Stay along the edge of Lake Charlevoix into Boyne City, where you can shop the smart boutiques and rest from the road with fresh Mex at Red Mesa Grill (117 Water St., 231-582-0049, magnumhospitality.com). Ask for a patio seat and a plate of Peruvian armadillo eggs: garlic green-chile mashed potatoes stuffed with chicken, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried to perfection.
Back in the car, head northwest along County Road 56 to Young State Park (2280 Boyne City Rd., 231-582-7523) for a sunny beach stroll before finishing the last leg of your cruise. Complete the Lake Charlevoix circle in downtown Charlevoix, where the fresh chocolate walnut fudge and taffies at Murdick's (230 Bridge St., 231-547-4213) are so good they might not survive the trip home.
Emily Bingham is assistant editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine. [email protected]
Note: This article was first published in May 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.