The beaches, water and snow sports in Harbor Springs, Michigan, are world famous. Boating, skiing or just lounging on a beautiful beach that is just a short walk from the charming downtown all work to make a Northern Michigan vacation memorable.
Harbor Springs’ in-town park, next to the marina, is a favorite for families. The beach has lifeguards, a swimming raft, and a sandy-bottomed swim area where you can take a dip in the clean, cold, spring-fed waters of this natural harbor on Little Traverse Bay. The grassy knoll along the beach is perfect for rolling out a blanket and enjoying a take-out lunch from one of the eateries just a couple of blocks away. 231.526.7999, harborspringschamber.com.
Thorne Swift Nature Preserve
This sweet Lake Michigan beach is a bit of a secret, tucked away in a pretty 30-acre preserve near Harbor Springs. It’s just 300 feet of frontage, but on most days you’re likely to have it all to yourself. Bonus: There are also 1.5 miles of easy hiking trails and boardwalks through dunes and cedar swamps, and an interpretive nature center the kids will adore. On Lower Shore Drive, off M-119 four miles north of Harbor Springs. 231.526.6401, landtrust.org.
Petoskey State Park
This expansive beach on Little Traverse Bay is a slice of heaven smack between Harbor Springs and Petoskey, making it ideal for a swim after shopping in town. Play a game of volleyball in the sand courts, or take a short hike along the park’s trail system for the incredible views atop Old Baldy, a stable dune just behind the beach. 180 campsites. On M-119, four miles northeast of Petoskey. 231.347.2311.
This quiet, meandering inland lake northeast of Petoskey is part of the famous Inland Waterway—an interconnected series of rivers and lakes stretching from Petoskey to Cheboygan. On the lake’s western edge is the community of Conway, where the Township Park has a cute little beach for swimming and sunning, a bubbling artesian well, and a picnic-perfect grassy park. On Merritt Street/U.S. 31 in Conway.
Sturgeon Bay Dunes
Just northeast of Cross Village is Sturgeon Bay, a remote, west-facing crescent of water bordering Wilderness State Park. The seven-mile-long shoreline that rings the bay is pure Northern perfection: low dunes, tall grass, scrubby pines, and of course, endless beach. Park your beach blanket closer to Cross Village for the most pristine sand, or head farther up the coast, where the shoreline becomes pocked with stones for great rock picking. On M-119 about five miles past Cross Village. landtrust.org.
Paddle Little Traverse Bay
Spend a dreamy morning kayaking the protected inlet of Little Traverse Bay, exploring the shoreline from downtown Harbor Springs all the way to the historic lighthouse at the end of the exclusive Harbor Point peninsula. Rentals, lessons and guided tours available through The Outfitter in Harbor Springs. 153 E. Main St., Harbor Springs, 231.526.2621, outfitterharborsprings.com.
For a laid-back day on the water, charter a sailboat with Little Traverse Sailors, a nonprofit sailing school on the waterfront in Harbor Springs. Climb aboard Exit Strategy, a 34-foot J/105 sailboat with room for you and five friends, and head to Charlevoix or Beaver Island, or just tool around Little Traverse Bay for an afternoon. (Or, our favorite: Stargaze from the water on a moonlit sail.) If you get bitten by the sailing bug after your trip, Little Traverse Sailors offers classes and private instruction for all ages. Harbor Springs, 231.838.4484, littletraversesailors.org.
Widely acclaimed for its first-class snow conditions and perfectly groomed slopes, Nubs Nob boasts a 427-foot vertical, 53 slopes and peaks on three separate peaks, 9 lifts, and sick terrain parks. For more information, nubsnob.com
Part of the Boyne USA ski resorts, Boyne Highlands is a four-season resort that comes to snowy life in winter with 55 trails, 10 lifts, terrain parks, lodging, dining and more. To find out more about skiing at Boyne Highlands, go to boyne.com
Take a tour of Harbor Springs on a summer day.
Cornerstone: Beaches, Water and Snow Sports in Harbor Springs, Michigan