August Escapes: 5 Northern Michigan Travel Ideas

August can feel like the Sunday of summer, with the sense that time is slipping away quicker than we’d like. And yet, this month is filled with possibility—long, lazy days ahead indeed, 31 of them! Our picks for savoring every last summery second …

Bicycle Byway
If you’ve been meaning to take a day-long bike excursion, try the North Central State Trail, a pathway connecting Gaylord to surrounding towns. (It runs north the 60 miles to Mackinaw City, if you’re up for that kind of trek.) This former railroad bed features a crushed limestone surface, with views of farms, forest and open fields as well as lakes, rivers and marshes buzzing with wildlife. Routes from one town to the next and back are great short rides—most are 20 miles or less. Do just one hamlet-to-hamlet jaunt, or combine several for a longer adventure. Gaylord to Topinabee: 33.5 miles one way. Topinabee offers a small park and beach on Mullet Lake. Relax and get a bite to eat at local favorites Café Noka, 1387 N. Straits Highway, or Breakers Bar & Grill, 967 N. Straits Highway.

Paddlers’ Paradise
Pick a low-wind day and paddle your way to Power Island, a 202-acre forested mound that sits just 2.6 miles from Bowers Harbor shore on West Grand Traverse Bay. This county parkland features picnic areas, restrooms, hiking trails and beaches—even camping (five rustic sites on attached 2-acre Bassett Island, reachable along a short isthmus; (reservations, 231.922.4818). Daytrippers can head to the island by kayak or SUP in the morning, explore all afternoon and return to the mainland for dinner. Nearby restaurants: Jolly Pumpkin (try the truffled French fries) and Boathouse Restaurant (stop by for the Lobster Boil, August 12 or Dining in the Vines, August 19).

Small-Town Escape
Enjoy a quiet, long weekend in Alden on the shores of Torch Lake. Peruse the weekly farmers market Thursday afternoon, wander through shops downtown (Alden’s Mill House sells custom seasoning blends that have been used in some of America’s finest clubs and restaurants) and end your day with a harbor sunset. Book a wooded cottage or beachfront home (mytorchlake.com for listings). This village also hosts a sophisticated juried art show—the Alden Depot Arts Festival—Saturday, August 26. More than 50 artists offer pottery, photography, paintings, furniture, jewelry, fiber and wearable art.

Runnin’ & Sippin’
Pair your passion for wine and love of movement with a weekend in Leelanau. Sign on for the Vineyard to Bay 25K, starting at Brengman Brothers Crain Hill Vineyards on Sunday, August 25. Not up for the full 15.5 miles? Run the race relay-style (one person runs 15K, the second takes on 10K) or opt for the 5K. All races finish in Suttons Bay, and runners receive ceramic finisher medals made by local artist Leif Sporck. Post-race, explore one of Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail’s three wine loops—Sleeping Bear, Northern and Grand Traverse Bay. Book a private room or entire home for your stay (“Wine Country Gateway” apartment, airbnb.com, starting at $178/night).

Family Getaway
Cap off the month and enjoy the long holiday weekend—Monday, September 4, is Labor Day this year—in the U.P. with a stay in family-friendly Curtis, a village on an isthmus between Manistique and South Manistique lakes. Rent a cabin (many come with their own docks and small fishing boats) and walk to the town’s Art on the Lake Music and Art Festival, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, September 2, featuring food, live music, art vendors, children’s art project and more. Make the 45-minute trek to Palms Brook State Park in Manistique, home to Kitch-iti-kipi (“Big Spring”), the state’s largest freshwater spring. Ride the self-guided observation raft for up close views of limestone beneath the crystal clear waters that are a constant 45 degrees. Stop for lunch or dinner at Big Springs Inn, located just outside the state park.

Traverse travel editor Heather Johnson Durocher writes from Traverse City. [email protected]


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