Tiny and timeless, Indian River is tucked into the heart of the Inland Waterway, a 40-plus-mile chain of river and lakes. The best way to melt into its sleepy summertime pace? A lazy drift — water lapping, line trolling — in a rented fishing boat from Indian River Marina (3020 Apple Blossom Lane, 231-238-9373).

Coast through town along the banks of Burt Lake to ooh at vintage cottages in the Columbus Beach Club, then follow the fish until your belly beckons you back to town. Just before the river slips under the west side of the Straits Highway bridge, pull up to The Inn Between (6064 River St., 231-238-6064) for a full menu of drinks and meals delivered to you dockside.

Longing for a little legwork? Climb the stairs to the restaurant’s bar for a game of pool, or dock your dinghy at the marina and head to Burt Lake State Park, where you can strut your sea legs on a milelong walk in the woods or splash at the beach. From here, you’re minutes from the towering Cross in the Woods (west of Straits Highway on M-68). Definitely worth a Kodak-moment.

Divine inspiration continues downtown at Drost’s Chocolates (3676 South Straits Highway, 231-238-6911). Sweets in hand, head north to skip among the red oaks and rare white oaks at Seven Springs Nature Preserve (from Straits Highway, west onto Prospect Road to Chippewa Beach Road; preserve lot is 1/4 mile up on left) until you reach the shoreside overlook. Stay for sunset but cap off a classic summer’s eve with a true Indian River classic: pizza from the famed Vivio’s Restaurant (4531 South Straits Highway, 231-238-9471).

Stay the Night

Burt Lake State Park: 306 modern campsites. $16+, 800-447-2757

Northwoods Lodge: Rustic goes first-class. $89.95+, 231-238-7729

Pines Cottages: Quaint, clean riverside cottages. $100+, 231-238-7276

Holiday Inn Express: $109.96+, 231-238-3000

Lynda Twardowski is travel editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. lmt@traversemagazine.com

Note: This article was first published in July 2006 and was updated for the web February 2008.