The wee village of Pentwater — home to shady lanes of post-Civil War-era cottages, enchanting shops and the sweet life, lakeside — is one of summer’s best-kept secrets. Crack it open the way village locals do: perched at a colorful oilcloth-topped table inside the sun porch of the Cottage Garden Cafe (40 Third, 231-869-8188).

Next, fly into Air Fun Kites (167 Hancock, 231-869-7004). The day’s local Beaufort Wind Scale reading is posted at the door, and $4 nabs you a sled-style kite from the shop’s hundreds of elaborate choices. Set it — and yourself — free in the Lake Michigan breezes rolling over Charles Mears Beach (follow the channel pathway’s north side). Swim, sun and unravel string to your heart’s content. Don’t think you remember how to fly a kite? Try one of Air Fun’s free kite-flying lessons (call for times) and when you’ve had your fill, skedaddle to the Cottage Garden Cafe for their fresh fruit, granola and yogurt.

Be sure to take time to visit Pentwater’s boutiques. Need cottage accessories? Go to Gardener’s Folly (119 Hancock, 231-869-7773). Crave culinary gadgets? Hit the Bitchen Kitchen (320 Hancock, 800-377-9437). Need some peach shaved ice served in a plastic flower? (Really, who doesn’t?) See the Cosmic Candy Company (168 Hancock, 231-869-4852). Loud music and open windows on Second Street mean artist Chris Hammack’s at the easel, and her studio’s open for viewing. Sap up some creative inspiration from her expressionist paintings, then skip around the block to express yourself. You’ll find a traveler’s watercolor kit and paint-ready blank greeting cards at Caesar’s Palette (57 First, 231-869-8880). If you can’t find your muse among the bobbing sailboats in Snug Harbor or the cottage roses peeking through the picket fences in the village neighborhoods, you’ll find it beneath the lazy turns of ceiling fans on the dining porch at the Nickerson Inn (262 Lowell, 231-869-6731). The historic inn, which sits upon a tree-draped hillside overlooking the sunset, serves up a duck confit, vegetable Napoleon and Key lime pie that’s pure artistry.

Stay the NightCharles Mears State Park
Modern campsites on Lake Michigan, $27231-869-2051 info, 800-44-PARKS reservations.

Hexagon HouseGorgeous in-town B&B, $165+231-869-4102,

The Pines MotelBike or walk to village, $70+231-869-5128

Best Western PentwaterIndoor pool, $89+231-869-8000

Lynda Twardowski is travel editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s

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