Before you head to Thorne Swift Nature Preserve, point your compass north and cruise out of Harbor Springs along the gorgeous two-lane M-119 to the teensy burg of Good Hart, where Good Hart General Store (1075 N. Lake Shore Dr.) sits in a thick stand of hardwood trees. As the screen door swings shut behind you, inhale the sweet smell of an old-fashioned bakery. Start your day with irresistible sugar-covered cake doughnuts or gooey cinnamon rolls.
Nibble on your sweets as you double back on M-119 and head south to Thorne Swift Nature Preserve (6696 Lower Shore Dr.). Stop by the nature center before you hit the trails to preview some of the treasures that await: nests of different bird species—woodcocks, ruby-throated hummingbirds, black-throated green warblers—as well as deer antlers, animal pelts, and jars of medicinal plants like St. John’s wart, boneset and elderberry. A woodchip trail marks the way into the thick cedar forest, dark with shadow. Wind along the trail looking for eagles, white-throated sparrows, weasels, porcupines, foxes and minks. The preserve is blissfully quiet, save for the hushed sounds of bird chirps, frog croaks and the occasional high-pitched trill of a chipmunk. Follow the looping path to the dune observation platform. The platform is a lovely spot to sit back awhile and take in the tranquility of Lake Michigan’s hazy blues below—and, if you come in the evening, a primo place for catching an unforgettable sunset.
QUICK BITE: For a tasty pizza treat, stop by Harbor Springs’ Turkey’s Cafe and Pizzeria (250 E. Main St., 231-526-6041). Get cozy in one of the classic, ’50s-style booths and order a pesto, barbecue or meat-lovers pie.
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Thorne Swift boasts 1,000 feet of shoreline—300 feet of which is open to the public. That remaining 700 feet? It’s cordoned off to preserve its natural state. The piping plover, for one, is grateful. Several times in recent years, the endangered bird has found the protected beach areas to be a perfect nesting site for its young.
GET THERE: Find the Thorne Swift Nature Preserve 4 miles north of Harbor Springs on Lower Shore Drive. Thorne Swift is open daily from 10 a.m. to sunset typically from April 15 through November 15. The on-site Elizabeth Kennedy Nature Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day.