Where can you find everything your heart desires all wrapped up in 1.68 square miles of perfection? Elk Rapids, a quaint little town on the coast of Lake Michigan, has everything from local eateries, antique shops and clothing boutiques to sandy beaches and an unmatched small-town charm. It’s no wonder so many vacationers drop anchor at this harbor-side hamlet each summer.

River Street, the town’s main drag—and only drag for that matter—is the best place to start your Elk Rapids exploration. But you should know: the odds of making it past Chef Charles’ Inc., (147 River St., 231-264-8901) without stopping to enjoy the aroma of a freshly baked pie are slim to none. So indulge. Ask for a slice of cheese pizza, or, if your taste buds are up to it, order a Blazing Barbecue pizza topped with a Jalapeno glaze and other fresh ingredients.

Not feeling the pizza? Head East toward Dexter Street to Java Jones (131 River St, 231- 264-1111) for a bowl of award winning vegetarian chili, a slice of homemade quiche or a cup of coffee at the very least. Might as well surf the web while you eat. This cozy Internet café supplies WiFi, as well as a desktop computer for customers to use.

After hitting all the antique shops, art galleries and clothing boutiques River Street has to offer, make your way to Veteran’s Memorial Park, west of Java Jones and Chef Charles’ Inc., for tennis courts, picnic benches, brand new playground equipment and, of course, the beach. There are plenty of public parking spots on the north side of the street facing the bay.

Rather than panicking when you realize you’ve left your trashy beach novel at home, take a detour to Elk Rapids District Library, more commonly referred to as The Island House. This 144-year-old cottage, which sits atop Isle of Pines Drive, happens to have a beautiful view of the marina. In short, take your time finding that book.

Dinner time! Cross over U.S.-31 to get to Ames Street and head toward the quiet, east end of town where your must-do dining experience at Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen (617 Ames St., 231-264-0530) awaits. This Elk Rapids staple—where twinkling lights and antiques line the walls, and everyday feels like Mardi Gras—is known for its Cajun-style cooking and crawfish dishes. Wash your spicy entrée down with Banana’s Foster and vanilla ice cream or Cherry Bread Pudding served with a Bourbon Street caramel sauce.

If driving home isn’t an option, check out a great B&B—for families and couples—in Elk Rapids.

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Twisted Fish Art Gallery in Elk Rapids.

Experience an Evening on River Street in Elk Rapids.

Check out the great seafood at Elk Rapids' Siren Hall.

Photo(s) by Stephanie Goldberg