A visit to Petoskey State Park (2475 M-119, 231-347-2311)—a wildly beautiful oasis of dune, forest and crystalline bay water—is a must for beach and nature lovers. Although just minutes from downtown Petoskey and Harbor Springs, the park’s dune-backed beaches feel miles from anywhere. Pick your own quiet spot in the sun or stroll the shoreline on a photo-safari search for Michigan’s protected Pitcher’s thistle plant, which grows only on Great Lakes coasts. You’ll find forest hiking trails and campsites galore behind the beach.

The swimming is equally good and smack-dab downtown at Harbor Springs’ Zorn Park (151 WEST BAY STREET). The small beach, which boasts a floating raft at the far end of the designated swimming area, a petite playground and, often, life- guards, is a great spot for families.

Looking to cast away farther North? Just five miles north of Cross Village is Sturgeon Bay Dunes (shown) (231-347-0991, LANDTRUST.ORG), an infinitely sublime but little-visited haven you likely won’t have to share with anyone except the resident piping plovers.

More Links to Fun in Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Bay Harbor and the Little Traverse Region!