30 Best Things in Charlevoix & Chain of Lakes Region

More than 12,000 people voted in MyNorth’s 2020 Red Hot Best competition, and if you were one of them, you saw we’ve changed it up. After more than a decade of sharing the winners in each category for Northern Michigan as a whole, we decided to dig into 11 different regions and discover the best in each unique area. So, without further ado, here are voters’ picks for best businesses, people and places in Charlevoix and the Chain of Lakes region.

Want to see the winners from other regions, too? Click here for Above the Bridge, Cadillac, Gaylord & Grayling, Leelanau, Ludington, Mackinac Island, Manistee & Benzie, Marquette, Petoskey & Harbor and Traverse City.

Beach for Sunset

1. Elk Rapids Day Park, Elk Rapids
Stake out a picnic table and grill for a leisurely dinner, wander the outdoor sculpture park, then orient yourself due west to the waters of Lake Michigan’s East Grand Traverse Bay and watch the sun drop into the horizon.

2. Barnes Park Campground, Torch Lake Township

3. Intermediate Lake, Central Lake

Bloody Mary (Place)

1. Mammoth Distilling, Central Lake, Bellaire & Traverse City
It starts with great vodka made from Michigan-grown corn and rye and is finished with Mammoth’s special bloody mix. We’ll take one!

2. Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen, Elk Rapids

3. Barrel Back Restaurant, Walloon Village

Breakfast Spot

1. The Local, Elk Rapids
This sweet little spot turns out massively fab breakfast dishes including banana bread French toast, chicken biscuits and waffle egg sandwiches.

2. Lunch Box, Bellaire

3. Toonie’s Fish & Steak House, Bellaire

Brewery (Must Brew Own Beer)

1. Short’s Brewing Company, Bellaire
For 16 years and counting Short’s has led the pack in Michigan’s craft beer scene. Raise an ice-cold Huma Lupa Licious to that!

2. Bier’s Inwood Brewery, Inwood

3. Stiggs Brewery & Kitchen, Boyne City

Campground (RV or Tent)

1. Barnes Park Campground, Torch Lake Township
Possibly the best-kept camping secret in Michigan. Wooded sites on Lake Michigan’s East Grand Traverse Bay. The cat’s out of the bag now …

2. Young State Park, Boyne City

3. Chain O’ Lakes Campground, Bellaire

Cherry Cider

1. King’s Cherry, Bee Well Mead & Cider, Bellaire
Made with love and local cherries. Drink up the goodness!

2. Queen Ann, Townline Ciderworks, Elk Rapids

3. Squishy, Starcut Ciders, Short’s Brewing Company, Bellaire

Chicken Wings (Place)

1. The Pelican’s Nest, Bellaire
Choose your sauce and load up the napkins: big bang, garlic Parmesan, Franks honey garlic, Caribbean jerk, Franks Red Hot or the house BBQ sauce.

2. Barrel Back Restaurant, Walloon Lake

3. Dockside, Torch Lake, Bellaire

Conservancy Preserve

1. Grass River Natural Area, Bellaire
Almost 1,500 acres of fern and cedar wetlands along the Grass River, threaded with seven miles of trails. Lower your blood pressure here.

2. Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area, Bellaire

3. North Point Nature Preserve, Charlevoix

Farmstand

1. Friske Farm Market, Ellsworth
Family orchard and farm with a full-fledged farm market, bakery, cafe, gift shop and more. Eat. Shop. Play!

2. King Orchards, Central Lake

3. Boyne City Farmer’s Market

Favorite Nonprofit (In Region)

1. Paddle Antrim, Antrim County
The goal is to get folks so hooked on paddling this county’s lush waterways they’ll work to protect them. Brilliant.

2. Help From My Friends Pet Crisis Center, Bellaire

3. Charlevoix Public Library, Charlevoix

Castle Farms in Charlevoix // Photo by Tess Crowley

Gallery to Buy and Browse Local Art

1. Twisted Fish Gallery, Elk Rapids
A perennial Red Hot Best winner for its large display of fine art paintings, sculptures, jewelry and beautiful grounds. Beautiful destination shopping!

2. Uniquely North, Bellaire

3. The Flying Pig, Bellaire

Happy Hour

1. Short’s Brewing Company, Bellaire
Truth is, they don’t officially have one. But the truth also is that this is the happy place for citizens of Bellaire when 5 o’clock rolls around.

2. Mammoth Distilling, Central Lake & Bellaire

3. Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen, Elk Rapids

Hotel, Inn or Resort

1. Applesauce Inn Bed & Breakfast, Bellaire
Sweet and cozy as a big bowl of warm applesauce.

2. Hotel Walloon, Walloon Lake

3. Stone Waters Inn, Bellaire

Inland Lake

1. Torch Lake, Antrim & Kalkaska Counties
Long, languid and full of indescribable shades of blue. Folks who meet her once carry the Torch in their hearts forever.

2. Lake Charlevoix, Charlevoix & East Jordan

3. Elk Lake, Elk Rapids

Interior Furnishings

1. Uniquely North, Bellaire
Candles, clothing, lighting, linens, rugs, furniture, jewelry—all the fun stuff in one adorable shop.

2. The Flying Pig, Bellaire

3. Up North Home & Furnishings, Bellaire

Local Realtor (Name, Realty)

1. Donna Gundle-Krieg, DEK Realty, Mancelona
More than just a Realtor—Donna is a huge promoter of Mancelona and its community.

2. Kellie Sergent, Century21 Northland, Elk Rapids

3. Stephanie Koppe, Real Estate One, Bellaire

Mountain Biking Trail

1. Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area, Bellaire
More than 30 miles of trails wind through forests and past wetlands. It’s a beautiful ride. 

2. Avalanche Mountain, Boyne City

3. Bellaire Walking & Biking Path, Bellaire

Outdoor Dining

1. Dockside, Bellaire
Find full-on summer feel sitting on the deck with a cold beer watching the boats on Torch Lake.

2. The Landing Restaurant, East Jordan

3. Stafford’s Weathervane Restaurant, Charlevoix

Outdoor Gear Store 

1. Paddles & Pedals, Bellaire
The staff here will suit you up and get you paddling and biking the stunning Bellaire countryside.

2. Boyne Country Sports, Petoskey

3. Bayfront Beach and Bike, Elk Rapids

Outdoor Running Trail

1. Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area, Bellaire
Whether you take these gorgeous 30 miles of trails by bike or on foot, cool down with a cold one at Short’s just down the road.

Bellaire Walking & Biking Path, Bellaire

Avalanche Mountain, Boyne City

Place to Get Coffee

1. M88 Morning Grind, Bellaire
Cuddle into the comfy sofa with a steaming cup, set up your laptop and get your day off to a yummy start with a baked good.

2. Ruthann’s Gourmet Bakery, Bellaire

3. Iron Goat Coffee, East Jordan

Place to Get Your Annuals and Perennials

1. Pine Hill Nursery, Kewadin
Trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, gardening classes, landscaping services and a cafe with a menu heavy on fresh veggies. If it’s green, it happens here.

2. Cyman Gardens, Bellaire

3. Boatman’s Bellaire Market, Bellaire

Place to Take an Instagram Photo

1. Torch Lake, Antrim & Kalkaska Counties
The photo you post when you want to make your friends jealous.

2. Friske Farm Market, Ellsworth

3. Lavender Hill Farm, Boyne City

Restaurant for a Special Occasion

1. Corner Bistro, Bellaire
Where to get your Paris fix in Northern Michigan.

2. The Rowe Inn, Ellsworth

3. Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen, Elk Rapids

Sport Gear Rental Company

1. Paddles & Pedals, Bellaire
With these guys in town, there’s no excuse not to get out onto the rivers and trails of Antrim County.

2. Jordan Valley Outfitters, East Jordan

3. Alden Outfitters, Alden

Spot to Bird Watch

1. Grass River Natural Area, Bellaire
Birds, birds, birds—147 species have been identified here. Take your front-row seat.

2. Fisherman’s Island State Park, Charlevoix

3. Torch Bay Nature Preserve, Kewadin

Summer Festival or Event

1. Harbor Days, Elk Rapids
For 65 years it’s been making Elk Rapids the most fun town on the planet the first weekend in August.

2. Venetian Festival, Charlevoix

3. Balloons over Bellaire

Wedding Venue

1. Castle Farms, Charlevoix
Where your dreams of a fairytale wedding come true.

2. Shanty Creek Resort, Bellaire

3. Hotel Walloon, Walloon Lake

Winery or Wine Bar

1. Torch Lake Cellars, Bellaire
Once the Shenemans’ family farm, now the Shenemans’ family vineyard and winery. Taste the love.

2. Hello Vino, Bellaire

3. Cellar 152, Elk Rapids

Winter Festival or Event

1. Light Up the Night, Bellaire
From a soup cook-off to Santa—with a Parade of Lights in between. There’s nothing like this small-town holiday kickoff.

2. Grass River Shiver, Bellaire

3. Winter Fest, Walloon Lake