Picture Aspen with a waterfront and you'll understand Harbor Springs. Situated on the northern edge of Little Traverse Bay and just 7 miles southwest of Boyne Highlands ski resort, this affluent lakefront town, with its sheltered harbor, 70-degree days and gentle Lake Michigan breezes, comes alive in the summer. Ernest Hemingway called this region in northwest lower Michigan "a priceless place" and immortalized it in "Up in Michigan," the Nick Adams stories and "The End of Something."
Harbor Springs' charm first made it a haven for wealthy Midwesterners in the early 1900s. Their lifestyles and grand Victorian-style summer cottages created a genteel ambiance that remains today. Last year, The Wall Street Journal named the retreat one of the "five towns for tomorrow," ranking it alongside places such as Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, as a prime second-home location.
The Journal's report didn't tell Midwesterners anything they didn't already know: Harbor Springs has 483 year-round homes and 686 second (read: summer) homes. During the warm months, the county's visitors swell to the tune of 17,000 with people coming to enjoy the stretch between Harbor Springs and neighboring Petoskey, an 8-mile-long playground of world-class golf courses, beaches and dunes, cycling, hiking, sailing, shopping and gourmet dining. Golfers will want to make reservations for one of Boyne Highlands' four championship courses-where tee-times are a hot commodity-well in advance.
Those who prefer pedaling to putting should head out on the North Country Trail, a hilly singletrack challenge that begins just south of Nub's Nob Ski Area, on County Road 81 across the road from Boyne Highlands, and extends 30 miles to Sturgeon Bay north of Cross Village. If you like your cycling on paved roads, arguably the most spectacular ride in the state is from Harbor Springs to Cross Village on M-119, a hilly 20-mile tour along the Lake Michigan shore through what is known as "The Tunnel of Trees."
For a midday respite, relax at Juilleret's on State Street, Michigan's oldest family-run restaurant. Then head to City Marina and spend a leisurely afternoon aboard the 35-foot ketch operated by Classic Yachts, which cruises around Little Traverse Bay. Or, if you'd rather captain your own craft, rent a kayak at The Outfitters on Main Street and conduct a private harbor tour.
Late afternoon is the perfect time to browse the antique shops and art galleries throughout town. If trinkets are more your market, browse Petoskey's Victorian Gaslight Shopping District. Once you've exercised your body and wallet to capacity, settle into the quiet pace of a Harbor Springs evening. Put in your name at either The New York or Stafford's Pier, both with waterfront views, then stroll away the wait along the town docks. Admire the showcase of magnificent yachts from around the world while you watch the sun set on another perfect Harbor Springs day.