Michigan’s Hidden Travel Gems – Yes, there’s
more to see than the Petosky stone

You may have been kayaking in the Upper Peninsula, although probably not with Governor Granholm on her Hidden Treasure Tour. But have you been surfing, skimboarding or sandboarding on the dunes in New Buffalo?

New wetsuit technology makes it possible for surfers to ride lake waves in any season in New Buffalo, Mich. Photo by Seth Gudmundson

Ryan Gerard gives lessons in all three. The proprietor of the Third Coast Surf Shop phenomenon featured on the CBS Early Show observes, “The notion of surfing on freshwater lakes in the heartland of America, especially in winter, tends to catch peoples’ attention!” With 10,900 miles of shoreline, the Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system on earth and have more coastline than the East and West coasts combined.

“Everyone remarks about all of the lighthouses down here in the Carolinas, but people don’t realize Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state in the U.S.,” notes Dawn Green, procurement manager at Foodbuy, LLC/Compass Group in Charlotte, N.C. “I find a new one every time I go home to visit with my family.”

This summer, while adding to her collection of lighthouse photos, Green enjoyed white fish pâté in Charlevoix. Petoskey, Boyne, Traverse City, Mackinac Island and Sleeping Bear Dunes are among the other Michigan destinations that Green advises others to visit. “Get yourself a Petoskey stone and have a great time!”

Michigan has many places besides Mackinac Island to relax and step back “Somewhere in Time.” Ernest Hemingway wrote about his experiences in Petoskey and Harbor Springs. Stafford’s Perry Hotel, one of Petoskey’s original luxury hotels celebrating its 110th anniversary, is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. Stafford’s Gallery featuring Michigan artists, has antiques and artifacts.

“Northern Michigan has some of the most scenic places…serene white sand and lapis blue water,” Green adds. “Everyone should go up to the U.P. Nothing like a snowball fight in May and sometimes June-¦ if you are lucky! Michigan has wonderful state parks; I love Tahquamenon Falls. Sault Ste. Marie has wonderful history and frankly provides a route to commerce with a series of locks.”

An engineer with Intel in Singapore, Sarasvathi Thangaraju visited Michigan in 2005 with the International Camp Counselor Program and says she is enthusiastic about her camping trips to Sault Ste. Marie and Mackinac Island.”I fell in love!” she says, adding that Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes was “the most fun I had on sand!”

After the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, you might want to stop at Empire, outside of Traverse City. As Chicago commercial banker John Sciberras explains, “I love hunting and quiet relaxed places to hike and camp. It is literally a one stoplight town, one bar, two restaurants.”

Laura Hazen, Lead Business Analyst at McKesson Pharmacy Systems in Detroit, recommends the Cross Village area on Lake Michigan near Inland Lakes as “close to Mackinaw, but less touristy, and the sand dunes are nearby.”

Wine enthusiasts will find a multitude of places to tour as Michigan’s 60 wineries won 800 medals in 2007. In the scenic Old Mission Peninsula, Chateau Chantal is an old world winery known for its charming bed and breakfast, culinary classes and a 2,000-square-foot hospitality room for corporate retreats and business meetings.

Jim Rink, a public relations consultant with AAA Michigan who grew up in Leelanau County, recommends people touring this part of Michigan stop at Boskydel Vineyard, a small boutique winery. “It doesn’t get a lot of publicity, but bottle and case prices are lowest in the county.”