Known as “Charlevoix the Beautiful,” this Northern Michigan community is simply breathtaking no matter when you choose to visit. And when you do visit, there are more than enough things to do in Charlevoix Michigan to fill your time.
Whether you are stepping foot into town during a frosty, snow-covered winter, or you have arrived ready to enjoy a spectacular summer sunset, you will find that the views are unlike anything else in Michigan. Plus, the city has some interesting indoor activities.
Unveil the Beauty of Charlevoix Michigan
Charlevoix is a burgeoning community that offers the unparalleled charm that Northern Michigan is known for, while still preserving a small-town feel.
While other nearby Up North destinations are teeming with life and bursting with visitors, Charlevoix Michigan maintains a sense of peace, privacy, and normalcy — despite being a favorite place among travelers.
Known for its pristine beaches and uninterrupted shorelines, one-of-a-kind architecture, and vibrant, historic downtown area, Charlevoix is the perfect place to absorb the best that Michigan has to offer.
History of Charlevoix
Like all of the lands that line the shoreline in Northern Michigan, what is now known as Charlevoix was once home to native tribes for thousands of years. The Anishnabeg people relied on the forested areas and freshwater shores of the region, and they did so for generations until European settlers arrived.
A Summertime Resort Is Born
The community of Charlevoix that exists today was founded by European settlers in the 19th century. It quickly grew into a summertime resort town thanks, in part, to a couple of university professors from Chicago who established summer social clubs in the region.
Soon, people from around the Midwest were making this community their preferred summer holiday destination, sparking the development of exclusive hotels and resorts.
Famed author Ernest Hemingway spent many summers during his youth in a small cottage in Charlevoix Michigan. Today, visitors can check out some of his favorite spots for themselves.
In many ways, Charlevoix has maintained its charm and reputation as a summer resort town. Each year, thousands of people book hotel rooms at boutique hotels or rent cottages near the lake to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and breathtaking beauty of this community.
Charlevoix Through the Seasons
Like any city in Northern Michigan, Charlevoix enjoys all four seasons throughout the year. Springtime is short, sweet, and usually late to arrive — but the beautiful blooms make the long, hard winters worth it.
The summer weather ushers in a slew of travelers throughout May, June, July, and August because people want to make the most of their time on the Lake Michigan beaches. The fall is cool and comfortable and best known for the gorgeous colors that arrive in September and October each year.
Winter temperatures often dip well below freezing, and there is usually a blanket of snow on the ground from late November until March. However, there are plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities in Charlevoix Michigan that allow visitors to enjoy their favorite wintertime activities.
Outdoor Things to Do in Charlevoix Michigan
Charlevoix is known for its incredible natural beauty, which compels most travelers to go outside when they are visiting. Fortunately, there are many outdoor things to do in Charlevoix throughout the year, so you can always find a good excuse to enjoy the great outdoors.
Bike Along the Shores of Lake Michigan
The Little Traverse Wheelway begins in Charlevoix and stretches for more than 26 miles along the shores of Lake Michigan before it ends in Harbor Springs.
Paved almost entirely in asphalt, this trail is considered to be one of the best and most developed trails in the region, and it offers some of the most invigorating views. You can bring your own bike or rent one from a shop in town, making this one of the easiest activities to add to your Charlevoix itinerary.
Discover the Mushroom Houses of Charlevoix
For many people, Charlevoix feels like a city that was ripped from the pages of a fairy tale, and the mushroom houses of Charlevoix certainly add to that appeal. These so-called mushroom houses are part of a collection of homes designed by architect Earl Young in the 20th century.
Young worked to design houses that appeared as if they grew out of the land, relying on the slope of the land to aid his design rather than reshaping the land to fit his preferences.
There are more than two dozen mushroom houses in Charlevoix Michigan, and visitors from around the country enjoy searching the city in hopes of seeing a few of them for themselves.
Whether you want to see the Half House or the Owl House, know that you can embark on a self-guided tour of the mushroom houses or book a guided tour with a local company.
Regardless of which option you choose, keep in mind that these homes are still owned by private residents, many of whom reside in the properties. Be courteous and respectful at all times.
Paddle Along the Jordan River
The Jordan River flows through the heart of Charlevoix Michigan, but the mood of this river can impact the experience that you enjoy on it.
During the summer, the Jordan River is relatively calm and peaceful, making it ideal for canoeing or kayaking. In the warm weather, families of all shapes and sizes find themselves leisurely floating down the river and taking in the surrounding sights too.
However, paddling isn’t just a summer activity in Charlevoix. Jordan River rafting experiences are also available in winter when the river is feeling grouchy like the rest of us. These thrilling trips can be enjoyed with local guides and give you the adventure that you are craving during the cold days of winter.
Go Golfing on One of the Oldest Courses in Michigan
There’s golfing in Michigan, and then there’s golfing at the Belvedere Golf Club. Dating back to 1925, this premier golf club is one of the oldest courses in Michigan and was designed by a local Scottish resident. Golfing the Belvedere is a bucket-list item for many Michigan residents, and for good reason.
This golf course allows players to enjoy the game the way it should have been enjoyed all along. During your game, you enjoy the serene Northern Michigan landscape while simultaneously experiencing the history of Charlevoix.
Spend a Day Relaxing on the Beach
No trip to Charlevoix Michigan is truly complete without spending a day on one of the picture-perfect beaches in this community. For a day of Great Lakes splendor, consider heading to Michigan Beach Park where you can enjoy the waves against the backdrop of the mighty South Pier Lighthouse.
If you prefer a calmer, inland experience, you can go to the beautiful Depot Beach, which is located next to a historic train station and is situated on the shores of the idyllic Lake Charlevoix.
Take a Boat Ride on Lake Michigan
Even without your own vessel, you can still enjoy a sailing adventure on the lakes near Charlevoix Michigan. Local companies in the area offer chartered boat tours that will take you sailing onto the waters of Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan.
These sailing excursions can be done during the day or at sunset, allowing you to choose the experience that you prefer for your Charlevoix adventure.
Indoor Things to Do in Charlevoix Michigan
It doesn’t need to be a rainy day to enjoy indoor activities in Charlevoix. The city offers a variety of historical and cultural attractions to explore.
Spend a Day at the Local Castle
Perhaps one of the most surprising and noteworthy places in Charlevoix is Castle Farms. Built in 1918 in the style of an ornate French chateau, this castle feels as if it was taken straight from the European countryside.
In a surprising twist, it was actually designed to be a working dairy farm. Named Loeb Farms, this property continued its farm operations for more than 50 years, and it was considered one of the largest employers in the region. After the property was purchased, it was transformed into a variety of entertainment venues.
Today, Castle Farms operates as the premier wedding venue in Charlevoix Michigan, but it also boasts a World War I museum, the largest outdoor model railroad display in the state, and breathtaking gardens and grounds.
Those looking for something to do indoors can book guided tours of the castle or embark on self-guided experiences. Inside, you will find the World War I museum.
When you are ready to spend some time outside again, you can check out the model railroad exhibit and stroll through the gardens. It’s truly one of the most calming experiences in Northern Michigan.
Discover Charlevoix’s Past at Harsha House
You don’t have to go far to learn more about Charlevoix’s storied past. The Charlevoix Historical Society Museum is located inside Harsha House, a stately Victorian home that rests on State Street.
The home was built in the late 19th century and once belonged to prominent Charlevoix businessman Horace Harsha. Each year, the historical society creates new exhibits for visitors to enjoy at the museum, which is open year-round but has limited hours during the winter months.
Examples of past exhibits include art exhibits from local artists through the years, as well as photography exhibits showcasing the progression of Charlevoix Michigan through time.
In addition to rotating exhibits, there are several permanent exhibits at the museum, including preserved Victorian rooms for guests to walk through, a display of Ernest Hemingway’s original marriage license, and research materials for those interested in historic preservation and genealogy.
Additional Attractions Near Charlevoix Michigan
Sometimes, it’s difficult to even consider leaving Charlevoix because the city exudes a peaceful charm that can be difficult to find anywhere else. But if you go just a little bit further outside the city’s boundaries, you will find several world-class attractions to enjoy.
Avalanche Bay Indoor Water Park
Avalanche Bay Indoor Water Park is a favorite among local families and visitors alike, largely because it gives people of all ages a space to splash, swim, and have fun — no matter the season.
Boasting more than 88,000 square feet of space, this is Michigan’s largest indoor water park. When you spend a day at Avalanche Bay, you can jump into four different pools, slide down seven spectacular water slides, or dine at one of the 10 restaurants located on-site.
Whether you want to enjoy a day trip or a long weekend, this facility is the perfect escape on cold winter days or dreary summer weekends.
Local Art at the Freshwater Art Gallery
About 20 minutes from Charlevoix, you will find one of the most unique art galleries in Michigan. The Freshwater Art Gallery can be found in Boyne City, and it’s more than just an art gallery — it’s also a concert venue.
This innovative space provides local Michigan artists and musicians with a space to grow, thrive, and display their work. The gallery is home to more than 200 local artists from Michigan, many of whom use locally sourced supplies to create their work.
On any given day, you may find Petoskey stone jewelry or rustic furniture crafted from recycled auto parts. It’s consistently ranked as one of the best attractions in Boyne City, and it’s worth the drive from Charlevoix.
Beaver Island Michigan
Donned as America’s Emerald Isle, Beaver Island is a pristine island located off the coast of Charlevoix in the waters of Lake Michigan. The only way to reach the island is by boat or air, so many Charlevoix visitors take a ferry to enjoy this natural paradise.
The island itself is home to about only 600 residents, and many of them hail from Irish descent, which has influenced the culture of the island. On any given day, you can spend time on the beach, hike the trails through the unspoiled forested areas, or ride your bike around the island’s perimeter.
There are local restaurants, hotels, motels, and campgrounds on the island as well, so it’s possible to extend your stay if you so choose.
If you hop on M-31 and head toward Mackinaw City, the first town that you will run into is Petoskey Michigan — another idyllic Northern Michigan town that is worth the day trip.
Here, you can enjoy the Historic Gaslight District, visit the Bear River Valley Recreation Area, or hunt for Petoskey stones. Of course, the thriving downtown area is home to dozens of local restaurants, boutiques, and shops, so it’s easy to pass the day strolling the streets.
Restaurants in Charlevoix Michigan
Charlevoix is known for its flavorful local restaurant scene, so no matter the type of dining experience you are looking for, you will find a place in the city to sit down for a delicious and relaxing meal.
Casual Restaurants in Charlevoix
Charlevoix Michigan is not the kind of place that stands on ceremony — it may exude Victorian charm and the serenity of an era gone by, but at its core, this is a town of welcoming people with a comfortable atmosphere. As a result, there are many casual, family-friendly restaurants in Charlevoix Michigan.
One such restaurant is the Villager Pub, which has been serving fresh meals in a low-key atmosphere for more than 40 years. Another option is Jax Northside Food & Spirits, which is a newer addition to the city’s restaurant scene and located on the north side of Charlevoix.
At both of these locales, you will be greeted with a friendly face and served a hearty meal crafted from fresh, local ingredients.
Charlevoix Upscale Restaurants
Whether you are celebrating a special occasion or you simply want to indulge in a luxurious experience, you will find a handful of upscale restaurants in the city that transform every meal into a lifelong memory.
Grey Gables is a famed Charlevoix restaurant that has been specializing in fine dining since 1936. Situated inside a historic inn, this restaurant offers an elegant yet welcoming atmosphere, as well as a diverse menu with something for everyone.
Another place that you can head to for a fine-dining experience is Stafford’s The Weathervane. Offering waterfront views and a menu rooted in Great Lakes flavor, this restaurant is a favorite among locals and visitors.
Coffee & Ice Cream Shops in Charlevoix
No matter what you are doing in Charlevoix, you will want to stop someplace for a quick treat. If you are looking for ice cream or fudge, then Celeste Murdick’s Fudge & Candy Kitchen is the place to go. For coffee with an Instagrammable vibe, head straight for Cafe Meria.
Charlevoix Wineries & Breweries
Northern Michigan is famous for its ever-growing wine and beer scene. In Charlevoix, the best place to grab a brew is at the local tavern — Town House Bar. Here, you will find every drink that you can imagine, as well as a handful of snack menu items.
If you are looking for the sophisticated splendor of a winery, head to locally owned The Spare Key Winery. This vineyard and tasting room is open on weekends, and you can enjoy sweeping views of Charlevoix Michigan as well as red, white, and fruit-forward varieties of wine.
Hotels in Charlevoix Michigan & Other Lodging
Regardless of how you prefer to travel, you will find a lodging option in Charlevoix that suits your style and fits within your budget. Below are a few of our top picks.
Travelers who prefer to stay in locally owned hotels will love The Earl, a boutique hotel located in downtown Charlevoix Michigan. Named after famed local architect Earl Young and renovated in the same space as Young’s former Weathervane Terrace hotel, it offers a modern experience with a vintage vibe.
If you would rather stay in your own property and enjoy a sense of unparalleled privacy in Charlevoix, consider booking one of the many vacation rentals in the area.
One popular vacation rental is this Vintage 1920s Cottage in the heart of Charlevoix. Of course, many travelers clamor to book one of the mushroom houses, such as this Hobbit House that is available to rent.
State Park Camping
Of course, camping is always an option in this natural wonderland. Fisherman Island’s State Park is a camper’s dream because it offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and a rustic campground area that is perfect for those who love to live off of the land.
FAQs About Charlevoix Michigan
When is the best time of year to visit Charlevoix Michigan?
There are unique and wonderful ways to enjoy Charlevoix throughout the entire year, and most locals agree that there is no particular time of year that is better than another.
No matter when you choose to visit Charlevoix, you are sure to enjoy your experience.
Where can you find the mushroom houses of Charlevoix Michigan?
The mushroom houses of Charlevoix are some of the most famous attractions in the city. More than two dozen homes built by architect Earl Young can be found throughout the city.
Many are located within walking distance of the city’s downtown area. Visitors can look for these houses on their own or take guided tours to several of the most famous ones.
No matter which option you choose, be mindful that these are private, residential properties. Always be respectful of those who live in them.
When do the fall colors peak in Charlevoix Michigan?
The timing of the fall colors will vary from year to year, based on weather conditions. Generally speaking, though, Northern Michigan experiences peak colors between mid-September and early October.
Keep in mind that even before and after the peak colors arrive, the fall foliage in Charlevoix Michigan is spectacular.
Plan Your Adventure in Charlevoix Michigan
From mushroom-shaped architecture to eclectic local restaurants and miles of lakefront shoreline, Charlevoix Michigan provides each visitor with a distinctive encounter.
You can cultivate the experience that you prefer, allowing you to make endless memories beneath the bright blue skies of Charlevoix.