It may be a small town with just more than 6,000 full-time residents, but there are plenty of things to do in Petoskey Michigan.
While many Northern Michigan towns have recently come into their own as preferred tourist destinations, Petoskey has long been a haven for weary travelers looking to surround themselves with unparalleled natural beauty and luxurious accommodations.
No matter when you plan to visit Petoskey, you’ll find many attractions and activities available for visitors of all ages and interests. You may need to plan multiple trips to get to everything that you want to do!
In fact, Ernest Hemingway spent his summers in Petoskey Michigan. Also, the city is where children hunt for elusive Petoskey stones and where people of all ages seek respite in four-season resorts.
Here are just a few ideas to get you started on your own Petoskey vacation itinerary…
Bear River Valley Recreation Area
The Bear River courses through the heart of Petoskey, and those who want to spend some time immersed in its majestic beauty should head straight for the Bear River Valley Recreation Area.
A gentle path winds for about 1.5 miles alongside the river, making it a popular option among walkers, bikers, hikers, and more. For those seeking a bit more adventure, consider embarking on the whitewater course on the river — It’s the only course of its kind in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
Vintage Downtown Petoskey Trolley
Walking down the streets of Petoskey feels a bit like stepping into the past. Much of the area’s Victorian charm has been preserved, and one of the best displays of that is the Downtown Petoskey Trolley, which travels down the streets during the summer months.
This trolley, with its vintage appeal, offers a fun and unique way to explore downtown Petoskey and the surrounding area. The best part is that all trolley rides are free!
Little Traverse History Museum
History buffs interested in what it was like to live in Petoskey years ago should stop by the Little Traverse History Museum. It’s open seasonally and has exhibits and collections on display that preserve the history of the region.
Located in the former Pere Marquette train station, the museum itself is housed in a historic building that was constructed in the late 19th century, making it a piece of living history in the community.
In addition, the museum hosts walking tours and special community events that bring together full-time residents and visitors in unique and exciting ways.
Crooked Tree Arts Center
With two locations in Northern Michigan, the Crooked Tree Arts Center aims to promote the arts to people of all ages and give visitors an opportunity to experience art for themselves.
The Petoskey location is open year-round and features four art galleries that are free to view, as well as a culinary kitchen, a dance studio, a theater, and a variety of classroom spaces for people of all ages to receive arts-related instruction.
Historic Gaslight District
For more than a century, locals and visitors alike have been doing their dining and shopping in Petoskey’s Gaslight District. This historic area is a favorite among modern visitors because it fully immerses them in the Victorian charm of this community.
In the Gaslight District, you’ll discover the best local restaurants, imaginative art galleries, and exquisite boutiques while enjoying some of the most fantastic views in the city of Little Traverse Bay. Just walking through the district might be one of the most awe-inspiring things to do in Petoskey Michigan.
Ernest Hemingway Statue
Famed American author Ernest Hemingway is considered one of the most noteworthy residents of Petoskey. In his youth, he spent many summers on the shores of Little Traverse Bay while staying at a local cabin.
Hemingway’s experiences are documented in some of his books, and modern-day visitors to Petoskey can walk in his footsteps around town.
The best place to commemorate your love for Hemingway is at Pennsylvania Park, where a bronze statue of the author is on display. The statue is a recent addition to the Petoskey arts scene, having been unveiled in 2017.
Hunt for Petoskey Stones
Michigan’s official state stone — the Petoskey stone — is one of the best souvenirs to take home from a vacation in Petoskey. While it’s possible to purchase polished stones in souvenir shops or buy jewelry featuring the stones, nothing is quite as rewarding as hunting for one yourself.
The best places to hunt for Petoskey stones are at Magnus City Park Beach and Petoskey State Park on Lake Michigan. As you walk the sandy beaches, search the waters around the surf because that’s the best way to identify the rocks, which feature a hexagonal pattern.
Mushroom Houses of Charlevoix
Not far from Petoskey in the town of Charlevoix are more than two dozen homes that look like something straight out of a fairy tale. The Mushroom Houses of Charlevoix is a collection of 26 dwellings that were created by Earl Young, who used local stones collected from the shoreline.
Today, visitors can take scheduled tours to see the various Mushroom Houses of Charlevoix. It’s even possible to book some of these homes as vacation rentals. Staying in one of these houses could be one of the most unique things to do in Petoskey Michigan.
Tour at Kilwins Chocolate Kitchen
For the young and young at heart, there’s nothing quite as magical as a candy shop. In the heart of Petoskey, Kilwins Chocolate Kitchen on Bay View Rd has been creating fresh, delectable chocolate bars and other delights since 1947.
Today, Kilwins stores can be found around the country, but the Petoskey shop is the original location where visitors can still get a scoop of the owner’s original recipe ice cream.
If you take a tour of this facility, you will see the candy being created for yourself. You can learn a little more about the history of this local mainstay too.
Walk Through a Lavender Field
Nothing is as peaceful or relaxing as strolling through a fresh lavender field, where the scent of this idyllic purple plant takes over your mind, body, and spirit. If you love lavender — all things scented or flavored — then the best place to visit near Petoskey is the Lavender Hill Farm in Boyne City.
With lavender fields that feature nearly 30 varieties of the plant sprawling from a restored historic barn, there’s no better place to indulge your love of lavender in Northern Michigan.
Tour Castle Farms
Few places in the United States — let alone in the northern wilds of Michigan — allow you to experience the grandeur of an authentic castle. In nearby Charlevoix, though, visitors can tour Castle Farms, one of the most historical things to do in Petoskey Michigan.
This historic building currently serves as an event venue and tourist attraction, but the estate was once the largest employer in the region. A tour of this incredible attraction provides information and insight as well as a chance to experience the breathtaking beauty of the grounds.
Catch a Sunset
Coined as a city with “million-dollar sunsets,” Petoskey is one of the best places in Michigan to watch the sun slide gracefully beneath the waters of Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan.
While modern travelers have discovered that the pink and orange hues of the breathtaking sunsets are perfect for Instagram, it appears that people have been awed by these sunsets for hundreds of years.
In fact, the name “Petoskey” comes from the language of the Odawa people and means “where the light shines through the clouds.” Any spot along Little Traverse Bay will afford you the chance to enjoy one of these unbelievable sunsets.
Bayfront Park & Petoskey City Marina
Bayfront Park and the Petoskey City Marina were once an industrial site but have been transformed into one of the most iconic parks in the community.
Today, residents and visitors alike flock to the park to enjoy its many amenities — a children’s playground, children’s fishing pond, softball fields, and a waterfall. Also, the recreational area is home to the Little Traverse History Museum and is considered one of the best places to watch a Petoskey sunset.
Petoskey Winter Sports Park
While most seasonal attractions in Petoskey are open during the summer months, the Petoskey Winter Sports Park is a seasonal spot that’s only available during December, January, and February.
This park is one of the best places to enjoy outdoor activities and get some fresh air during the frigid winter season, where snow defines the landscape and harsh winds threaten to keep everyone tucked away inside. Locals and visitors alike can enjoy ice skating, hockey, sledding, and skiing.
North Western State Trail
The North Western State Trail is a 32-mile recreational trail that runs along a former Pennsylvania Railroad line.
While this trail spans many cities in Northern Michigan, the 7-mile stretch between Petoskey and Alanson is considered one of the best parts segments, largely because it has recently been repaved and offers an incredibly immersive experience for adventurers.
Petoskey State Park
Spanning more than 300 acres, Petoskey State Park is a large and spacious park on the northern reaches of Little Traverse Bay. Known for its pristine beaches and breathtaking views, it’s a favorite destination among residents and travelers.
In addition to being one of the best places to swim and search for Petoskey stones, it has a geocaching area near the dunes for treasure hunters. With two modern campgrounds and nearly 200 campsites available to book, this park is a favorite among Michigan campers as well.
RodZilla Fishing Charters
Some of the best fishing in Michigan can be enjoyed in the waters of Little Traverse Bay, but it’s not always possible for visitors to bring their own equipment or watercraft to Petoskey. For travelers who still want to experience the thrills of fishing in the Great Lakes, RodZilla Fishing Charters can help.
Visitors can book a ride on the RodZill with a local captain and gain access to all of the fishing gear and technology they need to have a successful day on the water. The best part is that you’re guaranteed to catch fish — or your ride is free!
Boyne City Performing Arts Center
One of the best places to watch a live performance in the Petoskey area is the Boyne City Performing Arts Center, which is located in nearby Boyne City.
This fine arts performance center features more than 600 seats, making it the perfect size to attract world-class performers while still offering audiences the chance to enjoy an intimate experience.
The innovative design and state-of-the-art features ensure that every person enjoys a breathtaking performance regardless of where they sit. It might be one of the most entertaining things to do in Petoskey Michigan.
Great Lakes Center for the Arts
The Great Lakes Center for the Arts is another venue in Northern Michigan that allows both visitors and full-time residents to enjoy live performances. This performance venue opened in 2018, making it one of the newest additions to the Petoskey arts scene. It’s described as a social and cultural hub.
Throughout the year, attendees can participate in training programs, attend musical and dance performances, watch live theatre, or catch a film. Located in the heart of Petoskey, it’s quickly becoming a favorite spot among locals who like to support the arts.
Pennsylvania Park has long been considered a premier gathering space in Petoskey. This quaint park, with its historic atmosphere, is centrally located downtown and is where many of the most enjoyable community events take place, such as live summer concerts and movies in the park.
Featuring a charming gazebo, picnic area, and several memorials, Pennsylvania Park is a favorite spot among shoppers, workers, and visitors who want to rest, reflect, or simply enjoy the scenery. This park has recently become known as the home of the Ernest Hemingway statue.
Little Traverse Wheelway
Locally known as the “Bike Path,” the Little Traverse Wheelway is a 26-mile bike trail that stretches from Charlevoix to Harbor Springs. It’s a paved trail that’s relatively gentle, making it an ideal option for cyclists of all experience and skill levels.
In Petoskey, the trail winds from Bayfront Park to Petoskey State Park, offering magnificent views of Little Traverse Bay along the way. Additionally, plans are in the works to connect the Wheelway to Traverse City’s TART trail system.
Bills Farm Market
For a truly authentic Petoskey experience that allows you to enjoy the freshest food in town, visit Bills Farm Market. This locally-owned farm market is operated by a pair of Petoskey brothers out of the small family home where they grew up. Throughout the year, shoppers will find the freshest picks of in-season crops.
In the summer, you can get fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries depending on the week. In the late summer or early fall, you can grab harvest vegetables, such as sweet corn and cucumbers. In the winter, the market sells greenery, such as wreaths and Christmas trees to make your home festive for the holidays.
If you’re getting into the Christmas spirit, check out more Petoskey holiday attractions and events.
McCune Nature Preserve
Visitors who are looking to immerse themselves in nature would be remiss to pass up the opportunity to visit the McCune Nature Preserve, which is located just a few miles outside of Petoskey in Harbor Springs.
This 168-acre preserve is located along the bubbling Minnehaha Creek and is defined by the cedar swamp and red pine plantations that thrive there. With miles of trails and a nature center, this preserve showcases the natural beauty of this region and provides wildlife with a safe place to live and grow.
While there are many art galleries located in Petoskey’s historic Gaslight District, Somebody’s Gallery sets itself apart as a distinct art experience. This gallery features rotating artists throughout the year, all of whom hail from Michigan and focus on different artistic mediums.
The gallery is owned and operated by local Petoskey residents who are passionate about matching people with incredible works of art created by Michigan artists. It’s one of the best places to do souvenir shopping because it supports the local community and other Michigan-based artists.
Petoskey Pierhead Lighthouse
Since the end of the 19th century, there has been a light station at the end of the Petoskey pier. However, the Petoskey Pierhead Lighthouse was built more recently in 1930.
Today, this active lighthouse can be seen along the shores of Little Traverse Bay. Unlike other historic lighthouses in the area, though, it’s not open to the public.
If you’re interested in visiting more light stations, there are dozens of amazing lighthouses in Michigan.
Little Traverse Bay Ferry
The Little Traverse Bay Ferry is an innovative and enjoyable mode of transportation in Petoskey, connecting visitors and residents with Petoskey, Harbor Springs, and Bay Harbor.
The ferry operates seasonally between May and September. It has quickly become one of the fastest and most efficient ways to see the sights in all of these towns.
Sturgeon River Pottery
Just outside of Petoskey lies a small cabin-like structure that houses one of the best gift shops in Petoskey.
Sturgeon River Pottery is a locally-owned boutique with a homey atmosphere, and it’s famous for selling Petoskey stones, pottery, and handcrafted items created by Michigan artisans. This store is open seven days a week throughout the year, making it a convenient option for travelers and locals alike.
Pond Hill Farm
Pond Hill Farm is one of the top agritainment venues in Petoskey. This family-owned farm offers a homelike atmosphere for those who want to get out and enjoy a day of fun-filled activities in a beautiful location.
During the summer, visitors often spend hours wandering around the hiking trails or exploring the vineyards. In the winter, the farm opens its sledding hill, and guests can use the groomed trails for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat tire biking.
Boyne Mountain Resort & The Highlands at Harbor Springs
One of the most popular activities during winter in Petoskey is downhill skiing. Fortunately, there are three ski resorts in the area — Boyne Mountain Resort, The Highlands at Harbor Springs (formerly Boyne Highlands), and Nub’s Nob.
The Boyne and Highlands resorts offer luxurious amenities and incredible ski hills, making them appealing to skiers of all skill levels. On the other hand, Nub’s Nob offers a more intimate experience and is known for its exceptional grooming.
Families, in particular, enjoy this local attraction, which features rides, slides, pools, and hot tubs. It’s open year-round, but it’s very popular during the winter months when most Michigan families are stuck inside because of the cold weather.
If you’re looking for the perfect cut of cheese to pair with a new bottle of Michigan wine, Petoskey Cheese is the place to go. Located downtown, this artisanal cheese shop sells cut-to-order cheese and accoutrements, making it the perfect stop after a day at the local vineyards.
Enjoy a Bite to Eat
As Petoskey becomes more infamous in the Mitten State and throughout the Midwest, its reputation as a foodie destination continues to grow. There are plenty of places to eat in Petoskey, including local casual restaurants, fine dining restaurants, breweries, ice cream shops, and more.
The Best Restaurants in Petoskey
Petoskey has long attracted local chefs who want to live and work in a beautiful destination. But, in recent decades, this city has put itself on the map in terms of being a foodie destination. Trying all the best restaurants is one of the most delicious things to do in Petoskey Michigan.
From historic hot spots, like the City Park Grill where Ernest Hemingway liked to dine, to innovative fine dining experiences, such as Palette Bistro, there are restaurants for every taste, style, and budget in Petoskey.
Wineries & Breweries in Petoskey
In addition to being one of the best places to enjoy local flavors in Northern Michigan, Petoskey is home to many wineries and breweries.
Whether you’re interested in sipping a handcrafted beer in a casual and comfortable atmosphere at Petoskey Brewing, or you hope to enjoy a wine tasting while enjoying scenic views of Little Traverse Bay, you’ll find a spot that’s just right.
Ice Cream and Coffee Shops in Petoskey
Like any good Northern town, Petoskey has several local coffee and ice cream shops for you to visit during your trip.
Stay for Awhile
Attracting more than 750,000 visitors every year, Petoskey has many lodging options to choose from. Whether you prefer a rustic adventure or a luxurious escape, you’re sure to find a place to stay in Petoskey that suits your style.
Hotels in Petoskey
From historic hotels to all-seasons resorts, there are many luxurious and inviting lodging options in the city of Petoskey.
Those who are searching for a premier and indulgent experience will love the Inn at Bay Harbor, while those who are looking to immerse themselves in the history of the community will prefer The Terrace Inn.
Petoskey Michigan Campgrounds
With its endless natural beauty, Petoskey is a wonderful destination for a camping trip.
Campers can choose between campgrounds at state parks, such as the two modern campgrounds at Petoskey State Park, or privately-owned campgrounds that offer resort-style amenities, such as Sun Outdoors Petoskey Bay Harbor.
Vacation Homes to Rent in Petoskey
Travelers in Petoskey are increasingly relying on the availability of vacation rentals for their trips to this coastal Michigan town. Many of the vacation homes in Petoskey offer waterfront views and spacious yards, allowing people to feel like this community is their home away from home.
Those who are interested in booking a vacation home rental can search on popular websites, such as Airbnb or VRBO.
Find More Things to Do in Petoskey Michigan
Summertime is the peak travel season in Petoskey, largely because of the gorgeous weather and the plethora of outdoor things to do in town. However, this is the kind of place that you should consider visiting more than once and at different times during the year.
There’s nothing quite like experiencing Petoskey during the quiet depths of winter, when the blossoms begin to bloom, or when the autumn colors cast an entirely different glow on the community. No matter when you come to Petoskey, you’ll make memories that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.