Although there is much to do here in Petoskey, the neighboring cities and communities offer fun things to do and see that can be great for a day trip while you enjoy your stay in the Petoskey Area. Experience the history, beautiful sites, nature, or even a shipwreck from a glass-bottom boat!
Mackinac Bridge – 50 minutes away
A Michigan must-see, The Mackinac Bridge (“MACK-in-awe”), was opened to traffic on November 1, 1957. The bridge took over three years to build and is now the fifth-longest suspension bridge in the world. There are many great viewpoints if you want a scenic view or photo of the “Mighty Mac”. Try the Bridge View Park in St Ignace or Strait View Park in Mackinaw City. Of course, it is worth the 5-mile trip across the bridge by car to get a look at the Straits of Mackinac, the connector to Great Lakes Huron to the east and Michigan to the west. Walking across is prohibited except for the Annual Bridge Walk that occurs on Labor Day each year when they close the bridge to vehicles.
Mackinac Island – 90 minutes away (approx. including the ferry ride)
Voted number one on Travel + Leisure’s list of 15 Best Islands in the Continental U.S. for 2022. Famous for being a carless island for over 100 years, you can navigate the island by foot, bike, or horse-drawn carriage. As a day trip from the Petoskey Area, you should be sure to check out their local shops, try some famous Mackinac Island fudge, tour the island, check out historical sites, go to one of their Butterfly Houses, and more. Also, check out Petoskey-made High Five Spirits at their new tasting room on Mackinac Island: Mackinac Island Rum Co. Getting to Mackinac Island is typically done via ferry boat but may also be done via plane or personal boat.
Tunnel of Trees – Scenic route starting in Harbor Springs
This is a famous scenic route that takes you from Harbor Springs through Cross Village all the way to my favorite beach, Sturgeon Bay Beach, within Wilderness State Park. This is a very popular way to view the fall colors of northern Michigan which are estimated to be peak color the last week of September into the first couple weeks of October. You can make pit stops at places like Pond Hill Farm for lunch or dinner at their café, walk their trails, and pick out a pumpkin. Along the route, you will also pass by Good Hart General Store, a great stop for gifts, sweets, their famous pot pies, and more. One last place you will want to consider along this beautiful stretch of scenic road is the historic Legs Inn restaurant where they serve authentic Polish cuisine giving panoramic views of Lake Michigan.
Wilderness State Park – 40 minutes from Petoskey
This more than 10,000-acre state park is home to 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, Sturgeon Bay Beach, a massive 20-plus miles of trails (including a section of the North Country Trail), and is also a designated dark sky preserve. Sturgeon Bay Beach is home to rolling sand dunes with roadside and a select amount of parking in a small lot. Dogs must be leashed to protect plover habitats and nests along the beach. By being designated as a dark sky preserve it signifies that this area has the qualities that allow it to limit the amount of artificial light. This quality makes for great viewing of the night sky on a clear night! Whether you hike, visit the beach, or even stargaze, Wilderness State Park makes for a great adventure for the day!
Cheboygan – 50 min from Petoskey – 30 min from Alanson
Lying on the shores of Lake Huron and home to the Cheboygan River, Cheboygan offers some hidden gems worth taking the day to discover. Great place for the arts, to try local eats and brews, along with shipwreck and lighthouse-viewing adventures! The Cheboygan Opera House brings local and national entertainment. The building is beyond beautiful with ornate detailing, and its current structure was erected in 1903.
Take the time to explore downtown and its unique shops like Simply Marcella (boutique) or Stormy Kromer Cap & Ale House. Try local food like the Nauti Inn Barstro – creative eats with their uniquely designed ‘Waterway Bar’, Mulligan’s – the local classic, Nourish Northern Michigan for a farm-to-table and totally gluten-free menu for breakfast or lunch, or maybe new to the block but not to town – Libby’s Downtown. Beer enthusiasts will want to stop at the Cheboygan Brewing Company located on Main Street and home to their Blood Orange Honey Wheat Ale and don’t forget to check out their seasonal taps too!
Next on the list is to book a tour with Nautical North Family Adventures. Famous for its Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tours, this company offers multiple cruises daily. Boat tours aren’t just for the summer months, they offer tours in September and October as well! This group is truly passionate about what they do and has a lot of fun doing it! Check their other offerings like lighthouse tours, river cruises, scuba, and more: here.
Ocqueoc Falls – 60 min from Petoskey and 45 min from Alanson
Ocqueoc Falls is in Presque Isle County and 12 miles to the west of Rogers City. The word “ocqueoc” is said to be a French term meaning “crooked river” and is pronounced “AH-key-ock”. One other interesting fact to note is that this is the ONLY recognized waterfall in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. This area is great to visit in all seasons. I have personally visited just before the snow has flown for some hiking along their Ocqueoc Falls Bicentennial Pathway as well as snowshoed across the river in the winter when it has frozen over (please enjoy at your own risk, of course). This trail is a 6-mile loop enjoyed by hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing. It makes for a really great way to get out into nature for a day hike this fall or to even just view the waterfall. The falls are very close to the parking area, so it is not a long hike if you wish to solely see the falls.
While making your travel plans for visiting Petoskey, Harbor Springs, or Boyne City make sure to see all our great things to do in the fall. Don’t count the surrounding areas out, especially if this isn’t your first trip to see us.
About the author
Ellen Auten is a native of the area and loves to promote the next fun thing to do in the Petoskey Area – but also loves giving out local favorites and learning opportunities for all. She hopes to help in your planning process for your next trip to the Petoskey Area of northern Lower Michigan.
Ocqueoc Falls: Michigan DNR