Vincent Van Gogh said, “If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” I definitely love the great outdoors, but some places in nature are certainly more beautiful than others – and more unique. If you are looking for somewhere to get off the beaten path and enjoy nature when you’re visiting the Petoskey Area, you really need to point your compass in the direction of the Headlands International Dark Sky Park and you don’t have to wait for nightfall to do so.

Established in 2011, the Headlands is one of just a handful of areas declared as an international dark sky park (and it was one of the first 10 in the world designated as such!). It’s a place to stargaze and watch and wonder about the planets, a place where darkness is your friend and lights are intruders.

Especially for those from bigger cities, the park may be one of the few times you ever have to see the Milky Way, view the Northern Lights or experience the joy of witnessing a meteor shower.

Visit during the daytime, too

During daylight hours, the Headlands is a picture-perfect place to hike or cross-country ski, as five miles of trails lead through untouched forests including two miles of dazzling Lake Michigan shoreline.

If you’re a birder, you may be like a kid in a candy store when you see the myriad of species found throughout park. Be sure and wander among the Dark Sky Discovery Trail stations along the main route. These stops get rave reviews from those who want to understand the relationship between man and the cosmos.

At night, go early

When visiting the Dark Sky Park at night, it’s best to go early and get an idea of where you’ll be going; until summer 2017, there is a mile walk in (and walk out) required, due to construction of a new facility. With the upcoming opening of a high-tech observatory complete with a research grade telescope, outdoor seating arena and 24-hour ADA restrooms, things at the Dark Sky Park just keep looking up!

End the year on a high note

The last Dark Sky Program for 2016 is December 29 and hopefully snowshoes will be needed to make the trek. Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director for the Dark Sky Park will be on hand sharing stories of cultures, the stars and their relationships to the signs of the zodiac. What an amazing way to spend time with the family watching nature’s TV!

Look us up

You don’t need a telescope to find lodging in the Petoskey Area – just visit the website and plan your next visit.  The Headlands is a comfortable 45 minutes away and the drive back will leave you time to snuggle down and talk about all you saw in this place of wonder – truly a jewel in the Michigan Treasure known as the Petoskey Area.


About the author

Diane Dakins is passionate about all the lakeside communities that comprise the Petoskey Area of northern Michigan: Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Bay Harbor and Boyne City. As assistant director of the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau, she has “been there – seen that” when it comes to virtually every area attraction. Her blogs give potential visitors the scoop on planning a northern Michigan vacation.