Charlevoix, Michigan is a beautiful city located along the shores of Lake Michigan. It’s known for its quaint downtown area, stunning views, and abundance of outdoor activities.
If you’re planning a trip to Charlevoix, here are the top 18 things you must do during your visit.
1. Stroll Through Downtown Charlevoix
Downtown Charlevoix along Bridge Street is very walkable and full of great shops, restaurants, and historic buildings. Here are some highlights you don’t want to miss during your stroll:
- Weathervane Restaurant: Housed in a historic bank building, this upscale restaurant serves delicious regional cuisine like whitefish and duck.
- Mushroom House Antiques: Browse the wares inside one of Earl Young’s fairy tale-like mushroom houses.
- Castle Farms: Meander through gorgeous gardens and see Charlevoix exhibits at this 1918 castle estate.
- Inspiration Art Gallery: Discover works by talented local artists at this vibrant gallery.
- Earl Young Mushroom Houses: Look for these storybook cottages shaped like mushrooms throughout downtown.
2. Relax at Michigan Beach Park
Address: 1 Water St, Charlevoix, MI 49720
This public park offers one of the best beaches in Charlevoix. Stretching for nearly a mile along Lake Michigan, it has soft sand and clear blue water perfect for swimming and sunbathing.
Lifeguards are on duty in summer. Rent kayaks, canoes or stand-up paddleboards on site to explore the lake. There’s also basketball courts, tennis courts, and hiking trails through pastoral scenery leading to Fisherman’s Island State Park.
3. Play a Round at Belvedere Golf Club
Address: 5731 Marion Center Rd, Charlevoix, MI 49720
Belvedere Golf Club is one of Michigan’s premier golf courses with an immaculate 18-hole layout winding through mature forests and overlooking Lake Charlevoix. The rolling fairways and quick greens offer challenges for golfers at every skill level.
After your round, enjoy lunch or a drink on their lake view terrace at the Grille Room restaurant. This course provides a beautiful and engaging golf experience.
4. Camp at Fisherman’s Island State Park
Address: 16480 Bells Bay Rd, Charlevoix, MI 49720
Nestled on a small wooded island just offshore from Charlevoix, Fisherman’s Island State Park has a rustic campground with 31 walk-in tent sites. It’s a uniquely peaceful setting with Lake Michigan beaches, fishing, hiking trails and incredible sunsets.
Ferry service to the island runs daily Memorial Day through Labor Day. Reserve your campsite online ahead of time as they fill up.
5. Paddle Antrim Chain of Lakes
Just south of Charlevoix lies the pristine Antrim Chain of Lakes, perfect for kayaking and canoeing. Rent your vessel from Lake Charlevoix Paddlesports, then paddle through crystal clear waters and spot loons and eagles along the wooded shores of the chain’s 6 lakes.
Experienced paddlers can tackle the 10 mile Chain of Lakes route. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on one of the sandy beaches along the way!
6. Tour Castle Farms
Address: 5052 M-66, Charlevoix, MI 49720
This sprawling 1918 French Renaissance estate named Castle Farms has been immaculately restored with gardens, fountains, stone walls, and cobbled pathways. Tour the Lodge to see artifacts and photos displaying Charlevoix history.
Let kids run through the hedge maze and model train exhibits. There’s always various expos and activities going on too, like Renaissance re-enactments.
7. Experience Mushroom House Tours
Address: 106 Park Ave, Charlevoix, MI 49720
Architect Earl Young built over 30 adorable cottages in Charlevoix during the 1920s and ’30s that resemble mushrooms due to their small rounded towers. Take a guided walking tour to see these storybook homes up close and go inside a few. Hear fascinating details about Young and how he achieved the fanciful designs using indigenous materials. Tours run daily June through October.
8. Watch the Sunset at Mt. McSauba
Address: 9223 Mt McSauba Rd, Charlevoix, MI 49720
For breathtaking sunset views, head up to Mt. McSauba Recreation Area just south of Charlevoix. There’s a small network of hiking trails leading to overlook points.
Or drive up and watch the sun dip down over Lake Michigan from a bench at Sunset Point. The panoramic vistas of distant lighthouses, beaches and water are phenomenal as the sky lights up in orange hues.
9. Take a Sailing Cruise
A sailing cruise on Lake Charlevoix or Lake Michigan is a fantastic way to admire Charlevoix’s beauty from offshore. Many companies like Irish Boat Shop offer 2-3 hour daytime and sunset cruises where you can relax on deck, stop for swimming, or even help hoist the sails.
Cruising beside the towering dunes and charming cottages along the shore is a memorable experience.
10. Drive M-119 Tunnel of Trees
Just west of Charlevoix, scenic M-119 winds along a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan’s shore, providing stunning vistas. The famous stretch called the “Tunnel of Trees” near Cross Village passes through canopies of dense hardwood forest, creating an enchanted, verdant corridor.
Stop at roadside lookouts and walk down staircases to deserted beaches dotted with petoskey stones.
11. Take a Wine Tour
The area around Charlevoix has several excellent wineries crafting fruit wines from locally grown grapes and cherries. Tour wineries like Boathouse Vineyards along Lake Charlevoix’s south shore sampling dry red, white and blush wines.
Bonobo Winery on the north shore offers tasting flights and wood-fired pizzas amidst their vineyards. Don’t miss their cherry ice wine!
12. Play Golf at Dunmaglas Golf Course
Address: 9031 Boyne City Rd, Charlevoix, MI 49720
Dunmaglas Golf Course is a scenic 18-hole course south of Charlevoix designed by renowned architect Jerry Matthews. It incorporates the natural terrain’s rolling hills and hardwoods with challenging holes requiring accurate shots.
Amenities include a driving range, pro shop, and restaurant with outdoor patio. After your round, enjoy a breathtaking view of Lake Charlevoix.
13. Scuba Dive Lake Michigan Shipwrecks
The cool freshwater of Lake Michigan harbors numerous intact shipwrecks for scuba divers to explore.
Charter dive trips with Gold Coast Scuba to see wrecks like the old Pewabic steamship, a 107 foot long wooden schooner, and a 19th century lumber barge. The frigid water preserves the wrecks in incredible condition with fascinating artifacts still on board.
14. Enjoy Beaches at Ferry and Depot Parks
Two small beach parks bookend downtown Charlevoix, offering lake access perfect for swimming and sunbathing.
Ferry Park has a beach along Round Lake channel, picnic tables, marina, and disc golf course.
Depot Park’s Lake Michigan beach has pristine sand, a picnic area, and a fisherman’s pier stretching into the channel. The locations right in town make them very convenient.
15. Attend Venetian Festival
Event Location: Ferry Ave, Charlevoix, MI 49720
Charlevoix’s Venetian Festival is an annual summer highlight celebrating the city’s heritage. For one night in late July, elaborately decorated boats and yachts illuminate Lake Charlevoix in a dazzling nautical parade.
Fireworks follow the boat parade. The festivities also include concerts, a carnival, food vendors, and craft booths at Ferry Park during the day.
16. Hunt for Petoskey Stones
Petoskey stones are Michigan’s state stone – fossilized coral abundant in this region. The best places to search for these patterned beauties are beaches along Little Traverse Bay like Petoskey State Park, Fisherman’s Island State Park, and Michigan Beach Park.
Look along the water’s edge for smooth gray rocks with hexagonal patterns, especially after storms. The stones make great keepsakes.
17. Shop and Dine on Bridge Street
Downtown Charlevoix’s Bridge Street is lined with boutique shops, art galleries, cafes and bistros.
Pop into shops like The Clothing Company for upscale apparel and Mushroom House Antiques for unique home decor in an Earl Young mushroom house.
For food, try East Park Tavern’s lobster rolls on their streetside patio or Lucy and Ethel’s quirky comfort food inside a vintage trailer.
18. Visit Beaver Island
Take a scenic ferry or plane ride from Charlevoix out to remote Beaver Island in Lake Michigan.
Tour the island on bike or kayak, hike nature trails through forests and wetlands, visit museums detailing island history, and enjoy the miles of pristine beaches. The island offers a tranquil, laid-back retreat into nature perfect for a day or overnight trip.
So there you have it – the ultimate Charlevoix bucket list! With vibrant downtown Charlevoix, scenic state parks, and endless outdoor recreation, this northern Michigan city offers plenty to see and experience. The stunning Lake Michigan setting provides a beautiful backdrop to it all. Have a wonderful time exploring Charlevoix!