Where Life Meets Lake

Fun Fests

Come summer, Boyne City throws a festival each week — sometimes more. And there are visit-worthy events taking place in all seasons, none with more history than the mushroom-loving Morel Festival(www.morelfest.com) held for more than 50 years the third weekend each May. Many-time champion Anthony Williams once collected 600 morels in a 90-minute hunt featured at the festival, but now he shares tips on guided festival tours, a highlight that rivals April’s Taste of Boyne sampling of the delicacy as prepared by chefs from more than a dozen area restaurants.

Two of the city’s newer festivals are similarly worth planning a visit around. The SoBo Arts Festival features a juried art show, music and entertainment and is held the last weekend of June. And the streets close each year the second week of July for the fast-growing, adrenaline-pumping Boyne Thunder, with its featured event a poker run by high-performance boats.

For a complete list of year-round festivals and fun, visit www.boynechamber.com

Must-stops for Hemingway Fans

Harsha House, Charlevoix. See Hemingway’s original marriage certificate or buy one in poster form for $2.

W.A.R.D. Gallery of Fine Art, Harbor Springs. Located inside the historic train station through which thousands of trains (including ones taken by the Hemingways) would pass each summer. Now, you’ll find French antiques and contemporary art.

The Terrace Inn and The Bay View Inn, Bay View. Access to all the private amenities of scenic Bay View, where Hemingway spent a winter working on “Torrents of Spring.” Reserve the Hemingway Room at the Terrace Inn, and you’ll sleep under a fly rod Hemingway once used and have “A Farewell to Arms” at your bedside.

Greensky Hill Indian Methodist Church Charlevoix. A sacred place to the Native Americans Hemingway wrote about as the Indian Camp in his Nick Adams stories.

Red Fox Inn, Horton Bay. Hemingway-themed bookstore and more.

City Park Grill and Jesperson’s Restaurant, Petoskey. Such popular Hemingway hangouts that today’s owners can point to his favorite stool.

The Little Traverse History Museum, Petoskey. Watch a videotaped walking tour and see the typewriter Hemingway used at Potter’s Rooming House.


Where Life Meets Lake

By Kim Schneider
Lake Charlevoix charmed Ernest Hemingway and generations of resorters who followed. Today, its eastern gateway town of Boyne City, Michigan is doing the same.
Underneath the oversized canvases of Michigan sunsets and Northern Lights, across from a pendant depicting the patron saint of mariners and not far from a lounging shop dog, sits a small sign on a desk at the Boyne’s Beyond Borders gift shop. It reads: “Be nice or leave.”

If you aren’t at first sure how to take that message, just wander the lakefront parks and charming harbors of this town wrapped around the eastern end of Lake Charlevoix. As the weekly Farmer’s Market winds down against the backdrop of a lake glistening in the sunlight, a young boy waves high a sign offering pumpkins — all free. Down the street, in what’s known as the town’s arts district, Lake Street Market owner Liz Glass does charge for her cleverly-named sandwiches, wines and other gourmet picnic fare. But the goodwill is just as evident when you mention how nice it’d be to have a fresh-made bagel with imported cheese delivered to a boat slip some morning. 

“Of course,” she replies, even though there’s no formal delivery service in place. “We’d find a way to get it there. Just tell us when.”

An organized, decade-long Main Street effort has led to a shared ethic of friendly, as well as a lively artistic vibe that belies the town’s small size. The sounds of folk guitars, country, blues and rock waft from multiple street corners each Friday night when summer’s “Stroll the Streets” event brings music, street performers and deals to town. Every month brings a featured festival — or three — like February’s Chocolate Covered Boyne culinary celebration, March’s Irish Heritage Fest, or May’s Morel Mushroom Festival celebration of a North Woods favorite delicacy. Destination restaurants and galleries also draw visitors by car and boat, and some $1 million in architectural restorations lend a back-in-time feel to the red brick facades of the one-time lumber boomtown. 

Yet the main attraction is the one celebrated in the official town motto: “Where Life Meets Lake.”

All roads lead to the lake 

The city’s main streets all end in Lake Charlevoix, if they don’t run along it, and there’s an objective basis for the local claim that you’re visiting the “best lake East of the Rockies.” A 2012 USA Today reader poll proclaimed Lake Charlevoix a close runner-up to the nation’s top vote-getter, Lake Tahoe. One reader proclaimed it’s “Where the Gods swim,” describing the lake as spiritual in its clarity and the way the color is offset by surrounding hills of every shade of green. Another reader mentioned its sandy beaches, fruitful fishing, mysterious loons, quaint towns and world-class sunsets. The way its clear, deep, often turquoise blue is ringed by a shallow ledge also, readers noted, lends itself perfectly to a relaxed day of anchoring with the family.

From Boyne City’s newly expanded marina, Lake Michigan is just a 15-mile boat trip west to the port of Charlevoix. The outlet offers a rare inland lake connection to the rest of the world via the Great Lakes. Within even easier reach are several other quaint towns with their own vacation traditions, perfect for day trips. 

East Jordan, an artist enclave located at the tip of the lake’s southern arm, is notable for its glass blowers and potters and easy access to the fast-flowing Jordan River, designated both a National Wild and Scenic River and a blue-ribbon trout stream. Jordan Valley Outfitters even offers popular, if unusual, winter river trips in a large blue raft that floats past ice formations resembling lace. Trips stop for a snowshoe hike through woods glistening with untouched snow, hot chocolate and bonfire at the river’s edge.

If you’re looking for a boat slip, fuel, repairs or a boat to rent in this area, Swan Valley Marina is a full-service marina in operation for more than 70 years. They offer a full line of watercraft rentals, including open bow ski boats, pontoons, fishing boats and WaveRunners. They are also an authorized dealer for ShoreStation docks and hoists. 

Charlevoix, at the lake’s far end, offers vibrant restaurants and galleries. It’s also a gateway to Lake Michigan resort towns like Harbor Springs and Petoskey, notable for its multiple galleries, Victorian architecture and the Bay View Association Chautauqua community. A cottage community that started as a United Methodist Church-run tent camp, Bay View has throughout history hosted some of the top thinkers of its day, bringing speakers like William Jennings Bryan and Helen Keller to the Midwest. Concerts, and its weekly summer lectures on religion and life, remain open to the general public.  

City born of a dream

There’s something special, though, about Boyne City that you’ll sense as you sit atop one of the many benches situated along the water’s edge, or occupy a waterside table at Cafe Santé and feast dreamily on European-style mussels and frites while looking out over a blazing patio bonfire. Even without the culinary magic, the surrounding hills create a valley feel, as if this spot is somehow removed from the rest of the world.

In 1856, New Yorker Harriet Miller got a picture of just such a place in a dream of a cabin located on the shore of a bear-shaped lake. The dream was so vivid that she set out with husband John to find the home she believed to be her destiny. On the north shore of Lake Charlevoix, she found a vacated cabin and settled in, and the town’s name came when they wandered past a small stream and christened it the Boyne River, after a similarly clear stream in John’s native country of Ireland. 

The beloved couple wasn’t the only Charlevoix County leaders thought to be drawn by divine forces. Nearly a decade earlier, in 1848, Jesse James Strang helped to write one of the strangest chapters in Midwestern history when he claimed to have received a directive from God to form a Mormon colony on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, just off the coast of Charlevoix. He proclaimed himself King of Beaver Island and was eventually elected to the state legislature before being assassinated by disgruntled followers in 1856.

While the Beaver Island colony disbursed, Boyne City grew with the help of its many old-growth forests. At the town’s industrial peak, three sawmills were operating along the lakefront with a tannery and other industries. The population swelled to 7,000 — about double the town’s current size.

The area’s lumber boom was at its height when Dr. Clarence Hemingway and his wife, Grace, of Oak Park, Illinois, first came by train and steamship to nearby Walloon Lake, just a few miles north of Lake Charlevoix, and built Windemere Cottage as their summer home. They returned year after year, and the experiences their young son, Ernest, had amid the lumber camps, trout streams and Native American villages of that day would form the basis for his popular Nick Adams stories.

The infamous author was known for his escapades at an early age, or so you’ll learn in a visit to the Red Fox Inn, a Hemingway-themed bookstore located in the two-shop enclave of Horton Bay just northeast of Boyne City. Pay attention to the hand-painted sign on the porch suggesting you inquire about a “Last Good Country Tour.”  The tour offers you a guided walk through the actual spots (and tales of the people) that inspired Hemingway’s stories. You’ll also hear a few inside bits from store owner Jim Hartwell, the grandson of original owner Vollie Fox — the man who taught Hemingway to fish. He’ll lead you to Ten Mile Point, where in “The End of Something,” Nick Adams dumps the not-fictional local girl Marjorie Bump and perhaps tell of the time young Ernest got up in the night, rang the school bell until all the lights in town were on, then went back to bed. 

Year-round tourism from a chairlift 

Year-round tourism grew dramatically when a young Studebaker dealer named Everett Kircher decided the state needed a ski resort and used elevation maps to pinpoint a promising spot just 7 miles from Boyne City. He bought the land for $1 from a farmer who believed in the vision and couldn’t grow anything on the steep slopes. Kircher then installed one of the earliest chairlifts ever built. 

A pioneer in both lifts and snowmaking, Kircher grew Boyne Mountain into the largest ski resort between New England and the Rockies and expanded the season by laying out the first nine-hole golf course himself and hiring architects like Robert Trent Jones Jr. for further development.

Today, you can book a room at the Alpine-themed Mountain Grand Lodge and watch kids rejoice as the family heads to the attached Avalanche Bay, the state’s largest indoor water park. There are slopes for skiers and snowboarders of every level, but those who prefer alternate adventures are in luck, too, with horse-drawn sleigh rides, tubing parks, new fat tire winter bike rentals, and even a zipline adventure course. Spring brings segway tours and fly fishing instruction.

More public land with a view is located at Young State Park, just outside the Boyne City limits. Long stretches of sandy beach are perfect for quiet strolls and especially popular with boaters, as are the camp’s rental cabins. Those with more gracious lodging accommodations in mind will love the nestled-in-the-pines feel of Horton Creek Bed and Breakfast. There, rooms with woodsy names like Bear, Moose and Treetop fit well with the log cabin-like interiors. For world-class sunset views and the roominess of a condominium, the popular choice is Water Street Inn, right on Lake Charlevoix in Boyne City.

This charming condominium beachfront hotel offers one-bedroom condos within easy walking distance of shopping, dining and marina. All rooms include kitchenette, living room with fireplace, and patio or balcony overlooking their beach and beautiful Lake Charlevoix. Take advantage of their great offseason rates.

Shop SoBo

This is a town made for strolling, both for the open space along the waterfront and a vibrant business district that’s considered a model for others across the state. What started as a joke — the creation of an arts district called SoBo (South Boyne) — instead had a “Name it and they will come” effect. The colorful, modified Manhattan logo now graces a section of Lake Street that boasts a handful of galleries and other shops, including the light-filled Freshwater Studio. Here, visitors can shop under a classic boat that hangs from the ceiling for full-sized log beds or delicate jewelry — all made by Michigan artists.

Nestled in the beating heart of downtown Boyne City is a brand new marina and residential condo development being marketed and sold by Kidd & Leavy Real Estate. Dubbed The Marina at One Water Street and The Resort Cottages at One Water Street respectively, this upscale property situated at the west end of town is perfect for folks looking to plant some firm roots in the shadow of Lake Charlevoix. 

The Marina at One Water Street is a 24-slip floating marina constructed by esteemed builder Flotation Dock Systems of Cedarville, Michigan. Slips (twelve 40-foot slips, seven 65-foot slips and five 80-foot slips) are currently available for lease or sale. Construction on The Resort Cottages is slated to begin in Spring 2014. The property includes 15 single family, detached condo residences, nine of which are located on the waterfront. For more information about the maria or cottages, contact Wally Kidd at 231-838-2700 or wkidd@kiddleavey.com.

Water Street’s appeal is the shopping and dining variety, as well as the history of buildings that sport ceilings of copper or tin. Sip a latte and peruse a new or used book at the Local Flavor Bookstore and Internet Café; pick up a travel tea press or cooperative game at Inspired Living; or try the Mayan fry bread tacos with a margarita at the Red Mesa Grill where, come summer, you’ll always find a line.

Across the street, Boyne’s Beyond Borders invites you to think outside the norm with its unusual selection of jewelry and crafts from around the world. But owner Jon Bautel says he mostly wants shop visitors to feel at home and like friends. Good friends.