Charlevoix, Michigan is a small town of just 2,500 residents on the shores of Lake Charlevoix where it joins with Lake Michigan.

The charming town is where Ernest Hemingway once spent his summers, is home of a 1918 castle turned museum, and offers plenty of opportunity for year-round outdoor recreation on the lakes and area nature preserves.

1. Beaver Island Boat Company

Beaver Island Boat Company
© Beaver Island Boat Company

The Beaver Island Boat Company has been ferrying people and cars from Charlevoix to Beaver Island since 1984. The Emerald Isle, their flagship ferry was built in 1997 thanks to 3.4 million in both state and federal grants. In addition to the ferry schedule, the boat company offers tours of Beaver Island, known as “America’s Emerald Isle.” Tours may be booked with or without ferry tickets. The half day or full day tours take visitors to the island’s St. James Village, the two lighthouses, museums, churches and shops. Full day tours include a chance to go beachcombing along Iron Ore Bay.

103 Bridge Park Drive , Charlevoix, MI 49720, Phone: 231-547-2311

2. Charlevoix South Pier Light Station

Charlevoix South Pier Light Station
© Thomas Barrat/

The Charlevoix Lighthouse is located on the south pier of the narrow dividing Lake Michigan from Lake Charlevoix. Built in 1948, the lighthouse is a replacement for the original that once stood on the north side of the channel. When the original tower deteriorated, the red steel structure we see today was built to house the original lens and light. A specially constructed cement pier was added in the 1980’s to protect the harbor from the forceful waves of the lake. Thanks to the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, the lighthouse is currently under the management of the Charlevoix Historical Society, who received the rights from the US Coast Guard in 2008.

2 Grant St, Charlevoix, MI 49720, Phone: 231-547-3270

3. Ironton Ferry

Ironton Ferry
© Ironton Ferry

Lake Charlevoix’s Ironton Ferry has been transporting people and cars between Ironton to Boyne City in Michigan since 1876, although of course, it was originally powered by horses and absent of cars. The cable-pulled ferry runs between spring and late fall only, and has a capacity of up to four cars at a time. Ironton, home of the Pine Lake Iron Company, was once located directly across from George Hemingway’s summer home. His nephew, Ernest Hemingway, would often spend time there, thus the south ferry landing is now known as Hemingway Point. The location is referenced in ‘The Nick Adams Stories’ by Hemingway, and in a collection of short stories by Alicia Hein Cook titled ‘My Summers on Hemingway Road.’

9800 Ferry Rd, East Jordan, MI 49727, Phone: 231-308-3727

4. North Point Nature Preserve

North Point Nature Preserve
© Anna/

Michigan’s North Point Nature Preserve is a 27-acre area hidden away behind Mount McSauba. The terrain is comprised of wooded areas and open sand dunes along more than 2,500 feet of shoreline. The undeveloped shoreline is an important refuge in the busy town, and protects three endangered species of native plants. Visitors to the preserve may see porcupines, harbors deer, great blue herons, loons and eagles. The preserve is a favorite for cross country skiers in the winter months, and hikers in the summer. 1.5 miles of trails, rated easy, can be accessed from either of two trailheads along Mt. McSauba Road.

9310 McSauba Rd, Charlevoix, MI 49720, Phone: 231-347-0991

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5. Charlevoix Historical Society

Charlevoix Historical Society
© Charlevoix Historical Society

The Charlevoix Historical Society aims to bridge the past and future through educational program, diverse and engaging experiences, and participation in local preservation efforts. The non-profit organization was founded in 1879, with a strong revitalization in 1972. The organization runs a museum at the Harsha House, which features rotating exhibits year round. The 1892 home was once owned by Charlevoix businessman Horace Harsha, whose granddaughter donated it to the Historical Society in 1979. Permanent exhibits there include a photography exhibit showing 150 years of Charlevoix history. The society also manages and preserves the historic South Pier Lighthouse, and the Charlevoix Train Depot, available for use by members for weddings and special events.

103 State Street, Charlevoix, MI 49720, Phone: 231-547-0373

6. Harwood Gold Cafe

Harwood Gold Cafe
© Harwood Gold Café

The Harwood Gold Café offers everything maple in downtown Charlevoix. Café owners, the Parson family, have been harvesting maple and making syrup and maple products for five generations. The family farm was established in 1898. The syruping business continues to this day, offering three grades of maple syrup and related products. The café opened in 2016 and offers a farm-to-table dining menu, espresso drinks, juices and smoothies, alongside handmade pies and specialty grocery items. Guests may try each of the maple syrup products before purchasing. The café is located in a historic downtown building that was once home to another local business, Murdick’s Famous Fudge.

230 Bridge St, Charlevoix, Michigan 49720, Phone: 231-437-3900

7. A Matter of Taste at Tapawingo

A Matter of Taste at Tapawingo
© A Matter of Taste at Tapawingo

Tapawingo is a Native American name for joy and peace. The charming home is now a waterfront venue hosting private events and weddings, with catering services provided by A Matter of Taste. The venue offers a public Thursday night supper club from May through December. The prix fixe menu showcases the talents of husband and wife chefs Ginny and Gregg McCallum with foods from local farms. Live music at the dinner events is provided by the couple’s oldest son, Kadin, alongside local musicians. The lakeside venue is just 15 minutes from Charlevoix on the shores of Lake St. Clair.

9502 Lake St, Ellsworth, MI 49729, Phone: 231-588-1000

8. Smoke on the Water

Smoke on the Water
© Smoke on the Water

Smoke on the Water is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday, with brunch on Sundays. The locally owned restaurant was opened in 2014 by husband and wife team Julie and Ed Mann. Originally, the couple smoked food on a small Webber grill, and now serve made-from-scratch meals with meats smoked on a large smoker found in Athens, Georgia. The southern-style barbeque is smoked with a mild maple wood. Meats smoked daily include salmon, chicken, turkey, pork butt and brisket, but the restaurant will take special orders to smoke anything the guest requests. Homemade baked goods include challah bread, buns and apple bourban banana break all made daily.

103 Park Ave. Charlevoix, MI 49720, Phone: 231-237-9604

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