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Hemingway’s  Northern Michigan

The author’s early works were shaped by his time in Michigan, and it’s easy to see why on a tour of his haunts and the spectacular landscapes he explored.

“This a priceless place…great northern air. Absolutely the best trout fishing in the country. Good color. Good northern atmosphere…it’s a great place to laze around, swim, and fish. And the best place in the world to do nothing. It is beautiful country.”

– Ernest Hemingway describing
northern Michigan, l9l9.

Harbor Golf Club

Above: Picturesque Bay Harbor Golf Club is situated on Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay with three distinct nine-hole courses. Bay Harbor Golf Club photo

Below: At Stafford’s Perry Hotel in Petoskey, Hemingway’s room rate was 75 cents in 1916. Stafford’s Perry Hotel photo


Petoskey–the jewel of northern Michigan–has held a magical appeal for vacationers for generations. Surrounded by spectacular natural beauty, plus biking and hiking trails, the area also includes the resort towns of Harbor Springs, Bay Harbor, and Boyne City.

The Petoskey area also was the summer home of American writer Ernest Hemingway, who vacationed here during the first two decades of the 20th century.

Hemingway’s parents fell in love with northern Michigan and built a summer cottage, called Windemere, on Walloon Lake. Hemingway visited northern Michigan every summer until he was married in 1921. His early works were shaped by his coming of age here.

Hemingway went on to write a series of short stories based in northern Michigan featuring a character named Nick Adams. His first published novel, The Torrents of Spring, was set in Petoskey. As he wrote, he transformed his experiences on Walloon Lake and nearby locales into colorful stories that evoked the spirit of the land, lakes, wildlife, and especially the people.

Hemingway haunts

Hemingway fans still find a magical beauty in the places that shaped his imagination when he was young. A self-guided driving tour–with maps available through the Michigan Hemingway Society–traces the author’s path and related locations. Start at the Little Traverse Historical Museum in the restored Pere Marquette Railroad Station overlooking Petoskey’s beautiful Bayfront Park. The museum has a permanent exhibit of Hemingway photos, letters, and memorabilia. Many of his books and collectibles related to the region’s history are available in the gift store.

Along the way, site markers highlight places associated with Hemingway and his Michigan stories. These sites include Stafford’s Perry Hotel on Lewis Street in Petoskey, where Hemingway paid 75 cents for his room in the summer of l916. Another former Hemingway hangout is the Horton Bay General Store near Boyne City, a good place to stop for lunch and soak up the atmosphere.

“There is an important connection between Hemingway tourism and the Petoskey area,” said Mike Federspiel, president of the Michigan Hemingway Society. “For decades, people from all over the world have visited northern Michigan with a copy of the Nick Adams book in hand, in pursuit of Hemingway.

“Unlike his other books, he related his personal experiences and impressions in his Michigan writings.”

Petoskey Yesterday offers walking tours of the city that include many of Hemingway’s favorite haunts. Turn-of-the-century Petoskey and ghost tours also are offered.

“The Palm Beach of Michigan”

Petoskey–picturesque, upscale, and artsy–is often described as the Palm Beach of Michigan, but it’s not as pricey. On the contrary, it is an affordable vacation choice, and a place to relax, rejuvenate, and reconnect. Still, there are millionaires and billionaires with familiar names from corporate America who escape here to their hideaways, waterfront estates, and secluded cottages in the woods every summer.

Petoskey, in the northwest pocket of the state, has been in the resort and hospitality business for more than l00 years. Trains played a major role in the town’s growth, just as they did in the south Florida boom years during the 1920s. From l873 to l960, major rail lines brought visitors seeking fresh air and a resort atmosphere from Midwest cities.

The town still embraces its role as a summertime vacation community when the population triples to 21,000. The grace and sophistication of a bygone era against the backdrop of northern Michigan’s natural beauty makes it a refreshing getaway for those wishing to escape the country’s intensive heat of the past few years. Summer temperatures are normally 77 degrees for a high. Breezes off Little Traverse Bay refresh.

Visitors can get a glimpse of yesteryear in the downtown Gaslight District with more than 90 distinctive shops featuring Michigan artists. Behind Stafford’s Perry Hotel is Stafford’s Gallery, which has a fine art collection, as well as jewelry and antiques. Local artifacts can be found in its Hall of History.

Cultural offerings are plentiful and enrich seasonal visits. The Bay View Association, a charming Victorian community in Petoskey, is a summer Chautauqua (a cultural, religious, and political education movement that began in the early 1870s). The Bay View Music Festival offers music from Motown to chamber music, opera to Broadway. The world’s longest-running musical, Les Misérables, is on the bill for this season, performed by professional singers and students.

Bay View, founded by the United Methodist Church in l875, also has splendid summer worship programs, classes, and speaker forums on its 337 acres by the lake. It is a National Historic Landmark.

For folk and roots music enthusiasts, Blissfest is a festival of traditional and innovative American music that’s held July 11–13 this year in Harbor Springs.

Outdoor fun

But Petoskey’s storybook setting is not just for history buffs and literary devotees. It is an outdoor paradise, offering trails to be hiked and paths to be biked. The area has several parks–including Petoskey State Park located on the northern end of Little Traverse Bay–and a 38-mile inland waterway, resulting in one of the most spectacular small boat trips in the country.

Golf Magazine rates the area’s 17 golf courses as second in the country for concentrated golf quality. Bay Harbor Golf Club in Bay Harbor has 27 scenic holes of golf. Its Inn at Bay Harbor (AAA Three Diamonds) is a luxury 134-room hotel that fronts five miles of shoreline. There’s also a full-service spa at this Victorian-style resort that provides hours of relaxation.

The 23-mile Little Traverse Wheelway links the towns of Charlevoix and Harbor Springs. Scattered along the way are nature preserves protected by the local conservancy. Hikers, runners, walkers, cyclists, and inline skaters share the trail year-round.

The Petoskey segment of the trail offers spectacular views of Little Traverse Bay as it winds along magnificent bluffs, past Magnus Park, and a historical church before crossing the Bear River at Bayfront Park.

Local cuisine

Dinner at Palette Bistro in downtown Petoskey includes Mediterranean-inspired cuisine and stunning views of the Traverse Bay.

Handcrafted baked goods, including scrumptious blueberry turnovers, are the appeal at the Crooked Tree Breadworks bakery between Petoskey and Harbor Springs.

Be sure to try the whitefish at Stafford’s Pier Restaurant in Harbor Springs. It’s fresh from the lake and is the area’s most famous dish. And Brunch at the Edgewater Bistro overlooking Lake Charlevoix is a delightful choice when sightseeing in Charlevoix.

It’s not hard to see why northern Michigan was a muse for Hemingway. Perhaps a getaway here will inspire a novel in you.

Marci DeWolf is a new contributor from Greer, S.C.

May/June 2014 Issue


For information, visit or contact the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau at or
(800) 845-2828. For Bay View Association details, visit or call (231) 347-6225. Learn more about Hemingway’s connection to Michigan at or www.petoskey, or call (231) 330-9657.

To visit Michigan, stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides.

Order information about Michigan through the Free Travel Information Card found online.

Petoskey Stones

The well-loved Petoskey stones can be found at local parks and on lakeside hunts. Smooth and round, these gray and black stones have a distinctive sunburst pattern. They are fossilized pieces of coral often transformed by local artisans into specialized products found in area shops.


Bill Cataline/Pure Michigan Moments Photo Contest


Unwinding in the UP  

The Upper Peninsula is a place to kick back and get away from everything. A true recreational wonderland, the UP is surrounded by three of the five Great Lakes–Huron, Michigan, and Superior–and is home to the multi-colored sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks, expansive woods, sandy dunes, and towering peaks woven together by flowing rivers and dramatic waterfalls.

From Petoskey, Mich., it’s about an hour’s drive north to the UP’s gateway, St. Ignace. To extend your northern Michigan getaway, or for an interesting day tour, explore Michigan’s stunning UP. Here’s a sample of what to see.


Crossing the Mackinac Bridge, visitors find a town out of the last century. Take a ferry to Mackinac Island or walk the boardwalk. The town offers lighthouse cruises, and hosts one of the largest car shows in the country every June.

Information: (800) 338-6660,


Visitors marvel at the renowned Soo Locks from the shore or by taking a boat tour through the locks. At Tahquamenon Falls State Park, see one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. At the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, located at Whitefish Point–site of the oldest active lighthouse on Lake Superior–learn about the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The ship was lost with the crew of 29 men on Nov. 10, 1975. The exhibit here includes the ship’s bell that was recovered in 1995.

Information: (800) 647-2858,


One of four national parks in Michigan, Pictured Rocks stretches along the southern coast of Lake Superior. Colored cliffs, beaches, waterfalls, lakes, streams, forests, and wildlife mark this scenic area.

There is a maritime museum, a lighthouse, and a visitor’s center. Backpacking, camping, kayaking, boating, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling are popular here. See the stunning shoreline from Lake Superior on a three-hour boat tour.

Information: (boat tours); (general)


Points of interest include the Marquette Maritime Museum and Lighthouse, the historical downtown area, and Presque Isle Point Park. With several beaches, the town is dominated by water. One can feel the power of Lake Superior as waves crash against the lighthouse pier. The expanse of rugged landscape invites hunting, hiking, autumn leaf peeping, and some of the best mountain biking in the Midwest.

Marquette has four breweries. The Annual UP Fall Beer Fest on Sept. 6 this year in the downtown area will offer 350 types of beer from 50 Michigan breweries.

Information: (800) 544-4321

–Marci DeWolf


Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. John McCormick photo

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