By Steve Ellis
Bellaire is a small village in northern Michigan about two miles west of Torch Lake. It is the county seat of Antrim County and is home to the historic Antrim County Courthouse built in 1905.
The Bellaire post office opened in 1879 under the name Keno. It was changed to Bellaire in 1890. For many years Bellaire was the major railroad center for the area and attracted many industrial corporations due to the ease of transportation. The last train line closed in 1982.
Bellaire’s population has remained steady over the years, with a 1900 population of approximately 1,100 and a similar population today.
As local industry slowed down, the tourist industry picked up and today, Bellaire is a very popular tourist destination with great swimming, boating, canoeing, golf, and our favorite, the Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area Trailhead. We look forward to hiking or biking sections of this 765-acre nature area on all of our trips.
Bellaire is also a great fall destination for scenic back road and driving tours to see the beautiful colors of the leaves changing.
In the winter, snowmobile trails, sledding spots and Shanty Creek’s ski slopes provide plenty of fun.
Bellaire’s quant downtown is filled with unique stores, eateries and more. The town has been nominated for “America’s Best Small Town.”
The biggest draw in downtown Bellaire is the Short’s Brewing Company. Twenty-two-year-old Joe Short registered Short’s as a business in 2002. In January 2003, Joe and several friends and volunteers began renovating and restoring a 100-year-old empty hardware store.
In 2004 Short’s opened its brewpub, producing 178 barrels the first year. The business grew quickly and more space was needed. Short’s purchased an old manufacturing building in Elk Rapids and began operation in 2009.
The Bellaire location has continued to expand, with a great food selection, entertainment and its own store. Short’s has now taken over four former storefronts.
Other popular downtown eateries include the Lunch Box (our regular breakfast spot), Terrain, the Corner Bistro, the Bellaire Bar and Restaurant, and Toonie’s Fish and Steakhouse.
No trip is complete without visiting the Bellaire Smokehouse, providing smoked and fresh meat and seafood – the smoked whitefish makes a perfect snack. It’s open from mid-April through January 1.
Be sure to check out The Flying Pig (a great gift and home decor store) Ruthann’s Gourmet Bakery, the Bellaire Cinema, Bee Well Meadery (tasty ciders), Hello Vino Wine Bar and Gift Store and Uniquely North, carrying decorative accessories and home furnishings with a cozy, up-north feel.
Stone Waters Inn is our favorite place to stay in Bellaire, a cozy place on the river and a short walk to all of the stores and restaurants.
Take a trip to Bellaire and enjoy its small-town charm.