On the road again: Petoskey

Roast & Toast is a great spot to eat while in Petoskey.

By Steve Ellis

The name “Petoskey” is said to mean “where the light shines through the clouds” in the language of the Odawa Indians who are the original inhabitants. The Petoskey stone and the city were named after Chief Ignatius Petosega (1787–1885), who founded the community. Petosega’s father was a French Canadian fur trader and his mother was an Odawa (Ottawa) Indian.

One of Petoskey’s most notable residents was Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway’s first trip from his home in Oak Park, Illinois, to northern Michigan was when he came as a six-week-old baby in 1899. From this initial visit, Hemingway would continue his annual summer visits until he was married at Horton Bay in 1921.

During his time in northern Michigan, Hemingway would venture out from his family’s Walloon Lake cottage just south of Petoskey, fish the region’s lakes and streams and meet those who lived in the area. He would store up these Michigan impressions and while living in Paris in the 1920s, began writing a series of short stories featuring a young man named Nick Adams.

The Little Traverse History Museum on the waterfront in Petoskey, housed in the renovated Chicago and West Michigan train depot (built in 1892), displays more than 60 Hemingway-related photos, books inscribed to local friends and items from the family cottage.

Petoskey is located on Lake Michigan and has a great harbor for swimming and boating. A walk out to the end of the long pier is always fun.

The downtown is full of great shops and restaurants in classic turn of the century brick buildings. A few of our favorite stores include Symons General Store, Dave’s Boot Shop (one of the coolest stores anywhere, packed with interesting antiques) and the McLean and Eakin Bookstore. The bookstore is one of the best in northern Michigan and their “Michigan section” is hard to beat.

Jackie and I love to eat out for breakfast and Roast and Toast (the outside wall is adorned with colorful broken plates and saucers) and Sam’s Graces Cafe are our two favorites. If you only have time for a donut or muffin, Johan’s Pastry Shop is a don’t miss spot. Several dozen delicious choices.
The Crooked Tree Arts Center located in the beautifully restored United Methodist Church building is one of my favorites with several rooms of gorgeous art.

Last winter, Jackie and I walked through the historic Stafford’s Perry Hotel and hope to stay there someday. As we walked through the elegant dining area, which was closed at the time, two workers asked if they could help us, and would we like some hot chocolate? We said yes and they set a table for us and sat and chatted about their time working at the Perry.

Across the street is the City Park Grill, built in 1875, with its fabulous interior and bar. Their storied history includes tales of prohibition and underground tunnels, Ernest Hemingway and ghost sightings.

Just outside of downtown is Kilwin’s, which began in 1947 in Petoskey and now has over 150 locations across the country. Their main store and headquarters are still in Petoskey and the tours are like something out of a Willy Wonka movie.

The Petoskey State Park at the tip of the bay has camping, a great beach and lots of trails. Last summer we discovered the Bear River Valley Recreation Area and now hike there every summer. It is a 1.5-mile path along the Bar River that is used for walking, biking and cross-country skiing. It starts at the edge of downtown and twists and turns along the very pretty, rapid-filled river.

One of the most unique places in the area, and well worth a drive through, is Bay View. The Bay View Association of The United Methodist Church, a National Historic Landmark community founded in 1875. It is situated on 337 acres and is home to more than 30 public buildings, nearly 450 cottages and two inns. Every summer they offer superb music, worship, lectures and seminars, all open to the public. The old Victorian cottages are gorgeous and take you back to what this area might have looked like a hundred years ago. My dad used to love staying at The Terrace Inn, up on a hill in the center of Bay View and the Stafford’s Bay View Inn, right near the lake is another option.

So if you are looking for a great place this summer for a vacation or just a long weekend any time of year, Petoskey is hard to beat.

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