A beautiful US state bound by four of the five Great Lakes, Michigan is also home to scenic townscapes, including beach settings and a Germanic village. Offering great recreational opportunities within vibrant hearts and scenery around, these small towns are the most beautiful in the state.
Bounded by the immense Lake Michigan, the small town of Charlevoix shines bright in nature and true Americana charm. One can explore the wonderful Fisherman's Island State Park, which is great for picnicking, swimming, and engaging in the traditional hunt for the elusive Petoskey stones found in the state. The beautiful Castle Farm is a stunningly grand property from 1918, topped by turret towers. The instagrammable stone-facade donjon is a popular venue for weddings, while the everyday tourist must explore its gardens, worthy of the castle's beauty. The must-see Hobbit Houses in-town comprise 27 scenic, uniquely designed homes by architect Earl Young. Made of limestone, fieldstone, and state-sourced boulders, with cedar shake roofs that give them the "Lord of the Rings" appeal, they are locally known as "mushroom houses." For a quintessential staying experience, there are the Weathervane Terrace and Hotel Earl, also built by Young.
The little Bavarian darling of the state, Frankenmuth, is saturated with charm and a true-Germanic appeal. Designed like an Alpine village, its three-square-mile area has a line-up of authentic-looking shops, homes, and restaurants. To really absorb the atmosphere, one must come in for a bratwurst, schnitzel, or pretzel, washed down by beer. The array of adorable stores includes the Bavarian Inn Castle Shops, a chocolate “haus,” a cheese “haus,” and a cuckoo clock shop. There is the photogenic covered bridge to admire, while a riverboat tour will give a whole other perspective of the scenic townscape. Host to a huge beer-tasting event, Frankenmuth is also home to the famous Frankenmuth Brewery, with its Christmas Town Ale available year-round. The Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland is the largest Christmas Store in the world, set in an Alpine-style building, where one can attain that special feeling of Christmas time in July. During winter, one can diversify the days by visiting the Frankenmuth Ice Rink or participate in Zehnder’s Snowfest. For a unique experience, there are blacksmithing courses, while the extreme-seekers will enjoy zip-lining at Frankenmuth Aerial Park.
Harbor Spring entices upon first contact by combining all of Michigan's charms in a tiny, quaint harbor town setting. Perched scenically on the North Shore of Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan, it is known for the incredible community feel with a gorgeous shoreline. The ultimate getaway for a nature fix or to get active, there are many preserves and state parks, such as the Petoskey State Park, with vibrant scenery of bright blue waves crashing onto the golden shores. There's also the cool Cross Village Beach, the Zorn Park Beach to relax in shade or sun, and the pet-friendly Zoll Street Beach with an idyllic stretch of sand where people set off in kayaks. Set on the deepest harbor in the Great Lakes, Harbor Springs offers an unmatched locale for sailing. The streets brim with galleries to peruse, like the notable Tvedten Fine Art, while the gorgeous dockside Stafford's Pier Restaurant will throw together a seafood feast to refuel after a scenic day-out. For more entertainment, the Odawa Casino is under 20 minutes away in Petoskey.
Set in a very picturesque spot where the Pere Marquette River meets Lake Michigan and more lakes in the vicinity, Ludington is a very popular destination among fishers and sailors. Along with the grand Lake Michigan, the town offers a scenic getaway into a quaint port-town environment, with endless sights of boat taking-off. The beautiful location teems with wilderness for fantastic hiking and picnics in nature, including the Ludington State Park, the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness, and the Manistee National Forest. The scenic town also comes with a historic Ludington Lighthouse, a wonderful Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, and a bustling downtown area. Among the attractions, there is the Lakeside Half Marathon for the active, the vibrant West Shore Art, League’s Art Fair, and the beach-side Children’s Sandcastle Museum, which is beloved by families. The Historic White Pine Village is a 19th-century replica of a township reminiscing the pioneer age with 30 historic buildings, including the Mason County Courthouse from 1849.
Set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, within the beautiful Hiawatha National Forest, Munising is the destination for active sight-seekers and those looking to relax in a scenic setting. The gorgeous pine-scented nature preserve comes with enchantingly vivid green forests and mesmerizingly clear waters. Getting greeted by over 15 picturesque waterfalls on the many hiking trails dotted with natural sights makes for a destination where all outdoor adventure dreams come true. Aside from the usual beach time, the endless water fun includes fishing, gliding in a kayak through the pristine waters, and even guided Scuba tours. During the day, one must stroll through the vibrant town for the unique atmosphere, while setting up camp in the vicinity means living on the wild side and enjoying the unforgettable experience of Michigan under the stars.
Paradise (Tahquamenon Falls)
Set on the banks of Lake Superior in the Whitefish Bay, Paradise's tiny township is known amongst nature lovers for the spectacular Tahquamenon Falls. Its rural setting presents a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle to relax and get reacquainted with Mother Nature. For sights, there are the scenically historic Whitefish Point Lighthouse and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, which tell more about the lighthouse and other maritime secrets of the region. The spectacular Tahquamenon Falls State Park is known for its unspoiled beauty that begs to be explored for the Upper and Lower Falls, as well as the Tahquamenon River. With miles of hiking trails around, one can achieve different views of the falls and the townscape via a canoe or a walk along the river. The wonderful Tahqua Trekker shuttle transports one to different points in the park for a convenient way to see all the natural beauty that it offers. The vibrant town comes with great staying options, eateries, and shops, while one can enjoy the great outdoors into the night at a campsite. Aptly named, the tiny township also comes with a beautiful beach known for crowd-less vibes and views of the lake.
The small town of Petoskey comes with a rich history, set in the area known to be first inhabited by indigenous peoples. An Odawa chief originally purchased Petoskey under the Treaty of Washington. First, missionaries, then pioneer westerners trekked in during the 1800s, while today, it is a delightful town where tourists come to find many of the state's "Petoskey stones." The bustling downtown is full of historic architecture and scenic surroundings, while the best waterfront views come with a lovely lighthouse and watersports galore. For nature lovers and best camping, there's the Camp Pet-O-Se-Ga oarr Wilderness State Park and the Petoskey State Park on the Little Traverse Bay. The Mighty Fine Pizza is a famed mom-and-pop pizza joint, while the drink fans will appreciate some of the finest and most affordable wineries and breweries in the locale. The scenic highlights to taste and peruse include the Walloon Lake Winery, Mackinaw Trail Winery, and Resort Pike Cidery and Winery.
The name that resonates with all outdoor fans, Saugatuck, is famous for the Saugatuck Dunes State Park and the Saugatuck Dune Rides. Set part of the “art coast,” the vibrant township is renowned for its art scene, and the spanned-out LGBTQ zone was recently voted as one of the hottest gay destinations in the nation. Known among the art fans for the many charming galleries that display art from local and national artists, there are also tons of unique shops and epicurean adventures for any taste. The restaurants-galore include everything from the trendy farm-to-table, to celeb chef-owned, to maritime eats. The picturesque Saugatuck also comes with the Oval Beach to satisfy all the water sport and fun cravings. The little slice of paradise is known for powdery sand, gentle waters, and first-class views in a chilled-out beach setting.
South Haven is a scenic escape that wholeheartedly stands behind its name with seven quality beaches that comprise vast stretches of sand and dunes. The main splash-pad, South Beach, is renowned for the charming set of blue stairs leading over the dunes with majestic views of the glittering lake. There are nature preserves, protected waterfront parks, and the Aqua Park at Lake Arvesta Farms, offering one to try a hand at various fun watersport activities, like an on-water obstacle course. For history and scenery, there’s the over-a-century old red lighthouse that juts into Lake Michigan. South Haven contains some of the state’s true-and-tried accommodations, surrounded by museums, galleries, markets, wineries, and the famous Blue Star Highway. The downtown area comes with various shopping opportunities, while Clementine’s restaurant is a must-visit for dinner in a historic bank setting from 1896, inclusive of the decadent caramel and chocolate martinis.
It is not an accident that these aptly-named towns charm one from first sight. Their beautiful townscapes set within unbelievable scenery must be experienced to be believed.