Aerial view of Petoskey, Northern Michigan, autumn evening light.

9 Most Charming Towns In Michigan

Michigan is home to lively cities, enchanting forests, vast coastlines, and unique history, all of which make it an attractive place to visit. The natural wonder of the state is something to marvel at, whether you want to adventure on land, hike through forests and take in gorgeous views and scenery, or take a dive into the water, with activities ranging from canoeing to scuba diving.

While Michigan boasts some exciting cities, such as Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids, they are often full of tourists. If you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and would rather delve into rich histories and small-town charm, consider paying a visit to one of these Michigan small towns.


Looking down the river at Frankenmuth Michigan from the wooden bridge
Looking down the river at Frankenmuth, Michigan, from the wooden bridge.

Frankenmuth is one of the most charming river towns in Michigan, with Bavarian roots and German-inspired architecture. The town hosted the first-ever Oktoberfest outside of Germany, offering a taste of German culture, perfect if you are of German descent or simply want to enjoy the festival. 

Start your trip off with a one-hour walking tour, taking in the rich history of Frankenmuth. Do not forget to stop at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, and enjoy Christmas-themed souvenirs at any time of year. There are lots of restaurants scattered throughout the town, whether you are hankering for BBQ or Italian. There are multiple museums to visit, including the Michigan Heroes Museum and the Frankenmuth Historical Museum. Finish your trip off with a refreshing drink at the St. Julians Winery or The Frankenmuth Brewery.

South Haven

Dune grass with lighthouse South Haven Michigan Lake Michigan shoreline
View of the red lighthouse in South Haven, Michigan, on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

A picturesque small town in Michigan, South Haven sits on Lake Michigan, home to some of the most beautiful lakefront beaches. Boating, fishing, swimming, and relaxing on the beaches are all popular activities. Outdoor hiking and biking paths are the ideal option for reconnecting with nature and taking in the ambiance and scenery of the great outdoors.

Walking around the historic buildings lining the downtown area is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Anyone interested in a little history can peruse the Michigan Maritime Museum, Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum, and the Historical Association of South Haven.  South Haven is just as picturesque in winter, with views of snow-capped sand dunes and frozen lakes. You can explore the beauty of the area on snowshoes or skis, ending your day getting toasty in one of the downtown restaurants or cozy up in a nearby inn or bed and breakfast.

Harbor Springs

Aerial view of the resort town of Harbor Springs, Michigan in the early autumn
Aerial view of the resort town of Harbor Springs, Michigan, in the early autumn.

One of the best small towns to retire to in Michigan, Harbor Springs is an endless nature adventure. The Elmer Johnston Nature Preserve, Stutsmanville Bog Nature Preserve, and Round Lake Nature Preserve boast acres of meadowlands and forests, offering views of beautiful scenery, such as that of Lake Michigan.

The Harbor Springs Marina displays a stunning view of the water, perfect for a boating or fishing excursion and a day well spent on the lake. Extend your stay in one of the many charming chalets or inns, and make sure you do not forget to check out the abundance of different restaurants and cafes to get a taste of the town!


An authentic wooden windmill from the Netherlands rises behind a field of tulips in Holland Michigan at Springtime
Field of tulips in Holland, Michigan.

Tucked in the heart of Michigan, Holland provides the perfect spot to adventure, engage, and relax, enjoying all the greatest things in life. The architecture, shops, restaurants, and events, such as the Dutch Winterfest and the Tulip Time Festival, preserve the town's Dutch heritage. In winter, enjoy skiing, skating, and sledding, or check out the rich history in one of the town's museums.

The Big Red Lighthouse is definitely a top spot to visit, situated on the south side of the Holland Channel. Wander down the cobblestone sidewalks, perusing through over 100 different specialty shops, stopping for a bite to eat at the different restaurants, and a refreshing drink at one of the many breweries.


Shops and galleries line Butler Street in Saugatuck, Michigan
Sunset on Lake Michigan at Saugatuck, Michigan. Image credit Kenneth Sponsler via Shutterstock

Saugatuck is a charming beach town in Michigan, situated at the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and the Kalamazoo River. The town is brimming with culture and adventure, with award-winning beaches you can stroll along for hours, as well as scenic water views that you will want to add to your photo album.

If you have spent a little too much time in the direct sun, head into the wooded areas and walk amongst the gorgeous hiking trails of Saugatuck Dunes State Park. You can also peruse through the numerous art galleries in the town, join a class of your own, or indulge in a scrumptious dinner with your loved ones. Whether it is a girl's trip or a golfing getaway, there is something for everyone in Saugatuck.


Aerial view of Petoskey and Saint Francis Church
Aerial view of the town of Petoskey and the Saint Francis Church.

Petoskey is one of the most beautiful small towns in Michigan, sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan. It is picturesque in both summer and winter, offering gorgeous ski resorts and trails, as well as plenty of fishing and sailing opportunities. Ernest Hemingway spent his first 18 summers on Walloon Lake, enjoying the beauty of the area. If you want to learn more about Hemingway and the area, pay a visit to the Little Traverse History Museum.

Other spots to see include the Historic Gaslight District, a bustling shopping district, one of the many breweries and wineries, and the Petoskey State Park, which is home to miles of beaches, campgrounds, and trails.

Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island, Michigan
View of the gorgeous, quiet streets on Mackinac Island on a clear day.

One of the most beautiful US islands, Mackinac Island is home to Mackinac Island State Park, offering a diverse collection of forests, sea caves, and beaches. Arch Rock is a popular spot to stop for photos, as well as the ancient limestone formations of Skull Cave, Devil’s Kitchen, Sugar Loaf, and Eagle Point. Add a little magic to your trip and walk amongst beautiful butterflies at the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservancy.

The island has banned all motorized vehicles, making it a wonderful spot to reconnect with the slowness of life. Take a ferry to the island and walk to where you are going, hop on a bike, or rent a horse and carriage. The Victorian architecture adds to the old-world charm of the island, as does the seasonal foliage and inviting restaurants and shops lining the streets.

New Buffalo

People explore the beach and harbor area in the town in summer, New Buffalo, Michigan
New Buffalo, Michigan. Image credit Page Light Studios via Shutterstock

New Buffalo rests at the shores of Lake Michigan and the Galien River, boasting a gorgeous beach and harbor where you can fish, sail, swim, and kayak. You can enjoy a sailing excursion, taking in the spectacular views along the lake. Take in the culture of the town at the Courtyard Gallery, featuring a mix of works from contemporary and traditional artists, as well as the New Buffalo Railroad Museum, which shares the history of the railroad industry.

After a weekend of perusing the artwork and history, or enjoying the beautiful water, head towards the Whittaker Woods Golf Community and enjoy a game of 18 holes. Extend your stay wherever you like, whether you are on the hunt for a beachfront hotel or bungalow in the heart of downtown.


Aerial view of Round Lake in Charlevoix, Michigan, early summer, with boat traffic.
Round Lake in Charlevoix, Michigan.

Nicknamed "Charlevoix: the beautiful," Charlevoix is a port on the Great Lakes and home to Lake Charlevoix. It boasts a lengthy, sandy shoreline, perfect for a romantic stroll, a day spent sunbathing, or building sand castles with the kids. Join the locals and head out on a sailboat, enjoying the fresh air and tossing a line in to catch a few fish.

The mushroom houses, resembling Hobbit houses, are a unique sight, as well as Castle Farms, built in 1918 and now a dairy farm. While in town, be sure to shop at the many boutiques and markets. If you are more inclined to enjoy the great outdoors, head out and trek along the many trails of the area. You can also hop on a ferry to Beaver Island, where you can tour through lighthouses, kayak, and keep an eye out for wildlife.

When in Michigan

It is time to pack so you can enjoy your trip to one of these charming towns in Michigan. The state boasts everything from rushing waters, with a coastline of 3,288 linear miles, to deep and thriving forests, as well as exciting and inviting downtown areas. While there is much to see and do in the great outdoors, each of these small towns also offers unique events and stores, not to mention inviting hotels and inns that you will want to check off your bucket list.

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