The lakeside towns of northern Michigan have never been much of a secret to Mid-Westerners. They’ve been coming to this area known simply as Up North for generations. In the late 1800s, steamships sailed into the deep-water ports bringing guests eager to escape summer’s heat and humidity. Increasingly, however, real estate activity in this area of glacier-sculpted lakes and hills is picking up from out-of-state home buyers more familiar with oceanfront than lakefront. Values are considered a bargain by comparison, resorts are quieter and beaches are less congested--though no less appealing
Lakefront properties in Michigan are not all alike. The most desirable homes are near clear, not murky waters, with beaches of sand, not pebbles. Bonus if the residence is oriented to capture sunset views. In-town homes attract its share of upper-income buyers, too, who prefer access to restaurants and entertainment.
Traverse City, northern Michigan’s commercial hub on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay, was named one of America’s Best Small Towns by Fodor’s Travel in 2013. Come spring, trees erupt in a profusion of cherry blossoms. The cherry is near-sacred in these parts. The state’s sweet cherry production is concentrated here and a ceremony that started decades ago as the Blessing of the Blossoms has become the popular National Cherry Festival. Traverse City is a four-season community. Fishing, boating and golfing make way for skiing when temperatures drop. It’s also a buzzed-about foodie destination with a rising national profile for its farm-to-table cuisine.
Northeast from Traverse City is a cluster of towns long established as resort communities, Charlevoix, Petoskey, Bay Harbor and Harbor Springs. Forbes called Charlevoix, which is situated between Lake Michigan and Round Lake, one of America’s prettiest towns. This summer retreat is also a popular yachting spot. Some homes in Charlevoix are attractions unto themselves. Architect and native son Earl Young built a collection of homes lovingly referred to as fairy houses or mushroom homes for their storybook whimsy, dynamic stonework and irregular shapes. Nearby Petoskey is a community of Victorian architecture with a historic Gaslight Shopping District. Harbor Springs is city more than a century old with attractive shops and galleries. It is also the starting point of one of the state’s most scenic drives. The Tunnel of Trees, or the M-119 Heritage Route, snakes its way around the Lake Michigan shoreline twisting for 20 miles--an ideal way to experience northern Michigan’s beautiful terrain.