Sailing Destination: Great Lakes/Northern Michigan
A coastline featuring long stretches of beaches, large sand dunes, pine trees, vineyards, and quaint waterfront communities offers a unique setting for bareboat sailors exploring the world’s sixth-largest freshwater lake. Small tides help make for easy navigation. More than 45 anchorages, from secluded coves to bustling marinas, are available to cruisers. Bay Breeze Yacht Charters & Sailing School recommends this course:
Day one: Heading north from the base at Traverse City, sheltered Omena Bay and the village of Northport both offer a pristine setting on the Leelanau Peninsula. Northport is a quiet village with a few restaurants and a full-service marina. If you prefer to stay off the grid, the anchorage to the north, just outside of the village, offers a sandy bottom and a quiet setting.
Day two: Reach outside of Grand Traverse Bay to the storybook town of Charlevoix. Exit Lake Michigan by following the Pine River channel to Round Lake, whose shore offers perfect protection and is surrounded by boathouses, parks, and builder Earl Young’s whimsical stone houses with the wavy roof lines. Another short channel connects Round Lake to Lake Charlevoix, where you can explore for days. You’ll find great live music and restaurants aplenty in Charlevoix.
Day three: You have several options from Charlevoix. If you depart and reach into Little Traverse Bay, Petoskey and Harbor Springs are fun little waterfront towns with marinas. Harbor Springs also has a perfect natural harbor for anchoring. Or sail 14 miles to the east end of Lake Charlevoix and Boyne City. Here you’ll find protected, scenic inland-lake sailing in deep, clear water. Boyne City also has marinas and great restaurants.
Day four: If you stayed on to explore Lake Charlevoix, take a break at Oyster Bay, a lovely tree-lined anchorage just outside of the town limits.
Day five: Heading back to Grand Traverse Bay, choose the anchorage you skipped on the first day out, Omena Bay or Northport.
Day six: Sail south and explore the West Arm or East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. There are plenty of new destinations that situate you within an easy sail back to the base.
On the East Arm, Elk Rapids is a town full of friendly folks at the marina—they’ll shuttle you to and from area restaurants. Or you can walk across the pedestrian bridge to the nearby tiny island, site of the historic Elk Rapids District Library.
Or forget Elk Rapids and sail to Bowers Harbor, on the West Arm. It’s a pristine anchorage where you can get away from it all; it offers a quiet setting and premium stargazing at night. Ashore, walk to nearby Bowers Harbor Vineyards and sample the vintages at its regular wine tastings.
Day seven: Return to Traverse City and savor the memories while you take to its beaches and bike trails.