Northern Michigan has a long history of enticing people to make the trek north and settle in to spend their summer vacation.
In part two of our series on the towns that make this area so desirable we discover summer travelers have been seeking out Harbor Springs for centuries.
Native American Heritage
Harbor Springs, a short drive from The Inn at Bay Harbor along the scenic M-119, holds the title as one of the Midwest's most exclusive resort areas. People have been coming to the area during the summer months since mid-1600s when the Odawa would return to the area each spring and stay through fall. The Jesuits named the area L'Arbre Croche (Crooked Tree) in the early 18th century but it was eventually renamed Petit Traverse or Little Traverse by French fur traders. In 1847 L'Arbre Croche was home to the largest concentration of Native Americans in Michigan. The Odawa hold a Homecoming Pow Wow in August with traditional dancing in full regalia, and drum contests, both of which are open to the public.
History of Tradition
As the lumber boom came to an end the village became dedicated to being a resort community. Several resort associations were established, including Wequetonsing (the Native American word for the area, which means harbor of rest) and Harbor Point which are still around. To this day the exclusive, and private, Harbor Point does not allow automobiles past its front gates. A horse and buggy ferries people to and from their cottages. The Wequetonsing Association was once known as the Presbyterian Resort and large groves of birch trees extended down to the lakeshore. Every July Harbor Springs celebrates its history with Shay Days, named for famed resident and inventor Ephraim Shay.
A Sailor's Dream
Home to the deepest harbor in the Great Lakes passenger ships from Chicago and Detroit, along with the trains, began making regular trips to the area in the late-1800s. Because of its proximity to the lake, Harbor Springs has long held a tradition of boating, starting with The Little Traverse Yacht Club, founded in 1895. The LTYC is still very active today and you can see sailboats darting across Little Traverse Bay all summer.
Get Out and Explore
Aside from abundant water access Harbor Springs is surrounded by stunning vistas and pristine nature preserves. The Tunnel of Trees along M-119 is one of the most scenic drives in the country and takes you through Thorne Swift Nature Preserve, Good Hart-where a visit to the General Store is a must, to Cross Village (time your drive to coincide with meal time and visit the historic Legs Inn).
Today Harbor Springs is a charming lakeside community with art galleries, quaint boutiques, and dining establishments. Be sure to put a visit to this historic destination on your lists of things to do the next time you're in northern Michigan.
Next week we travel south on US 131 to discover Charlevoix!