Quintessential. That’s one way of describing the resort community of Harbor Springs in Northern Michigan. While the word ‘quintessential’ is a bit over-used, it somehow seems to fit this little town. The entire village almost seems too perfect and you can easily imagine you’re on a movie set. Walk around on a nice sunny day and the gentle breeze coming from the lake takes away any worries or hectic life you came from. There are several small beaches for a refreshing dip in the lake.
You can walk up and down Main Street and shop in the small shops, art galleries, food stores and look through the windows of several real estate agencies to see if you can afford any of the homes that are listed for sale. There is always something interesting to see in the marina and it is not uncommon to see a large yacht moored at the docks. At the end of the main dock, sit down and just watch the boats go by. Stroll back toward town and have something to eat at Stafford’s Pier or the New York restaurant that has been there for more than a century.
It’s a short drive up the bluff (or a mildly exhausting walk) where you can get a nice view of the little town, Harbor Point, Little Traverse Bay and Petoskey in the far distance. There are some very nice homes in the area and most of the views are priceless. Well, not exactly priceless but more than the average Harbor Springs resident probably can afford. And yes, there are averaged priced home in town and the neighbourhood around Main Street is just a small part of the town.
The little finger-shaped peninsula Harbor Point is a private association and is not accessible for the public. If you do get past the gate house for some reason, there is security personnel (or perhaps residents) in golf carts that will kindly ask if you reside there or are a guest of one of the families if they don’t recognize you. And they will quickly take you back where you belong if they don’t like the answer. And that’s outside the gate. It is a very quiet and nice neighbourhood as there are no automobiles allowed. So you can’t really blame them to keep it to themselves.
A liitle bit east of town is another association called Wequetonsing. It may be private as well but you can drive or walk through there. There isn’t much information that can be found about Wequetonsing (not sure how to pronounce it either) but it has many stately turn-of-the century homes and a historic hotel Colonial Inn. The turn of the 19th into the 20th century, that is. It’s funny that these mansions are often referred to as cottages. Most of these houses are boarded up during winter as it will probably cost a small fortune to heat one of these drafty old ladies.
The Hemingway family owned a cottage on Walloon Lake which is about 20 miles south of Harbor Springs. They would have taken a lake steamer from Chicago to Harbor Springs, a journey that took 32 hours. From Harbor Springs, young Ernest and family had to go by train to Petoskey and on to Walloon Village. The boutique in the old train station that Michael Palin describes in his book Hemingway Adventure is currently The Depot Club and Restaurant.
While some of the summer residents may be wealthy and fortunate to live in this nice place, it doesn’t feel like it is a snobby place. Just a little town that is stuck in time without all the bad things of modern life like fast food restaurants and super stores. The only problem is that it seems just too darn perfect. I think the residents may be up to something. Or just enjoy the good summer life in Northern Michigan.
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