Petoskey State Park, Petoskey, MI

Petoskey State Park is located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay, which itself is located in the northern tip of the Michigan Mitt. Petoskey State Park has enough fun to fill up two or three days during a sunny midsummer week, with time left over in the evenings for a trip into town for dinner.

Petoskey State Park is located in the “tip of the mitt” of the lower Michigan Peninsula, in Little Traverse Bay, in northern Lake Michigan. This 303-acre state park can be found at 2475 M-119 Highway, Petoskey, Michigan, 49770. Petoskey SP has it all: a spacious swimming beach, a large beach house with concessions, modern campgrounds, and hiking trails, plus easy access into the towns of Charlevoix, Harbor Springs, and Petoskey.

Petoskey State Park, like a lot of state parks, has an entry fee. For Michigan residents, a year-long state recreation passport can be purchased during annual vehicle renewal for $11. They are $16 at the window. (Not available online.) For out-of-state vehicles, the annual price is $33, the daily pass is $9, and the towed vehicle cost is $7. Exact change may be needed when paying at the window.

The drive into Petoskey State Park takes visitors from forest to dunes to beach to lake, all of which are evident in this photo. One of the best things a new visitor who is driving into the park can do is to park in one of the two spacious lots to either side of the beach house and then go in to get a park map. The map has firewood and pet information, plus ads from local businesses like pizza places and auto repair shops.

This foot-friendly boardwalk extends from the beach house all the way down to the water’s edge on Little Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan. The sand is a light brown-sugar color and is soft under the feet, unless it gets too hot, which will indeed happen this afternoon. The end of the boardwalk is a nice place to take a selfie with the Bay as a backdrop, as this young couple did.

Unlike Magnus Park in the city of Petoskey, Michigan, Petoskey State Park has a true swimming beach. There were no flags up today, but to the eye, conditions looked good. NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center posts real-time data. At noon on June 26, 2019, wave-height was 0.4 feet with a dominant wave period of 3. The dominant wave period is the period with the maximum wave energy. The waves definitely picked up as the afternoon went on. At noon, the air temperature was 14.2 degrees Celsius (58 F) and the sea-surface temperature was 12.6 (55 F) degrees Celsius.

This view along the Petoskey State Park looks south. Petoskey SP is a great place to build sandcastles, take a moment to reflect, or venture out into a big lake. This land was once owned by the Rice Family, which had a tanning business, processing buffalo hides. The family sold this land to the city of Petoskey in 1934 and created the Petoskey Bathing Beach. In 1968, the state of Michigan purchased this beach, and campgrounds were opened up for the 1970 season.

This is the rock that Petoskey, Michigan, is famous for: the Petoskey Stone. This is a great specimen, as it shows the fossilized coral interior as well as the hexagonal exterior. Coral colonies, as shown in this stone, lived in the warm, shallow seas of Michigan during the Devonian era some 350 million years ago. Petoskey stones come from the Alpena Limestone strata, which form the bedrock of Michigan's lower Northern Peninsula.

The Beach House has flat-water kayaks for rent; one- and two-person, by the hour, for use in Little Traverse Bay. These are sit-on-top kayaks. These rent for $17 an hour, which is $18.02 with Michigan's 6 percent sales tax. The two-person kayaks rent for $30 an hour, or $31.80 with tax. A flat-water kayak is fine for Petoskey SP, but a longer touring kayak would be essential in Lake Superior. Important note: a life vest is important for kayaking, and the largest vest carried here is a men’s XL.

This is the view of the Beach House from the water at just after 2 pm. Wave activity (as measured by the National Buoy Data Center) has picked up considerably since noon. Waves at the bottom of the image show that. This swimming beach does not have lifeguards. If a flotation device is used for young children, the U.S. Coast Guard recommends that it be certified. Just a few feet from the shoreline, the lake is now difficult to stand up in.

On Wednesday, June 26, no one was using these two volleyball nets, which are located between the two parking lots at Petoskey State Park. However, the next day, both of these nets had full-on games of beach volleyball all day. The courts were very clean and the sand was soft, if warm. Weather conditions were identical both days; the courts, as was the beach, had more visitors on the Thursday. It might be a good idea to bring a ball; they are not that expensive.

Here is the trailhead for Old Baldy Trail near the Camper Registration hut. This is rated as a difficult trail. The Portage Trail is also here, and there is an easy trail and a hard trail. The easy trail goes by the Tannery Creek campground, where there are facilities. (A bike trail runs along the campground road into Petoskey.) The easy trail is briefly on the campground road, and it terminates at either the Dunes campground or back at the Trailhead. The Cross Country Ski trailhead is here as well.

Petoskey SP has a picnic area, which is located near a tent-camping site, about a quarter-mile from the beach, in a shady, forested area. Fires of any sort are prohibited at the beach, so having this area so close by is very convenient, especially in the cool evenings. There are three tables here, plus three grill stands, and very, very primitive amenities. There is trash disposal here, which also makes for an easy cookout. 

The Beach House here has a lot of amenities: These kayaks are for rent from the clerk inside. A drinking fountain is in the front of the building on the other side. There are men’s and women’s washrooms with diaper decks and changing areas but no showers. (There is a sharps box as well.) There is a footbath on the very right side of the image. Also on the right is a shaded picnic area with several tables under the Beach House roof. The picnic tables fill up fast for lunch, so get there early to get a spot.

The concession-stand here at the Beach House is like a shady wind-tunnel with the gusts coming in off Lake Michigan, which feels great in the afternoon as the sun comes full-on over the beach. There are hotdogs on rollers, there are usually pizza slices, and there is pop and bottled water in a cold case. Off to the side are a few t-shirts for sale plus some winter items. There are a few tubes of sunscreen, but there isn’t a whole lot here. A Walgreens is just two miles away at 1301 U.S. 31 North.

It’s almost three o’ clock, so it’s time to stop in the Beach House for scooped ice cream. There is a big case with several flavors. There’s vanilla, superman, cookies 'n cream, etc., plus Moose Tracks. Shown here is raspberry sorbet on top with the clerk-recommended Moose Tracks in the cone. Moose Tracks is vanilla ice cream with chocolate candies filled with peanut butter. Three double-dip cones were $13.48.

The swimming beach at Petoskey SP is directly facing west and is a mile long. Like most beaches, the environment changes quickly from beach to dune to forest, and that is what is happening here. There are private lake homes just past these dunes. Menonaqua Beach is also here, which is likewise private. The Petoskey SP dunes have footpaths through them, to find a secluded space to put down a chair and an umbrella for a little privacy when the shore at the swimming beach is crowded.

This is a good spot to find a Petoskey stone, as the water will highlight its distinctive hexagonal pattern. In the late 18th century, the name Petoskey come from the Ottawa (Odawa) Indian name Petosegay, which means “sunbeam of Promise.” Petosegay was the son of an Odawa princess who had married Antoine Carre, a French fur trader with the John Jacob Astor Fur Company. The Petoskey stone became the State Stone of Michigan in 1965, at a ceremony presided over by Governor George Romney and Miss Ella Jane Petoskey, a grandchild of Petosegay.

This couple will enjoy a great afternoon at this beach. It’s quarter after four, and the bright sun has warmed up the water quite a bit. The waves are especially high this afternoon, as is the wind. The beach is especially busy, as families are coming in now that the workday is winding down. Lake Michigan does not have a true tide, according to NOAA, but wind and barometric pressure create great fluctuations in lake levels.

These afternoon whitecaps sure are a change from the sleepy shoreline of the morning here at Petoskey’s swimming beach. Whitecaps are sea form crests on top of the waves. These waves have just broken over the water, as captured by the camera. Gusty winds can push against the water, transferring energy to the water.

This is the last look at Petoskey State Park at almost five o’ clock, and it’s time to head back to the motel to get cleaned up for dinner in town. Though the super-clean beach house washrooms are well-stocked, we need showers and clean clothes back at the room before going out to eat. We’ve placed all of our trash and recyclables in the bins up front, and now it’s time for one more photograph before we leave. The concession stand is open till 8 pm, and the park is open to day visitors until 10 pm.

The Side Door Saloon is just two-and-a-quarter miles southwest of Petoskey State Park, located at 1200 North US Highway 31. Side Door is a classic family-friendly place where sports fans can get a great burger and a cold beer with great service.

Arriving at 6:30 pm at the Side Door Saloon on Wednesday, June 26th, there was no wait for the three of us beach-goers to get a table. Long-time Lake Walloon acquaintances highly recommended this place, which is less formal than their usual haunt, City Park Grill. There is all kinds of fun Michigan memorabilia on the walls. In addition to what’s shown here, there’s an old-fashioned hand-crank telephone (circa 1916), beer steins, and even a birch-bark canoe with a beer-swilling raccoon.

This is the Big Momma Burger at $11.99, with two burger patties on a pretzel bun. Gorgonzola cheese was added at a cost of $0.75. This burger was cooked well-done, and it truly was a well-done burger. Partnered with a Caesar salad, the bed of romaine lettuce was nicely covered with tasty Caesar dressing. There were two garlic toast crisps and a nice covering of shredded parmesan cheese.

The Big Daddy burger comes in at $7.99 and has lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Bacon can be added for $0.99, as can gorgonzola cheese at $0.75. Notice that neither burger is partnered with French fries. The waitress that we had said that there is no fried food at Side Door Saloon. Another highly recommended eatery in nearby Charlevoix is The Villager Pub with its humongous Wet Burrito.

The Greek salad shown here was partnered with the Big Daddy Burger. (The menu price is $7.99; it is $4.99 with a burger.) Lots of Kalamata olives in this bowl, and the sprinkling of feta cheese was generous.There are dinner specials Monday through Saturday; tonight’s special was the house-made Meatloaf dinner at $10.99. 

A great way to end the day in Little Traverse Bay is with caramel-apple cheesecake at the Side Door Saloon. Side Door has been here since 1969, with its lager-hoisting frog mascots. The bill for this meal did not leave us tapped out; everything came to $68.40, with tax at $72.50. Our great waitress was left a $12.50 tip; she was very friendly and helped us get the exact burgers that we wanted.

Return to Top

Privacy Policy