Written by Mr. Wonka on 25 Jun, 2005
Trust me when I say that Torch Lake holds some of the freshest, cleanest, most aqua-blue waters you’ll find in the great state of Michigan, much less North America. Sure, Lake Superior gives it a run for its money, but don’t drive all the way…Read More
Trust me when I say that Torch Lake holds some of the freshest, cleanest, most aqua-blue waters you’ll find in the great state of Michigan, much less North America. Sure, Lake Superior gives it a run for its money, but don’t drive all the way through the Upper Peninsula just to take a dip in the northernmost (and coldest) of the Great Lakes—besides, my last memory of swimming in Lake Superior is of my dad whipping a leech off my foot with a towel. No, with Torch Lake just 18 miles from Charlevoix down 31-South, plan for a peaceful day in relative seclusion on the shores of this gorgeous lake.
From Charlevoix, travel down 31-South until you hit M-88, just past an IGA/gas station on your right. If you’ll be spending the day on the lake, it’s a good idea to stop here for groceries, snacks, beers, etc. Take a left on M-88, and go about 1 mile until you see the Wilkinson Homestead Historical Society; immediately across the street you’ll find the Eastport Torch Lake Access Site on Eastport Landing, and it’s here that you’ll find one of my favorite places for a swim anywhere in the world. It doesn’t look like much, that’s for sure, because most people come here just for getting their boat in the water. The beach is pretty small, and there aren’t many facilities here to speak of, save for an outhouse that isn’t exactly a beacon of cleanliness. No grills, no room for a volleyball net, and it’d be packed if 40 or so people showed up.
Don’t let that scare you away. Not only are the chances of 40, or even 10, people showing up about as small as Tom Cruise admitting he’s a megalomaniac, but once you get in the cool, refreshing waters and walk along the sandy lake bottom, you’ll feel invigorated beyond belief. When I say sandy, I mean it—no rocks, no mushy sand, no seaweed, nothing. It’s like one huge sand dune down there. As for the water you’re swimming in? Forget about it. National Geographic Magazine has ranked Torch Lake as the third most beautiful lake in the world, and it’s easy to see why. The blue, incredibly clear waters are truly a wonder to see and experience, and the landscape is just breathtaking. Don’t forget to hunt for some of northern Michigan’s famous Petoskey stones along the shore—we found several.
When you’ve had enough of the beach, get back on M-88, but instead of taking a left to head back towards 31-South, take a right, go down a few miles, take another right on East Torch Lake Road, and cruise down a few miles until you hit historic Brownwood Acres. Though the lodge/restaurant is now closed, here you’ll still find a honey house, country store, old log school, candy and jam kitchen, Mary Lou’s Tea Room, a Sunday flea market during the summer, homemade fudge, farm animals/petting zoo, and more.
Established in 1945, this is one of the most popular family-friendly institutions in the area, and their famous honey, cherry butter, kream mustard, and fudge are not to be missed. I’ve always enjoyed their old-fashioned candy counter, where you’ll find everything from root-beer barrels to candy sticks to wax lips (remember those?). Lunch is served daily at Mary Lou’s Tea Room from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with a menu that includes sandwiches, soups, salads, and desserts. Enjoy a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade while you’re at it. For more details, give them a call at 231/544-3910.
I hadn’t visited this area in nearly 20 years, and vowed to myself that it wouldn’t be even close to another 20 before I returned again. Because of Charlevoix’s excellent location in the northwestern tip of the state, day-trip possibilities to places like Traverse City, Mackinac Island, and Petoskey are a cinch. A visit to Torch Lake, however, should be your top priority.