Alan Jay Lerner’s and Frederick Loewe’s lovely 1947 musical Brigadoon tells the story of an enchanted Scottish village that remains unchanged and invisible to the outside world, except for one special day every 100 years when it can be seen and visited by outsiders.
By no means unseen, but certainly wonderfully unchanged, is the charming Northern Michigan town of Harbor Springs, nestled in a sheltered bay on the north shore of Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan. A bustling tourist destination since the turn of the century, it is the deepest harbor in the Great Lakes.
Summer activities include water skiing, golfing, sailing (beautiful blue sky and water — postcard-perfect sailing), fishing, boating, bicycling and hiking on the sandy dunes. The tranquility and natural beauty of the area beaches and forest, such as the Thorne Swift Nature Preserve and a drive through the M-119s “Tunnel of Trees,” continue to lure countless visitors.
Cool, crisp summer days, when not beachside, can be spent browsing through the Norman Rockwell-esque main streets. Search out the intricate porcupine quill boxes, a delicate art that French traders introduced to the Great Lake Indians more than 200 years ago. This highly prized Native American art is still being created by artists in the area, producing birch bark boxes with quill designs of bears, eagles, wild flowers and buffaloes.
Be sure to stop by Bluff Gardens for an amazing selection of Quimper pottery and the freshest berries and vegetables in Northern Michigan.
The best way to visit Harbor Springs is to rent one of the many cottages available through rental agents such as Carolyn Sutherland or Graham Management. For just a few-nights stay, try Boyne Highlands Resort, especially for winter skiing. A few miles outside of town are Stafford’s Bay View Inn and Terrace Inn for spectacular views and quaint Michigan décor.
Restaurants include The Pier, for whitefish and a view; Little Traverse Inn Golf Club and Restaurant, for more whitefish (planked) and another lovely panoramic view; Kilborn’s Fish Restaurant, aka “The Fish,” for great, simple fare; New York Restaurant for a bistro atmosphere; historic Legs Inn for authentic Polish cuisine; and Wooly Bugger, for cookies, cakes and scones.
Charming cottages are everywhere, painted sky blues, sunny yellows, pale greens and bright whites. All accented with riotous colored flower boxes and sidewalk lined gardens. American flags snap in the brisk Northern breezes, and brightly striped sailboats cruise past the picturesque Little Traverse Lighthouse at the end of the point. Pretty much heaven.
Visitors to Brigadoon were allowed to stay, but if anyone ever left the miracle spell would be broken, and that would be the end of it all. Fortunately, not the case with Harbor Springs.