A few weeks ago, our family took a long weekend getaway up to Charlevoix in northern Michigan before this baby arrives. The trip was exactly what we needed to rest up and enjoy one last adventure as a family of three. Neither Rob nor I had ever been to Charlevoix before and we quickly fell in love with the town’s charm. (And just in case you’re wondering, in Michigan we pronounce it “shar-LUH-voy.”)
The trip itself was inspired by our nephew’s first birthday celebration in Lewiston, Michigan. We decided that the birthday party was the perfect excuse for a weekend getaway. Lewiston is in northern Michigan and is about an hour to an hour and a half away from some of Michigan’s most beloved travel destinations. Rob and I weren’t very picky about which city we visited, my only requirement was to find a cute place to stay with at least two bedrooms that cost $200 a night or less.
Cute Modern Farmhouse Airbnb in Charlevoix
With only a month’s notice, I was overjoyed to find a stylish, newly-renovated cottage in Charlevoix that miraculously had availability the weekend of our nephew’s party. I immediately fell in love with the charming details of the house and knew that it would be the perfect place to host our little family adventure. We booked it right away.
After a long day in the car with several stops along the way, we finally arrived at the house and all three of us were getting very hungry. It was also getting close to Dessa’s bedtime and I desperately wanted to show her the beach before we called it a night. I knew our little Airbnb cottage was walking distance from the shores of Lake Michigan and a quick scan of Google Maps showed that there was a restaurant right near the beach – which sounded like the perfect solution to all of our needs.
Enjoying the Shores of Lake Michigan
As it turns out, the “restaurant” was more of a snack shack, but they had a more extensive menu than we expected and the owner Annie was sweet as can be. She was super-helpful and patient while we asked her a million questions about the menu items to ensure that Dessa’s dinner was dairy and tomato-free. Everything at the Bywater Cafe is made fresh, which meant that we had some extra time while we waited for our dinner to be prepared. Luckily, the cafe was situated right next to a park and Dessa joyfully rode on a swing while she waited for her dinner.
Once our dinner was ready, we sat at a picnic table outside the cafe and enjoyed a delicious dinner. Dessa had grilled chicken sliders with fries (although she mostly feasted on french fries dipped in honey mustard dressing. I had whitefish tacos and rob enjoyed a Reuben). It felt so good to finally sit down, relax, and enjoy our family vacation.
After dinner, it was time for the beach! Lake Michigan was especially gorgeous that night.
I’ve heard so many stories from my friends with children Dessa’s age about their kids hating the sand on the beach and I was so sure that Dessa wasn’t going to have any issues at all since she practically lived in her backyard sandbox this summer. What I didn’t anticipate was that the squishy sinking feeling of sand underneath her toes would make her feel very uneasy. It took a little while, but she eventually got the hang of it.
With the sand successfully managed, it was time to put our toes in the water. There were stones along the shore (that were a great opportunity to hunt for Petoskey stones) and the waves took some getting used to, but Dessa quickly grew to love the beach.
We walked along the shore for a few more minutes before catching the sunset and heading back to our Airbnb rental for the night. It was the perfect ending to a very long day and we couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous evening at the beach.
Exploring Downtown Charlevoix
The next day was a cool 72 degrees, which was perfect for exploring downtown Charlevoix. It was a short walk from the cottage and we quickly fell in love with this cute little northern Michigan town. Bridge Street ran right through downtown and featured a mix of shops and restaurants – each with their own personality and The Charlevoix City Marina on Round Lake was just steps away.
Dragging a toddler and a stroller into a series of small shops and boutiques didn’t seem like the wisest idea, so we mostly window-shopped and stopped for lunch at The Cantina – a great little Mexican restaurant in the Van Pelt alley off Bridge Street. I was able to order a nice low-carb salad (Rob ordered the same salad in solidarity) and Dessa feasted on all the fixings of tomato- and-dairy-free children’s tacos with plenty of chips and lots of cilantro lime vinaigrette from my salad. The food was fantastic.
The three of us didn’t venture into any shops, but there was one that I couldn’t resist popping into on my own – Bloom was the most gorgeous flower shop that was conveniently situated right across from the Cantina restaurant. Rob entertained Dessa outside for a few minutes while I stepped straight in to heaven. This was so much more than just a flower shop – they also carried jewelry, home accent pieces, and the most charming gifts. It took every ounce of my self-control not to buy all the things. Instead, I just appreciated the beauty of the store and snapped a few photos to share with you. If you ever find yourself in Charlevoix, I highly suggest checking out Bloom. They also have a location in Petoskey, which I’m sure is equally charming.
I stepped back outside and found these two sillies. Rob had a coffee in-hand and was entertaining Dessa with some adventurous stroller antics while I enjoyed my few minutes of tranquility inside the shop.
I had scoped out a few different ice cream shops on our way to lunch and found one that carried dairy-free sorbetto that Dessa could eat. We had done a significant amount of walking already (with even more to go on the walk home). I strategically ate very few carbs at lunch so that I could indulge in a sweet ice cream treat of my own and (hopefully) not send my blood sugar through the roof.
Don’t let Dessa’s face fool you – she enjoyed every lick of that raspberry sorbetto. She just takes her dessert very seriously! As for me, I finally indulged in a single scoop cup of the fudge brownie ice cream I have been craving ever since I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes last month. The best part was that all of the walking had exactly the effect I was hoping for and my blood sugar stayed low despite the indulgent treat! (Now if only I could get my sugar to stay low the rest of the time!)
Taking Time to Relax
After so much excitement downtown, the three of us decided to head back to our cute little Airbnb in the hopes that Dessa would lay down and get some rest. Dessa isn’t exactly known to be the world’s greatest napper when she is away from home, but she slept long and hard in her Pack N’ Play that afternoon. As for us, it felt great to finally put our feet up, have a bit of quiet time, and actually enjoy our lovely accommodations. I used some of the time to snap a few photos of the house and couldn’t resist documenting the fact that I was dressed nicely and wearing makeup with a quick mirror selfie.
Checking out Lake Charlevoix
After Dessa awoke from her nap, we had an early dinner at Flap Jack Family Restaurant (we happily eat breakfast at any time of day and the prices are always on-point) then made another trip out to the beach. The stones and waves along Lake Michigan were a little overwhelming the previous night, so we took a short drive over to Lake Charlevoix on the second evening of our trip, seeking more sand and calmer water.
Our little trip was a success! Dessa quickly discovered that filling a bucket with sand at the beach is much more fun than in her sandbox at home. The damp sand made great sandcastles – which Dessa promptly destroyed and requested our help in refilling the bucket. While Dessa was engrossed in the making of sandcastles, a nearby duck came to visit and tried to become her friend. We didn’t have any food and certainly weren’t encouraging the duck, but it really wanted to learn more about Dessa. We joked that she must smell like crackers due to the sheer number of them that she eats in a day. The duck eventually realized that no delicious cracker-y treats were coming her way and moved on to find another unsuspecting toddler.
I had one final goal for our evening beach excursion – to snap a photo of the three of us. I had set up my tripod and was just dialing in the light when a kind stranger offered to take the photo for me. He didn’t know what kind of perfectionist he was dealing with when he made the offer, but the man graciously took several photos of our family to satisfy the pregnant lady. This one is a keeper for sure.
Day Trip to Lewiston
As luck would have it, the warmest day of the entire trip (and coincidentally the best day to visit the beach) happened to fall on the same day as our nephew Xavier’s birthday party. We packed all of our beach gear into the van not knowing what adventures were in store for the day, then headed to Lewiston for some family birthday fun. I helped my sister-in-law out and snapped a million cake smash photos on her camera so I don’t have much from my own camera to share about the party with you. But I can tell you that it was fishing themed and it was ADORABLE. I seriously need to hire Becky to plan all future birthday parties for my children. She made all of the sugar cookies herself from scratch and even had a fun little pool with play fishing rods and plastic fish for the little ones to play with.
There were a million other party details, but if I didn’t get it on camera, did it even happen?!?
The cake smash was just about all that Xavier could handle that day because he promptly passed out after eating his share of birthday cake. The birthday party had already been going strong for a few hours and there was no telling how long our sweet nephew would be asleep, so we decided to make the best of what remained of the day and head to West Twin Lake in Lewiston to give Dessa the true beach experience she deserved.
Our silly girl finally got to enjoy a true trip to the beach – complete with sunshine, swimsuit, and all the watery sand she desired. We stayed for a few hours and Dessa loved every minute! She filled her pail with mud, made sandcastles, waded in the water and had a blast playing with her little watering can. The temperature was warm but mild and we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect beach outing.
Saying Goodbye to Charlevoix
We left the beach early in the evening, stopped for dinner on our drive back to our Airbnb, and tucked Dessa into bed for one last night of sleep on vacation. We awoke to another glorious morning in northern Michigan and took one final walk through downtown Charlevoix before packing everything up and making the trek back downstate.
Needless to say, our long weekend getaway was exactly what our family needed to help celebrate the end of the summer. It gave us a chance to slow down and savor life as a family of three one last time before the newest member of the Gavin family comes our way and changes our little world in the very best way.
We negotiated a discounted rate with the owner of the Airbnb property that hosted our stay in exchange for updated photos that she could use in her property listing. If you or someone you know owns a rental property and would love to have updated photos featuring the property’s best qualities, send us an email at email@example.com and we can chat!