A perfect 14 hours in Northport


Northport farmers market photo by Cheryl Parker

By Chris Loud

Sun contributor

It’s a cool and clear Friday morning in Northport.

Barb’s Bakery opens at 6 a.m., but I personally don’t open up until about 7:30 or 8. Still, the famous cinnamon twists are plentiful. So I grab one twist, plus an old fashioned with chocolate icing, and a coffee to go. I nod to the regulars, hashing out the world’s problems at the round tables, swing through the screen door, and follow the breeze down to the water.

The bay is glass. If I was an avid wakeboarder, I’d be out carving long turns. I’d even consider renting a standup paddle board up at Northshore Outfitters, but oops, I’ve already sat on this bench, so maybe next time. I’ll watch the village come to life instead.

First, the overnight boaters in the marina begin to zip out of their cozy floating cabins. A couple at the end of the first fairway takes out their camping stove, ready to cook up breakfast. I catch the woman’s eye as I savor the final bite of my twist. She turns to her husband, and two seconds later the camping stove is stowed away. They make their way down the dock and up into town. For a moment I feel bad for those packets of instant oatmeal. Then I move onto the old fashioned with chocolate icing.

On this Friday morning, the weekly farmers market begins to take shape in the parking lot next to the marina. I decide it might be wise to at least glance at some fresh fruit and vegetables after taking down two donuts, and pressuring others to do the same. I pass by baskets of local cherries and strawberries, and big bunches of greens. Then, I turn around and buy a bag full of said cherries, strawberries, and big bunches of greens. I’m going for balance today.

Needing a gift for a young family member, I decide to stroll up into town to see what I can find. Folks are heading to the library for their weekend beach read, checking their post office boxes, and popping into Tom’s Market for the paper and some milk. Pennington Collection has a section of toys and games, so I head there first. Naturally, I find something that I would like to play first and foremost. Then, I head across the street to the Enjoy Michigan store to grab a few things for some friends downstate.

Dog Ears Books is open, so I see what new and unusual old history books they have, and what the local authors are penning lately. I find a vintage young adult adventure book, perfect for a gift. The local artist in the shop next door compliments my choice, and shows me his new work. I get a text from a friend, and apparently it’s brunch time, and I can’t say no. So we meet at The Tribune for some eggs bennie.

Before I go headfirst into a day at the beach, I need one more gift. I hop in the car and head just south of town to Northport Pottery. The guys there are happy to show me a new style of mug that is good for coffee AND wine. My work here is done.

When I come back to town, I decide to drive up to Braman Hill. Just beyond the tennis courts, basketball courts, playground, and skatepark, I continue onto the dirt road that heads to the top of the hill. Once at the top, I can see all the way across the bay, and can just make out a sailboat passing in front of Gull Island. Back in the car, I detour through the winding roads and end up over by the golf course. A young family is going wild on the green. I assumed it was just a nice putt, but instead, the younger kid is jumping and pointing towards the woods as two deer bound across the fairway. That’s a full lid on sightseeing; I’ll hit the beach.

After sun-soaking and swimming for a few hours, it’s time to be honest with the day. It’s a weekend, I’ve been plenty active and productive (see gift shopping and sightseeing), so it’s time for a drink. The Mitten Brewery is coming alive already this afternoon. I sit on the patio with a Session IPA and watch as visitors and locals sprint up to the food truck window once their names are called. A band will be playing on the patio later this evening, so I might have to come back.

At the Garage Bar & Grill down the street, I can’t decide between the pulled pork or the fish sandwich, so I go with the ribs. I start to see more familiar faces, as the locals come off the water for dinner, drinks, and laughter.

I feel it’s time to get some exercise before the evening gets away from me, so I walk down the street to Tucker’s to bowl a few frames with some old friends. Word starts to travel around about a sunset bonfire at Peterson Park.

Lake Michigan is starting to churn, but still relatively calm. The sun sets below a row of clouds, reflecting orange across the sky. A storm is rolling in; time to get some sleep.