by Lisa Meyers McClintick
With its grand Victorian design, red roof and white balconies overlooking Lake Michigan’s turquoise-blue water, this Renaissance Golf Resort sits like a crown jewel in this 1990’s lakeside community.
Sprawled along five miles of reclaimed shoreline, Bay Harbor reflects the rich history and century-old architecture found in nearby coastal communities. The resort cities have drawn summer residents from big cities since the late 1800s. They came to soak in the sunshine, the summer breezes and the cool beauty of a Great Lake.
Bay Harbor boasts three lakeside golf courses, a full-service spa, marina, walking and biking trails, and even a world-class equine center. The Inn at Bay Harbor runs shuttles to the Village at Bay Harbor with shops, galleries and restaurants and to Petoskey’s historic Gaslight District.
Petoskey’s pretty downtown sits about three miles up the coast. It bustles with shoppers ducking into boutiques, toy stores, bookstores and cafes that feature Michigan’s famous fruits. Don’t miss a drive or walk through historic neighborhoods with colorful, beautifully detailed Victorian homes that look like life-size dollhouses.
Kids, of course, beeline to the water. Splash in the lakeside pool or relax in a European-style canopied lounge chair on the pebble beach. Some families even arrive by private boat and park at the marina. It’s handy to have a car, though, for exploring the coast and heading inland about 20 minutes to Boyne Mountain or north to Boyne Highlands, the Inn’s sister properties.
Built for winter skiers, Boyne resorts still hop with activity in the summer, especially with zip lines and an indoor water park. In the winter, there are more than 100 ski runs. Inn at Harbor Bay guests can get lift ticket discounts, then return to rooms where sunsets glitter across Lake Michigan.
Our Editor Loves
- Pool overlooking Lake Michigan
- Giant chess board
- Activities at sister properties
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
White-painted furniture and bright-colored walls dominate the cottage-style decor at the Inn. Bright yellows, French blue, spring greens and other accents give it the feel of a seaside escape. To take full advantage of the location, ask for lakeside rooms and a balcony.
Inn at Bay Harbor Rooms
The 134 guestrooms include 84 one- to three-bedroom suites that sleep four to 10 people. Rooms include Murphy beds or pull-out couches, Internet and coffee machines. Some rooms feature fireplaces, whirlpools and balconies, and suites may feature kitchenettes and dining areas.
For more room and privacy, there are 23 two- and three-bedroom cottages near the Inn and connected by pathways. They sleep up to eight people and include kitchens, living room, gas fireplace, washer/dryer, TVs and DVD player. Guests have full use of Inn amenities, including the seasonal pool, whirlpool and beach.
Cottages at Crooked Tree
These cottages near the Crooked Tree Golf Course have three bedrooms and sleep up to eight people. They include a living room with fireplace, kitchen, TV and DVD player, washer/dryer and covered patio. Guests can use the Inn pool, but need to drive the short way to the Inn or take a shuttle.
I did make a decision to stay at this property for one night, since it is Marriott. I've stayed at multiple Marriott properties since I joined their rewards program but this is by far been the worst experience ever. It all began when I was charged over $700 for one night. Upon checking with front-desk, I was told that the summer rates are high. We got the keys to the room. Took the elevator and looked for directions for our room. Turns out the room-directions are incorrect. We got lucky when an existing guest helped us riddle out the direction to our room, and later told us that that the directions are incorrect. Got into our room, and because we were exhausted, me and my wife looked for our bed. Couldn't find the bed. The room had a seating area, a round dining table and the kitchen, but no bed. We later learnt that the bed is stuck to the wall and has to be pulled out. Room service helped us set the bed. In the process messed up the furniture. Now we don't have a dining table and the chairs were all over the place due to space constraint. We ordered breakfast thru in-room dining and basic things like sugar and ketchup were missing. Though stated over the phone. If I pay over $700 for one night at Bellagio or Aria, Las Vegas I get a high-tech suite featuring modern furniture, touch-screen everything with views either of the strip or the Bellagio fountains. At Bay Harbor I get a disoriented room, outdated phone and a view of the lake.
If you want to waste your hard-earned money for nothing, I would recommend this property.
We recently stayed at the Inn at Bay Harbor and left so impressed with everything. We booked this hotel because I had some Marriott points to use up and we wanted to stay somewhere in northern Michigan. We weren't familiar with the hotel or the Petosky area prior to this visit so everything was a pleasant surprise.
Since we booked on points, we were only able to secure a non-lake view room. However, we were upgraded to a lake view room upon arrival. The check-in agent was super friendly and called about 10 min after we got to our room to say that she comped our breakfast for our 3 day stay since it was our first time staying there and she wanted to ensure we had a great time. That was completely unexpected and appreciated, especially since we were staying on points.
I believe all of the rooms have been recently renovated, including ours. The furnishings were great and the view from the lake was even better. Our room had a Murphy bed, which was kind of weird, but it was comfortable. The bathroom was a little tight for my wife and I plus 2 little ones, but again everything was high quality and very clean.
The lake front area of the property was well kept and beautiful. There were multiple seating options (cabanas, Adirondack chairs, hammocks, etc.) all right along the shore. My kids enjoyed the nightly s'mores as well.
Breakfast was fantastic, one of the better hotel buffets I've had in a while. We did have dinner at their Chophouse one night and everything was very good. I will say the food and beverage prices seemed high for Northern Michigan, but again everything was excellent.
I would really recommend the Petoskey as well. They have a great downtown with many good shops and restaurants and the views of the lake are fantastic. It's also a good location do day trips to Mackinac Island and Traverse City. We would definitely stay here again. I will say it did appear the resort caters to large groups and events so that can really affect pricing, but looking at availability there are many weeks when the rates seem reasonable. We can't wait to come back!
The Inn at Bay Harbor's pool opens seasonally and overlooks Lake Michigan and the wide lawn out front. There's a shallow end for young children and a whirlpool for warm soaks.
World-class golf ranks as Bay Harbor's major attraction with eight courses within 20 miles. Bay Harbor Golf Club takes its inspiration from the Irish seaside with 27 links-style shoreline holes tucked into the dunes and bluffs. Crooked Tree Golf Course winds through the trees above Bay Harbor and features Family Fun Days.
The Inn offers complimentary bikes for exploring the shoreline trails and Bay Harbor community.
Inn at Harbor Bay teams up with sister resorts, Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands, for winter downhill ski packages. They also have cross-country ski trails, along with tubing runs and terrain parks. There is a free learning area for beginning skiers and snowboarders. Also look for ice skating, sleigh rides and dog sled rides. Check with the concierge for details.
Indoor Water Park
During the off-season or rainy days, guests can drive about 20 miles inland to Boyne Mountain's 88,000-square-foot Avalanche Bay Indoor Water Park. Inn guests can get a discount on day passes for water slides, wet climbing wall, surf simulator, activity pools and shallow children's play area.
The Sagamore Room
Grab a seat by the windows in this Victorian dining room with a checkered floor and white columns. Breakfast buffets include omelets, waffles or pancakes, meats, pastries, yogurt and fruit. Plan dinner to coincide with sunset views and enjoy its most creative fare -- some of it drawing on Michigan's fabulous fruit harvests. The summer salad mixes greens, goat cheese, strawberries, spiced pecans and fig vinaigrette while its signature salad is tossed with pistachio vinaigrette. Small plates include flaming Kasseri cheese with mango and cherry chutney, a BBQ pork flatbread and seafood fritto misto with calamari and rock shrimp. Entrees include pork porterhouse with caramelized leek polenta or cedar-plank salmon with truffle lobster risotto.
Vintage Chophouse Wine Bar
The smart casual, steakhouse is open for lunch and dinner.
This casual cafe serves salads, pressed Cuban sandwiches, gourmet paninis and sandwiches such as the Bay Harbor vegetarian with Kalamata olive bread, lettuce, asparagus, grilled Portobello mushroom, cucumbers, carrots, tomato and olive relish. They serve coffee drinks, too, but the biggest family allure is decadent Moomer's ice cream made in Traverse City.
This seasonal eatery at the resort pool serves a variety of sandwiches, including Chicago dogs, slaw dogs and a Bay Harbor dog with apples and cherries. There also is a crab and lobster salad. Look for live entertainment and drink specials.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
With the wide range of resort activities and the number of nearby towns to visit, it helps to check with the concierge to find activities that best fit your family's age group and interests.
Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel.
Parents who want a night out will need to plan ahead. The Inn will help arrange a sitter for a fee, but it requires a two-week notice. An outside service is used, and requires a minimum of three hours for one child. Additional children are an additional cost. Four or more children require a second sitter.
The Inn's Boyne Country Clothiers sells resort wear, jewelry, sandals and souvenirs while the Spa's shop offers fragrant bath and body products, candles, bathrobes and cashmere blankets. More shops, galleries and restaurants can be found in nearby Bay Harbor Village or in Petoskey's historic Gaslight District. Stop at the old-time general store, Grandpa Shorter's, for a souvenir Petoskey stone or samples of luscious jams at American Spoon Foods.
Off the Radar
Trek about 80 miles around the south side of the bay to see Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore or head about 20 miles north to Mackinac City. The Inn sells shuttle tickets to Mackinac Island, a true step back in time with its fort, historic Grand Hotel, fudge shops and horse-drawn carriages. No cars allowed.
The Art of Smart Timing
If you want to save money in the summer, early June has lower rates. They drop again after Labor Day. For winter visits, the Inn at Bay Harbor offers ski packages and substantially lower lodging rates than staying at Boyne Mountain or Boyne Highlands. To save money during ski season, time a visit for midweek rather than the weekend or holidays.
Traverse City's Cherry Capital Airport is about hour from Bay Harbor. The community is a 370-mile drive north of Chicago, 280 miles north of Detroit and 220 miles north of Lansing, Mich.
The resort offers shuttles to the Village, Bay Harbor Golf Club, Crooked Tree Golf Course and Petoskey Gaslight District. It is easiest to have a vehicle for exploring nearby towns and beaches and taking day trips to Traverse City or Mackinac Island.
For Mom and Dad
In addition to the usual complement of facials, pedi/manicures, body treatments and massages here, there also is a lineup of soothing massages for every step of a pregnancy -- even one for after a baby's birth when moms are working on getting their bodies back into alignment. Signature treatments may use a custom-blended rose petal lotion, ground olive pits for exfoliating and the area's iconic Petoskey stones for the hot stone massage. The best prices are mid-week.