Michigan is a fascinating region to explore. When you consider it is the largest state by landmass east of the Mississippi River, and yet, it’s a peninsula (a point of land surrounded on three sides by water), well, it just demands a good exploration. And what better way to do it than staying at one of its 400 bed and breakfast inns.
Twelve Oaks of Traverse CityTraverse City, Michigan
From a romantic getaway and family reunions to a much-needed vacation or a more comfortable hotel alternative for the business traveler, Michigan bed and breakfasts provide a vast array of choices for the discerning explorer.
With a strong Native American Indian culture still very much evident juxtaposed with a maritime culture built on what amounts to two inland seas, there is a great deal of variety to investigate. Art galleries and museums provide visitors with an unending illustration of how the earliest Native inhabitants of the region evolved with the influx of the European trappers and traders of the 17th and 18th-centuries.
Shipbuilding and its associated industries sprang up in the 19th-century as the shipping channels of the Great Lakes became the lifeblood for major commerce between the growing cities of Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Toronto, and Cleveland. The history of life on the lakes is well-documented in museums from metropolitan Detroit on Lake Erie’s western tip to the smaller towns of Holland, South Haven, and St. Joseph on Lake Michigan’s eastern shores.
With enough fresh water to fill an ocean surrounding the state on three sides, there is no shortage of adventures to seek out year-round. Summertime brings boating, beach life, water skiing, swimming, jet-skiing, and fishing that are just the start of life on the lakes.
An absolute must-see destination is Mackinac Island. Located at the “tip” of the “mitten” between the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula (important lingo in the area!) and voted as a Top 10 US Island by TripAdvisor and USA Today, you won’t find any cars or chain hotels. However, there are over 1600 rooms available, so that means there are plenty of B&B options to discover. Once you disembark from your ferry ride, you will quickly realize you’ve entered a different world and one you just might not want to leave!
The interior of the state is mostly rural and carpeted with extensive tracts of beautiful forestland. Camping, hiking trails, backpacking, and mountain biking are all ways to explore this vast region, much of which is pristine and unchanged from when the first Europeans arrived.
Winter brings an all-together different set of activities. Snowmobiling on the frozen lake surfaces, ice fishing, ice hockey, and skating are winter staples for the hardy sportsmen who don’t mind a chill with their hobbies. Dedicated fishermen will set up insulated tents for days’ worth of fishing above their favorite holes.
Before Michigan became the 26th state of the Union in 1837, it was inhabited by various tribes of Native Americans for thousands of years. The state takes its name from the Ojibwe tribe’s word michigami, which means “large water” or “large lake”. Part of the New France colony based partially on the number of French explorers, France retained control of the region until its defeat in 1762 by the British in the French and Indian War. The British then ceded the colony to the fledgling United States after Britain’s defeat in the American Revolutionary War.
It became a territory in 1805, but some of its northern portions were still under Canadian rule until it achieved statehood in 1827. As more immigrants made their way to the “Water Wonderland” from Northern parts of Europe, the latter part of the 19th and early 20th-centuries saw the region become an important commerce and trade center.
This was primarily due to the rapidly growing Great Lakes shipping industry. Products from manufacturing centers bulged from the hulls of ships from the fast-growing northern cities of the US Midwest, the Northeast, and southeast Canada.
Michigan’s diverse economies further strengthened in the 20th-century, but it hit its stride with the advent of the automobile industry. Three of the nation’s top car builders were located in the Detroit area, with massive plants rolling out hundreds of thousands of automobiles annually to an exploding population.
Among its many interesting oddities, Michigan is the only state comprised of two peninsulas, the “Mitten” and the “Thumb”. The Upper and Lower Peninsulas are divided by Mackinac Straits, not far from its namesake island. Being bordered by four of the five Great Lakes, the state also has the longest freshwater coastline of any political subdivision in the world.
Nearly 65,000 small lakes and ponds populate the state due to the scouring actions of glaciers that covered this whole region up to a mile thick with ice about 18,000 years ago. As the glaciers retreated, they left behind natural depressions, sinkholes, waterfalls, and canyons that still provide limitless fresh surface and groundwater for wildlife, forests, and farms today. Surprisingly, the numerous rivers are short and shallow, unnavigable for most boats.
Boasting a total of 78 state parks, 19 state recreation areas, six state forests, no other state in the US can rival the number of state and federally protected areas Michigan possesses. The Upper Peninsula is mostly forested, with approximately 350,000 people inhabiting a region greater than Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island combined.
The rocky coasts of the Lake Huron and Lake Michigan support an astonishing number of over 150 lighthouses, many of which are still-functioning relics of a bygone era, while others are marvels of modern technology.
Those not familiar with Michigan cuisine will undoubtedly be entertained by some foods names native to the state, if not the fare itself. Perhaps best known across the state is Mackinac Fudge, made locally but shipped across the US and beyond. The Coney Dog, with its all meat toppings, white onions, and yellow mustard, yields a unique taste all its own. Detroit Pizza is rectangular with a thick crust and topped by Brick cheese. Additional toppings are next, then followed by tomato sauce. Sounds kinda upside down, eh Detroit? Delicious, no doubt!
Traverse City is famous for its tart cherries and all the delightful pastries and jams that come from them. A small town dish with big Bavarian flavor, Frankenmuth chicken is to die for. Chapati sandwiches are deceptively simple but with a killer sauce, it is favored by the large Middle Eastern immigrants in the Ann Arbor and Detroit areas. Last but not least in the interesting food names domain are paczkis. Say what? A delightful Polish pastry, they are filled with any number of fruit, jams, or puddings and topped with confectionary sugar.
More than 140 wineries populate the state. Based on unique glacial soils found only in Michigan, the grapes harvested from these soils offer nuanced flavors and bouquets pleasing to the most discerning palates. You are sure to find something new that will enhance your B&B stay.
Fifth in the nation in breweries, microbreweries, and brewpubs, Michigan's craft beer movement has become quite the sudsapalooza. Bottomless lakes of clean, clear water left behind by the glaciers and filtered through the bedrock and soils over centuries provide the basis for brew few other locations anywhere have access to. A fistful of chapati sandwiches washed with an IPA sounds just right!
Hunting and fishing first come to mind for many Michiganders as well as visitors seeking outdoor adventure. As one of the top auto-producing centers globally, Detroit car shows, museums, and competitions can be found any given day throughout the year. Car enthusiasts from the world over flock to their favorite dealerships and collector competitions to see the latest, the coolest, the loudest, and shiniest Chevy, Ford, or GM product.
Historical markers across the state could be used to plot out a worthy connect-the-dots tour linking many of the natural scenic areas and historical spots. And while you’re touring the state’s interior, a stop in Traverse City in Northern Michigan will bring you back to civilization and all the services you could want. It is a decent-sized town that serves as the aviation center for the state’s north region and is home to thriving private jet operations.
Michigan’s weather is an interesting mix of what is termed continental climate. The central and southern portions of the Lower Peninsula are warmer with hot summers and cold winters. Average temperatures run from the low 80s in the summer to the low 20s in the winter. While high humidity levels make a summer day feel hot and sticky, rarely does it get much warmer than the upper 80s. Winter lows can reach well below average though, courtesy of icy winds from the far North. Thunderstorms can be surprisingly violent in the southern part of the state all summer.
The northern segment of the Lower Peninsula and most, if not all, of the Upper Peninsula, sees shorter summers with lower highs, lower lows, and much colder, longer winters. Weather oddities will see the occasional tornado in the southern section of the state. And “lake effect” snow can impact the entire state as cold air from Canada often picks up lake moisture on its way south, further intensifying snowstorms.
With so much natural beauty in abundance across this expansive state, finding the most romantic bed and breakfast in Michigan is challenging, to say the least. “Most romantic” being a purely subjective term, it probably comes down to who you’re with and the state of mind you’re in.
Grand scenery with rolling hills carpeted with endless forests, wide-open lakeside sunsets, walking hand in hand along one of the countless beaches, or snuggling under a blanket next to an open-air fireplace, a glass of wine close by, make it easy to fall in love all over again. With the love of your life, or with Michigan. Why not both?
Another lakeside jewel can be found just up the shore at Saugatuck. Its early days began as a center for the timber industry where the harvested trees were milled. The town has remained small and has several boutique inns and B&Bs for a relaxing weekend away, a wedding, or a family reunion.
Visitors to The Hotel Saugatuck, possibly the best bed and breakfast in Saugatuck, Michigan, have the added advantage of proximity to Kalamazoo Lake as well. Built in 1865, it is the only original lumber mill in the area, and those interested in learning more about this once great industry that helped build America will find plenty of comforts at this 18 room retreat.
Serendipity Inn is a cozy little inn with two guest rooms and a separate, private cottage. The Saugatuck Center for the Arts is just across the street, and the mysterious, majestic Saugatuck Dunes are just minutes away.
You wipe away frost from the inside of the window, again, for that beautiful view you can’t seem to get enough of. An impossibly comfortable chair beckons near the fireplace. This is why you chose this boutique country inn over just another hotel room. Pamper versus pragmatic. Boutique hotels have a way of winning their guests over like that. Host-friendliness, coupled with a romantic getaway and aesthetically pleasing Victorian architecture rounds out the sensory delight.
Bed and breakfast inns work hard to please their guests and with good reason. Innkeepers are passionate about the service they provide. While comfort and extravagance are at the forefront of the guest’s experience, the hosts are extremely safety-conscious to ensure all rooms and facilities are safe and clean. This includes precautions about the current state of affairs with Covid-19. Speak with your hosts at check-in to address any questions you may have regarding their health and safety protocols.
Amenities at your favorite bed and breakfast inn can range from the expected to the luxuriant. Free wifi, baby-soft linens, the option of a Jacuzzi, and organic bath products are often staples today in all guest rooms. Other basics can include free parking, bicycles for about-town touring, snowshoes, and cross country skis.
Many inns will offer a private bath or whirlpool tubs. The height of luxury is a fireplace nearby for added ambiance, especially when booking a private guest house. Farm-to-table freshness can be counted on with any gourmet breakfast enjoyed in the dining room or the comfort of your room to enhance the beautiful view from your window. Though not needed during most of the year, air conditioning may be helpful during the humid summer months, especially in the Lower Peninsula. Be sure to check your inn’s website or with your host before making reservations if you feel this is necessary.
The most convenient air service to Michigan is by way of Detroit Metro Airport (DTW). Although located in the state’s southeast corner, drive times to points west and north are very reasonable. An alternative air destination would be Traverse City regional airport that puts you much closer to, say, Mackinac Island and the Upper Peninsula as well. All major carriers serve DTW but utilize regional jets for most flights statewide.
Driving across the state to Grand Rapids near the west coast is a manageable 2 ½ hours, northwest to Traverse City 4 hours, and Mackinac Island a total of 6 hours.
For B&Bs located on Main Street or near the historic district of the small town you choose to visit will have easy access to desired attractions including shops, restaurants, and museums often within walking distance of your inn. For ventures farther afield, consider a bike ride for some exercise or the convenience of a cab, Uber, or rental car.
Locating the best bed and breakfast in Michigan will depend on knowing what you’re seeking and having a good idea of where to find it. Looking for something deep in the woods to immerse yourself in a forest? A lakeside cottage with an outdoor fireplace to take in the evening’s silence? Perhaps a winter retreat close to a small inland lake for some ice fishing and snowmobiling to test your mettle against the elements.
Maybe it’s time to set aside a hectic life and reconnect with that special someone. You’re bound to find the perfect Michigan bed and breakfast getaway with a little time on the internet and some “field research.”
Completing a treble of small lakeside towns is Grand Haven, located just south of Muskegon. The Looking Glass Beachfront Inn provides inspiring panoramic views of Lake Michigan from the open-air deck. The inn is within walking distance of downtown Grand Haven if you’re up for a two-mile round trip trek.
Lakeshore Inn is a fully renovated 6500-square foot mansion with 200 feet of private beach. Just a 3-hour drive from Detroit or Chicago, the beautiful inn caters to the most discerning guests in each of its four rooms.
A relative newcomer to the B&B scene in Grand Haven is the Harbor House Inn, built in 1987. Boasting 17 guest rooms and overlooking the Grand River, this classic Victorian inn has spared no expense for those seeking a more contemporary bed and breakfast experience. Amenities include private baths in each room, and there is a boardwalk for strolling nearby that leads to shops and restaurants in the downtown area.
Small, secluded, lakeside, quiet. Southwestern Michigan specializes in it. South Haven bed and breakfast says it all for a relaxing destination to rest and unwind. Located on Lake Michigan's eastern shore all by its lonesome, this may be the perfect escape from an amped-up world.
When most people hear the name Martha’s Vineyard, they immediately think of Massachusetts and New England clam chowder. Well, this is Michigan’s version all rolled up in a gorgeous B&B just waiting for you. Martha’s Vineyard Bed & Breakfast has 12 guest rooms and the advantage of a golf course right next door. Four beautifully groomed acres and a private vineyard guarantee a relaxing stay or a romantic getaway as you dial down life for a while.