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The Short Version: The Inn at Bay Harbor allows couples to celebrate relationship milestones while basking in the elegance of the Great Lakes. The property, located on Lake Michigan, features recently renovated accommodations and an Arthur Hills-designed golf course, a couples-friendly spa, and outdoor activities for every season. The Inn is also a popular location for summer and winter weddings, which often include a decadent afternoon tea service. And couples who visit, for a wedding or other event, tend to return to celebrate their relationships and their love.
Weddings are often about making the bride’s dreams come true. Erin Ernst, the Director of Marketing for the Inn at Bay Harbor, remembers how the staff helped one bride achieve a goal she talked about during a childhood vacation.
She had visited the property, located on the banks of Lake Michigan, many times when she was young. Her family would search for Petoskey stones, ride bikes along the path to nearby towns, play yard games, and relax in the Inn’s red-and-white striped cabanas along the beach.
“She said, ‘I’m going to get married here and sit in these loungers,’” Erin told us. “Sure enough, she grew up and got married here and took her wedding photos in the loungers.”
Couples don’t need to have grown up visiting the property to know how special it is. The Inn at Bay Harbor offers outdoor activities for every season, including an Arthur Hills-designed golf course that turns into a snowshoeing path during the winter. That means couples can always stay busy and active or relax at the lakeshore. It’s an ideal way to celebrate a relationship.
“People love staying here,” Erin said. “The best testament is that we see a lot of couples who get married here come back to celebrate anniversaries. They love coming back. We have such a beautiful location, and it offers everything people love so much.”
Couples can take advantage of convenient direct flights from cities throughout the United States to the Cherry Capital Airport, which is about an hour from the Inn. It’s also a 2.5-hour drive from Grand Rapids. The Inn at Bay Harbor is off the beaten path — on purpose.
The full-service Inn at Bay Harbor property has been part of the Marriott Autograph Collection since 2016. It offers 105 rooms and suites, including standard guest rooms with king or queen beds. Visitors can also book two-bedroom and three-bedroom cottages that often include fireplaces and balconies. Each room — and the rest of the hotel property — underwent a significant renovation a few years ago.
Lakeside rooms feature a wonderful view of Lake Michigan from Little Traverse Bay, which is a lovely way to wake up on a romantic getaway.
“We have a romance package which includes lodging bundles and breakfast for two,” Erin said. “You get sparkling wine and chocolate-covered strawberries, two roses, and other items. Everything is set up nicely for them.”
Plus, they offer couples spa packages with a wide variety of relaxing treatments, making it easy to forget about everything and focus on their relationship.
The property is also part of a sustainability effort called The ForeverProject, and its ultimate goal is to have net-zero emissions by 2030. That means the team works to improve efficiency with water and reduce waste by recycling soap bars and offering large dispensers for shampoo and conditioners, among other means.
That focus on sustainability can make it easier for eco-conscious couples to relax.
The property’s primary restaurant is the Vintage Chophouse and Wine Bar, which sits facing the lake. The Sagamore Room is a breakfast destination and converts into a hosting space for receptions later in the day. The Inn Café also offers coffee and quick grab-and-go options. Guests can also enjoy the cabana bar at the pool during the summer.
Of course, many couples prefer to order in-room dining to wind down and focus on their relationship.
Couples often celebrate their relationships by cuddling in the loungers or hammocks strung along the shoreline, but the Inn offers plenty of adventurous activities.
The town of Petoskey, known for unique stones made of fossilized coral, is only four miles away. Many couples visit Petoskey in search of one of the stones as a souvenir of their memorable trip. Charlevoix and Harbor Springs is also nearby.
“Our region has grown quite a bit with wineries in the last few years,” Erin said. “It’s all a couple of miles from the hotel property, and that’s something people enjoy while visiting.”
The Inn at Bay Harbor also partners with a charter company to offer four-hour cruises on yachts for up to six guests throughout the area. The region offers interesting art galleries, culture and music, historic districts, a farmer’s market, and many more romantic experiences couples can enjoy.
Still, Erin admits that most couples enjoy simply spending time along the shoreline, swimming, and soaking in the outdoor hot tubs. They can also have fun with the yard games or book a tee time at the Bay Harbor Golf Club, featuring three nine-hole courses designed by Arthur Hills.
The Inn plans to add an ice-skating rink in the coming year as an addition to its snowshoeing and other activities in time for winter. The property is close to the top skiing destinations of Boyne Mountain and the Boyne Highlands.
Erin said a beach cruiser bike is included with each guest’s stay, while other couples choose to rent ebikes. The Village of Bay Harbor and Little Traverse Bay sidewalks offer beautiful views for couples who want to take a winding bike ride along the bay.
“We also do bonfires and s’mores — which adults like as much as the kids,” Erin added.
The Inn at Bay Harbor also hosts many weddings throughout the year. Summertime is the most popular season. During the winter months, couples can have their entire wedding in one building. The Inn offers a few reception halls to choose from, and the ceremony can take place in the Arlington Ballroom or The Sagamore Room during the winter months. When it’s warmer outside, couples can exchange vows outside on the Terrace that overlooks the water.
“We have the space for everything. Also, at Bay Harbor Golf Club, we host differing parts of events. You can make the rehearsal dinner at the golf club and the reception at Inn at Bay Harbor so people have varying scenes,” Erin told us.
The Inn at Bay Harbor even offers a salon on-site for bridal services. So while everyone is getting pampered for the big day, they can order afternoon tea and in-room amenities. Bagel boards and charcuteries are beautifully prepared by the staff, leaving one less thing to stress over.
“It’s an awe-inspiring place,” Erin said. “You can come here and feel like you’re in a whole new world. It has that private seclusion to it. You can relax and do nothing at all or get out and explore Lake Michigan.”