Michigan: The Inn at Bay Harbor
A luxury hotel, cherry pies, gin cocktails, and fly fishing in Hemingway country, Michigan.
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Address3600 Village Harbor Drive 49770 Bay Harbor , Michigan 231/439-4000 Innatbayharbor.com
A walk along Lake Michigan's waterfront
Warming a bar stool and sampling artisanal beers at the City Park Grill, a frequent haunt of Ernest Hemingway in downtown Petoskey.
Sampling the local fish: whitefish, trout, walleye, and salmon.
- 134 guest rooms including 84 suites
- Three year-round restaurants and a cabana bar in summer
- Outdoor heated pool and whirlpool
- Full service luxury spa
- Hi-speed Internet service in all guest rooms and common areas
- Shuttle service to golf and area attractions
- Room service
- Spa robes
Ernest Hemingway spent 22 summers in towns around Lake Michigan. The landscape and people of Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas informed Hemingway's writing for much of his life. (To learn more about this slice of Hemingway's youth—and to discover his preferred method for cooking trout—read Picturing Hemingway's Michigan by Michigan Hemingway Society President Michael R. Federspiel.)
But as rewarding as it is to walk in Papa H's waders, I'm equally grateful for the Inn at Bay Harbor, where I'm ensconced in quiet luxury. This 134-room hotel and spa faces the vast Lake Michigan waterfront, which on this overcast day has the moody quality of a Turner painting. Built on the site of a long-abandoned cement factory, the hotel provides guests with three year-round restaurants choices from casual to gourmet, a poolside cabana bar in summer, a spa, fitness center, and access to shopping and sports facilities. My suite is enormous, furnished cottage style with an overstuffed sofa facing a fireplace I can control with the flip of a switch, cabbage rose printed draperies, spa robes in the closet, and a deep whirlpool tub in the bathroom.
While I could hop the shuttle to the nearby Bay Harbor Golf Club, I opt instead for a hot Petoskey-stone massage in the hotel spa. Petoskey stones are fossilized coral, lifted by glaciers from Lake Michigan's bedrock and washed ashore during the spring thaw. Under the palms of my masseur, the warmed stones relax my muscles as my thoughts naturally drift toward dinner. We're dining in the hotel's upscale Sagamore Room, where Chef Barbie Papi has crafted much of the menu around local ingredients. Our table faces the lake, and the fall colors beyond the shore resemble an opened box of Crayola crayons: copper, brick, burnt sienna.
In a nod to Hemingway's fondness for gin, I begin my meal with a Gin Ginger cocktail, a spicy pick-me-up combining New Holland Knickerbocker Gin (from Holland, Michigan), Wild Bill's Wild Ginger Beer (Williamsburg, Michigan) with lime and pickled ginger. The delicate buerre blanc-draped whitefish in my entrée is from local waters, and the crisp Pinot Gris wine is from Chateau Fontaine in nearby Lake Leelanau. When I return to my room after dinner, a cordial and chocolates await on my night table. I may dream of Hemingway's harsher landscape but I don't have to live there. —Stacey Harwood
In the Area
- Jesperson's Restaurant & Pie Shoppe: In the town of Petoskey, Jesperson's Restaurant & Pie Shoppe, a no frills establishment where Hemingway often ate breakfast, has been in business since 1903. Owner William J. Fraser, who doubles as Petoskey's mayor, makes great pies with flavorful, flaky crusts. Apple, coconut cream, and banana cream are very good, but don't miss the cherry-berry, which is loaded with the plump fruit for which Michigan is justly famous. Jesperson's Restaurant & Pie Shoppe, 312 Howard St., Petoskey; tel: 231/347-3601
- Symons General Store & Wine Cellar: A great place to shop for edible souvenirs, Symons General Store & Wine Cellar's shelves are stocked locally made gourmet foods, and its deli case is filled with cheeses and charcuterie from around the world. Don't leave without Addictive Granola, a maple- and honey-sweetened cereal packed with dried cherries and nuts (all toasted in the bread ovens of Petroskey-based Crooked Tree Breadworks), a jar of Wee Bee Jammin' Cherry Bomb jam (made in Manistee from sweet and sour cherries), and a package of hazelnut crackers (from Potters, a Wisconsin cracker company). Symons General Store, 401 East Lake Street, Petoskey; tel: 231/347-243;
- Stafford's Pier Restaurant:The whole world round, if you live near the 45th parallel you will be blessed with abundant morel mushrooms. I picked up this bit of trivia at Stafford's Pier Restaurant in Harbor Springs—which, like a lot of upper Michigan, is near the 45th. Stop by the Pier for their morel bisque (call ahead to see if they're serving it—it's a special). Its creamy and flavorful, finished with sherry, with big pieces of morel mushroom in every spoonful of roux-thickened broth. Stafford's Pier Restaurant, 102 East Bay St. Harbor Springs; tel: 231/526-6201; Staffords.com/pier