Tucked between Charlevoix and Boyne City, about 10 miles south of Petoskey, Walloon Lake is a revitalized yet historic village with rolling terrain and glacial-lake waters emptying into Lake Michigan that are just as crystal-clear today as they were when Ernest Hemingway visited.
From the time he was three months old, Hemingway traveled every summer — including for his 1921 honeymoon — with his parents from their home in Oak Park, Ill., to his grandparents’ beloved cottage along the lake’s North Shore. His writings are dappled with descriptions of his favorite spots.
Even before that, in the 1870s, as logging in Northern Michigan came to an end, the railroads began to accommodate tourists looking to vacation in this pristine part of the world, which resulted in hundreds of hotels and resorts popping up. Sun-kissed travelers flocked to the lakeshore for fishing, swimming, paddle-boating and waving to passers-by from vast wrap-around porches,
One of these hotels, the original Hotel Walloon, was opened in the 1890s by Mrs. James Hass. And in 2015, on the same section of lakefront, the new Hotel Walloon was opened by Jonathan Borisch, a retired contractor who grew up summering on Walloon’s shores. Borisch scrupulously revitalized the village and the hotel, while protecting its historic integrity and timeless spirit.
Today’s Hotel Walloon is a luxurious, stunning union of the charm and hospitality of historic Walloon and every modern comfort, set against the same breathtaking backdrop. Thirty-two unique beautifully curated guest rooms pamper with private balconies, luxurious linens and bathrooms with heated floors; venture out to the hotel for an all-season outdoor spa whirlpool, a billiards room, a private beach and more. Families and couples can rent watercrafts from Tommy’s Walloon, hike or cycle the Little Traverse Wheelway, cozy up with a book by the hearth, hit the 24-hour gym, take a guided horseback ride (or sleigh ride in the winter), shop, golf, visit a winery and more. Hotelwalloon.com.
CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN RESORT & SPA
If Crystal Mountain brings to mind a wintertime wonderland, think again. Yes, it is famed for snow — even voted by Parents magazine as a Top Ten Snow Resort for Families — but it also is an all-inclusive summertime haven for families looking for fun in the sun and relaxation.
Opened in 1955 as a community ski area, the Thompsonville resort — just four hours northwest of Metro Detroit — has been family owned for more than 50 years, with new enhancements (including a widely lauded “green” initiative) constantly added to lure travelers looking for comfortable digs and daytime adventure set amid a pristine Northern Michigan backdrop.
Spread out along 1,500 acres of exquisite rolling terrain, and deep peaks and valleys (there’s a reason it’s a mecca for skiers), the resort offers 250 hotel rooms, suites, condos, townhomes and resort residences, most with in-room whirlpools (ask about pet-friendly accommodations).
Visitors’ first stop: the Mountain Adventure Zone at the base of the Loki lift at Camp Totem, where guides can help plan the best activities for your family, including tubing, kayaking and canoe trips along the nearby Betsie or Platte rivers, paintball, disc golf, mountain biking and more.
Ride the Loki triple chairlift to the top of Crystal Mountain, then cruise down the spectacular 250-foot-high, 1,600-foot-long Crystal Coaster, Michigan’s only alpine slide. Hike through the on-site 30-acre Michigan Legacy Art Park, where art and nature integrate seamlessly along the densely wooded trails. Cool off at the Park at Water’s Edge, a one-acre watery playground with a zero-depth entry pool, multi-platforms, a tumble pail, bubbler jets, water cannon, a hot tub, 32-foot climbing wall, sand play area and more. And practice your swing on the Golf Digest four-star-rated Betsie Valley course (17 and under play free) or escape on your own to the panoramic views of the Mountain Ridge course.
Planning ahead for winter? Four terrain parks and 58 downhill runs on 103 skiable acres cater to the avid skier and snowboarder to novice and snow enthusiast alike. The resort offers ski school options plus the Nanny McSki Doorstep Program: An elite instructor will pick up kids from your doorstep, feed them breakfast and lunch and lead them in a day on the slopes.
There’s plenty of snow-filled adventure to find off the slopes, too: Rent a Fat Tire snow bike; ice skate in the center of Crystal’s village; tuck in for a Horse Drawn Surrey Ride followed by hot chocolate; rent snowmobiles at nearby Crystal Adventures; or play a round of snowy night-time laser-tag before jumping into the outdoor hot tub.
Onsite childcare camps and in-room babysitting mean Mom and Dad can escape to the luxe Crystal Spa for a dual massage or soak in the outdoor meditation garden’s hot tub. Then grab the kids for activities including tie-dyeing, scavenger hunts, life-size checkers, a family campfire with s’mores and movies under the stars. Crystalmountain.com.
THE INN AT BAY HARBOR
No need for a quick trip to New England when we’ve got this in our backyard: The Victorian-inspired Inn at Bay Harbor — a Renaissance Golf Resort, along Lake Michigan’s breathtaking Little Traverse Bay, is just three miles north of Petoskey, and barely 4½ hours away from Metro Detroit.
Opened in 1998, the Inn is fashioned after Northern Michigan’s romantic turn-of-last-century inns — and all the luxuriously elegant trappings that went along with them. Named among the “World’s Best Hotels” by the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine, it is steeped in elegance, from recently renovated guest rooms appointed in crisp whites, to the plush bedding and attentive staff.
Many of the 84 one-, two- and three-bedroom suites offer fireplaces, whirlpool baths, private balconies and magnificent Lake Michigan views and million-dollar sunsets. Or, check out Bay Harbor’s Lakeside Cottages, with expansive porches and brick sidewalks, and the Cottages at Crooked Tree, perched high atop a bluff to provide an unobstructed view of Lake Michigan and the Crooked Tree Golf Club.
Stroll along the Inn’s private stretch of pristine white-sand beach on Little Traverse Bay or take a dip in its heated outdoor pool and whirlpool — order lunch from a strolling server while lazing in a private, tented poolside cabanas. The Inn’s lakeshore frontage offers a croquet course, life-size chessboard, Adirondack lounge chairs and swinging hammocks along the shoreline, where you can visit the evening campfire for marshmallow roasting and s’mores.
The Inn is the only Michigan resort ever to earn the Gold Medal in Golf magazine’s Premier Resorts: Choose from the Crooked Tree Golf Club, perched high above Bay Harbor, or the Bay Harbor Golf Club, whose 27-hole Arthur Hills-designed course along the bluffs has earned it the nickname “the Pebble Beach of the Midwest.” This summer, board the Cliffview Cart Cruise at Bay Harbor Golf Club along the Links/Quarry course with six stops for views of stunning vistas.
At the luxuriously tranquil Spa at the Inn at Bay Harbor, guests can drop in for yoga or barre classes, or indulge in a massage or facial.
While you’re there, head to nearby Boyne Mountain for a scenic chairlift ride, Twin Zip ride or guided Zipline Adventure. While away the day at the Village at Bay Harbor (walk over or pick up the Inn’s complimentary shuttle) for boutiques, restaurants and a stroll along the marina; or take the short drive to downtown Petoskey, Charlevoix or Traverse City. Innatbayharbor.com.