A Retreat to Savor

The spacious Sweetwater Sea B&B in Greenbush capitalizes on its picturesque Lake Huron beachfront setting
An airy great room and the adjacent dining area frame a stunning view of Lake Huron.
Photo courtesy of Amanda Bergeron/Sweetwater Sea bed and breakfast

When he came upon Lake Huron in 1615, French explorer Samuel de Champlain saw its Canadian side with his Huron First Nations guides. He was taken aback by the magnificent expanse of fresh water nearly 100 miles across. He named it La Mere Douce, the Sweetwater Sea.

More than 400 years later, when Cecilia and Mike Gabel were searching for a name for the bed and breakfast they were opening on a 150-foot stretch of sandy Lake Huron beach in May 2023, borrowing the name sweetwater made perfect sense.

Sweetwater Sea Bed and Breakfast is smack in the middle of the state’s Sunrise Side, one of Michigan’s most picturesque areas. And if you don’t believe me, ask some of Sweetwater’s guests, like the four sisters who were recently visiting from across the country and settled on the Gabels’ new five-bedroom, two-story home in Greenbush, about 10 miles north of Oscoda, for a reunion.

“It’s beautiful here. The scenery is gorgeous, the place is gorgeous. We hope to repeat our visit because we love it here,” Christine Martines says. The sisters were  wowed by the Lake Huron views.

“It looks like an ocean when you look out. It looks just like Hawaii,” Martines says. “I could come back any day,” Linda Reeser adds. “Nobody would be disappointed. The hospitality is phenomenal. The food is like a five-star restaurant.”

The view is why the Gabels settled on this stretch of beach to open their inn. It’s something they’d planned to do after years of exploring different locations.

Winter activities include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing along the Au Sable River, or in Negwegon State Park. 

In summer, you can golf at local courses, canoe, hike nearby trail systems, or relax on the sandy beachfront that beckons you to swim, stroll, and hunt for stones.

Bring your kayak to see the bones of a 19th century shipwreck just offshore. You can also tour the historic Sturgeon Point Lighthouse, or drive along the designated scenic byway, which follows the Au Sable River heading west from Oscoda.

Cecilia Gabel is retired from her job as a school art teacher, and Mike is a Ford systems engineer who works remotely. They already had a cabin in Curtisville, near a county park that’s on the Au Sable River west of Oscoda, but Cecilia wanted a bit more water in her view. In 2013, they got the idea of running a bed and breakfast. A short stint as innkeepers at a friend’s B&B on Mackinac Island a few years later cemented their dream.

Waves rolling onto the inn’s 150-foot stretch of sandy beach often lull visitors to sleep in the second-floor guest rooms.
Photo courtesy of Denise Semion

In summer 2020, during a stay in Curtisville, the couple began planning, and found their place on Lake Huron. Mike designed the 4,000-square-foot home himself, with suggestions from the local contractor who built it. He also designed the walls to dampen noise. Cecilia wanted the decor to evoke a “modern beach house” theme.

The home is stick-built with timber accents in the welcoming first-floor great room. Guest bedrooms named after Great Lakes are on both floors. One first-floor room is ADA-compliant, and there’s a front porch wheelchair lift. The lower floor has a small refrigerator, microwave, and, of course, that beachfront — along with outdoor seating on a paver brick patio graced with a raised gas fire bowl. There’s also a grill and outdoor dining area, and an indoor living area with a TV. Outside, there’s an electric vehicle charger.

The Gabels wanted the property to be a step up from a motel and cabins, and it is. Two of the four rooms have lakefront views, and the windows open so guests can be lulled to sleep by waves breaking on the shore. All four rooms (the fifth is reserved for the innkeepers’ quarters) can be reserved for 10 guests at a package rate.

The first-floor great room common area is separated from the breakfast room and kitchen, and the Gabels’ personal space, by a sliding barn-style door. Many of the paintings inside are Cecilia’s work.

While the Gabels will sometimes join guests around the fire, Mike says they’re innkeepers first, then hosts. “We give people their space,” he says, “but I’ve never understood why someone would own a big home and not have guests. We have all this beauty, and we love to share it with people.”

Welcome the morning with a choice of coffee or teas from Livonia’s Fraser Tea in the great room and be prepared for a truly out-of-the ordinary breakfast; Cecilia perfected her kitchen skills by taking classes at the Somerset Collection’s Sur La Table.

“I serve a savory dish, with eggs, like a frittata, and then something sweet, like a raspberry bread, almond cake, or apple pie muffins,” she says. Baked stuffed French toast is often served on Sundays. 

On my visit, we enjoyed eggs seasoned with Parmesan and oregano, cradled in a thin slice of ham, with a side of cherry tomatoes roasted in olive oil. It was followed by a yogurt parfait with fruit compote, and a piece or three of sweet cherry muffin cake, accompanied by homemade bread with roasted peach jam from the nearby Wandering Winds Farm in Spruce.

A stay at the B&B is an experience that surely would have wowed the original namer of the Sweetwater Sea. 

B&B owners/hosts Cecilia and Mike Gabel prepare out-of-the-ordinary breakfasts.
Photo courtesy of Denise Semion

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Sweetwater Sea Bed and Breakfast

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