Stand on the grand white-pillared, wrap-around porch of Portage Point Inn’s main lodge today, and it’s easy to picture the gentlemen and ladies who’d row the lake in their finest, perhaps greeting the campers from nearby Camp Tosebo who’d paddle from the other side for an annual softball game. As inn legend goes, staffers were once picked for athletic prowess; heated competitions were a highlight of the summer experience.
Today’s competitions fall more along the lines of sandcastle building or friendly fishing rivalries. But Onekama still fits the name once attached to the spot where pristine Portage Lake and Lake Michigan meet — “Place of Great Beauty” — and resort traditions still carry turn-of-the-century appeal.
At one time, six hotel resorts sat along Portage Lake, some drawing guests for the healing springs that still flow in the region. That didn’t count Camp Tosebo, then a summer camp for prep school students at the Todd School for Boys, surrounded by acres of forest on the southern shore.
Today a nostalgic vacation here includes swimming, fishing, hiking, biking, tennis, kayaking and canoeing, and is enhanced by preserved classic camp touches, like the council ring (used for the study of Indian lore) and founder’s motto: “There is nothing so kingly as kindness.” Three Victorian-style cabins can be rented as group or family lodging. And, as one 100th anniversary touch, a miniature golf course has been restored on the 50-acre grounds.
Portage Point has changed often, too, since it opened in 1903. Like Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, it was built by investors with an interest in a steamship company whose boats transported vacationers from Chicago and other cities. For years, guests came by invitation only through Christmas cards from the inn manager. Today, this sprawling resort on the National Register of Historic Places draws both romantics and multi-family groups with its multi-style accommodations, modern touches (a pool and deep-water marina, for example) and more classic amenities like the vintage bikes available for a quick pedal to a Lake Michigan sunset.
— Kim Schneider, Michigan BLUE Magazine.
*Photography by Marge Beaver/Photography Plus; Courtesy Camp Tosebo & Vintage Views.