Only Inn Dreams

Adventures abound in the eclectic offerings of Michigan bed and breakfast inns.
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Grand Victorian Exterior
Photography Courtesy of Grand Victorian B&B

While inviting innkeepers extend personal hospitality worthy of a royal — 20 mattresses plus minus the pea — these passports to another sense of place extend an opportunity to renew guests as well as aspiring new proprietors alike.

Exactly what drives folks to one destination over another? “No two are alike, and each region of our state is a unique adventure for the taking,” says Gregg Smith, realtor and inn specialist of Douglas-based innrealtor.com.

Grand Victorian Interior
Photography Courtesy of Grand Victorian B&B

Finding the Perfect Spot

Michigan Lake to Lake Bed and Breakfast Association’s website, laketolake.com, showcases approximately 100 B&B members throughout the state. Visitors to this user-friendly site can browse these overnight options by region, city, packages & specials, activity and name, as well as design the type of stay they desire.

The end experience is a customized getaway.

“Black River Crossing is a magnificently luxurious log and cedar home that literally sits between the wilderness trail and the Black River crossing, and it’s on the scenic trail of over 150 waterfalls between the river and the Lake Superior shoreline,” illustrates Linda Singer, executive director of Michigan Lake to Lake Bed & Breakfast Association.

B&B hospitality also flourishes in Petoskey at the Gingerbread House, a Victorian-era home built in 1881 as a Bayview rooming house. “All guest rooms feature a view of Grand Traverse Bay,” notes innkeeper Mary Gruler. “The tranquil verandah overlooking the water is a welcome retreat after a day of cycling on trails between Charlevoix and Harbor Springs.”

Gingerbread House B&B
Photography Courtesy of Gingerbread House B&B

Yet another acclaimed destination is the Grand Victorian Bed & Breakfast Inn, an example of Queen Anne Victorian architecture situated in Bellaire. Built in 1895, this Historical National Registry home was voted one of America’s Top 10 Romantic Inns.

“The southwest area is particularly popular for its proximity to Chicago,” Smith says. “People want to get out of the big city for great little resort town getaways.”

Combining extra perks is the reason South Haven’s Yelton Manor was voted “Best in the Midwest” Editor’s Choice by Midwest Living Magazine. “We were one of the first bed and breakfasts to offer extraordinary amenities like in-room fireplaces, hot tubs, musical entertainment, lush gardens and organic health foods from farm to table,” explains innkeeper Elaine Herbert.

Meanwhile, the Millpond Inn on Main Street in Clarkston, situated right off I-75, is an ideal stop for business guests to hang their hat and travelers in town for the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, Detroit Grand Prix or countless other events.

Yelton Manor
Yelton Manor // Photography by Brad Ziegler

Taking the Reins

Gregg Smith realized his dream of operating a bed and breakfast inn first just outside the French Quarter in New Orleans, followed by a smaller, seasonal retreat in Saugatuck before channeling his talents into innrealtor.com.

“I always say becoming an innkeeper is a great lifestyle,” he notes. “The key is to find a happy medium that fits your personality and lifestyle.”

According to Smith, there are currently 25 to 30 bed and breakfast properties for sale in Michigan that range from two to 17 guest rooms and from $180,000 to $3,000,000.

“When my husband and I opened Yelton Manor in 1988,” Herbert shares, “we were escaping corporate America to work together in something meaningful.”

But, like other innkeepers, they also had to learn to navigate special hurdles.

“Guests continually overlap,” Gruler says. “You have to be ‘spot on’ at all times.”

Another challenge is industry sustainability.

“We’re finding that many long-term owners are getting to the point of retirement,” adds Singer. “We are bringing bankers into our Aspiring Innkeepers training programs to help educate potential new owners on the business side of a bed and breakfast.”

Classes comprising the “Innstructor” training program target topics including finding the right property, financing options, maintenance, and marketing and website design, Smith notes.

For details, visit innrealtor.com.

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