Bay Harbor, Michigan, is a beautiful town on Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay, and offers visitors picturesque views of the lake and sunsets, fine dining, world-class golfing, one of the world’s best marina, and it’s home to the Inn at Bay Harbor, which has been named one of the top 500 hotels in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine, among other awards. Just a short drive from many other beautiful Northern Michigan destinations like Petoskey, Mackinac Island, Harbor Springs, and the Upper Peninsula. Explore the best things to do in Bay Harbor in this guide.
About Bay Harbor
Bay Harbor, Michigan, is a beautiful coastal town perched in what used to be an old rock quarry overlooking beautiful Lake Michigan. After hundreds of millions of dollars were invested into the city, it has become one of the premier luxury tourism destinations for travelers seeking the finer things in life. Home to a large marina, a golf club, a yacht club, several fine dining establishments, high-end shopping, a handful of yacht shops, and some of the most luxurious homes in the state, Bay Harbor is a beautiful town that is absolutely worth an extended stay.
Where to Stay
We absolutely loved our stay at Inn at Bay Harbor, which is right on the outskirts of Bay Harbor. For those who appreciate the finer things in life, the Inn offers rental cottages, and massive suites that make for the perfect romantic getaway, or family vacation. The views from the Inn at Bay Harbor are absolutely breathtaking. Every morning we woke, we were treated to beautiful sunrises and glittering whitecaps rolling in from the bay, and each night we saw dramatic, colorful sunsets in deep gem-tone colors that you have to see to believe.
The staff of the hotel are exceptional, the food on-site is phenomenal, and the decor and atmosphere are the very best of lake living tranquility. If you’re looking for an excellent place to relax, enjoy the ambience of Northern Michigan, and have a base camp for exploring Northern Michigan, I can’t recommend Inn at Bay Harbor enough.
Ps. The hotel’s spa, The Spa, is exceptional and where we received some of the best massages we’ve ever experienced (which is really saying something, because we’ve had massages on 4 continents!).
Where to Eat
Bay Harbor Yacht Club
Bay Harbor Yacht Club serves up delightful, local food in a casual setting, right on the water. Explore their menus here.
Fox & Rose Fine Provisions
A beautiful place located right next to Bay Harbor’s marina, across the street from Propeller’s clothing & yacht store, Fox & Rose Fine Provisions offers guests fresh seafood, freshly caught lake fish, and whitefish, as well as lighter dishes like soups and salads. Explore their menu here.
Knot Just a Bar
Nautical, casual, and fun are all words that come to mind when I think of Knot Just a Bar. Just around the corner from Fox & Rose Fine Provisions, and right on the water of the marina, this bar has everything you need for a good time. If you ask people in the Petoskey area what to eat, they’re likely to recommend Knot Just a Bar’s famous Buffalo Shrimp, Leelanau Salad, or Mahi Tacos. This place is seriously delicious! Check out their menu here.
The Links Grille
Located within Bay Harbor Golf Club, The Links is a great spot to grab lunch before or after your round of golf. This is the best place to snag a charcuterie board in Northern Michigan! Their asiago truffle fries, vegetable stir fry, and Perch Po’ Boy are out-of-this-world delicious. Find their menu here.
This gourmet grocery store & café should be your first stop when packing a picnic, stocking up on supplies for a day out on the water, packing for a hike, or exploring the town for the day. They sell everything from champagne and water to popcorn, ready-made sandwiches, fresh fruit, and yogurts.
The Original Pancake House
I’m a huge fan of breakfast, so I may be biased when I say that no trip “up north” is complete without a stop at The Original Pancake House. It doesn’t matter if we are heading up to Mackinac Island, St. Ignace, or Rose City. We’ll make a pit stop here every time. You HAVE to try their strawberry and cream crêpes. They blow my mind every time! Menu is unavailable online.
Vintage Chophouse & Wine Bar
We loved dining at Vintage Chophouse & Wine Bar so much, that I made an entire post about it, which you can view here. Their crab cakes, fresh organic salads, and fish dishes are so scrumptious, you’ll wish you had room to eat even more.
Where to Shop
As I mentioned above, Bay Harbor has several places that sell yachts. If you’re in the market for a catamaran or sailboat, look no further than Bay Harbor.
The Boutique inside Inn at Bay Harbor sells gorgeous eco-friendly clothing perfect for a spot of yoga or a day on the beach, as well as vegan / cruelty-free cosmetics, hair care products, and gifts.
Cheek-a-de Meek-a-de sells toys, gifts like jewelry and clothing, and everything you need to safely enjoy the water and the beach.
Inn Café sells food, Starbucks coffee, as well as beautiful gifts, local art, and food that can only be found in the Petoskey Area.
Lake Michigan Yacht Sales is, as the name implies, a place to buy yachts, as well as Bay Harbor apparel. I purchased one of my favorite shirts here, and my husband found a hat he loved in this store.
Propellers Walstrom Marina is a nautical-themed clothing store for men and women that sells brands like Lilly Pulitzer, Sperry, Helly Hansen, Tommy Bahama, and more nautical brands perfect for a day out on the water. Oh, you can also buy or custom-build yachts here too.
What to Do
Bay Harbor Golf Club has 3 9 hole golf courses, The Links, The Preserve, and The Quarry. Voted some of the very best golf courses in the world, and located on one of Michigan’s most stunning bodies of water, Little Traverse Bay, the views from Bay Harbor Golf Club could not be any more perfect.
Bay Harbor’s Marina makes it easy to sail or boat into town if that’s your preferred method of transportation. It’s also a beautiful place to walk along and admire the boats, and it’s a great spot to watch the sunset. Head over to Knot Just a Bar as the sun begins to go down and head up to the top floor to have a great view with some great brews.
New Great Lakes Center for the Arts is new to the city and will be a beautiful performance center for the Petoskey Area.
The Spa & The Salon at Inn at Bay Harbor is the perfect place to go in Bay Harbor for a relaxing day of rejuvenation, or a salon-quality blowout. Explore my guide to one of America’s best luxury salons and spas.
Shop downtown Bay Harbor where visitors will find everything from custom yachts and boat shops to handmade jewelry and sundries crafted by local artisans and businesses.
Festivals & Events
Friday June 14th is Bay Harbor’s 17th Annual In-Water Boat Show
July 3rd Fireworks & Steel Drums
July 26th – 27th Bay Harbor Arts Festival
September 21st Hot Air Balloons Over Bay Harbor
December 13-14th Christkindlmarkt in the Village
Like other destinations in the Petoskey Area, Bay Harbor has an extremely low crime rate, so you can relax without having to worry about being pickpocketed like you might in a larger city. it is also very clean, and the residents and employees in the town take the cleanliness of the city very seriously. The danger in this town, like most other coastal towns, resides not in people, but in the water. Be advised that with the exception of stretches of private beaches, the waters around Bay Harbor, particularly the Bay Harbor marina, do not allow swimming or entering the water for any reason. As this is a port city, there are lots of sailboats and yachts coming and going, especially in the summer, which can make swimming, snorkeling, etc., extremely dangerous, because water-going vessels can’t see people in or under the water.
Be aware that while uncommon, rip tides do happen in the lake, and if you by chance are dragged out by one, remain calm, keep your head above water, and don’t fight it. Instead, let it drag you out while you swim parallel (that is, in line with the show rather than trying to swim against the current straight back to shore). Swimming parallel will help you break free of the rip tide, and allow you to swim back to shore once you’re out of it. Since Lake Michigan is a freshwater lake, there are no dangerous animals like sharks of jellyfish, so it’s a beautiful place to enjoy the water when done safely. Swim and engage in water sports only in designated areas, and if you’re unsure where that may be, ask the hotel or restaurant staff, and they can point you in the right direction. Children and those who aren’t experienced swimmers should wear life vests when in the water.
Day Trips from Bay Harbor
6 Mile Drive
Bay View is a neighborhood in Petoskey, Michigan that’s home to a cottage village of beautiful, ornate homes. May through October, cottagers from around the world flock to this historical region of Northern Michigan to enjoy the beautiful bay breeze off of Little Traverse Bay, sailing, tennis, and other facets of the great outdoors, as well as an atmosphere of excitement that can only be found in Northern Michigan.
Boyne City is one of Michigan’s favorite anytime getaways! Find world-class skiing in the winter, and beautiful outdoor recreation options in the warmer months.
15 Mile Drive
Known as “Charlevoix the Beautiful,” this small Northern Michigan town is a lovely lakeside retreat. Explore the arts and culture of Northern Michigan, head out on gorgeous Lake Charlevoix, or take the ferry to stunning nearby Beaver Island to feel as though you’ve been transported to another world of pristine waters and beautiful swatches of forest. If you feel like stepping back in time, visit Michigan’s most stunning castle, Castle Farms, and take a walk through gardens inspired by European castle gardens.
188 Mile Drive
Grand Rapids, MI, is the art and beer capital of the Midwest, and is home to the world’s largest art competition, Art Prize. With more than a dozen incredible museums, an abundance of festivals, pop-up restaurants, and proximity to Lake Michigan, as well as more breweries per capita than just about any other U.S. city, Grand Rapids is a wonderful place to spend a weekend, or longer. If you’re craving a taste of nature, head to Frederik Meijer Gardens’ Japanese garden to walk about a garden that is expertly replicated from gardens in Japan.
14 Mile Drive
This stunning lakeside resort town peaks spring through fall, although there’s something to do all year long. My personal favorite place to sail into in Northern Michigan, Harbor Springs, has some of the best food in Northern Michigan. Grab a bite to eat at the New York Restaurant, The Depot Dining Club, The Paper Station Bistro, and Stafford’s Pier Restaurant.
40 Mile Drive + 20 Minute ferry ride
One of my very favorite places in Michigan, and my favorite out of the 20 Midwest travel destinations, this island doesn’t allow cars or motorized vehicles (save for the island’s ambulance and fire truck). Bike, walk, or ride a horse around this beautiful piece of historic land that overlooks the Mackinac Bridge and the crystal clear, vibrant blue waters of the Straits of Mackinac. The best time of year to visit the island, in my personal opinion, is during the Lilac Festival each June, when all of the flowers on the island are in full bloom. Stay at Grand Hotel’s Masco Cottage to experience the epitome of luxury in Michigan. Read this guide to 5 of Michigan’s Most Incredible Flower Festivals.
4.4 Mile Drive
My hometown is famous for its fossilized coral, Petoskey Stones, which are the state rock. This gorgeous town has beautiful stretches of pristine, white sand beaches, massive sand dunes, breathtaking natural springs, and woodland hiking paths that transport hikers to a sylvan wonderland. Visit the Petoskey State Park to see all of these things, plus the “Million Dollar Sunsets” the city is known for the world over.
65 Mile Drive
Famous the world over for its abundance of juicy, red cherriesand cherry derived culinary specialities, Traverse City is one of the midwest’s premiere wine producing regions, and boasts beautiful beaches along Lake Michigan, as well as a thriving art, cinema, and music scene. Visit nearby Torch Lake, Leland fishing village, or Point Betsie Lighthouse for the perfect week in the Traverse City area.
12 Mile Drive
This small town is home to Hotel Walloon, one of the most luxurious hotels in the state. Get away from it all, enjoy drinks on Walloon Lake, or take in the natural beauty of the north by spending an evening or two in this charming village. Walloon Lake is the coziest of all of these fantastic Midwest travel destinations.
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