Let’s say you prefer not to schlep chairs and coolers from the car to the beach. Hey, you’re on vacation. But it’s hard to be that lazy in Michigan. At most beaches, you’re on your own—there’s no vendor to set up your umbrella so it doesn’t topple over with the first gust of wind, no waiter to bring you a rum punch. Call us spoiled, but we see nothing wrong with a padded chaise, sunshade, and fresh beach towels waiting for us each morning.
Bless you, Bay Harbor, for catering to our high expectations. The ritzy, self-contained community of hotels, houses, and shops buzzes with preppy activity, with yachts and fishing boats gliding in and out of the marina, village boutiques peddling fine clothes and gifts, families whisking off to the equestrian center in futuristic-looking electric buggies, and wedding parties celebrating. Bay Harbor calls its colonial-style rental homes “cottages,” but not surprisingly, there’s nothing modest about them.
The best part of this high life is the Inn at Bay Harbor’s cushioned beach beds. Each sports a generous red-and-white–striped canopy that pulls over your head, while a bar and big octagonal pool sit nearby—and waiters come to you. The golden beach is on the small side, and the water entry is a little pebbly (though the view of royal-blue waters compensates), but Bay Harbor makes up for those shortcomings with amenities and service. Guests play lawn chess, nap in big hammocks, golf from cliffs above the lake, hit the spa, dine out at one of three restaurants, then snag an Adirondack chair or hot tub to enjoy the inn’s perfect vantage point for sunsets. The lap of luxury doesn’t appeal to everybody, but that’s what the rest of Lake Michigan’s coastline is for.
Stay: Travel + Leisure named the Inn at Bay Harbor (3600 Village Harbor Dr., 231-439-4000) one of the 500 best hotels in the world, and Golf magazine included it among the top eight clubs in the country. Rooms and suites start at $130 per night in the summer, and two- and three-bedroom Lakeside Cottages run from $3,150 per week.
Drink: Maritime-themed Knot Just a Bar (231-439-2770) lives up to its name with a full menu of pub grub, but the big upper deck overlooking Bay Harbor Marina is still the resort’s best place for an afternoon cocktail.