2 great places to stay in the UP

If you’re looking for places to stay in the UP — an abbreviation used fondly for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — look no further than these two outstanding bed and breakfasts:

  • Big Bay Lighthouse, Big Bay, a 45-minute drive west of Marquette. Above photo: Have your morning coffee overlooking Lake Superior
  • Dapple-Gray B&B, near Copper Harbor in the Keweenaw Peninsula

Explore Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this year, including the sights you missed last trip and the unforgettable ones you need to see again. If you’ve never been, you’re way overdue.

East to west, the UP extends 320 miles — almost half the width of Texas. Drive on two-lane roads for miles without seeing a traffic signal.

In many areas you’re more likely to see a moose or bear than a town.

That’s why you need to plan ahead to secure great places to stay in the UP.

Keeper Dufrain room at Big Bay Lighthouse has a fireplace and seating area.
Repeat guests at Big Bay Lighthouse will notice new luxe details in decor and comfort in the rooms and common areas. This room is Keeper Dufrain.

Big Bay Point Lighthouse, Big Bay

Another 13 inches of snow? High winds on Lake Superior? Riveted on installing a hardwood floor in one of the guest rooms, innkeeper Nick Korstad shrugged off the forecast. He allocated every available day of February 2019 to refurbishing one room after another in the 123-year-old Big Bay Point Lighthouse, which he had acquired in 2018.

The hard work paid off. By the time bed and breakfast guests began to arrive in large numbers in June 2019, improvements in the common areas and the seven guest rooms ranged from new flooring, upholstery and window treatments to the addition of chandeliers here and there.

As five-star reviews of the revamped accommodations piled up, demand for reservations has only increased.

Big Bay Point Lighthouse exterior.
Big Bay Point Lighthouse, with seven guest rooms, got a new owner in 2018.

Having worked for Marriott Hotels for a dozen years, Nick knows a lot about hospitality, and even more about lighthouse preservation and the continual upkeep that is required.

Marking the entrance to Mount Hope Bay near Fall River, Massachusetts, the Borden Flats Lighthouse stood forlorn until Nick acquired it in a U.S. Coast Guard auction in 2010. Three years later, after extensive renovation, Nick opened it to overnight guests. He sold it to acquire Big Bay Lighthouse, but he still owns Spectacle Reef Light in Lake Huron and Stratford Shoal Light in Long Island Sound. The American Lighthouse Foundation honored Nick with its Keeper of the Light Award in 2018.

Big Bay Lighthouse is the first Nick has owned that doesn’t require a boat ride to get to. It surprised him at first when as many as 250 travelers on a peak summer day would drive the four twisty miles from the village of Big Bay and show up in the yard. He offered as many lighthouse tours as time allowed and answered thousands of questions. But with some tasteful landscaping and fencing and locked doors, he also took precautions to preserve a serene and personalized experience for the up to 15 registered guests per night.

A crystal chandelier hangs above the dining table.
A chandelier illuminates breakfasts, described in reviews as “bounteous” and “amazing.”

Some bed and breakfast lighthouses include a formal history lesson or tour with your stay, but the vibe at Big Bay Lighthouse is more relaxed. “We’ll help guests immerse themselves in our rich history if they ask, and we’re happy to offer that,” Nick says. “But we also know many guests come here for a romantic getaway or to be inspired by Lake Superior, and they don’t want a lecture.”

Asked what else brings people out to Big Bay Point, Nick said, “Climate change is bringing to the area bird species that have not been seen here before, so some days we see almost as many birding enthusiasts as lighthouse collectors.”

Count spectacular sunsets, sunrises, and dark-sky stargazing as three great reasons to book a stay of two or three nights or more. At some times of the year, sunset doesn’t occur until about 10. You don’t want to miss a good one.

One of the biggest items on Nick’s preservation to-do list is almost literally the cherry on top of Big Bay Point Lighthouse. The original third-order fixed Fresnel lens was moved from the Marquette Maritime Museum 30 miles away, where it had been on loan, to occupy its place again, 120 feet above the waters of Lake Superior.

Back yard of Dapple-Gray B&B
Back yard of Dapple-Gray B&B, where guests enjoy the sauna and miniature donkeys.

Dapple-Gray B&B, Eagle Harbor

It won’t do to stay in a lighthouse with chandeliers one night and the next night in a 1950s-era motel, of which the UP has more than a few.  So, keep your Upper Peninsula journey classy by heading three-and-a-half hours west and north to Dapple-Gray B&B, an impressive log home overlooking Lake Superior. Although located two miles west of Copper Harbor, it has an Eagle Harbor address.

From the twin cities of Houghton and Hancock, you could head to the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula on U.S. 41, but we recommend following the county roads that wind through hills and forests of sugar maple, ash, beech, hemlock and white pine on the west side of the peninsula. Stop at every overlook to admire Lake Superior.

Dapple-Gray B&B got its name from an antique wooden horse innkeeper Ruth Van Goor acquired earlier in her career as a dealer in Victorian antiques, with an emphasis on glass and ceramics. She operates the bed and breakfast with her husband Ole and son Abe.

Dapple-Gray exterior
Porch and balconies at Dapple-Gray B&B offer views of Lake Superior.

Each of the four, themed guest rooms incorporates antiques. Balconies on the second-floor rooms and the deck around the front of the house afford great views of lake freighters that pass close by on a route between Duluth and Sault Ste. Marie.

The trails, forests, and waters of the Keweenaw attract outdoor enthusiasts year-round for sailing, kayaking, fishing, trail running, snow biking and more.

When the sun goes down after a workout, why not plan to be staying in a place with a sauna? Dapple-Gray has a nice one.

For guests who arrive without sporting gear or agenda, Ruth often recommends a discovery tour of the peninsula’s copper mining past. The Keweenaw National Historical Park, established in 2011, is unlike any other national park in that it has no boundaries, no entrance gates, and no campgrounds. Instead, it has 22 sites, each of which tells part of the region’s copper mining story. Among sites closest to Dapple-Gray are the Delaware Copper Mine, where you can take a self-guided tour of one of the oldest underground mines, Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, and Eagle Harbor Lighthouse and Museum. Don’t miss the restored Calumet Theatre, which opened as an opera house in 1900.


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