When their oceanfront timeshare reservation was canceled abruptly two days before they were to make the thousand-mile trip to South Carolina, Mike and Liz Clancy decided to go Michigan B&B hopping instead.
“We kicked around some alternative ideas,” said Mike. He had already blocked out time in June away from his financial services company. And Liz, a retired hospital switchboard operator, had arranged a holiday from daytime care of their five grandchildren.
Influenced by Michigan’s decline in COVID-19 cases, the Macomb County couple decided to plan an in-state getaway.
They had stayed in many bed and breakfasts over the years, so their preferred lodging choice was a given. One Michigan favorite is LogHaven B&B near West Branch, where they’ve stayed often enough to consider owners Gail and Paul Gotter good friends.
This time, the Clancys wanted to explore western Michigan, but where to begin and end the trip? “Liz has a brother in a nursing home in Charlevoix,” Mike said, so that became the northernmost point for their Michigan B&B hopping.
The House on the Hill B&B, Ellsworth
After the visit with Liz’s brother, she and Mike headed 11 miles south to The House on the Hill B&B in Ellsworth, overlooking one in a chain of lakes.
The couple talked with innkeeper Marci Palajac next morning after breakfast on the big front porch. When they told her “all the different towns we wanted to hit” and the places they planned to stay, Mike said, “that’s when we learned that all four B&Bs belong to the Michigan Bed and Breakfast Association and all could be found on one website.
“It was wonderful to learn about MBBA’s website,” he said. “I don’t recommend planning this kind of trip the way I did: hunt and peck on Google.”
Before they left The House on the Hill, the couple went out to the patio to view the bridge over a creek and the path leading to trails on the B&B’s 53 acres, but it was drizzling just enough to make them decide to move along to their next bed and breakfast.
Bear Lake B&B, Bear Lake
Mike planned the trip so that each bed and breakfast was located at a midpoint for exploring both north and south along Lake Michigan shoreline routes.
From Bear Lake B&B in Bear Lake, where they stayed three nights, an hour’s drive north on U.S.-31 took them into the Leelanau Peninsula for an exploration of winery tasting rooms and villages on Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan.
Another day they visited Frankfort. Although it was the second of two rainy days on the trip, Mike and Liz went to the beach, sat in the car, and joined other onlookers mesmerized by kiteboarders in wetsuits soaring as high as 40 feet over Lake Michigan waves.
The Clancys told each innkeeper in advance that they were following the Keto diet. No problem. Marci Palajac recalled she served them Boursin Scrambled eggs with Roasted Asparagus. One morning at Bear Lake — where innkeeper Cindi McPherson was fond of telling guests, “I’m Bed,” and husband Greg is “Breakfast” — the couple was served a breakfast popular with all guests, diet or no: a souffle, along with sweet apple sausage.
Although Bear Lake B&B closed its doors a couple months after the Clancys stayed there — because Cindi and Greg decided they wanted to be able to travel more, too — you can find other quality-assured B&Bs in towns along the Lake Michigan coast.
The Lewis House B&B, Whitehall
People who have experienced Michigan B&B hopping will tell you that part of the fun is the uniqueness of each bed and breakfast. The Clancys concur.
Of The Lewis House B&B, Liz said, “I have never been in one that exquisite. It was amazing to us, like right out of a magazine.”
During their two-night stay in Whitehall, the couple drove north on U.S.-31 to visit Ludington, 43 miles away.
The second day they headed south, to the Lake Michigan harbor towns of Muskegon, Grand Haven, and Saugatuck. From Saugatuck, it was a little over an hour’s drive back to a second restful night at The Lewis House.
The Morris Estate, Niles
En route to their fourth B&B, Mike and Liz drove through Holland and then south to St. Joseph, where they walked around, got some lunch, and then checked out Silver Beach, usually one of the most popular beaches in Michigan. From there, it was only a half-hour drive to the bed and breakfast.
The couple said they were “just blown away” by The Morris Estate, “off the beaten path” and the one-time summer home of a wealthy family.
On this 500-acre property close to the Michigan-Indiana border, the six bed and breakfast rooms are located in The River House, a sprawling 16,000-square-foot ranch.
Mike said, “The Morris Estate is the furthest thing from a traditional B&B. Each room is a suite with a huge bathroom and all the modern fixtures. There must have been four to five sitting rooms, each with a fireplace. The one we hung out in the most had a player piano.”
The dining room was not in use because of the coronavirus. When they went to a serving area to pick up their breakfast, served carry-out style, the Clancys talked the innkeeper into a peek inside the kitchen. Liz pronounced it “knock-your-socks-off gorgeous.”
How was was staying at B&Bs different because of the coronavirus? “The normal things people have come to expect,” Mike said, adding, “To a person, despite masks and social distancing, the warmth was always there.”
The Clancys were asked if they had any parting comments.
Liz said, “I appreciate that all the owners must know how to read people. They know when to give people their space. They show respect.” B&B innkeepers are very friendly in conversation, she added, “but they know when to walk away.”
The one thing Mike did not like
Mike said, “I despise having to deal with Expedia, Travelocity, etc. Using Google, you’re limited as to what you can see. I tried to work around that and go directly to each B&B’s website.”
Somehow, though, without realizing, he booked The Morris Estate stay on Expedia. “I didn’t find that out until the innkeeper called, asking for more information, which I had already provided.” The innkeeper explained that Expedia doesn’t share with the B&B key information about the future guests. That was a surprise.
Mike recalled that he had entered “bed and breakfast near St. Joseph” into Google’s search box. It annoyed him that Google listed hotels first when he had specified “bed and breakfast” in the search term.
“As a consumer, I would tell you, it’s not helpful, just the opposite. It is frustrating,” Mike said.
Next time the Clancys go Michigan B&B hopping, Mike said he will begin his search at the Michigan Bed and Breakfast Association site.
Read reviews and compare prices and features on any website, but when it comes time to book a room, you’ll get the best prices, widest selection and best service and communication if you book on the B&B or hotel’s own website. Double-check the page address. If an experienced traveler like Mike could get steered to one of those vast, impersonal sites, it could happen to anyone.