Inn at Bay Harbor, Autograph Collection (Marriott). Bottom Line Review.

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My wife and I have been visiting Marriott’s Inn at Bay Harbor in northern Michigan almost every summer for the past ten years or so.  This summer, we visited twice: once for five nights in June and again for five nights in July.  Each time we paid with points and took advantage of Marriott’s Stay for 5, Pay for 4 awards.  The resort is in Bay Harbor which abuts Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay.  The nearby area is full of rolling hills, Lake Michigan views, inland lakes, etc.  Charming lake-side towns can be found in nearly every direction.  Hiking and biking trails abound.

Inn at Bay Harbor sunset view from bedroom balcony
View from a Lake View room at the Inn at Bay Harbor in Michigan.

Inn at Bay Harbor Bottom Line Review

Bottom line: The Inn at Bay Harbor is a very nice resort in a terrific location in northern Michigan.  Unfortunately, rooms bookable with points sell out quickly for summer stays.  If you want to use points for a peak season stay, book very early.

  • Points Price: Category 5, 35K points per night standard, 30K off-peak, or 40K peak (expect to pay 40K per night during peak summer dates).
  • Cash Price: Varies. During peak summer dates, prices tend to be over $400 per night.
  • Points Value: Very good.  Peak dates are hard to snag with points, but if successful, you’ll usually score over 1 cent per point value before accounting for taxes and resort fees which drive the point value higher since they are not charged on award stays at this property.
  • Resort Fee: 10 percent of the nightly room rate. When booking with points or with free night certificates, there is no resort fee (because 10% of nothing is nothing).  Resort fee (free for free-night stays) includes:
    • Valet parking
    • Two-hour beach cruiser rental
    • Lawn games
    • Lakeside bonfire with s’mores kits
    • Shuttle service to nearby town (Petoskey) or to nearby golf course
    • “Inn Kids” outdoor activities (daily 2-5pm, June 26 to Labor Day)
    • Fly fishing instruction (Fridays 2-5pm through Labor Day)
    • Range balls at nearby golf course
    • Washer & dryer use (they keep the small laundry room stocked with detergent as well)
  • Parking: Free self parking and valet parking.  Parking lot includes free Tesla charging stations.
  • Turndown service: None.
  • Housekeeping: Only provided upon request at this time.
  • Internet: Fair.  Speeds were usually good, but our devices randomly lost connection to the internet fairly regularly.
  • Dining
    • Breakfast: Very good.  Buffet only at this time.  Buffet includes an omelet station along with the usual premade stuff you’ll find at many breakfast buffets in the U.S.: Waffles, pancakes, eggs, potatoes, bacon, oatmeal.  No cold cuts or smoked fish, though.  Excellent selection of fruits and berries.  Recommendation: Dress warmly and ask to sit outside for the best view and ambiance.  Buffet costs $30 per person.  Those with Platinum elite status or higher can choose daily free breakfast for 2 as their welcome gift (highly recommended).
    • Lunch at pool bar: Great views, but mediocre and highly overpriced food.
    • Afternoon Tea service:  My wife and I did this in June and it was great!  We plan to do this once a year going forward.  Tea service includes tea (duh) plus a tower of finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries. $40 per adult, $20 per child.
    • Dinner: Food quality is good, but not great (in my opinion).  Food is way overpriced.  There are several far better dining options in Petoskey and other nearby towns.
  • Spa: Mediocre and overpriced.  The spa is setup in an interior space so you don’t even get the benefit of the resort’s great lake views.
  • Fitness Room: The resort has a fantastic new fitness room, including all of the usual equipment plus two Peloton bikes and a Mirror interactive home gym.
  • Marriott Elite Benefits: I was near top-tier elite (Titanium) during recent stays, but there is no discernable difference between staying with Titanium or Platinum elite status.  Here are the elite benefits available for those with Platinum status or higher:
    • Room Upgrade at Check-In, Including to a Suite: Upgrades to suites during peak season are uncommon in my experience.  The hotel does a good job of trying to upgrade elites to lake view rooms.  Some rooms are classified as Quarry View (i.e. parking lot view) rooms, but are at one end or the other where it’s still possible to view the lake from the room’s balcony.  On our most recent stay, there were no rooms with full or partial lake views available so they didn’t upgrade us at all.
    • Welcome Gift: Your choice of free breakfast for 2 daily, a single $10 food & beverage voucher, or 1,000 Marriott points.  Breakfast is, by far, the most valuable choice.  On our most recent stay, they weren’t able to upgrade our room and so they gave us free breakfast instead.  And so on that occasion only, I chose the $10 food & beverage voucher as my welcome gift (since we already had free breakfast).
    • Suite Night Awards: These are no longer accepted at this resort (huge bummer!).  One time in the past I used Suite Night Awards for a stay and we were upgraded to a 3 bedroom penthouse suite!
    • 4PM Late Checkout:  This is not guaranteed at Marriott resorts.  I haven’t tried for late checkout, but my expectation is that they will not honor it unless the hotel is mostly empty.
  • Would I stay again? Yes!  My wife and I have been coming here for years.  We really like the resort and love the surrounding area.
  • Pros:
    • Beautiful Lake Michigan views from resort grounds
    • Beautiful views from lake view rooms and some corner rooms
    • No extra fees for free night reservations (i.e. $0 resort fee, free parking)
    • Free parking
    • Resort inclusions: Bikes (beach cruisers), S’mores, shuttle service, washer & dryer, etc.
    • Excellent fitness facilities
    • Adjacent to Little Traverse Wheelway which is a mostly off-road bike path that connects several great towns along Lake Michigan.
  • Cons:
    • The resort has a sandy beach, but it is very small and as you get closer to the water, it becomes all rocks.  This is not the best place to experience swimming in Lake Michigan, but it is a popular spot for skipping stones.
    • No option to book lake view rooms with points
    • Cannot apply Suite Night Awards at this property
    • No menu service option for breakfast (at this time)
    • Resort fee is expensive for paying guests (10% of rate)
    • Internet cuts out randomly

Photos and Captions Follow

The Inn at Bay Harbor, Autograph Collection
Hotel, as viewed from the small beach area near the pool
The resort’s hammocks are great, but it can be hard to find one available when the weather is good.
Pool and hot tub. View of Lake Michigan beyond.
The resort sports a small beach, but as you get closer to the water it becomes very rocky. Wear water shoes if you plan to get in the water.
One of the few room-types directly bookable with points: Quarry View Guest Room, 2 Queen, Inland View. Image courtesy of Marriott’s website. Based on my recent experience, this image is accurate.
One of the few room-types directly bookable with points: Quarry View Parlor, Studio, 1 Queen wall bed, Inland view, Fireplace, Balcony. I really like this room type: while the Murphy bed isn’t as comfortable as a regular bed, it is easily stowed out of the way and therefore gives the room a big suite-like feel.  The room also sports a mini kitchen, which can be handy when bringing food to prepare in-room.  The fireplace (not shown) is nice for cold nights.
Some of the rooms listed as quarry view rooms, like this one, actually have decent lake views from their balconies.
Some quarry view rooms truly have no lake view at all. Here’s an example.
Breakfast with a view
The resort’s new fitness studio includes this Mirror fitness thingamajig. It’s loaded with many pre-recorded fitness classes. Alternatively, you can join one being taught in real time.
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38 Comments
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Ricardo

My 2 cents. I live in Michigan and have been to this hotel through the years at least 20 times in different seasons. I used to be a Renaissance and a category 6, but they lowered to a cat 5. The hotel is part of the Boyne Mountain resort and you can double dip on Marriott points and Boyne Rewards (Boyne Mountain’s own point system). They sell gift cards, but they are Boyne rewards gift cards and not Marriott, and even though you buy them at a Marriott front desk, they run them through a different system where you don’t get Marriott points on your credit card, nor Amex offers apply (I have tried and failed). They will usually upgrade your room to the Lakeside of the hotel if available, which is absolutely much better than the parking lot side. Many times I have negotiated upgrades to better suites for a fee. If you Ski, there are two resorts places you can go to: Boyne Mountain Resort and Boyne Highland. Both offer nice ski facilities, but I would not call this a ski destination unless you live in Michigan and don’t want to fly somewhere better. Boyne Mountain is very nice and even has a big Indoor waterpark for kids and a great pizza place (The Trophy room). I would add to the Cons that access to this place is not easy. Is around 4 hours drive from DTW airport, and in the winter can be a very dangerous drive. I think one of the best seasons is in the fall. I go every year in the fall and the drive on the tunnel of trees (Michigan 119) is breathtaking if you go at the beginning of October. There are many, many places to appreciate the colors and the foliage. A lifetime experience and highly recommended. The summer is also very nice. Just be aware that the lake on site is not swimmable. You have to go to the Petoskey national park for a good beach. Also if you are around the area, don’t miss Torch Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, on the way to Traverse City. You need a boat to really appreciate Torch Lake. TRaverse city (around 1 hour away) is worth a visit with its wineries in the peninsula, summer sports, etc. Charlevoix is around 15 minutes away in the way of Traverse City and is also worth a visit. There is a large Casino in Petoskey if you like gambling and fantastic restaurants.
Somebody mentioned the Courtyard in Petoskey. It is a new hotel (2019), clean, and a cheaper option if you only need a place to sleep. I stayed there in June and got $10 vouchers for 4 people each day for breakfast at their “bistro”. It is a very nice hotel.

Eric

I appreciate the details. We have a 2 night stay booked with award certificates in mid August. We are platinum so we should get a free breakfast. Any idea if breakfast for kids is cheaper than $30?

FNT Delta Diamond

No, not necessarily. The hotel’s website says breakfast is only included for guests on standard or group rates. You are entitled as a platinum to some sort of breakfast, but I would be prepared to cite the terms and conditions if the hotel pushes back. As it stands now, either (a) the hotel gives all guests, cash and points, free breakfast or (b) guests using points don’t get breakfast but can choose it if they have an eligible elite status tier. In the case of the latter, it’s supposed to be a full breakfast in the restaurant if, in fact, this is a properly designated resort within Marriott’s portfolio. However, if it’s not actually a resort, they need to have either a club lounge with a continental breakfast or offer you a choice of (a) 750 points per night or (b) continental breakfast. Technically, there is a difference between the breakfast benefit covered under the lounge access benefit and the breakfast benefit that can be chosen upon check-in at resort-designated properties. One is merely a “continental breakfast” (some properties stick to a cheap definition of what constitutes a continental breakfast) and the other is intended to be a full restaurant breakfast. Personally, if I was staying there I would insist on the breakfast advertised as being included for all guests and select the 1,000 points at check-in.

Last edited 6 months ago by FNT Delta Diamond
Andrew

First – Boo, dammit Greg! LOL – this place is one of our favorites to redeem a 35K FNC (just 3 hours north of us).

So, now that the cat’s outta the bag, be sure to check out dining options in Charlevoix (a pleasant 15-20 minute drive). Leg’s Inn is also great (be sure to go through the “Tunnel of Trees” drive on the way there. For a quicker lunch, check out Polish Kitchen in Harbor Springs (they also offer frozen pierogis to take home).

Josh

@Greg – SHHH! (kidding) – we only know of this place from you so thank you, we drive 7.5 hours a few times a year for the trip!

Note: Don’t go too early in the spring if you want things to be open, and October / color season is insanely busy, but beautiful.

FNT Delta Diamond

It isn’t unheard of to still be swimming in the third week of September. Temperature is generally still in the 60s in early October. 70s or 80s aren’t unheard of, though admittedly the mornings can be chilly. Fall colors peak around the second or third week of October. Generally, a little closer to the third week the closer you get to the water in Northern Michigan. Meaningful snow doesn’t become a thing until late November, though some overnight flurries in late October or November can happen.

Josh

Yes! We went in early October and other than it being much busier than a prior visit, it was still lovely.

Beth

Nice review, but using the “availability” selection for an award stay yields absolutely no dates available from now until November and none after May 12 2022 through July 2022. Few of us want to go to Michigan in the dead of winter and in even in early May Michigan is not a destination location either. I would change your”book very early” advice to: “plan to book a year in advance and good luck finding space even then”

FNT Delta Diamond

Petoskey also has a Courtyard, albeit on the edge of town near big box stores and a casino. However, it’s almost brand-new and is a category 4 with Bonvoy. The Inn at Bay Harbor is a category 5. So you’re saving some points and avoid a pesky daily resort fee. If you’re going to be gone all-day most days of your stay then you might as well stay at the Courtyard. Of course, there are two great local properties, Stafford’s Perry Hotel and Stafford’s Bay View Inn. Not only are both cheaper than the Inn at Bay Harbor, but they’re more historic and have way more charm.

FNT Delta Diamond

There are some nights at or under $200 in late October after fall colors but before the snow. Otherwise, they look sold-out for July, August, September and most of October. Would be interesting to see how they handle the guaranteed room availability benefit — what is it, 72 hours notice — if paying cash or how they handle the resort fee on cash stays in the winter.

Beth

I did a flexible search for a 5 night stay and those were my results–zilch

Stvr

The notion that hotels at random can just step away from the SNA program is pretty gross. But so typical and unsurprising of Marriott.

FNT Delta Diamond

The problem is the terms leave open the possibility for a property that otherwise 100% participates in Bonvoy to opt-out or be exempt from suite night award certificates. The terms say Marriot maintains a list of properties that do not participate in the suite night award certificate benefit. It would be interesting to see if this property is in fact on that list, if somebody asked Marriot to produce the list.

Retired Gambler

@FNT Delta Diamond – sounds like a great place to stay but there always has to be a “Karen” like you whining about what you have “earned” you didn’t get. Even quoting sections of the code! Get over yourself!! I’m lifetime Titanium and would be very happy with a stay as Greg described it. You not pick but conveniently overlook things like them accommodating upgrades (which many Marriott properties don’t do).

Please accept things as they are instead of always trying to angle for the last item you think someone “owes” you

FNT Delta Diamond

You’re the reason why hotel chains are increasingly playing games. You’re like a wife who gets abused and then keeps going back to the husband because he means well and generally treats her well, at least when he isn’t hitting her. Marriott guarantees certain benefits. We pay for those guarantees, both on cash stays and point stays. Period. A hotel knows or should know what is required of them when they join Marriott Bonvoy’s portfolio. If they don’t want to play by the rules and provide what is guaranteed and expected of them then they should de-flag and operate independently.

John

Agreed.

FNT Delta Diamond

Hold on. This property is NOT compliant. If it is actually a “resort” and therefore exempt from the 4 pm late check-out then the welcome gift is a choice between 1,000 points and “breakfast in restaurant” under 4.3.c.iii of the Marriott Bonvoy terms and conditions. There is no choice of a $10 credit at domestic resort-designated properties. If the property is NOT a resort, then the welcome choice should be $10 or 1,000 points. Under section 4.3.c.iv.a, there is supposed to be a further choice of a “continental” breakfast or 750 points per night since this property does not have a club lounge. The lounge access provision for a breakfast is separate from the choice of a restaurant breakfast at resort properties, though the two are seldom confused even by Marriott. Does the resort fee include internet access? If so, they are also required to provide a replacement benefit to all Bonvoy members (not just elite status holders) since internet is supposed to be complimentary.

FNT Delta Diamond

I’m suggesting that this property is trying to have it both ways. It’s either a resort or it isn’t. By almost certainly denying 4 pm late check-outs and not paying out 750 points per night, the hotel is trying to have its cake and eat it too. Giving away a buffet breakfast basically costs the hotel nothing because the food is already cooked or prepared whereas 1,000 points at check-in and 750 points per night does add up if, as I expect, most guests do several nights and a large percentage of guests are platinum, titanium or ambassador. I would argue that 750 points for 3 or 4 nights plus 1,000 points at check-in costs more than a breakfast buffet. And I’m sure the $10 doesn’t cover the cost of anything at the admittedly lower-than-expected-quality restaurants. I would be curious to know if the property charges the resort fee in the winter since it’s pretty worthless when it’a 25 degrees outside and there’s a foot of snow on the ground.

FNT Delta Diamond

By offering a choice of breakfast, $10 credit/voucher or 1,000 points at check-in, it would seem that they are not in fact considered a resort by Marriott. They are almost certainly offering you breakfast because as an Autograph Collection property they are required to have a lounge. If they don’t have a lounge they have to offer 750 points per night or a “continental breakfast.” So it appears as if they are conflating the two separate provisions of the Bonvoy terms and conditions. At the same time, they apparently aren’t recognizing suite night award certificates or providing a late check-out. So, their precise status or classification within Marriott is very uncertain.

FNT Delta Diamond

That doesn’t mean anything as numerous people on Flyer Talk have confirmed over the years. The resort filter on Marriott.com shows Vistiana and other timeshare properties that aren’t resorts and don’t have the resort breakfast benefit or any resl Bonvoy elite status benefits.

The terms say Marriot maintains a list of properties that do not participate in the suite night award certificate benefit. It would be interesting to see if this property is in fact on that list, if somebody asked Marriot to produce the list.

FNT Delta Diamond

Then there’s this gem:

Breakfast for two is included in all standard and package night stays.  

https://www.innatbayharbor.com/resort-faq

So, it would appear, that all guests get breakfast regardless of elite status. Meaning, this property is not complying with Bonvoy. This is something that seldom arises, but my interpretation is either (a) you get 1,000 points at check-in if this is a properly designated resort property or (b) 1,000 points or $10 credit/voucher plus 750 points per night if this is not a real resort.

FNT Delta Diamond

Also, I just confirmed that the resort fee includes “enhanced internet access.” However, they do not provide a replacement benefit. This is yet another provision of the Bonvoy terms and conditions that the property is not comply with. So, yes, they’re trying to have their cake and eat it too.

Is there a cost for Wi-Fi?

Enhanced Wi-Fi is included in the resort fee as a lodging guest.  

https://www.innatbayharbor.com/resort-faq

Josh

anecdotally they only mentioned the $10 credit on my most recent stay, I don’t know or remember if we got that on our two stays in 2020, and doesn’t seem like I can look at my past bills, but $10 is $10 so whatever.

or maybe they mentioned the $10 but I was too busy worried/thinking about the free breakfast perk 😀

I’m a platinum and my wife is maybe gold or silver, and i used 2 free nights and she used 1 free night for the last day of the stay and we were still able to get breakfast no problem (since we had called ahead and asked our reservations to be merged)

FNT Delta Diamond

I think we need someone to do a cash stay to find out because it does seem like they’re playing games here or haven’t made an effort to actually understand the Bonvoy benefits.

Josh

When we weren’t Platinum when we went last summer on points, we didn’t get free breakfast, but those who had paid cash did (regardless of status).

Are you implying that if someone were to book a points stay as a non-platinum member, they would receive breakfast now?

Josh

Yep no problem!

I thought I saw somewhere that breakfast was one of the things covered by the resort fee, so since you’re not paying that on a regular points stay, no breakfast unless platinum.

FNT Delta Diamond

But you should have been given a choice of breakfast at check-in if this is a resort-designated property. If it isn’t a resort-designated property then a choice of 750 points per night or breakfast since there’s no lounge.

Merry Chris Moss

Having a variable priced resort fee for fixed amenities is crazy. What if you paid $2,000 per night and only received those amenities. Is there a max?

Last edited 6 months ago by Merry Chris Moss