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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