Today, you’re more apt to drive the family minivan up to M-22 and out to Portage Point to get here.
When you do arrive, you’ll be in the spot where the Inn has sat for more than a century, staking its claim on the peninsula between Portage Lake and Lake Michigan.
This iconic inn is on its way back to greatness today, thanks to a new owner with fresh vision. The transformation has already begun – and this baby sister of the Grand Hotel is once again slated for greatness.
Read on to find out what you’re in for when you visit, how you can get connected, and the changes in store for Portage Point Resort.
With the exception of the Doll Houses, all units are condos, making PPR an ideal family getaway. (I don’t know about you, but having a five-person family makes squeezing into a hotel room a rough way to travel.)
Anytime we can stay in something with a full kitchen, I count it as a win.
Our family bunked in the Avalon Cottage, which has just undergone an extensive remodel, and you can tell how delightful it is in these photos:
The gas fireplace is the perfect place to cozy up.
3) Easy Entertainment: Shuffleboard, Swings, Bonfires, Beaches and Boats
In its heyday, Portage Point Inn was reminiscent of the resort life portrayed in Dirty Dancing. Shuffleboard tournaments, dances, and other organized activities got visitors mingling.
Today, there’s a much more laidback atmosphere at Portage Point, but recreation still rules the day.
Many guests bring boats or jet skiis (renting from a nearby marina is an option.) Some guests arrive by boat via the channel to Lake Michigan.
Swings and a small playground line the beach at the resort.
Shuffleboard is still a favorite pastime.
…As is laying out on the beach.
Beachside bonfires are a way of life here, too.
And, just a short walk away, are the waters of Lake Michigan. This sandy beach is available to all guests of the resort.
4) Spend Some Time by Fireplace and on the Porch
The wide, sweeping porch is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee or a bite to eat.
The interior is outfitted with board games.
This is also where you’ll grab corn hole or shuffleboard equipment for outdoor play.
And, if it’s cool enough, enjoy the fieldstone fireplace.
5) Get Ready to Be Taken in by the History
As I mentioned, you might not come to Portage Point Resort for the history, but once you’re here, you’ll be full of questions.
Hang with me and I’ll tell you a little bit about this place that resorters have been enjoying for over a decade of decades.
Before there was Portage Point Resort
Before any of the Portage Point Inn existed, the land was logged. In fact, the area was a boomtown for the industry in the 1800s. (Visit nearby Manistee for proof – the many of the mega Victorian mansions left behind by the lumber barons are still standing.)
As the tree supply dwindled, farming moved in to take its place, but the transition between these two practices was not smooth.
Around 1871, a farmland flooding and shipping pier access controversy led to a group of rogue farmers taking things into their own hands.
Even as some of the farmers were thrown into jail, they managed to dig a dry channel from Portage Lake out to Lake Michigan, bypassing the offending Portage Creek and its mill.
When the farmers removed the single log holding back the waters of Portage Lake, water rushed from Portage Lake into Lake Michigan, carving out a huge channel 300 feet wide and 18 feet deep.
The farmers didn’t know it at the time, but this new channel would provide passage for large steamships that would soon bring passengers to Portage Point Inn from Chicago and Milwaukee.
Portage Point Inn was built in 1903 by a steamship company.
According to Northern Express Magazine, Portage Point Inn was “one of the first resort developments along the pristine lakeshore. The resort flourished during Prohibition when high-grade alcohol was shipped in from Canada on luxury schooners. It‘s said that Al Capone, Ernest Hemingway, Will Shirer and Orson Wells all spent time at the resort.”
Indeed, Portage Point Inn was owned and served by the Northern Michigan Transportation Company.
(This steamship company owned five 375-foot long steamships that they used to bring passengers from the Windy City to Northern Michigan.)
Photo: Portage Point Resort
If you’ve visited the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, you’ll feel right at home at Portage Point Inn. That’s because Portage Point Inn was designed and built by the same firm that brought us Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel. Some people even call Portage Point Inn the Grand Hotel’s “Little Sister.”
After the mid-1900s, the steamship business declined, greatly impacting the patronage of Portage Point Inn.
At one point, the hotel completely closed.
Now under new ownership, the hotel is being restored to its former glory.
Renovation of many of the historic buildings is already underway.
Plans for a new restaurant in partnership with a local culinary program are in the works.
A marina expansion and other improvements are in the plans, too.
Here’s a look at the newly renovated ballroom – a gorgeous place for weddings.
Historic Portage Point Inn as it Looks Today
6) Claim Front Row Seats for the Sunset or Sunrise
One of the things Portage Point Resort has going for it is an amazing location. It’s not only on the shores of Portage Lake, it’s also just a short walk away from Lake Michigan.
For spectacular sunrise views, situate yourself on the resort’s lawn or porch.
The main building faces due east, so it’s here that you’ll get sunrise views over 3 miles of Portage Lake. It’s also worth it to take in a sunset at this spot, where you’ll see the light shining on the far shoreline, especially in autumn when the light from the sunset highlights trees along the far shore.
Make your way to any nearby Lake Michigan Beach and you’ll have front row seats for the sunset.
We found ourselves at Portage Point Beach, just a short drive from the resort, for one such event.
You can even walk the pier if you’d like.
7) You’re Close to Nature at Portage Point Resort
Another perk of being immersed in the Northern Michigan great outdoors?
We were treated to quite the show while at the resort!
Two bald eagles soared above us for the better part of a morning. We even saw one swoop down and pluck a fish right out of the lake.
And, if you drive to nearby Arcadia, you’ll be treated to more wildlife viewings.