Storied stays: From an elegant hotel in Marquette to a charming Ludington B&B, these four Northern Michigan inns combine history and hospitality for a cozy fall or winter getaway.

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When fall colors reach their peak and the chill in the air is enough to warrant a soft sweater and hot drink in hand, it’s time for a weekend escape. Whether you’re seeking a stay in the heart of an Up North town or a secluded spot, these four historic Northern Michigan inns are ideal for autumn.

Colonial Inn

210 Artesian Ave., Harbor Springs | Colonial Inn Website

Tucked in the whimsical summer neighborhood of Wequetonsing on Little Traverse Bay, the Colonial Inn has been welcoming guests for 129 years.

The Colonial Inn was founded in 1894 by Colonel Eaton of the Michigan Wolverines Cavalry division. (Rumor has it that his fortune had its origins in the capture of the Confederate President Jefferson Davis.)

After Eaton’s death in 1904, his widow continued the operation of the hotel. In the 1920s, Papa Tam, a German World War I colonel, became the proprietor, and in 1955, Colonial Inn was purchased by then–Ford Motor Company Vice President John R. Davis and Harbor Springs luminary Fred Renker. Renker managed the hotel until 1968 when it was bought by Ray Brown, a southern transplant from North Carolina. Brown owned and operated the hotel until 1986, when his son, Tim, bought the hotel and began modernizing the property until his death in 2016. His oldest son and namesake now owns and operates the inn.

Expect top-notch hospitality, outstanding service and extraordinary local ambiance in the 43 modernized rooms. During autumn visits, an in-room gas fireplace keeps you warm after a day exploring—the inn’s sprawling grounds are just one block from Lake Michigan. “We have a private dock ideal for sunsets or stargazing,” adds Sara Little, who oversees marketing for the inn. Amenities include a pool and hot tub and, perhaps most important, fresh-baked cookies daily in the Main House.

Colonial Inn outdoor view

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Dining & Activities in Harbor Springs

Dining in Harbor Springs: From the inn, take a short stroll along the waterfront to the storybook downtown of Harbor Springs—the East Main Street shops’ window boxes are especially beautiful in fall. You’ll find several restaurants to duck into such as Pierson’s Grille & Spirits (try their goat cheese salad and the whitefish) and One Thirty Eight, a whiskey-forward cocktail lounge.

While You’re In Town: For a scenic fall hike, check out the Little Traverse Wheelway, a 26-mile trail that connects the towns of Charlevoix, Petoskey and Harbor Springs. The Harbor Springs trailhead is near the ballfields at Lake and Hoyt on the east side of town, where restrooms and parking are available.

Colonial Inn dining room

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Landmark Inn

The Landmark Inn

230 N. Front St., Marquette | Landmark Inn Website

From the moment you enter this full-service boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Marquette, you’ll sense its rich history. “You feel it when you walk in the door,” says General Manager Stefanie Congdon.

Landmark Inn, which welcomed its first guests as the 100-room Northland Hotel in 1930, is just steps from shops, restaurants and theaters and overlooks Lake Superior. The inn’s old-world European splendor and charm blends with modern convenience. The AAA Diamond-rated hotel has been featured in The New York Times and has welcomed an impressive list of famous guests throughout the years. “We hosted Amelia Erhart in 1932—she stayed in room 502 while speaking in town; Abbott and Costello in 1942 when they were in Marquette to perform at the American Legion during World War II and even The Rolling Stones,” Cogdon says. (The Rolling Stones stopped by the in-house Northland Gastropub for drinks prior to the funeral of their close friend and road manager in 2002.)

Some of the inn’s rooms are named for these luminaries, including the Amelia Erhart room and one for astronaut Dr. Jerry Linenger, who served on the space shuttle Discover. Additionally, there’s a penthouse suite on the sixth floor with a jacuzzi and full kitchen. 

The hotel, which fell into disrepair in the late 1970s and closed in 1982, underwent a major renovation in 1995 and an ownership change in 2015, ushering in a new era of gracious hospitality.

Landmark Inn

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Landmark Inn bar

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Landmark Inn dining room

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Dining & Adventures in Marquette

When You Go | Dine: Grab lunch at Northland Gastropub, an English-style restaurant on the inn’s first floor. At day’s end, the Crow’s Nest, providing craft cocktails and light bites on the building’s sixth floor, offers “the best view in town” overlooking the cobalt blue waters of Lake Superior.

While You’re In Town: Make use of the free downtown shuttle service. For a fab fall hike, Congdon recommends checking out nearby Hogback Mountain (a series of narrow, twisty trails through woodlands, rock fields and swampy areas) or Sugarloaf Mountain (wide, clearly marked single-track trail and multiple staircases).

Landmark Inn fireplace

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

The Lamplighter Bed & Breakfast

602 E. Ludington Ave., Ludington | Lamplighter Website

The best historical B&Bs combine a sense of authenticity with a contemporary and welcoming feel, and Lamplighter Bed & Breakfast gets it just right.

Housed in an 1894 Queen Anne Victorian, the inn has a refreshing Lake Michigan feel, with airy rooms, crisp white bedding and a coastal vibe. “We want people to walk in and feel comfortable being barefoot,” says Jen Hinderer, who serves as innkeeper with her husband, Dan.

The Hinderers, who spent 15 years pursuing careers in landscape design/building (Dan) and marketing/business (Jen), became the inn’s fourth owners in 2017 after quitting their corporate jobs and returning to Michigan with their two young sons. Honoring the Victorian’s long history and maintaining the B&B’s character is important to Jen and Dan.

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Although they bring a youthful and modern essence to the inn, the couple lovingly restored the original entry and grand wooden staircase to their former glory. Each of the B&B’s five rooms offer en suite bathrooms—relax in the jetted tub in the Ansel Adams Suite or enjoy the large, custom-tiled walk-in shower in the newly remodeled Monet Suite.

Guests are treated to exceptional food in a relaxed atmosphere when staying at the inn. Jen is behind the locally sourced menu (she shares her favorite fall recipe for cranberry orange scones on the B&B’s blog) while Dan’s landscaping talents are evident in the gardens and grounds, including a sweet gazebo where guests enjoy sipping morning coffee or a glass of wine in the evening. On cooler days, start or end your day in front of the parlor’s fireplace. “We cater to our guests, and we try very hard to be supportive of local businesses,” Jen says. “We offer an experience that is unique—both the food and the setting. We’ve always loved serving people.”

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Dining & Adventure in Ludington

When You Go | Dine: For lunch or dinner, check out the Blu Moon, a French/Japanese fusion bistro, sushi and cocktail lounge in Ludington dedicated to using fresh, sustainable ingredients. For local beer, wine and spirits, plus food and live music, head to The Mitten Bar.

While You’re In Town: The Lamplighter is just one mile from the beautiful shores and beaches of Lake Michigan in downtown Ludington. Close by are three lighthouses, the S.S. Badger car ferry to Wisconsin, the Ludington Area Center for the Arts and the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum. Don’t miss Ludington State Park’s network of hiking trails. For an autumn beach stroll, head to the award-winning public beach at Stearns Park, named one of the top 51 Great American Beaches by USA Today.

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Old Mission Inn with buggy out front

Old Mission Inn

18599 Mission Road, Old Mission Peninsula | Old Mission Inn Website

For an especially peaceful, grown-up getaway in a scenic spot miles from town, the winding and picturesque roads of Old Mission Peninsula lead visitors to an enchanting discovery: Old Mission Inn.

“We’re in a very quiet neighborhood. It’s a relaxing place to come to,” says owner Angie Jensen, who has operated the inn for 24 years with her husband, Bruce. The two cater to couples and guests looking for a private place for a birthday or anniversary, “who want to read books, lie in the hammocks, look out over the bay and sit on the porch,” Jensen says. “I call it the great adult getaway.”

Built in 1869, Old Mission Inn is the oldest continually operating hotel in Michigan. It has had just four owners in its 153 years of operation. The original owners and builders, George and Betsy Hedden, named the historic hotel Hed- den Hall. In its early days, it had 31 rooms—this was well before plumbing and electricity were added. The inn was home to the Old Mission Post office for 20 years, and George Hedden served as postmaster from 1869 to 1889. The Heddens operated the hotel for 33 years, with subsequent owners including Alfred and Ella Porter, whose guest registers were gifted to Angie and Bruce and feature the signatures of Babe Ruth and Joe Louis from 1936.

Old Mission Inn with buggy out front

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Jensen takes her role as caretaker seriously. She’s even writing a book about the inn, dedicated to the second owners’ granddaughter who shared stories and photographs of her time there.

“We got to meet her when she was 82 years old and living in Odessa, Texas,” Jensen says. “She worked at the inn when she was 10 and her job was to clean chamber pots and bring in water. Her grandmother would ring the breakfast bell and guests would come down; I have that bell now,” she adds. The couple has even found old love letters in the inn’s third story. “There’s so much history here, and it deserves to be told.”

Old Mission Inn bedroom

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Old Mission Inn antique photo

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Old Mission Inn sign in antique

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Dining & Adventure on Old Mission Peninsula

When You Go | Dine: The inn serves breakfast and, more recently, take-out from its on-site Mission Bay Cafe which provides pizza, sandwiches and other “home-cooked meals that stay with the theme of old-fashioned comfort food.” The Jensens also plan to offer packaged liquor to go.

While You’re In Town: The 18-mile drive to the inn from Traverse City is its own peaceful and scenic activity-with plenty of wineries and views to take in along the way (the closest winery to the inn is 2 Lads0> For a gorgeous autumn hike, head to Mission Point Lighthouse and its miles of trails. Haserot Beach, around the corner, is another popular spot for a stroll. Some visitors prefer to wander across the street from the Old Mission Inn, set up a chair in the park and simply relax

Old Mission Inn ktichen

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Old Mission Inn dining room

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Heather Johnson Durocher writes from Traverse City, where she lives with her husband Joe and their three kids.

Photo(s) by Jacqueline Southby