Ever since the glaciers checked out, leaving behind our glorious lakes, travelers have been checking in Up North—beckoned first by early rustic camps, then seasonal shoreside resorts and turn-of-the-20th-century glam hotels. Today, nostalgia-seekers can tap into the romance of bygone eras at these three retro lodgings, which whisk guests back in time while maintaining the modern touches we love.
Anchor Inn, Traverse City
Design-minded Alyssa Brittain envisioned a “Nordic Cottage” style for the interiors of this 1940s getaway, which she and her husband purchased in 2021. Out went the dated quilts and bed skirts, in came a painstaking renovation that transformed the eight cottages and six motel rooms into a celebration of minimalist chic. Sunlight streams onto crisp-white walls, while the original dark wood trim and hardwood floors synch with salvaged finds—think nautical sconces and antique dressers—to provide the lake-cottage vibe of our dreams. This spring saw the addition of a three-bedroom Lakeside House with its bead-boarded kitchen, vintage light fixtures and cozy breakfast nook promising to give you all the nostalgic feels.
Colonial Inn, Harbor Springs
Built back when captains of industry brokered deals on the verandas of the three-story Harbor Springs summer “cottages,” this 129-year-old hotel epitomizes old-millennium elegance, starting with its expansive porch, perfect for sipping a gimlet in the Lake Michigan breeze. The high-ceilinged lobby décor is reminiscent of Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, and amid the manicured grounds, the kidney-shaped swimming pool is a throwback to glamour circa 1955. Each room’s gas fireplace helps ignite that lakeside ambiance, and while the building’s age means more than one flick of the light switch might be required to start the flame, “That’s still a lot easier,” management points out, “than it was to gather firewood in 1894.”(We’ll say!) Owned by the Brown family for three generations, the hotel’s rooms feature whimsical Northern Michigan beach-scapes painted by the owner’s mother.
Photo by The Colonial
Birch Lodge, Trout Lake
Nestled amid a copse of hardwoods, this three-story inn has evolved from a 1912 sanitarium—its original raison d’être—into the most gracious of lodgings, a place to breathe in the beauty of the Upper Peninsula. Eight bedrooms embody the pared-back beauty of simpler times with period-inspired classics such as iron beds and historical black-and-white fishing photos. Downstairs, the iconic Birch Bar is a master class in Northwoods kitsch, featuring bar stools cut from tree trunks and a birch-log back bar complete with a vintage Busch beer sign and a stein-full of pheasant tailfeathers. Fancy a different era? Try the property’s eight-room Motel at Birch Lodge, a portal to the 1950s with its mid-century modern furniture, wall-to-wall carpeting and wood paneling that transport visitors back to childhood road trips of decades past. With each room featuring a picture window looking out onto Trout Lake—plus high-speed WiFi—you could be forgiven for choosing to ditch tomorrow’s itinerary and stay awhile.
21830 S. Birch Lodge Dr., Trout Lake | Birch Lodge Website
Lucinda Hahn traveled the globe as an award-winning journalist, living in four countries before settling in her favorite place, the Leelanau Peninsula, in 2020.