The southwestern corner of Michigan, with its picturesque beachfront communities, is a favorite weekend and holiday getaway destination not only for residents of nearby Chicago, but also for vacationers from many states in the southern US, who head north in the summer months to escape oppressive heat and humidity. In particular, the town of New Buffalo, MI, a mere 70 minutes away from the Windy City, is an attractive choice — thanks in large part to two welcoming resorts situated right on the shores of Lake Michigan: the Marina Grand Resort and the Harbor Grand Inn, sister properties under the peerless management of Toast Hotel Group.
The two boutique properties share the same devotion to impeccable guest service, as well as similar proximity to a beach and marina on one side, and a quaint downtown area on the other (including the convenience of an Amtrak station that connects nearby Chicago with easily reachable Detroit). Each retains its own unique character, however, appealing to slightly different aesthetic sensibilities — but always to the most refined tastes.
The interior decor of the Marina Grand Resort — the larger of the two properties, with 76 guest rooms and suites — is inspired by Scandinavian Modern design, accentuated with nautical references. There are no fewer than six types of guest units to choose from, including spacious rooms with choices of king or double queen beds; one- or two-bedroom suites; and even two- and three-bedroom loft suites. Thus, the Marina Grand can easily accommodate families or compatible small groups with per-unit occupancy capacities ranging from two to eight people.
All rooms at the Marina Grand Resort boast water and marina views, fireplaces, flat-screen televisions, luxury bedding and individual terraces with outdoor seating. Suites come with fully equipped European kitchens (comprising oven and stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave and coffee makers), living/dining areas, and soaking tubs in bathrooms, with amenities by William Roam “Float.” Complimentary high-speed Internet, a DVD library, bicycles and beach towel and chair service are all part of the package.
In its public areas, the hotel offers guests an indoor pool and whirlpool, a lobby with fireplace and premium coffee market, and an expansive rooftop deck overlooking the marina with access to Lake Michigan. Both the Marina Grand Resort and the Harbor Grand are non-smoking properties.
Speaking of the Harbor Grand, the 54-room boutique waterfront hotel, built in 1996 and renovated in 2006, was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School of Architecture. It offers a range of water view and village view rooms and suites, all of which come with breakfast in bed, refrigerators, and complimentary high-speed internet and DVD library. Select units feature fireplaces, wet bars, whirlpool tubs and/or spa showers, with Gilchrist & Soames “The London Collection”amenities; a few are ADA-compliant handicapped accessible. There is also an indoor pool and sun deck, the option to order a massage, and bike and beach chair rentals at no extra charge.
Naturally, each property has its own tempting dining option. The Marina Grand Resort’s Bentwood Tavern, serving up “artisan comfort cuisine,” has become arguably the most popular restaurant in town. Talented chef Jenny Drilon has put a sophisticated spin on pub fare, turning out gourmet pizzas fired in a wood-burning oven, fresh seafood dishes, Amish-roasted chicken, as well as steaks and chops. The Tavern sources the freshest locally grown ingredients for its seasonally adjusted menus and pays special attention to its wine and beverage selections: eight craft brews are on tap; a well-curated wine list draws from regional as well as national vineyards; and the resident mixologist has crafted noteworthy original cocktails.
Because the Bentwood Tavern can get crowded — reservations are recommended, especially on weekends — it can also not be the quietest venue for a romantic dinner, for example. Fortunately, the Harbor Grand’s Terrace Room is the perfect alternative: an intimate restaurant on the New Buffalo harbor, with a choice of al fresco dining on the waterfront terrace (warmed by an outdoor firepit, when necessary), or a cozy indoor dining room, complete with fireplace.
Rates at both the Marina Grand Resort and The Harbor Grand start as low as $99. During periods of peak demand, of course, the prices climb accordingly, peaking at $589 for the Marina Grand Resort and $389 at the Harbor Grand.
Text and photos by Buzzy Gordon, who was a guest of Marina Grand Resort for purposes of review.