Historic Sleeping Bear Inn Could Soon Be Michigan’s Most Popular Bed and Breakfast
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore continues to be one of the top destinations for summer vacations in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The National Park Service recently announced that plans for local nonprofit group BEAR (Balancing Environment and Rehabilitation) to restore the Sleeping Bear Inn for use as a bed and breakfast, which will add an amazing lodging option in the Glen Haven historic district. Glen Haven is home to one of the park’s most popular beaches, as well as a historic Coast Guard station museum, several miles of hiking trails, the Glen Haven General Store, a blacksmith shop, and the Cannery Boathouse Museum. The Sleeping Bear Inn will give visitors a place to stay that provides the modern comforts that camping doesn’t, and it is only a short walk to the beach from the front door. This post will look at a bit of the history of the Sleeping Bear Inn and also show off some of the other things to see and do in Glen Haven. Given how popular the park has been over the past decade, it’s not hard to imagine that once the Sleeping Bear Inn is open, it will quickly become one of Michigan’s most popular bed and breakfasts!
An interpretive sign in front of the Sleeping Bear Inn is how we first learned a little about its history: “Known for its pancake breakfasts and whitefish dinner; clean, spartan rooms; and large fireplaces with roaring fires to warm hands and feet; the Sleeping Bear Inn catered to weary travelers and hungry workers alike. The Inn’s hand-hewn wooden beams and sills harken back to its origin in the 1860s. Back then, at this wind-swept, remote harbor, there was an urgent need for a place for lumberjacks, dockworkers, and steamer passengers to eat and sleep on shore. In the mid-1920s, D.H. Day, anticipating a flood of tourists traveling by automobile, modernized and enlarged the Sleeping Bear Inn to include more bathrooms, fireplaces, wicker furniture, and an enclosed porch. The Inn developed a family-friendly reputation over the next five decades. In 1972, after more than 100 years of service, the Sleeping Bear Inn served its last guests. Perhaps one day it will open again.” The chances of the Inn reopening when this sign was placed probably weren’t that great, but now the last line seems almost prophetic.
The NPS release regarding its letter of intent to lease the Inn to BEAR noted that “Originally built between 1865-1867, the Inn served as a frontier hotel for business travelers and local workers. It continued in operation throughout the next century evolving into a tourist hotel. It has been closed since the mid-1970s. This lease will allow for the restoration and adaptive re-use of both buildings. BEAR will work closely with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the National Lakeshore to operate the Inn as a premier bed and breakfast lodge.” BEAR is a nonprofit group formed in 2018 (learn more at https://sleepingbearinn.org/about-us/) that offers the following mission statement: “BEAR seeks to renovate the Inn and use profits generated from its operation to continue to restore Glen Haven and ensure its sustainability. BEAR’S mission is to ensure the history and heritage of Glen Haven Michigan is made sustainable through the rehabilitation of its historic structures and that preserving the history and legacy of previous generations is essential for future generations.” We’re always excited to see historic structures get preserved, and are excited to see this group’s efforts over the next few years.
The Sleeping Bear Inn bed and breakfast will be a great addition to Glen Haven, and likely be able to draw in some visitors who would have had to find lodging further away or may have chose to visit only for the day. Located just a few miles north of the famous Dune Climb, Glen Haven has a lot to offer. Below we will look at a few of the things you should check out when you visit.
Glen Haven beach – this wide, sandy beach has clear water and is a perfect spot for swimming, sunbathing, picnics, and more. It’s one of our favorite places to search for Petoskey stones, and we love that you can see the Manitou Islands from this beach.
Glen Haven Cannery Museum – “The cannery was first built as a warehouse and converted to a state-of-the-art cannery for cherries in the early 1920s. In recent years, the Cannery has housed a museum of historic boats used around Glen Haven and the Manitou Islands. Volunteers have donated many hours to restoring the boats and operating the exhibit. The Cannery Boathouse Museum is the largest public exhibit of Great Lakes small craft.” We love walking through this museum, one of the highlights is seeing all of the restored boats.
Glen Haven blacksmith shop – This restored 1920s blacksmith shop “provides demonstrations of transforming bars of iron into beautiful, useful items. Watch the blacksmith take a piece of iron, heat it in the forge and pound out useful shapes and parts.”
Glen Haven General Store – Grab a drink or snack at this store that has been restored to a 1920s appearance. The store also has a great selection of Sleeping Bear Dunes souvenirs, as well as toys, books, and maritime items.
Sleeping Bear Point Maritime Museum – “The Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station Maritime Museum is located just west of Glen Haven. It is the original Sleeping Bear Point U.S. Life-Saving Station which was moved to its present location because the encroaching sand dunes were beginning to bury it in sand.” This is a great museum for those interested in maritime history, you can learn a lot about the Coast Guard and its work in the area as you walk through this beautifully restored station.
Sleeping Bear Point trails – The trailhead for the Sleeping Bear Point Trail begins at the end of Sleeping Bear Dunes Rd., just west of Glen Haven. This 2.8-mile loop hike is a great way to view the dunes without the strenuous climbs of other park trails, and a short spur trail leads out to Lake Michigan. Glen Haven is also a trailhead for the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, a 20 mile bike trail that runs from Empire to Bohemian Rd. (https://friendsofsleepingbear.org/sleeping-bear-heritage-trail/)