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Author Topic:   Traverse City Hotels with Boat Docks
Teak Oil posted 02-13-2014 04:24 PM ET (US)   Profile for Teak Oil   Send Email to Teak Oil  
I would like to take a week of vacation this summer in northern Michigan in the Traverse City area, and I cannot for the life of me think of a decent Hotel with docking for my Whaler.

I have done the Inland Waterway for two years in a row so that is not going to be considered for this year. I want to stay somewhere where we can hit Torch Lake one day, the Dunes another day, Traverse City another day, and so on. I am also looking for a cabin to rent but have yet to find one that would work. I would appreciate any suggestions on a location that is kid-friendly AND Whaler-friendly.


jimh posted 02-13-2014 05:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
There are two very nice marinas close to Traverse City. I don't know of a dock associated with a hotel.

We have launched and loaded our boat using the ramp at the Elmwood Township Marina, and we have stayed at their docks several nights. If you need shore accommodations, there are probably some choices nearby. They have a big parking lot, but it can be filled to capacity on a weekend with boat trailers. The harbormaster there is usually good at accommodating our trailer being left there for five or six days, but they charge us for that.

There is also the Duncan L. Clinch marina right in downtown Traverse City. There is not a launch ramp there. It would be convenient to a downtown hotel. I don't know about the parking there; it might be across the street.

We have made cruising Grand Traverse Bay an annual trip for the past several years. We have visited the marinas at Leland, Suttons Bay, Northport, and Elk Rapids. We move the boat from marina to marina. I suppose you could do that if you had a shore party move your car (and family) to keep up. Or you could load up on the trailer and go by highway.

The marina at Leland is really nice. Their boater's lounge and bathhouse are great. They have a new ramp and parking lot. There are some rental rooms very close.

Northport has also recently upgraded their facilities. They can usually arrange for you to leave your trailer parked there for several days.

Suttons Bay is a bit small. Their bathhouse is a bit rustic in comparison.

Elk Rapids has a good marina, with ramps and parking. You cannot leave your trailer overnight, but they have some off-site options for parking. You can launch on Elk Lake and make a passage to Torch Lake. Note that you cannot get to Torch Lake by boat from Lake Michigan. There is a dam and no locks.

It would be a rather long run to depart at Traverse City, run north, loop around the Leelanau Peninsula, and run all the way south to the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and then return. You'd probably put 150-miles on the boat.

You have to pick the right day to be out on the open water of Lake Michigan around Leland and the dunes. The water there can get rather rough, particularly if you need to go upwind.

For more remarks about this area see:

Grand Traverse Bay Cruise 2012

Grand Traverse Bay Cruise 2013

For some remarks from a 2006 cruise see:

And for our 2009 cruise see:

Teak Oil posted 02-13-2014 09:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for Teak Oil  Send Email to Teak Oil     
Thanks for the info Jim. This trip will be staying in a hotel every night, four people on a 22 Outrage doesn't work too well for much more than one night.

You bring up an interesting idea, I could keep the boat at a marina while staying in town, I had not considered that.

ConB posted 02-13-2014 10:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for ConB  Send Email to ConB     
Bob, the Holiday Inn in Traverse City has a dock but I do not know if they rent slips to guests.

Renting a cottage and leaving the boat at one of the marinas may work. Some places you can anchor the boat weather permitting. Or you can dry sail the boat and go some were new to launch each day.


RandyV posted 02-14-2014 10:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for RandyV  Send Email to RandyV     
My wife and I did a late season trip to Lake Leelanau last fall, and we had a terrible time finding a place in Leland to park the trailer after we put the Outrage in. Some advance work may be required to make sure you have a good place to leave the boat trailer. The local marina was of no help, the B&B we stayed at was no help in finding alternate places to park a trailer for a few days. Maybe it was just so late in the season that there was nobody to cater to transient boaters staying in the area for a few days.

We did end up having a couple of decent days of fishing and sight seeing on Lake Leelanau. It was just past prime color so we were lucky to get some good weather.

The B&B we stayed at had lake access and dock tie-up but had very little space for a trailer. We ended up squeeking it in an extremely tight corner. Good thing I can back a trailer well.

jimh posted 02-14-2014 05:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
There is a very small boat ramp in Leland that can access Lake Leelanau, and there is no parking at all there for trucks and trailers at the ramp.

There is a ramp into Lake Leelanau at the town of Lake Leelanau, but, as I recall, it is rather limited for parking, too.

But those problems don't affect someone cruising in Grand Traverse Bay and in Lake Michigan. You cannot get to Lake Michigan from Lake Leelanau.

The marina at Leland on Lake Michigan has a good parking lot for trucks and trailers, but I don't think they endorse leaving a truck there for long periods when your boat is not in the marina. The harbormaster told me he could arrange off-site parking for several days. I think they might use the parking lot of a nearby church. That is available most of the time, except on Sundays.

Teak Oil posted 02-14-2014 05:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for Teak Oil  Send Email to Teak Oil     
Thanks for the tips. I decided the cost would be about the same if I went with a cabin vs a Hotel and marina. I ended up finding a place on Lake Skegemog on the Chain of Lakes, and from there I will be able to boat anywhere I want.

c1walts posted 02-21-2014 04:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for c1walts  Send Email to c1walts     
Lake Skegemog/Elk Lake is a great place to be for what you want to do. Be sure to check out Elk Rapids, and if you're into it Short's Brewery in Bellaire. Just look out for stumps in Skegemog when you're running to Torch through the chain!
Teak Oil posted 02-21-2014 07:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for Teak Oil  Send Email to Teak Oil     
Thanks for the info. I have been through the Chain of Lakes twice, the last time was 7-8 years ago on my Montauk in crappy weather.

Is there still the restaurant at the Clam River? Is there any good restaurants in Elk Rapids?

How is the Clam River as far as depth? We had a rough time getting to Lake Bellaire last time as I remember, but I had an I/O boat then.

c1walts posted 02-26-2014 03:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for c1walts  Send Email to c1walts     
It's been awhile since I've been in those waters. The restaurant that I remember is the Dockside, right on the water where Claim Lake and Torch Lake meet. I don't really know any good restaurants in Elk Rapids, I usually bring a picnic lunch and eat at the parks on the water.

The Grass river is what connects Clam Lake to Lake Bellaire, and I've never taken that chain. From what i hear it gets pretty shallow, I could do it in my 13, but not sure about your 22' Outrage (probably ok if you've done it before with an I/O)

Sorry I'm not more help.

jimh posted 02-27-2014 12:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Pearl's Kitchen, Elk Rapids, Michigan, is a very good restaurant. We go there every time we visit Elk Rapids.
jimh posted 02-27-2014 12:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
You must not have read the two trip narratives I gave you earlier as good sources of information. I mentioned Pearl's Kitchen in both of them. I really recommend you read the trip narratives to get more information about cruising around Grand Traverse Bay. My trip narratives are loaded with information about marinas, ports, restaurants, and other local knowledge.
Teak Oil posted 02-27-2014 07:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for Teak Oil  Send Email to Teak Oil     
Thanks for the info Jim, I will be trying Pearl's, but we will have a large group most likely with a lot of kids and that may not be the best place for that. Also your narratives are for the Lake Michigan side of Elk Rapids, I would like some info on the Chain of Lakes side since I have not been there in a long time.

jimh posted 03-05-2014 11:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Information about boating on Elk River, Elk Lake, Lake Skegemog, Torch River,
and Torch Lake is given in my cruise narrative from 14 years ago, in the year 2000. See

The Elk River Motel that I mention has been torn down and replaced by much fancier condominium housing units. The narrative also mentions several restaurants we visited.

sportroyalwulf posted 03-05-2014 07:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for sportroyalwulf  Send Email to sportroyalwulf     
For future reference. I drove by the East Bay Marina on Grand Traverse Bay. There are two new hotels across the street.

East Bay Marina
5517 US Highway 31 N
Acme, MI 49610
(231) 938-2131

Teak Oil posted 03-06-2014 10:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for Teak Oil  Send Email to Teak Oil     
I don't recall any marina on East Bay, is it fairly new? I used the small launch on 31 a long time ago and it was a disaster
ConB posted 03-06-2014 06:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for ConB  Send Email to ConB     
There is a marina in Acme, but I do not think it has a launch ramp. They knocked down a restaurant that hid the marina from the road last year.

I can not think of a good launch ramp between Traverse City and Elk Rapids.


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