Meetings with a Watery View
By Dianna Stampfler
With more miles of Great Lakes shoreline than any other state – not to mention 11,000-plus inland lakes and 36,000 miles of rivers and streams – finding meeting spaces with magnificent coastal views may be easier than you think. From board meetings, conferences and awards banquets to retreats, team building and cocktail receptions, Michigan delivers a variety of venues from coat to coast (to coast) for unparalleled events.
Infinity and Ovation Yacht Charters, Detroit
Taking waterfront events to the next level, Infinity and Ovation Yacht Charters (infinityandovation.com) in Detroit operates two stylish vessels delivering an ultimate cruising experience reminiscent of the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
“From product launches to team building offsites and annual award ceremonies, Infinity and Ovation Yacht Chaters is the destination Detroit-area businesses choose for high-impact events,” says Sean Rosenberg, Director of Brand Marketing. “With countless ways to customize a cruise, we’re able to ensure any experience aligns with a company’s vision.”
The 117-foot bi-level Infinity accommodates 130 passengers for a mingling reception or social engagement. Comfortable and intimate seating areas can be found both inside in swanky styled lounges and open-air decks, with views in every direction. The main level is equipped to host elegant plated dinners.
At 138-feet, the tri-level Ovation caters to larger groups of up to 300 guests. Overlooking the bow, the main level Atrium features a VIP head table with seating throughout the space for another 60-plus. The mid-level is adorned with more casual seating areas for socializing; while the upper deck is wide open and ideal gathering on warm summer evenings.
Both yachts cruise between April and September, with docking options at four different downtown Detroit locations. There are also options for pairing an excursion with activities at Waterview Loft (waterviewloft.com) for a one-of-a-kind “land & sea” event.
Blue Water Convention Center, Port Huron
The new 34,000-square-foot Blue Water Convention Center (bluewaterconventioncenter.com) opened in spring 2015 at the foot of the iconic Blue Water Bridge, which spans the St. Clair River and connects Port Huron to Sarnia, Canada.
From meetings to full scale conferences and consumer shows, the modern designed building offers 10 breakout rooms with Lake Huron Hall being the largest to accommodate up to 1,600 people with theater style seating or for trade shows, banquets and convention general session keynotes. The Grand Ballroom can be used as one large space or divided into two spaces (2,280- and 1,872-square-feet). The smaller Riverview and St. Clair Suites (four total) are suitable for board meetings or classroom style gatherings.
The attached DoubleTree by Hilton boasts an additional 4,470-square-feet of meeting space with five distinct meeting rooms, as well as on-site dining or catering from Freighters Eatery & Taproom. The property also has 149 hotel rooms, making it a one-stop-shop for group events.
Given its size, the Blue Water Convention Center can host a wide range of groups and events, from the Port Huron Boat Show and the Mid-Michigan Gun & Knife Show to the Faith Lutheran Couples Retreat and Michigan Fine Arts & Quilters Convention. State associations representing everything from broadcasters, libraries, veterinary technicians and county officials have chosen to host their annual conferences here.
In November, the Michigan Festivals & Events Association heads here for their annual convention which draws hundreds of attendees with dozens of breakout sessions, catered meals, a vendor trade show and a full-scale musical showcase with bands, comedians and other entertainers.
“We were absolutely impressed with Blue Water and will be coming back,” says Brian Wolters, board consultant for the Michigan Society for Healthcare Engineering, which hosted over 300 attendees and featured 75 full-size vendor booths as part of their annual event. “Blue Water was easily able to accommodate our large Vendor Expo and provided an excellent event experience – from the early days of event coordination until the end of our event.”
Northport Bay Retreat, Northport
Off the beaten path, at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula and just steps from Grand Traverse Bay, sits an exclusive and private four-season corporate sanctuary known as Northport Bay Retreat (antonco.com/northportbay/). If remote is what you’re looking for to keep your team focused and on task, this venue will surely meet your needs. With a total of 16 bedrooms (each with two queen beds), this venue accommodates up to 64 overnight guests.
At 22,000 square feet, this mammoth mansion features several private meeting spaces including a conference room, two den/media rooms and a fully equipped office with wifi throughout. There are several common areas, like the spacious great room with a build-in corner fireplace and plenty of windows to let in natural light and deliver panoramic views of the bay (especially morning sunrises). The lower level is meant for recreation, with a wet bar, fitness center, pool table, ping pong, air hockey, foosball, a big screen television and stereo system.
The dining room has room for the whole group and the fully equipped kitchen gives plenty of space for preparing meals. For stress free gourmet options, Epicure Culinary (epicureculinary.com) can handle catering orders of all sizes.
“We are a private chef service focused on locally sourced, seasonally driven menus for full-service intimate in home gatherings,” says Cammie Buehler, who co-owns the company with Chef Andrew Schudlich. “We also provide drop off service for larger parties, meaning we prepare the meal off site and then deliver it ready to eat.”
Outside, guests of Northport Bay Retreat have access to a lakeside deck, dining patio with a large gas grill, hot tub, fire pit, plenty of lawn seating and a boat slip, along with over six acres of property and 340-feet of bay frontage for exploring. Out and about on the Leelanau Peninsula, more than two dozen wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries, along with unique restaurants and retail shops, provide off-premise entertainment.
Delamar, Traverse City
Along the southern edge of Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City, the former West Bay Beach Holiday Inn has recently unveiled its $10 million renovation and rebranding as the Delamar (delamar.com/traverse-city/). Touted as a “full service upscale resort” the look and feel are boutique, even though are 173 guest rooms available.
The meeting rooms, for groups up to 200, have also been enhanced in design and technology, with state-of-the-art services for both in-person and hybrid events. Corporate packages are designed with the specific groups in mind, taking experiences beyond the boardroom with a series of curated team building activities, sommelier-led wine pairing dinners, mixology cocktail classes, boat cruises on the bay and off-site tours to the area’s award-winning wineries.
“The Delamar was suggested due to its location on the water and near where we could do an outdoor activity,” says Vicky Glossa, who recently coordinated a gathering for a group of 10 Starbucks team leaders from around Michigan. “We were there for two days and they were very accommodating with their meeting space, which had a monitor, so we only needed to plug into it with an HDMI cable.”
Delamar guests will find a welcoming lobby (and a complimentary glass of champagne upon check in), heated indoor and outdoor pools (as well as cabanas, hot tub and sauna); garden terrace featuring firepits, lush greenery and lawn games (like bocce and corn hole); valet parking and 24-hour airport shuttle; on-site yoga classes; e-bike and watercraft rentals; live music (Thursdays through Sunday) and upscale dining and imbibing at Artisan Waterfront Restaurant & Tavern (artisantc.com). Upcoming projects include a full-service spa and private docking facilities for guests arriving by boat. While Delamar offers everything guests need under one roof, the property is within walking distance from downtown Traverse City with its expanding collection of restaurants, shops and attractions.
The Inn at Bay Harbor, Petoskey
Stretching out along Little Traverse Bay four miles southwest of downtown Petoskey, The Inn at Bay Harbor (innatbayharbor.com) is the most luxurious and picturesque venue in the region. More than just a pretty facade, this is one of only two Marriott Autograph Collection hotels in Michigan, with 116 guest rooms and suites (including two- and three-bedroom units), a full-service spa, afternoon tea service, a fine dining restaurant and wine bar, world-class golf and an array of elegant meetings spaces both on and off premise (seasonally, at the Bay Harbor Golf Club just three miles away).
The 3,504-square-foot Arlington Room is the largest meeting space, accommodating between 140 (classroom) and 250 (reception) and is one of five spaces on the Inn’s lower level, next to the Occidental (1,200-square-feet), Clifton (1,508-square feet which can be divided into two units) and the Boardroom (390-square-feet). The main level Sagamore Room has the best views in the house and is ideal for banquets of up to 80 or receptions for 100. Two guest room suites – the Tower Suite (2,205-square-feet) and Penthouse Suite (5,400-square-feet) also offer a unique and exclusive event experience. No matter the room or venue, the Inn delivers state-of-the-art technology and support.
Outside of business, there are plenty of regional activities to educate and entertain. Within walking distance, guests will find the Great Lakes Center for the Arts (greatlakescfa.org), which offers a variety of stage shows such as musicals, concerts and theatrical performances. The Little Traverse Bay Ferry (littletraversebayferry.org), which docks overnight in Bay Harbor, is once again offering service to both Harbor Springs to Petoskey between Memorial Day and September (or October, weather permitting). The Bay Harbor Golf Club (bayharborgolf.com) has recently added scenic golf cart tours, seasonally, along Little Traverse Bay, in addition to stellar golf options on three courses – The Links, Quarry and Preserve (with unmatched views of the bay). The Petoskey Wine Region (petoskey.wine) includes 14 distinct winery tasting rooms, many with outdoor patios, small plate offerings and live music. Those looking to take a step back in time can take a guided tour or book a virtual presentation from Petoskey Yesterday (petoskeyyesterday.com), focused on the early resort history, haunted sites in downtown Petoskey or one of the area’s most famous summer residents, Ernest Hemingway.
“Our association has been using the Inn at Bay Harbor for the past few years for our Women in Leadership Conference and our Small and Rural Conference,” says Diane Dick, associate director of conference and events for the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administration. “We really like the beauty of the area; it feels like a treat for the attendees as well. They have other options for fun things to do with your attendees, depending on the time of year. This year, we are going to try a ‘Petoskey Stone’ walk on our own to see if we can find any of the coveted stones.”
Drummond Island Resort and Conference Center, Drummond Island
For a unique rustic island experience, the Drummond Island Resort and Conference Center (drummondisland.com), located in northern Lake Huron, delivers on all counts. Situated on 2,200 acres with both waterfront and woodland venues, this year-round property is accessible via a short 15-minute ferry ride from Detour Village on the eastern Upper Peninsula mainland.
The Resort offers several event spaces for small to medium sized groups, including the Mackinac Room with a boardroom setting for 15, the log Annex (with a capacity of 80) and the modern looking Brooder House, with seating for up to 100. There is a private room in the Pins Bar & Grill (adjacent to the Resort’s bowling alley) as well as additional small group spaces inside the main restaurant.
“Our golf course, The Rock, is absolutely beautiful and is also very popular with groups and businesses alike,” says Caitlin Anderson, sales manager for the Resort.
Drummond Island Resorts offers a wealth of northern inspired accommodations including The Lodge with its 40 log cabin style rooms or the 16 unique cottages and cabins, like the 4-beroom Wright Cottage with a secluded setting overlooking a private pond or the 2-bedroom Sparky Anderson Cottage named after the legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster.
Drummond Island itself is an outdoor paradise, with plenty of opportunities for off-roading, biking, paddling and exploring for both group attendees and their families who are lucky to join them on the trip.
Dianna Stampfler is a long-time freelance writer, author and president of Promote Michigan.
Reprinted from the Summer 2022 issue of Michigan Meeting + Events magazine.