There’s something about Mackinac Island that inspires travelers to try staying at a Bed and Breakfast for the first time. Maybe it’s that B&Bs are generally synonymous with charm, which is right in line with the nature of Mackinac Island itself. Maybe it’s simply that it can be more affordable to stay at one of the little island B&Bs than it is at a bigger hotel. Whatever the reason, we get a lot of B&B newbies at Haan’s 1830 Inn on Mackinac Island and I love it.
To those who fear the B&B experience, I get it. No, really. It’s hard enough to stay at a family member’s home when you are trying to vacation. Why would you stay at a stranger’s house? And let’s address the classic Hollywood B&B depiction: Lots of pink, multiple bad-smelling cats and a little old lady who interrupts your morning lie-in because she doesn’t want you to miss her performance of “Walking in Memphis” that was clearly on the schedule for 8:00 am sharp.
While I can’t totally discredit this depiction – there are almost definitely real B&Bs that fit that mold — I can tell you more about what to actually expect. At least at our own little Inn.
I do think the term “quaint” gets thrown around here a lot, but don’t be scared off just yet. Yes, most of my décor and furnishings are antique, but over the last few years we’ve done a lot of examining which antiques are necessary for the experience and which are over-the-top or simply “kitschy.” I do love antiques. I will always try to use period furniture (for our home, that’s the 1830s – 1910s) over the new and trendy, not only to save the headache of things going out of style, but also to give you a sense of escape from modern time. When I think about the experience that I and so many owners on Mackinac Island try to emulate for our guests, it is that sense of escape. I think it’s what draws so many to Mackinac Island in the first place: the ability to forget the real world’s fast pace and slow down to the rhythm of the horses’ hooves. So, if I can cultivate a little bit of that sense that you’ve walked into your own Elizabethan novel or Hallmark movie, I will always try my best.
What separates a B&B from a hotel is complicated. Mostly, because every B&B is different. Most B&Bs are family homes converted to rent anywhere from one to many rooms. At Haan’s 1830 Inn, we live in four to five of our rooms and rent the remaining rooms (seven to nine of them depending on our staff size) to travelers. We are a small operation, so usually you see me, or my husband, or my staff gal, Jocie, if you need anything. That means that not only are we the ones making you breakfast, checking you into your room, or helping you figure out how to get a taxi to your dinner reservation, but we are also the ones who wake up in our jammies when you need something at one in the morning, even though we are waking up in just a few hours to start the coffee. You will often see my kiddos on property. Sometimes they even act as assistant innkeepers. There we are, just living our lives at our home, but we are also your hosts and will drop whatever we were doing to help you with a good hiking route or the best picnic spot.
I try to cultivate a certain experience at Haan’s 1830 Inn that I have yet to name or come up with any sort of concise definition. The experience of watching the soft glow of the oil lanterns on the dining table highlighting the swirling steam coming off the homemade bread. Sitting on the porch after the sun sets, watching the carriages, listening to the waves, feeling the soft breeze. And even more so with us – you the guest, and I the host – acting as if we’ve always known each other, swapping stories over a cup of tea.
The best way to make sure your B&B experience goes as desired or expected (and to avoid crazy cat-ladies) is to do a little bit of research before you stay. Go to the B&B’s website, look at photos, read reviews. You should be able to get a feel for a B&B’s flavor with the help of the Internet. For the bold, give the place a call before you book (I know, who calls people anymore?). You can ask questions like, “I’m trying to decide where to stay and wonder if you can tell me about your Bed and Breakfast?” to get a good sense of not only the business itself but also the people who work there. Calling has many other advantages, too. Maybe the innkeeper can help you with your plans, or help you book the right room. You can even ask if they offer any discounts – most places will make sure that booking direct is the best deal.
Any Bed and Breakfast on Mackinac Island is a wonderful experience. All of them are unique and offer something different, so it’s important to do a little bit of research ahead of time to make sure you get what you need. If you are looking for modern amenities like televisions, there is a B&B for that. If you are looking for doilies, there’s a B&B for that, too. There are family-friendly B&Bs, adults-only B&Bs, and B&Bs that seem to cater to a specific niche of people. Who knows? I bet there’s a B&B that cultivates the exact kind of Mackinac Island magic you’ve been seeking.
Guest blogger Shannon Haan Westblade is third-generation Owner-Innkeeper at Haan’s 1830 Inn Bed and Breakfast. She grew up every summer of her childhood and adolescence on Mackinac Island while her family ran the Inn and has been running the business since 2017. While not hosting guests, making breakfast and taking reservations, Shannon chases her two kids around with her husband, Lucas. She avoids dishes and laundry by mountain biking Mackinac Island’s single-track trails, creating art or people-watching in Fort Mackinac. Follow her adventures in Innkeeping on Instagram @haans1830innkeeper and book a stay at Haan’s 1830 Inn Bed and Breakfast (no concerts of “Walking in Memphis” included).