Ask historians to describe the state of Michigan’s earliest settlements and you can expect a fanciful look at romantic explorers, Native American encampments and idyllic tales of villages popping up along Lake Michigan. But history didn’t end with the evolution of powerful cities and industries that made the state unique among neighbors: One of the state's most beautiful locations, Bay Harbor, has a unique past.
Once a rough and tumble mining town set up along the lake that also produced some of the Midwest’s constantly-needed cement plants, 1200 acres of pristine land, totaling five miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, were ravaged in the name of progress.
Despite sporadic attempts at remediation, developers were quick to give up on this remarkable stretch of shoreline -- until a far-sighted David V. Johnson envisioned the area as a burgeoning community filled with homes, thriving businesses and recreational opportunities.
Were these the imaginings of a pioneer in the 1940s, 1950s or even 1950s? Surprisingly, Johnson’s futuristic vision came about in 1993. There was lots of time to make up for, but with the help of then-governor John Engler, a metaphorical wrecking ball was taken to the area that destroyed the vestiges of plant smokestacks, physical barriers and a wealth of blight that sprawled along the landscape. By 1995, the barrier to Lake Michigan had been eliminated and “within 24 hours, a new nautical epicenter renamed Bay Harbor Lake" had been created.
Why focus on history when your primary interest is finding a lifestyle you thought existed only in your imagination? Because this history is part of the story that continues to charm folks lucky enough to have discovered this slice of heaven for themselves and this includes both residents and vacationers.
All things to all people?
If you have spent your life believing that no single place is capable of delivering a lifestyle that meets all of your needs, desires and interests, it’s time to rethink that belief. Bay Harbor’s master plan is an exquisite representation of what imagination, perseverance and persistence can do within the realm of real estate.
Undaunted, Johnson and other ambitious thinkers set about creating a universe guaranteed to appeal to people of all ages, stages of life and interests. From the get-go, word spread fast that a five-mile stretch along Lake Michigan’s shoreline was ready to welcome year-round and seasonal residents plus vacationers eager to spend time in a community with so much to offer, everything they needed and wanted already existed.
In fact, Bay Harbor’s reputation extended much further than the Michigan state line: Families looking for idyllic hometowns flocked to the area propelled by word-of-mouth and found that descriptions of this community didn’t begin to explain its magical attraction. In fact, this community is so welcoming and hospitable, the number of weddings that take place at the village hotel, Bay Harbor Lake Marina, yacht club and golf course attest to the romantic nature of this picture-postcard destination.
Accolades flood in
How long did it take before the rest of the world took notice of this destination? That depends upon who you ask. Travel writers, accidental tourists and entities committed to writing about exceptional communities were drawn to Bay Harbor. By 2002, Golf Digest designated the Bay Harbor course #20 on its list of America’s top 75 courses.
The American Society of Landscape Architects conferred honors on the area for its remarkable recovery, morphing from “moonscape” to a green paradise, and Conde Nast Traveler included the aforementioned golf complex on its list of 50 Best. Coveted CNBC Property Awards for the community and North Sound Yacht Club at Bay Harbor Lake Marina added to the community's growing list of honors. It's only a matter of time before the growing number of weddings at Bay Harbor begin to garner accolades from bridal publications!
Beauty and elegance are one thing. Sustainability is another. Town planners never forgot that including the environment in their master plans was necessary to create a town offering excellent environmental benefits to people of all ages choosing to live or vacation at Bay Harbor.
That’s how this community's growing hall of fame came to include kudos honoring Bay Harbor and its planners for Herculean efforts to maintain clean water and air qualities. These efforts were greatly enhanced thanks to no-discharge policies and laws that assure residents and vacationers of an absence of pollutants throughout the community’s air, water and infrastructure systems.
Why you must visit to see what you’re missing!
Whether your intention is acquiring a vacation home, you are curious about this city’s remarkable evolution or you are thinking of moving elsewhere because you’re sick and tired of bad air, traffic, stress and other life-shortening factors, you won’t find a friendlier reception from people who have already found their own paradise within the boundaries of Bay Harbor.
Move to this gorgeous area and expect to be surrounded by vistas that can only be described as stunning, recreational opportunities on Bay Harbor Lake that include everything related to marine sports at your fingertips, real estate options that fit a variety of lifestyles and a seasonal calendar of diversions that run the gamut from fun to competitive activities.
World-class shoppers describe the boutiques, shops and specialty stores sprinkled throughout the community as places filled with surprises that include fashion emporiums, gourmet food shops, boutiques filled with hand-crafted treasures and local art and everything in-between.
Lodge at the Inn at Bay Harbor when you undertake your exploratory visit and don't worry about going hungry. Dining choices are eclectic and bountiful. From white tablecloth elegance to ice cream parlors, bistros, coffee shops, eateries specializing in thick sandwiches and soups to tasty bites, no matter what you and your taste buds crave, you’ll find it fairly quickly by strolling down the town’s streets.
Turn your visit into a long-term commitment
Having fallen in love every time you discover a new facet of the Bay Harbor community, it can’t hurt to find a realtor in the area to explore your real estate options. Whether you are staying on the boat you sailed to the marina or you’ve checked in to the village hotel or Inn at Bay Harbor, spending a day browsing everything from condos to empty property zoned for luxury home construction, you can investigate the option of sojourning while docking your vessel at the yacht club edging this deep water marina.
Take a look at the golf course that continues to receive accolades for design, see the equestrian center known to convince visitors to make Bay Harbor their vacation homes and if you are the clever sort, explore the town’s 32 neighborhoods so you can see how much care and love residents pour into their homes. Make it a point to stroll around The Preserve where woodland living is more than just a brochure description.
What the future holds
Given the remarkable commitment made by every member of the Bay Harbor community – be they business owners, residents or vacationers – it should come as no surprise that municipal authorities have an eye toward the future. But this is no ordinary collective outlook, especially when compared to communities who allowed expansion to drive growth.
Bay Harbor’s visionaries aren’t discounting growth, but they’re willing to make accommodations for the right kind of growth so sustainability and aesthetics are part of the long-term equation. Whether you found yourself spellbound by the village hotel, harbor, Bay Harbor Lake Marina, the thought of holding kids' weddings at Bay Harbor or you're impressed by the golf course, making this your full- or part-time home could be the smartest idea you've had in ages.
You owe it to yourself to take a fact-finding tour of this picturesque community where you can't put a price on a haven that serves as a beautiful hometown for friends, relatives, grand kids and current residents who love meeting and welcoming newcomers.
Having transformed the area from barren wasteland to a community you will be proud to call your own, everything about Bay Harbor offers you the life you dreamed about but worried that you were asking too much of one place.
If you thought that a place like Bay Harbor existed only in your mind, one visit will convince you that paradise on earth really does exist. Don't you deserve to be part of a community with a remarkable past and a more remarkable future? You know the answer to that question!