First Timers Guide To Walloon Lake, Michigan

Posted by Brook Walsh on Tuesday, July 28th, 2020 at 2:53pm.

Feel like basking in a place where Ernest Hemingway spent his summers as a kid? Interested in having a cottage on the Shores on Walloon, with it's crystal clear waters and one of the deepest lakes in Michigan? How about staying at Hotel Walloon, where you can step back into 20th century charm with modern amenities? 

Then considering visiting, or even having a summer home at Walloon Lake.

First, Walloon Lake and the Surrounding Village is not huge. There are only 290 locals,

And if you want to reside their permanently or have a summer cottage there, do be prepared to bring your checkbook. Walloon Lake Real Estate or even 8.5 miles away in Petoskey, will run you around a cool million for a cottage, and up to $10 million for a 7 bedroom mansion.

However, you don't need to be a millionaire to visit and enjoy Walloon Lake. Northern Michigan Escapes, Northern Michigan's premie property management and vacation rental agency, can help you book a vacation within a few miles of Walloon Lake and enjoy all the sights.

The Hotel Walloon, right on the Shores of the Lake,is a throwback to a times in the 1890's when the original Walloon
hotel was built. Rated as a Four Diamond Hotel by AAA, this means that Hotel meets all the standards of an upscale property in all areas. Accommodations are considered refined and stylish. The physical attributes reflect enhanced quality through the property.

The hallmarks at the 4 Diamond rating include an extensive array of amenities as wellas as a high degree of hospitality, service, and attention to detail.

Situated right on the Lake, this 32-room hotel offers:

  • Daily food presentations

  • In-room concierge service via Amazon Echo

  • Heated marble bathroom floors

  • A billiards room

  • A 24-hour fitness room

  • A Hearth room bar

  • A Heated Outdoor Spa

  • A private beach

  • An outdoor patio
and so much more.

Many couples have their weddings at Walloon's premier hotel, and businesses host intimate retreats there as well.

In fact, the Hotel is so popular that most people book up to 6 months in advance, particularly during the summer months.

However, the hotel is popular 365 days per year, and many guests love to celebrate their generational holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas at this lovely destination.

And for those just passing through, even if they are not staying, many people enjoy a dining experience at the hotel, or it's next door neighbor, the Barrelback. More about the Barrelback shortly.

The Village of Walloon

Before describing the Village of Walloon, a bit about the history, including the story of Walloons revival.

Walloon has been a tourist destination since the late 1800s. As early as the 1870s as logging waned in Northern Michigan, railways brought a new kind of economic boom in the form of tourists.

In fact and early Northern Michigan camping dubbed Northern Michigan, with its many pristine lakes, "vacationaland." Touted for its great views, great fishing and boating, all of Northern Michigan began hosting visitors from St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and Indianapolis to get "get away from the heat of the city" and travel to Northern Michigan.

In 1891, a new spur of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad began to cart visitors to Walloon Lake, and despite having only a couple of stores, Walloon Lake gained rapidly in popularity, and has attracted generations back to the lake yearly ever since.

However, while those luck few wealthy homeowners who could afford cottages and homes near the Lakefront kept coming, gradually the appeal of the town shrivelled up for most tourists.

That is until around 2012 when a Grand Rapids real estate developer named Jonathan Borisch single handedly revived Walloon Lake Village.

In 2010, Jonathan Borish sold Borisch Manufacturing Corp and by 2012 he had started a second career developing real estate.

In 2012, he and his son Matt began buying up property in Walloon Lake. Buying three major properties in one fell swoop, they own around 80 percent of the village’s commercial land and an off-site sewer system.

It's no accident that Borsich picked Walloon Lake. Borisch had summered on the lake for several decades, in a cottage by the way said to have sheltered Ernest Hemingway once when his rowboat was forced off the lake by a storm.

Working with everyone concerned, local village and county planning commissions, and getting tons of feedback from the locals including businesses they do not own, he and his son proposed a plan, one that local officials could hardly believe.

They would build a class hotel, the, and an equally elegant restaurant, the Barrel Back, a unique “open-air” dining experience that was reminisence of the barrel back boats common in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, often seen on Northern Michigan Lakes.

The restaurant, like the Hotel, would be first class, and at present offers 23 beers on tap, an outdoor patio for those who want to dine above the lake, and a wide variety of food at reasonable prices.

A village square area was sodded, and across from the square, 50 square foot sheds were constructed, where artisans selling crafts, apparel, home goods and souvenirs.

The Square itself has become a destination on its own for tourists.

With a few careful steps (along with millions of dollars worth of cash) Jonathan Borich has single-handedly revived Walloon Village into a bustling tourist town.

Where there was once three businesses, the town now has 30, with around 19 of them operating all-year long rather than seasonal.

Besides the Hotel and the Restaurant there is one general store and deli, a marina, a winter ice skating rink, a skiing and boat center, a sports complex, a design center, a real estate agency, a home building industry, a consignment shop, a hair salon, a clothes shop and a bakery.

It's not exactly Chicago or even Grand Rapids, but it brings in plenty of tourists.

Naturally one of the major businesses in an area surrounded by millionaires is Tommys Walloon.

Owned by Jonathan's son, Matt, Tommy's sells Malibu, Axis, Cobalt, and Tahoe boats.

Tommy's also operates a substantial Wake and Surf Shop offering wake surf, foils, ropes and accessories. Tommy's even has trained instructors that will take you out on the lake and show you how to water ski and wakeboards.

You don't need to own a boat to enjoy boating on Walloon Lake however. While you can rent a speedboat through Tommy's, a lot of families head to Walloon Lake Boat Rentals.

That's because this boat shop has pontoon boats to rent.

It's not uncommon for a family to rent a pontoon for an entire week, stock it up with groceries, add a rental waverunner and just have a blast on the lake.

For those with kids especially, pontoons are the way to go. There's nothing like being towed by a pontoon on inner tubes at the lake. And the boats are so much easier to get in and out of than a ski boat.

And with a pontoon, the party doesn't have to stop when it gets dark. There is plenty of room to sleep 4 or 5.

Walloon Lake Beach is a public access beach that is both serene and fun.

Besides swimming there is a basketball court, sand volleyball and horseshoes. It's not your typical party beach but that's the point. This is a lovely place to swim, relax, thow a few horseshoes or hoops and relax.

Not everything revolves around the lake and boating however. Two very popular alternative sports are golf and tennis, both of which can be played at Walloon Lake Country Club in nearby Petoskey.

To be frank, the Walloon Lake Country Club is a private club. Guests have to authorized by the club secretary, and to be a member you have to be recommended by another club member who is acquainted with you for at least a year.

It is a lovely club however, and is closely associated with legendary player Tom Watson who has spent many hours in his youth on the course.

Finally, there is the lake itself. No hotel, restaurant or beach can compare with Lake Walloon.

The average Walloon lake depth is 29 feet is with some parts as deep as 100 feet, while the average Walloon Lake temperature varies from a low of 36 degrees fahrenheit in winter to around 64 degrees in the summer.

It can be a bit nippy, but is definitely refreshing,

One great attribute of Walloon Lake is its turquoise clear water, which reminds some people of going way south to the Caribbean while having all the advantages of home.

All in all, Walloon Lake is a lovely place to visit, whether you want to have a family boating trip, or just want to spend a day relaxing and being a tourist. 

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