Don’t worry if living or working near Lake Michigan has become so much a part of the DNA that a getaway has to include a water view or boating. Certainly there are good Midwestern water-side vacation destinations three to six hours from Chicago. But when spending less time driving and more time at the destination is important, consider these five excellent resorts and inns.

The Abbey Resort
269 Fontana Blvd.
Fontana, WI 53125

Chicago vacationers have been traveling north to the town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin on Geneva Lake since the turn of the last century. About an hour from Chicago, the town is a fun place to visit for a day of boutique shopping and gallery hopping between stops for fudge and ice cream. But to get away from the bustle for a weekend, stay with water sports and vistas – look for The Abbey Resort in Fontana on the southwest tip of the lake. It’s a place to relax or bike the lake path; rent a boat or do laps in the indoor pool; sit around the outdoor pool or take a spa treatment; listen to piano music in the bar or pair wine with steak or seafood in its 240 West restaurant that overlooks the harbor.

Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Geneva Ridge Resort
W4240 Wisconsin Highway 50
Lake Geneva, WI 53147
(262) 249-3800

Another Lake Geneva choice is Geneva Ridge Resort on Lake Como across Highway 50 from Geneva Lake. Geneva Ridge is the latest addition to the Geneva National Golf Resort properties. Spread across a small bluff, Geneva Ridge has everything expected from a classy lake resort including live entertainment, Wi-Fi, steam and sauna rooms, a game room, a cool veranda bar, grills, bike rentals and a boathouse to rent kayaks and stand-up paddle-boards. Downtown Lake Geneva is a five minute drive.

The Harbor Grand Hotel
111 W. Water St.
New Buffalo, MI 49117
(888) 604-6800

Small vacation towns dot Southwest Michigan’s Harbor Country, about 75 minutes from Chicago. A fun place to use as a home base for exploring the area is The Harbor Grand Hotel in New Buffalo, Michigan. The hotel caters to vacationers with breakfast in bed or by the room’s fireplace, wellness spa room, pool, jacuzzi, comp bike rental, 24-hour Ben & Jerry’s ice cream availability and water-side terrace dining. Guests work off the ice cream with a short walk to the beach and downtown galleries and shops. Click here to explore the eight villages of Harbor Country. Southwest Michigan is also wine country. Click here for a list of wineries and wine festivals.

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The Inn At Union Pier
9708 Berrien St.
Union Pier, MI 49129
(269) 469-4700

Union Pier, the next village north of New Buffalo, is in the middle of Harbor County and was a favorite vacation spot of former Chicago mayors. The Inn at Union Pier’s reputation for elegant hospitality, good breakfasts, day-long treats and good-sized, good-looking rooms with porches or balconies draws repeat visitors. Perched on a small bluff, the Inn overlooks its beach about 250 steps down from the back door. To work off breakfast and treats, guests borrow the inn’s bikes.

Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Osthoff Resort
101 Osthoff Ave.
Elkhart Lake, WI 53020
(888) 330-5664

From cooking classes to spa services and sports, there is so much to do at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake that guests don’t have to leave the property. But a short walk to town ends in good dining and a short ride out of town leads to Road America car races. That Elkhart Lake has been a vacation destination since the 1880s explains the resort’s old-fashioned look and layout. It appears as if it was built during the gilded age of the 1880s, when visitors arrived at the original Osthoff Hotel for extended stays. But today’s Osthoff was built from scratch as an all-suite resort in the mid-1990s. It was updated and expanded in 2005, and its suites encourage long stays with fireplaces, couches and  balconies. Outside are tennis courts, pools, bike and hike paths, and a slew of water equipment from pontoons, canoes and kayaks to paddle boats, hydro-bikes and fishing boas. Inside is a top French cooking school and award-winning spa. Tip: it’s a good idea to reserve a cooking class spot or spa time when making room reservations. The resort is about 150 miles from Chicago, but worth the 2 1/2 hour drive.

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Jodie Jacobs is a veteran journalist who loves writing about Chicago, art, theater, museums and travel. Her work can be found on