Lake Cottages around Detroit
July 2, 2012 11:07 AM   Subscribe

My wife and kids are flying into Detroit for my grandfathers 90th birthday. They have never experienced Michigan in the summertime. I would like to find a nice lake to rent a house / cottage within a few hours of Detroit. We will only have a few days after the party so recommending Traverse or Ludington is probably not going to work without feeling really rushed. Can anyone recommend a lake / area within a few hours of Detroit where my wife can experience the beauty that is Michigan?
posted by jasondigitized to Travel & Transportation around Detroit, MI (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
About an hour from Detroit, just north of Ann Arbor (things to do there as well)
I believe it will only rent by the week. This is a nice area (I actually live on Portage Lake).

Portage Yacht Club also has a small rental cottage on the same lake.

A three and a half hour drive will get you to Oscoda, Mi on Lake Huron, there are a lot of places along the shore up there.... My favorite is Huron House (but, you'll pay a lot for this one)
posted by HuronBob at 11:28 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Lake Michigan coast is only about 3 hours away. Saugatuck/Douglas and South Haven are beautiful and have plenty of rentals and plenty of summertime tourist feel (restaurants, shopping, beaches, etc.) without being as far of a haul as Traverse City.

Closer yet, but more rural, try the Thumb. Caseville and Port Austin have great beaches and some rental cabins. Keep in mind this isn't an especially "touristy" area, however, so not much to do except enjoy the outdoors (which is great, but maybe not enough, depending on your family).

Or, further up north, the Oscoda, Tawas, or West Branch areas will give you an experience in between, at about 3-3.5 hours from Detroit.
posted by jonathanweber at 11:32 AM on July 2, 2012

I spent a long weekend in the Port Sanilac area and it wasn't too bad. Can't really swim in Lake Huron, though.
posted by downing street memo at 11:40 AM on July 2, 2012

If you want the lakes, you cant go wrong with the west side of the state. Its beautiful and really relaxing.

Otherwise come on out to Ann Arbor. It has a ton of different things going on right now for Summer, and is probably one of my favorite cities.
posted by handbanana at 11:43 AM on July 2, 2012

Honestly, Traverse is only five hours from Detroit, and Ludington is about the same -- half a day there, half a day back. (Much of that depends on traffic, tbh, and exactly where you're starting from.)

If you really don't want to go that far, there are some nice lakes in the Irish Hills (Brooklyn, Onsted); or you could head northeast from Detroit and go into the Thumb. It's been years since I've looked for a cottage up there, though, and I have no idea what the timeframe for reservations is. (This overview website may help.)

If you don't mind going 2-3 hours, you can get all the way to the west coast (Saugatuck, South Haven, Grand Haven); or go farther north into central Michigan (Cadillac, Houghton Lake).
posted by jlkr at 11:46 AM on July 2, 2012

We just stayed in Cassopolis, on Stone Lake, a few weeks ago. Our kids are small, so it was perfect. They just swam, and we pontooned a bit. For more "lake excitement", Diamond lake is much larger, and our kids' older cousins enjoyed water skiing. It was my first trip to Michigan, and I loved it!
posted by katyh at 11:47 AM on July 2, 2012

As a native of the area I second the Traverse City area, in particular Torch Lake in Antrim County and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Leelanau County. It is a five hour drive from Detroit but you won't find a more beautiful place in the state (or the world).
posted by zzazazz at 11:57 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

The west coast (and I think much of the northern east coast) are pretty much foolproof for finding lakefront beauty. If you really don't want to go that far, there are still tons of lakes near Detroit. It's just going to be harder to find peace and tranquility, since these are regular old town lakes, with people living their regular lives all around them.

I found a bunch of lakefront rentals here, but it's much harder to tell if you'll get a real vacation-y feel without going to the coast.
posted by that's how you get ants at 12:17 PM on July 2, 2012

I'll just add that the speed limit on most Michigan interstates is now 70 mph, so "a few hours" gets you across the state easily. My wife and I spent our honeymoon, 17 years ago, in the Traverse Bay area, but the lakeshore between South Haven and Ludington is also lovely, if less dramatic. Hoffmaster State Park, south of Muskegon, has excellent dunes, and it's not far from Grand Rapids (if you're interested in museums, gardens, good restaurants, etc.).
posted by brianogilvie at 1:08 PM on July 2, 2012

Yes Yes Yes to South Haven and Saugatuck. We rented a small lake house there for many summers when I was a kid. Great swimming, cute shops, great ice cream . . . I have such fond summer memories of our time there!
posted by bookmammal at 3:43 PM on July 2, 2012

It's probably better to head a bit north to escape some of the heat, but I have fond memories of visiting family over the summers in Pleasant Lake, Chelsea/Stockbridge (between Ann Arbor and Lansing), and Whitmore Lake (north of Ann Arbor). There are plenty of cool-looking lakehouses on to check out.

I really love Chelsea, it is an adorable little town with some nice restaurants, and the Jiffy Corn Bread factory. :) It's also nearby to a few state recreation areas.
posted by sarahnade at 5:36 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I lived very near Pleasant Lake as a child (I lived a few miles from Unadilla), and have spent a lot of time on Portage Lake when i was older. It's only about an hour or so from Detroit Airport and it's not very touristy, which I count as a bonus. I haven't lived near there in a long time, but I can't imagine it's changed too much, since others have recommended it. It's also very like a LOT cheaper than anything you'd see in Traverse City. BRING YOUR BUG SPRAY!!!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:46 PM on July 2, 2012

I drove from Alpena to Midland a few days ago and saw lots of tourist cabins along the Lake Huron stretch. I also made a day trip to Harbor Beach from Midland (the Murphy house was closed and no one answered the phone) and saw several people swimming in the lake....I didn't see any signs forbidding it.
posted by brujita at 8:33 PM on July 2, 2012

My parents go up to Oscoda/East Tawas all the time and it's beautiful there. (I lived near Traverse City for years - but the drive is a little long)
posted by getawaysticks at 4:41 PM on July 10, 2012

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