A serene view of michigan cottage country with a cozy cabin by the lake

Michigan’s Cottage Country – 11 Charming Places to Play & Discover

Michigan, known for its vast freshwater coastlines and lush landscapes, harbors a beloved retreat known as “Michigan’s Cottage Country.” This term refers to several regions within the state celebrated for their natural beauty and recreational opportunities. Here, city dwellers find solace, and adventurers thrive amid serene views and vibrant local cultures. In this blog post, we’ll explore Michigan’s most picturesque Cottage Country regions, ideal for those looking to escape into nature and enjoy everything from hiking and fishing to local arts and historical sites.

Discover Michigan’s Cottage Country

1. Northern Michigan

Grand traverse bay in northwestern michigan - michigan's cottage country
Grand Traverse Bay in Northwestern Michigan

Michigan’s Primer Tourist Town – Traverse City

Traverse City stands out as a jewel of Northern Michigan with its lush vineyards and extensive cherry orchards. The city, located along Grand Traverse Bay, is famed for its beautiful beaches and a vibrant culinary scene that draws foodies from across the globe. The summer months offer the perfect timing for cherry-picking and wine-tasting tours.

Traverse City’s Unique Feature: The Sleeping Bear Dunes

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of our national treasures just west of Traverse City. These towering dunes rise nearly 450 feet above Lake Michigan and offer breathtaking views and a truly humbling sense of scale. The dunes provide not only a beautiful backdrop for hiking and photography but also a rich habitat for a variety of wildlife.

Renting a Cottage in Traverse City

Traverse City is known for its beautiful scenery and vibrant local food scene. Renting a cottage here can range from $150 to $450 per night during the peak summer months. More significant properties or those with waterfront views can command higher prices, especially around the National Cherry Festival in July.

  • Source: Vrbo, Traverse City Listings

Beaches & Art – Charlevoix and Petoskey Area

Further north, the Charlevoix and Petoskey area showcases unique stone beaches and a thriving local art scene. Visitors can explore galleries or wander through boutique shops in quaint downtown areas. It’s a great place to look for Lake Michigan art. The nearby Little Traverse Wheelway provides ample opportunities for biking along the scenic shoreline.

Charlevoix and Petoskey Unique Feature: Castle Farms

In Charlevoix, Castle Farms offers a unique historical and cultural experience. This beautiful stone castle, built in 1918, features stunning gardens, an impressive model railroad, and a collection of medieval-style towers that seem more at home in Europe than in rural Michigan. It’s a favorite for weddings, events, and tours.

Renting a Cottage in Charlevoix and Petoskey Area

In Charlevoix and Petoskey, where luxury meets natural beauty, prices for cottages can start around $200 per night and go up to $600 or more, with premium prices for waterfront properties or those offering extensive amenities like private beaches or boat docks.

  • Source: Airbnb, Charlevoix and Petoskey Listings

Wine and Beauty – Leelanau Peninsula

Vineyard in Leelanau County, Michigan – by Drewpop

The Leelanau Peninsula is a haven for nature lovers. Known for the iconic Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the area offers some of Michigan’s most stunning views and challenging dune climbs. The peninsula is also dotted with wineries and charming small towns, perfect for leisurely drives and stopping at local farm stands.

Leelanau Peninsula Unique Feature: Fishtown

Michigans cottage country -
Historic Fishtown in Leland

In the heart of the Leelanau Peninsula, the historic fishing village of Fishtown retains an old-time charm that captivates visitors. This living museum features weathered fishing shanties, smokehouses, overhanging docks, and a fleet of fishing boats, some still in use today, making it a picturesque step back in time.

Renting a Cottage in Leelanau Peninsula

The Leelanau Peninsula, a haven for wine lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, sees cottage rentals ranging from $175 to $500 per night. Prices peak during the fall color season and summer months, when the vineyards and beaches are most popular.

2. Upper Peninsula

Minutes From Wilderness – Marquette Area

Marquette combines the allure of a small town with the grandeur of its natural surroundings. Located on the shores of Lake Superior, it’s a hub for outdoor enthusiasts, with activities ranging from mountain biking and skiing to kayaking. Marquette is considered one of the prime spots among the areas identified as Michigan’s Cottage Country. The area also boasts a vibrant local arts scene, making it a cultural and natural gem.

Marquette Area Unique Feature: Presque Isle Park

Presque Isle Park in Marquette is a natural oasis with stunning views of Lake Superior. This park features rugged rocky cliffs, ancient tree stands, and winding trails. Its scenic drive around the island offers numerous spots for picnicking, rock hunting, and sunset watching.

Renting a Cottage in Marquette Area

Marquette offers a more affordable range, with cottages typically costing between $100 and $300 per night. The area’s appeal is its access to extensive outdoor activities rather than upscale amenities.

  • Source: VRBO, Marquette Listings

Beautiful & Remote – Keweenaw Peninsula

For those intrigued by history and untouched landscapes, the Keweenaw Peninsula offers a deep dive into Michigan’s mining heritage, with numerous ghost towns and museums. Its rugged terrain and extensive trails attract hikers and bikers looking for remote adventures away from the bustling tourist paths. 

Some of the Keweenaw is very remote, so finding an off-grid cottage or cabin is not unheard of. The winds of Lake Superior provide an almost constant source of wind energy. 

Keweenaw Peninsula Unique Feature: Quincy Mine

The Keweenaw Peninsula is dotted with remnants of its copper mining past but none so prominent as the Quincy Mine. The mine offers tours deep underground and a museum dedicated to the region’s mining history, providing a fascinating insight into the demanding conditions faced by miners long ago.

Renting a Cottage in Keweenaw Peninsula

The remote Keweenaw Peninsula features rentals that range from rustic cabins at about $90 per night to more modern retreats up to $250 per night, reflecting its more secluded and nature-focused offerings.

3. Western Michigan

Saugatuck postcard - michigans cottage country
Saugatuck Postcard –
See page for author
, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ever Friendly and Welcoming – Saugatuck/Douglas

These twin cities are the artistic heart of Western Michigan, with countless galleries, unique boutiques, and live music venues that encapsulate the local culture’s vibrant spirit. The closeness of Chicago makes this area of Michigan’s Cottage Country high on the list for those from the Windy City. The sandy beaches along Lake Michigan are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and sunset watching.

Saugatuck/Douglas Unique Feature: Oval Beach

Oval Beach in Saugatuck is often rated as one of the top beaches in the United States. Its soft, golden sand and crystal-clear waters make it a perfect spot for sunbathing, swimming, and sunset walks. The surrounding dunes offer scenic overlooks and are popular among photographers and nature lovers.

Renting a Cottage in Saugatuck/Douglas

Saugatuck and Douglas are known for their artsy vibe and beautiful beaches, with cottage rentals typically ranging from $200 to $600 per night during the tourist season. Cottage rentals in lake Michigan are considered prime and cost more. Off-season rates can be significantly lower.

Muskegon on Lake Michigan

Muskegon is rich in history and natural beauty, with several state parks and miles of coastal trails. The city’s historical attractions and annual festivals offer a glimpse into the local heritage, while its waterways provide ample opportunities for boating and fishing.

Muskegon Unique Feature: USS Silversides Submarine Museum

In Muskegon, the USS Silversides Submarine Museum offers a captivating glimpse into World War II history. The museum features a preserved WWII submarine, which visitors can board and explore, providing a vivid sense of life aboard a war-time submarine.

Renting a Cottage in Muskegon

Cottages in Muskegon range from $150 to $400 per night. Rentals in lake michigan beach areas tend to be more. The area’s historical sites and state parks make it an excellent value for those exploring Michigan’s natural and historical treasures.

  • Source: Airbnb, Muskegon Listings

4. Southeastern Michigan

The irish hills towers in lenawee county, michigan.
The Irish Hills Towers in Lenawee County, Michigan.

The First Michigan’s Cottage County – Irish Hills

Irish Hills in Michigan is considered part of Michigan’s Cottage Country due to its picturesque landscape, numerous lakes, and a rich history of serving as a vacation destination. Irish Hills is named for its rolling hills and beautiful natural scenery, reminiscent of Ireland. This area is characterized by lush greenery and small, sparkling lakes, making it an appealing destination for those seeking a peaceful nature retreat. The area has over 50 small lakes, providing ample water sports, fishing, and boating opportunities—classic activities enjoyed in cottage settings. These lakes are central to the region’s appeal as a getaway destination.

Irish Hills has a long history as a vacation spot, dating back to the early 20th century when it became popular for its rural charm and accessible lakefronts. The area was developed with summer cottages, and many families have been returning for generations.

Attractions and Leisure: Beyond its natural appeal, Irish Hills offers various attractions such as antique shops, golf courses, and parks. It also hosts events and festivals that draw visitors looking for relaxation and entertainment, similar to other cottage country locales.

Famous Devil’s Lake

Yes, Devil’s Lake is indeed part of the Irish Hills area. It is one of the region’s largest and most popular lakes, known for its clear, blue waters and lively lake community. The lake enhances the region’s status as a prime destination for those seeking cottage-style vacations. Properties around Devil’s Lake are highly sought after for seasonal and year-round use, adding to the area’s charm as a quintessential part of Michigan’s Cottage Country.

Irish Hills Unique Feature: Hidden Lake Gardens

Hidden Lake Gardens, managed by Michigan State University, showcases botanical diversity and scenic beauty with its conservatory, greenhouse, and network of trails. It’s a beautiful spot for nature walks, bird watching, and escaping into a peaceful, plant-filled wonderland.

Renting a Cottage in Irish Hills

Cottages in the Irish Hills area are generally available for $125 to $350 per night, with varying costs based on proximity to lakes and local attractions like Michigan International Speedway.

Ann Arbor & Chelsea Is Close To Everything

While not traditionally nestled within the areas most commonly referred to as Michigan’s “Cottage Country,” Ann Arbor and Chelsea possess unique characteristics that can align them with the cottage lifestyle, particularly in their surrounding rural areas. Ann Arbor and Chelsea are close to numerous lakes, parks, and natural preserves. For instance, the Pinckney and Waterloo Recreation Areas near Chelsea offer extensive trails, camping sites, and lakes typical of Michigan’s Cottage Country settings.

Ann Arbor Surroundings Unique Feature: Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

The Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor offer a stunning array of botanical collections and natural landscapes. These sprawling gardens provide a serene environment to explore plant life from around the globe and enjoy the changing seasons.

Renting a Cottage in Ann Arbor Surroundings

Around Ann Arbor, cottage prices can range from $150 to $450 per night, particularly for properties on the outskirts of the city that offer more space and privacy.

  • Source: Airbnb, Ann Arbor Area Listings

5. The Thumb

Caseville united methodist
Caseville United Methodist

Caseville and Port Austin At the Tip of the Thumb

Known for their sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, Caseville and Port Austin are favorites among beachgoers and water sports enthusiasts. The annual Cheeseburger in Caseville festival, with its tropical themes and lively music, brings a unique flair to the area.

Caseville and Port Austin Unique Feature: Turnip Rock

One of Lake Huron’s most photographed features, Turnip Rock, is accessible only by water. This small geological formation features a unique, turnip-shaped rock that water has eroded over thousands of years. It is one of Michigan’s Cottage Country destinations for kayakers looking for a spectacular photo opportunity.

Renting a Cottage in Caseville and Port Austin

In Caseville and Port Austin, cottage rentals typically range from $100 to $300 per night. The region is known for its sandy beaches and the famous Cheeseburger Festival, which can cause a price spike.

  • Source: VRBO, Caseville, and Port Austin Listings

The Shores of Lexington on Lake Huron

Lexington general store
Lexington General Store

With its cozy village atmosphere and slower pace of life, Lexington is ideal for those looking to unwind. The community’s friendly vibe and scenic beauty make it a charming destination for a relaxing weekend away. Lexington is called “First Resort North,” which originates from its location and history. Located roughly 80 miles north of Detroit, Lexington is the first notable resort town visitors encounter as they travel northward along the Lake Huron shoreline. Its closeness to bigger cities, picturesque beaches, peaceful harbor, and delightful local community have made it a popular getaway destination for urban residents looking for rest and leisure.

Lexington Unique Feature: Lexington Harbor

A key feature of Lexington is its charming harbor, which draws boaters and visitors looking to relax by the waterfront. The harbor is a focal point for community activities and provides easy access to Lake Huron for fishing and sailing.

Renting a Cottage in Lexington

Among all the areas in Michigan’s Cottage Country, Lexington offers a quieter retreat. Cottage rentals generally range from $120 to $300 per night, providing a cost-effective option for those seeking a peaceful getaway.

Source: Lexington Chamber of Commerce Accommodations

FAQs About Michigan’s Cottage Country

What is Michigan Cottage Country?

Michigan Cottage Country refers to areas in Michigan known for their scenic beauty, perfect for vacation rentals like cottages and cabins.

How much does it cost to rent a cottage in Michigan Cottage Country?

Rental costs vary by location but typically range from $100 to $600 per night, depending on the amenities and season.

What are the best activities to enjoy in Michigan Cottage Country?

Popular activities include hiking, boating, fishing, visiting historical sites, and enjoying local arts and culture.

Discover Michigan’s Cottage Country Yourself

Each region in Michigan’s Cottage Country offers its unique blend of nature, culture, and history, making it perfect for relaxation and adventure. From Traverse City’s vineyards to Lexington’s historical sites, these diverse landscapes offer something for everyone.

Call to Action

Ready to explore the serene beauty of Michigan’s Cottage Country? Start planning your trip with the help of local resources and websites that can guide you in booking accommodations. Don’t forget to share your experiences and photos from your visits to these idyllic regions, inspiring others to discover the charm of Michigan’s most scenic spots!

Michael Hardy

Michael is a travel writer and local historian. His work can be found on a number of websites and print publications.

View all posts by Michael Hardy →

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