May 28, 2024
Michigan Cabin

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Owning a Michigan Cabin

It’s definitely a Michigan thing. Owning a Michigan cabin is right up there with graduation from high school. Once you have settled into a career and earned a little extra you head up north and get a little place on the beach or a hunting lodge in the woods. According to the National Association of Home Builders, about 5.5% of all homes are second homes. In Michigan, some northern counties have over 50% of their homesteads designated as secondary. In the 2010 U.S. census, it was reported that Michigan had over 235,000 homes denoted as being secondary. This means the cottage or cabin is usually vacant except for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use.

Owning a Second Home Is Not Like the First

Cabin At Night - Michigan Cabin

Since you’re likely to only be there on the weekends and vacations, you don’t have to keep up pristine appearances. With a rustic cabin or beachside cottage, you’ve got the ability to cut some slack on the cleaning. Old books, fishing reels, a TV from the 1980s or earlier! (with no remote), and ancient appliances can live out the remainder of their useful lives. We have a 40-year fishing boat that also makes it to the beach dock each year. Some of these old boats are great to cruise the Great Lakes

You Can Have a Fire Circle in Your Backyard

Fire Ring - Owning A Cabin In Michigan

Bonfires, a fire pit, a fireplace ring, or even a circle of rocks are all you would like to make an environment for wonderful stories and conversation. People drop in for a beer, or simply for a fast hello. Kids learn to make a fire, roast marshmallows, hot dogs, and popcorn.

It’s an exquisite opportunity to get everyone together. As the evening fades into the night the stories tend to get longer and sometimes louder too.

Don’t Need No Stinking Yard

Beach Cottage

The “lawn” is really a collection of weeds and encroaching wild geraniums. It’s green and you can walk on it without shoes. That qualifies as a success as a lawn on the sandy soil that the old cabin sits on.

We let the old gravel driveway be slowly taken over by grass and other greens. The two tracks leading up to the cottage give it a rustic feel. The only bad part is that sometimes the old lawn mower will find a rock from the old drive…zing.

The Homey Feel of Knotty Pine and the Smell of Quiet

Knotty Pine Cabin

The paneling and cabinets are over 50 years old and the tongue and groove pine board have a rich butter yellow tone from age and years of former owners’ cigarette smoke. We have to be careful not to brighten it up too much else it looks weird.

Likewise, the smell is different too. Coming into the cottage after a long time away is always an interesting experience. Sometimes the smell is benign. Sometimes it’s dusty and sometimes it’s musty. The initial smell goes away quickly has windows are opened or if someone puts a meal on the stove.

The Cabin Pantry – A Food Museum

Food Pantry

If we aren’t diligent about checking out, using, and replacing the canned goods, it can be like entering a time capsule. We have found cans of beans and vegetables in the inner recesses of my parent’s cottage that went back to the early 1980s. The cabin pantry is always a trip back in time.

Now, at the end of each season, we make a donation of our unused canned goods to the Caseville Helping Hands food pantry. Caseville Helping Hands is an excellent thrift store and they host a curbside food pantry each week

New Purpose For the Old Outhouse


There was a time in the 1960s when the old cabins and cottages replaced the outhouses. Septic tanks were installed and along with its indoor plumbing. Some owners must have had a close connection with the old outhouse because rather than tear it down, many of them were converted to storage sheds. A few of the original outhouses can be spotted from time to time.

The Beach Is An Uninvited Guest With The Sandy Feet

Kids On Beach

By late summer the vacuum cleaner has several pounds of beach sand in the bag. Sand is just part of being at the cabin and since it’s dirt or mud that shows up on the floor, no one really minds a bit of sand on the floor. Of course, it’s a different story when you jump into bed with a bit of a sunburn and find the beach sand has followed you in on those rough bed sheets.

Thank Goodness for the Party Store

Party Store

In Michigan, we call any little convenience store that sells beer, wine, booze, and a few groceries a party store. It’s a Godsend especially during the summer when a trip into town is an ordeal. Plus you have to wade through all the tourists. (We don’t consider ourselves one, but some locals may disagree.) The little store is only a short bike ride away and it’s where some of us made our first purchases. It smells like bait, new t-shirts, sweet candy, and newsprint. You could just about find everything you needed for a day at the beach.

Keeping The Trash Panda’s Out of Your Garbage


We have to put our trash into cages in northern Michigan. Critters love the garbage cans. I once heard a horrendous racket outside only to find 3 young raccoons treed next to a dumped-out garbage bin full of a week’s worth of smelly food. Some enterprising souls make and sell small wire mesh enclosures to keep the critters out.

Related Reading For Owning a Michigan Cabin

Steamship City of Detroit III – A Floating Masterpiece

Michigan's Thumb Banner
Avatar Of Michaela Nolte

Michaela Nolte

Michaela is a history buff and loves to export historical markers and old buildings and seeks stories about Michigan and Great Lakes history. When she is not writing, you can find her with a good book sipping wine on the beach.

View all posts by Michaela Nolte →

Discover more from Michigan4You

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading