Want an Airbnb Experience Only More Secluded? Try a Michigan State Parks Lodge Rental!

I hear that renting rooms and whole homes using Airbnb is quite popular these days. Though to be honest, it’s not something I’ve ever done – yet.

What my husband and I have done quite a lot is stay in the different types of lodging at the state parks in Michigan over the past 20 years or so. Whether it’s a rustic cabin with wood or propane heat, a mini cabin with electricity and electric heat, a yurt, a “camper cabin” with two bedrooms, electricity and heat – or a fully modern cabin with a wet bar, full bathroom with shower? Yup, we’ve rented it!

Rustic cabin we rented on a trip to the Porcupine Mountains (called “The Porkies” to most Michigan folks) in 2012. We had to haul in our drinking water from Lake Superior and boil it – or filter it. This cabin – and several others in the Porkies – are only accessible by foot.

Recently we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary a bit early and decided we didn’t want it to be a “rustic” experience. We wanted to be able to leave our camp stove, sleeping bags/pads and even the cookware/utensils at home for this trip. We answered that desire by taking a trip to Cheboygan State Park and staying four nights in the rental lodge – which used to be a home provided by the state for a park ranger and his or her family. With the pandemic still being somewhat of a threat, we were seeking isolation, solitude, privacy and access to nature – without having to travel too far by car to get there. Our trip was about four hours one way.

The verdict? That is exactly what we got! For inquiring minds, I think we paid about $160 per night.

Front view of lodge at Cheboygan State Park. You’ll need to call the state park at 231-627-2811 to rent this. Please note dogs are not allowed in this particular rental lodge and there may be nightly minimums for your stay.

The lodge we rented was a standard ranch-style home with a two-car garage (which we did not have access to from the outside), full kitchen, living room, full bathroom and three bedrooms. Out back is a fully accessible ramp leading to a deck with patio furniture, which leads to the home’s only “accessible” entrance.

Rear view of lodge with accessible entrance. Elliot Creek is just steps away and is a popular spot for fly fishing (two rods/reels were provided in the cabin).

Outside – next to the garage – is a fire pit. We had absolutely no problem finding downed wood to use for kindling!

View of some local craft beer we enjoyed on the trip (sadly the brewery was closed while we were visiting the park). We enjoyed the beer to-go instead!

As for the lodge’s rooms, the living is definitely the shining star. Boasting a wood fireplace, comfy furniture, full view of nature via the front picture windows, and even a small flat screen TV (I think I found four channels on it). I’m pretty sure that the entire book collection owned by the previous resident lines two sets of shelves next to the fireplace.

We used the laptop to watch movies on DVD.

Judging from the subject matter of the books lining the shelves, I would presume this to be a book collection owned by a male (no bodice ripping trashy romance novels were to be seen). What it did have was plenty of Dean Koontz, Tom Clancy, outdoor recreation books, at least one Ian Fleming novel and a book that I shudder to think what it’s actually about called The Fist of God. A cursory Internet search tells me the book is not about the actual fist of God, but about the Iraqi war or something. I got a little excited when I saw a book called One Hit Wonders, but deflated rather quickly when I saw that it was about baseball – and not musical artists who had only one Billboard hit.

Seeing a 1988 World Almanac among the book collection was a clue for the rough timeline this place might have been called home by a park ranger.

It was fun to fantasize a bit about being winter caretakers in such a place. With that kind of book collection, you are not likely to ever lack for something to read! I opted to read my own books during my visit, so I started reading Michigan: A History by Bruce Catton (I’m still working on finishing it).

So what’s to do in the area? If you like hiking, there are miles and miles of trails in the park. If renting the lodge isn’t for you, you can also rent a rustic cabin (three are available for rent, all sit right by the water) or you can stay in the campground and and use a tent or RV – or rent a tipi. We stayed in a rustic cabin at Cheboygan in 2018, and rented the tipi in 2020:

Rental tipi in the campground.

If you decide to just hit the trails, you won’t be sorry! Some of them lead to glorious Lake Huron views:

View of Lake Huron from the Poe Reef rustic rental cabin (which was not occupied when we walked here). Never trespass on another person’s site!

If you don’t mind a walk, the beach overlooking Duncan Bay was only .8 miles away by foot. But strangely it felt like a longer walk than that. Could Google maps and the sign leading up to the road be wrong or are we just getting old? Or was that because nature called while we were on the hike? Note, we stayed in the lodge at a time when most of the other park facilities weren’t quite open, to the road to the beach was gated off and not accessible by car.

We saw this while at the beach…on clear days you can see the Mackinac Bridge from here. The ultimate in “I Spy” Michigan adventures!

Here’s another view of the beach (note this photo was taken in the summer of 2020):

My smile says it all about this beach on a warm summer’s day! We actually took little cat naps in the sand and were serenaded by the waves.

So what else is there to do? Well, we don’t have kids, so I don’t have any hot tips for fun kids’ activities. But some notable spots to check out in the area (and a bit beyond) include the Cheboygan City Marina, various other little spots in town (including an old timey movie theater) Ocqueoc Falls (the only waterfalls in the lower peninsula of Michigan), various other state parks – including Onaway, Aloha, Burt Lake, Young and Hoeft; and of course no trip “Up North” in Michigan is complete unless you see this beauty in Mackinaw City, which is about a half hour away:

The “Big Mac,” known also as the “Mackinac Bridge,” which joins Michigan’s two peninsulas. Can you even imagine having to cross the straits by boat or car ferry like they did in the old days? Or crossing by foot over ice?

If you cross the Mackinac Bridge and are only out for a day jaunt, you simply “must” go to “the” tourist destination in the Upper Peninsula – which is of course Tahquamenon Falls. We were delighted to be there off season – and see the falls in full flow – and not have to strongarm other tourists for ideal photo spots!

Tahquamenon Falls “upper” falls unit (the road to the lower falls was closed off and was a two mile round trip walk so we decided we didn’t have time for that). If you get hungry or thirsty after seeing these falls, there is a brewpub/restaurant on the Upper Falls site next to the parking lot!

After a day of sightseeing and walking around, you probably want to know how the sleeping arrangements were in this lodge. The answer? Glorious! The beds and pillows (bedding is provided) were very comfy. And if sleeping during the day is more your thing, you’d be all set! I’m sure this lodge would be quite popular with the vampire crowds! Those blackout cordless blinds kept out all but the faintest light. It was almost too easy to sleep in. If sleeping in on your days off is your natural tendency but you still want to do some sightseeing, be sure to set an alarm!

Two of the bedrooms had queen bottom bunks with twin top bunks – the third bedroom had a single double bed.

View of two of the bedrooms.

So what about the other rooms? Well, the only other two rooms we had access to were the kitchen/dining room – and bathroom. The bathroom was extra roomy – presumably for handicap accessibility.

The kitchen/dining room:

And the bathroom/shower:

This concludes your virtual tour of the Cheboygan State Park rental lodge! I’d love to show you photos of the laundry room and hall closet, but those doors were locked!

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