A Lake of One's Own: Cabins for Rent

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Family Vacations, Summer 1996

A Lake of One's Own: Cabins for Rent
By Anne Moore

Full-fledged resorts can be a great way to go, but sometimes all you want is the simplicity, privacy, and flexibility of your own housekeeping cabin in the woods. Herewith, some great lakes where you can find your own private hideaway and just kick back.

The Upper Saranac and St. Regis Lakes area
First settled as a tuberculosis treatment center in the late 1800s, Saranac Lake is a low-key Adirondack retreat ringed by cabins and small houses left over from that era.

Cabins range from $700 to $1,500 per week; a typical rental is a four-bedroom lakeside cottage at Upper Saranac Lake that sleeps eight and rents for $1,100 per week, including use of canoes and rowboats. Contact Century 21 Wilkins Agency (518-891-0001); most rentals usually include use of watercraft.

If you want someone else to do the cooking, try Northbrook Lodge, set on a 12-mile peninsula on Osgood Lake in the town of Paul Smiths (518-327-3379). The central lodge is a former Adirondack Great Camp estate; seven cabins big enough for four face the lake. Weekly rates range from $420 to $540 and include meals and use of canoes.

Mountain bikes rent for $15 per day from Barkeater Bicycles in Saranac Lake (800-254-5207), which provides maps. A recommended trail is the 40-mile Bloomingdale Bog Trail, a flat, easy cruise with panoramic views of the Adirondacks.

From the town of Saranac Lake, try the hike to Mount Baker (2,452 foot elevation), a favorite for families because it's not too steep and runs about two hours round-trip. For a more challenging climb, head to Ampersand Mountain (elevation, 3,352 feet), eight miles from Saranac Lake. The 6.5-mile round-trip trail leads to an open, deforested summit with 70-mile views. Get trail maps from the Chamber of Commerce (518-891-1990).

Kids enjoy the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center in Paul Smiths, which houses injured birds of prey such as red-tail hawks, and offers daily guided hikes. The staff naturalist drops in at private beach campfires, offering tips on stargazing.

Guided fishing trips for lake trout, brook trout, and landlocked salmon can be arranged through McDonnell's Adirondack Challenges (518-891-1176) or Middle Earth Expeditions (518-523-9572). Hickok's Boat Livery also rents canoes ($12-$16 per day; $72-$96 per week; 518-891-0480).

Cape Breton Island
Ringed by ocean water, Nova Scotia is nevertheless a land of lakes, where waterfront cottages offer visitors a blissfully quiet vacation. Head straight to Cape Breton Island, a lake- and mountain-filled island off Nova Scotia's eastern coast.

Cottages here book up quickly, so reserve as far in advance as possible. Try Kayak Cape Breton Cottages in West Bay, whose twelve wooded acres house two two-bedroom cedar-log cabins that sleep five and a one-bedroom boathouse, all with fully equipped kitchens and easy access to the gravel beach. Weekly rates run are $360 in June and September, $420 in July and August. Canoes and kayaks (half-day, $20; full-day, $35) as well as mountain bikes ($10 per day) are available (902-535-3060).

The Dundee Resort (902-345-2649) rents out 38 one- and two-bedroom cottages overlooking Bras d'Or; they have complete kitchens, decks, and barbecue units (one-bedroom cottages, $110 per night, $700 per week; two-bedroom units, $125 per night, $700 per week). They also have a tennis court and swimming pools.

To rent a private home, check the want ads in the Halifax newspapers, the Chronicle Herald/Mail Star (902-426-2811) or the Daily News (902-468-1222). Rates are comparable to commercial cottage rentals.
Hike or bike the 185-mile Cabot Trail, where you'll see bald eagles and pods of whales offshore. Cape Breton Highlands National Park has 27 trails into wilderness areas of tundra and bogs. Island Eco-Adventures (800-707-5512) rents mountain bikes ($25 per day) and will deliver them to your door, as well as canoes ($25 per day). The Outdoor Store (902-295-2576) rents kayaks ($9 per hour, $39 per day) and offers guided tours.

Washington Island, Wisconsin
Among the lakefront communities that line Lake Michigan, Washington Island, Wisconsin, with its defiantly laid-back pace and Scandinavian heritage, stands out.

Lakeside cabins and homes rent weekly (two bedrooms, $500; up to five bedrooms, $825, including full kitchen and laundry facilities). Housing styles range from rustic rock and cedar cabins to A-frames. To book one, call Island Realty (414-847-2626).

Gibson's West Harbor Resort (414-847-2225) rents one three-bedroom and four two-bedroom beachfront cottages with kitchens and the use of a canoe ($55-$60 per night; $265-$290 per week).

The island's protected bays make for good sailing, sailboarding, kayaking, and canoeing, but most rental properties do not include watercraft, and watercraft rentals are not state of the art. You'll be better off bringing your own gear.

Sand Dunes Beach is a good stop for small children because of its smooth sand and gradual drop-off. Schoolhouse Beach is the place for teens: It's rocky, but the quick drop makes it a natural spot for boating.

Washington Island, heavily wooded with birch and evergreens, has more gentle terrain, ideal for bike touring with younger children in tow. Rentals are $12 per day at the ferry landing, but again, don't expect state of the art: they're single-speed Schwinns.

Copyright 1996, Outside magazine

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