Next stop on our Northern Michigan Cottages Charm Tour? The adorable, historic, endlessly charming town of Harbor Springs, which is just a short drive around the Little Traverse Bay (on Lake Michigan) from our last stop on the tour, Petoskey. And if you missed all of the charming cottage goodness from that first post in the Northern Michigan Cottages series featuring so many cute cottage abodes it’s almost criminal, have no fear! Just hop on over to that post when you’re done here so you don’t miss out on any of the cottage eye candy action.
Stunning Northern Michigan Cottages in Harbor Springs
Ohhhh, Harbor Springs. What’s not to love?
Cute, historic, colorful cottages line pretty much every street in the village of Harbor Springs and its surrounding neighborhoods, so there’s a lot of cottage design delight to take in while you explore this quaint little town. Though Harbor Springs is just a short drive around the bay from where my family’s home sits on Walloon Lake, I usually only spend a day or two in this town at most every year, and that’s mostly just for a quick shopping trip in the village (which is about as enchanting as it gets) or a meal at the famed Pier restaurant that looks out over the harbor. So it was such a treat to walk around the village with my mom for a day this summer and really get a good long look at all of the adorable cottages that the families who reside there have so lovingly restored and cherished for generations. And what you see here in these snaps is only a small slice of the design magic we saw that day, so if you every have the opportunity to visit Harbor Springs and tool around the village and surrounding streets, there’s a lot more cottage design goodness that awaits.
Harbor Springs is another idyllic Northern Michigan town that serves as a shining example of why this region is such a unique, magical little slice of our country to explore. It’s so quaint, so untouched, so pleasantly and sparklingly old-fashioned, it’s almost hard to believe it’s real. And a big part of that magic is due to the abundance of stunning historic homes that line the streets, many of which have served as family cottages for over a century. Much like Petoskey, its equally charming neighbor across the bay, the inhabitants of Harbor Springs, both permanent residents and summer cottagers alike, have a rich tradition of preserving and masterfully improving upon these homes’ original integrity and adding that quintessential mix of “Up North” personality and practicality that makes you feel like you’re getting a little peek at the heart, soul and story of the family that lives and has lived there when you walk by. It’s the kind of place where as soon as summer hits, the homes that line these streets come alive with activity – where screen doors swinging, waves lapping up on the lakeshore, bicycle bells ringing, kids running and giggling from lawn to lawn, front porch rocking chairs creaking and shaggy dogs shaking dry after a dip create the soundtrack of a town that values its insulation, but welcomes every visitor like a neighbor.
You may remember that in our first stop on the Northern Michigan Cottage Tour I talked about how in the late 1800s visitors from all over the Midwest, by both rail and ship, looking to grab their own little slice of the Northern Michigan cottage lifestyle gave way to the Little Traverse Bay region’s “resortism” economy, an economy built around vacation homes. Several resort communities around the region popped up as a result, including Bay View in Petoskey, Walloon Lake, where my fam resides, Harbor Point and Wequetonsing. And it’s those last two, the historic resort communities of Harbor Point and Wequetonsing, that sit nestled into the heart of Harbor Spring and now serve as shining beacons of Harbor Springs’ claim to cottage charm fame. Interestingly, you can’t really visit the cottage community on the Harbor Point peninsula unless you own a home or are a guest there because it’s a private, gated community with a checkpoint at the entrance that’s manned 24 hours a day, and that’s the way the residents like it. Fair enough! Honestly, I’m kind of into the mystery, ya know? Although, pro tip, The Library of Congress has some super cool photos from the late 1800s and early 1900s of some of the original Harbor Point cottages and the pics are beyond cool!
The Wequestoning or “Weque” association of homes, however, sits right next to downtown Harbor Springs to the east and is easily walkable so we can all enjoy the rows of perfectly preserved and beautifully updated traditional Victorian cottages that have made Harbor Springs such a special place to visit for 140 years. Wequetonsing was originally established in 1877 and comprised of 80 acres of land donated by the citizens of Harbor Springs right on the shore of the bay adjacent to Harbor Springs’ glittering harbor, and if you walk the area today it genuinely feels like you’ve traveled back in time. Enchanting is the only word that feels like it accurately describes the experience of taking Wequestoning in!
As you can see from the snaps, pretty much every cottage you pass in Harbor Springs, Michigan is drenched in the kind of character that makes each home unique and serves as a shining example of why cottage style is just so much darn fun, with so many exciting details to appreciate and explore. Until seeing them so cleverly and adorably executed in Harbor Springs and Petoskey, I had no idea that quite so many styles of siding and shingles existed in the world and absolutely love that the inhabitants of these towns aren’t afraid to play with the abundance of options available. It inspires me to take more risks and let my imagination run wild (well, even wilder) in my design decisions around our own home. I also really love that like so many small, historic coastal towns of its kind, Harbor Springs and especially the Wequetonsing has a rich tradition of naming its cottages to mark the significance of the home in that family’s story and its place in the community, which you can usually see proudly displayed on nameplates on the front of each cottage. I’m now convinced that we all need to name our homes and put our stamp on the places we live, love and make so many memories. Currently ruminating on name ideas for our little abode!
As you can probably tell, where Petoskey serves up a whole lot of Gingerbread quirky-cuteness, the cottages of Harbor Springs, for the most part, lean a little bit more toward traditional Victorian, with a lot of fun surprises and unique cross-pollinations to love sprinkled in. And like I mentioned, there is are so many more cottage design treasures in Harbor Springs than what you see here, so I highly encourage a visit if you get the chance. I’m particularly partial to a fall visit, actually so you can not only enjoy the village of Harbor Springs, the harbor and Wequetonsing, but also head out along the famed Tunnel of Trees to catch the eye-popping show during peak fall color season!