Michigan’s Oak Cove Resort emphasizes old-fashioned family time by the lake


LAWRENCE, Michigan – After hopping off the boat screaming for their very first swim in a lake, my daughters and their five cousins ​​started singing for their 70-year-old grandmother to join them in the water. My mother, unable to resist the instant, made a cannonball while wearing all her clothes.

Seeing her revel in this spontaneous moment was the purpose of this family reunion in southwest Michigan. While planning this week-long reunion to celebrate my mom’s big birthday, I had decided to try and relive childhood memories of hanging out in my own grandparents’ lakeside house. .

After researching dozens of resorts online in the Midwest from Minnesota to Missouri, I picked the one that had the right size combination (we wanted something smaller, where we wouldn’t be anonymous guests); the location (it had to be a reasonable driving distance from Chicago, where my brother and his family live); activities (boating, fishing, fire pit and swimming pool were essential); and the food (we didn’t want to have to cook for 18 people at every meal).

The winner, Oak Cove Resort, met all of my criteria. The resort, which serves a maximum of 80 people, is located approximately 2 hours from Chicago and Detroit on beautiful Cora Lake. It specializes in small family gatherings, offers the activities I wanted and more, and offers two meals – breakfast and dinner – per day as part of the all-inclusive room rate.

Getting to Oak Cove is a lot like stepping back in time – a cottage complex from a bygone era. And, in fact, it’s been around for over 100 years. Staff celebrated the resort’s centenary a few years ago by dressing in 1910 attire and posing in front of the historic pavilion. While there is no nightly entertainment and all the booze is BYO, everything from the decor to the vibe does look vintage.

Relaxing at Oak Cove has a magical way of making modern conveniences seem unimportant. While Wi-Fi was plentiful in the resort, we naturally found ourselves turning off our phones, engaging in more conversations, and trying new activities or rediscovering old ones.

It was especially gratifying to see the kids ditch their screens for old-fashioned, low-tech fun. They felt comfortable exploring the 16-acre property freely, without the constant parental supervision they are used to at home.

Shortly after arriving, our daughters and their cousins ​​started catching minnows, frogs and fireflies, getting out of paddle boats and canoes, and fishing off the dock with a worm and float.

My dad brought a dozen cane stems, tied in a line, and it was chaos when seven people at a time had a 3 inch crappie on their hook. He also had great fun giving his 18 year old granddaughter a sailing lesson on a Sunfish.

It was also cool to see my daughters gain confidence on the stand-up paddleboard and kayaks all week long, venturing out into the middle of the lake on their own.

Obviously, the scenic 300-acre Cora Lake is the resort’s star attraction. Its clean, warm water makes it super swimmable – and easy to spot fish and turtles.

While all non-motorized watercraft are included in the room rate, we also rented a pontoon boat for the week (around $ 300 per day including gas and delivery from Lake Effect PowerSports in Benton Harbor – lepowersports.com.) on a tube, visited and fished the lake and indulged in nightly sunset cruises.

In addition to the lake, there is a huge field with equipment for all kinds of games: softball, volleyball, shuffleboard, lawn games and more. Everyone also loved the retro ‘Fun House’, with its old pinball games, 1950s jukebox, bar and card table, where we played hearts and spades on our rainy night. . The heated pool was great for my nephew who was a bit reluctant to swim in the lake. And Oak Cove guests enjoy a complimentary round of golf every day at Lake Cora Golf Club, less than one mile away. For a course in the middle of Michigan farmland, my husband was surprised how enjoyable it was. And you can’t beat for free.

The hosts get to know each other in the small dining room at meals and on the sandy beach. Families tend to return year after year during the same week every summer, synchronizing the vacations with the friends they have met there. For some families, Oak Cove is a tradition that goes back four generations. Long-time owner Susan Wojcik says, “Most families live 10 or 15 years until their children grow up, but 10 years later the children come with their new family. How is that fabulous? We love when that happens!

Several of the guests have told me that a big reason they come back is the food. The children take turns ringing the dinner bell, and then everyone gathers in the dining room filled with memories or on the veranda overlooking the lake. The tables are allocated with a name card of each family.

Susan, her husband Bob and their wonderful staff of local teenagers (thanks to Devin and Natalya) cook and serve homemade buffet meals. Susan’s hearty Midwestern recipes include favorites like roast beef, fried chicken, and peanut butter pie for dinner. Breakfasts include blueberry pancakes, fried eggs, cookies and gravy. Each meal benefits from fresh regional products (salads and copious fruits) and a kitsch decor (the salads are served on an antique bed).

One of the ways Bob charms his guests is by memorizing all of their names while he runs the hot food chain. It was amazing to see him put a name with a face just once and then greet each guest by name for the rest of his visit. My dad loved watching Bob remember all the names of his grandchildren so much. “Now, Seamus, how about some more bacon?” Or “Rosie, I like this hat.” Are you going to catch a bass over there today? “

In keeping with the old-school atmosphere of the place, the cottages are far from luxurious. The decades-old eclectic decor adds to its appeal and quirkiness, but visitors should know what to expect before booking – check the website for additional photos of the accommodations. Susan is big on antique knick-knacks and souvenirs, and there is no shortage of lace doilies and vintage sewing machines. She decorated several rooms in the main pavilion with turn-of-the-century wedding dresses and formal wear, which my daughter found interesting and my sister found scary. Susan recognizes that style is not for everyone. “Some people just don’t like antiques,” she says. While we might have preferred a more modern feel, we decided that the other attractions in the resort outweigh the furnishings.

Room options range from small cottages right on the beach to larger homes with kitchens that can accommodate multiple families. The rooms in the main lodge have shared bathrooms.

The town of Lawrence, where Oak Cove is located, is in Michigan’s Paw Paw region, known for its orchards and vineyards. There are antique shops in the area and a large flea market every summer weekend. It is less than an hour from some of the artistic towns, such as Saugatuck and St. Joseph, on Lake Michigan.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Oak Cove on July 4th, plan to join the all-American decorated boat parade around Cora Lake. When we saw the regatta forming, we quickly borrowed a large American flag from the porch, courtesy of Bob, pushed Willie Nelson from our dock’s stereo, and made several laps around the lake, clapping “USA” with the inhabitants.

The parade was followed by an incredible professional-quality fireworks display by the neighboring owners. At the suggestion of Susan and Bob, we pulled into one of the fireworks warehouses just over the Indiana state border and also brought our own to shoot on the beach. Unlike Denver, you won’t find any fireworks restrictions at Cora Lake. It was one of our most memorable July 4th vacation ever.

On the last day, with all the cousins ​​climbing the playground right by the beach in matching Oak Cove t-shirts, there was a universal question, “Can we come back next year?” “

If you are going to

Oak Cove Resort in Lawrence, Michigan 269-674-8228, www.oakcove.com. Email: [email protected] Weekly rates starting at $ 1490, all inclusive per couple. Children are $ 240 to $ 480 per week, depending on age.

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