Catching Fireflies

The inviting character of “right-sized” cottages continues to provide a homespun escape. // Photography Courtesy of Jean McDonnell
Cottage 12 at Firefly Resort

From as close as Chicago and far away as California, visitors who stay in Cottage 12 at Firefly Resort leave a lasting impression on Bonnie Ashford, who owns this unique piece of the 18-unit, retro vacation haven.

“It’s so much fun to read comments in the log book describing adventures,” she says, citing notes left about days on the beach and nights ’round the fire pit among regional activities including hunting for antiques, horseback riding, golfing, dining out and year-round festivals.

Situated along Lake Michigan on Lakeshore Road in Union Pier, Firefly Resort was first established in the 1930s as a place for city dwellers to escape. Today, each of the one- and two-bedroom cottages are independently owned and furnished and rented out when not in use through an owners’ association that formed in 2000.

“What I love about the Firefly is that it kept its heritage of small, connected cottages,” shares Jean McDonnell, who made Cottage 15 the first privately-owned unit when the once-commercial resort was being converted. “It’s such a unique, kitschy place…like going back in time to the ’60s and ’70s when I was growing up, and families like mine vacationed together.”

Whether it’s for a summer vacation or simple weekend getaway, the Firefly’s communal setting with shared backyard, picnic tables, swings, kids’ fort, fire pit and private beach access makes it especially great for families gathering for reunions, weddings and anniversaries, she adds.

“I’ve had four large reunions with families traveling from California, New York, Ohio and in-between, and many more Chicago friend gatherings over the years I’ve owned here,” notes McDonnell, whose cottage is presently on the market. “My grown nieces and nephews (along with others) have told me those times at the Firefly are some of their best times.”

Learn more at, (Firefly Unit 15) and

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