A secluded cabin without the commute.
That’s what Ann Behning and her late husband were seeking after they moved to Minnesota from Washington, D.C. “We wanted a cabin but we didn’t want to drive,” she said.
They found what they were looking for on Big Island.
The cabin was small — 720 square feet — not winterized and accessible only by boat. But it was set on 100 feet of sandy-bottom Lake Minnetonka lakeshore, tantalizingly close to their year-round home in Bloomington.
“It’s a fun place to go, and so convenient,” Behning said of their in-town cabin. “You feel like you’re in northern Minnesota. You don’t know you’re in the city.”
For more than 20 years, Behning has enjoyed hosting children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren at her Big Island retreat, which is now for sale, listed at $475,000.
Yes, “it’s crazy on the Fourth of July,” she said, when a flotilla of boaters turn part of the shoreline into one giant floating party. But most of the time, it’s quiet and peaceful on the island. Nearby is Big Island Nature Park, a 56-acre preserve operated by the city of Orono on what was formerly a veterans camp, and before that, a turn-of-the-century amusement park.
“It’s like Narnia out here, with all the wildlife,” said listing agent Alex Dzurik, Dzurik Property Twins. “Super-enchanting, and a whole different lifestyle.”
Island dwellers are “a different breed,” said Behning. “I’ve met some wonderful people — casual, everyday people.”
There are about 60 homes and cabins on Big Island, and only 40-some with direct lake access, according to Dzurik. Big Island properties seldom hit the market.
“It’s super-rare,” he said. “Families keep these so long they rarely become available. They don’t turn over at all.”
And unlike the main lake, where even teardowns sometimes sell for millions of dollars, Big Island remains a relatively low-cost way to score property on Minnesota’s most popular and priciest lake.
“Big Island is some of the most affordable lakeshore on Minnetonka,” according to Dzurik.
Some of the original cabins have been torn down and replaced by larger homes, but not Behning’s immediate neighbors.
“Nothing close to us is a huge house,” she said. “They’re comfortable and cozy — a place to bring family and friends to enjoy the water.”
Behning’s modest two-bedroom cabin, set on ¼ acre, was built in the 1960s. But she said they’ve “done a lot of fixing,” including installing wood floors, replacing windows, adding a sliding door to the big deck on the lake side, remodeling one bathroom and adding a second one. The shoreline has been professionally rip-rapped, and there are two sheds on the property.
The cabin has plumbing and electricity but no Wi-Fi, offering an unplugged getaway experience. “It’s wonderful,” Behning said.
Behning knows there’s a good chance the next owner will tear down her little cabin and build a much larger home, but she hopes someone will enjoy it for what it is — or at least not build a “mega house.”
“It’s sturdy and well built and move-in ready,” she said. “I’m selling with mixed emotions. But I’m 80. It’s time to sell.”
Alex and Ben Dzurik, 612-751-9046, Dzurik Property Twins, Keller Williams Realty, have the listing.