Kalkaska County housing options are wide and varied. Kalkaska County is a visually captivating place and quintessentially Up North: undulating hills and valleys, high ridges with breathtaking views, lakes, rivers, marshes and streams that run cold and clear. It’s also smack in the middle of Michigan’s snowbelt, with an annual average of 126 inches of lake effect snow that has made it hallowed ground for snowmobilers and anyone else who loves beautiful, real winters.

Nearly half of Kalkaska County is state land, which is partly why the region feels so expansive and wild. Folks live here to be close to that action, and to stretch out a bit themselves. As such, this is the place to be if you’re looking for some space to call your own but don’t want to be too far from, say, a grocery store or hardware store or pizza joint.

Take the village of Kalkaska, for example. With just over 2,000 year-round residents, it’s the county’s biggest town, and has all the necessities and then some. It’s also just a half-hour drive from Traverse City and all the amenities there, including a sizeable airport, an award-winning hospital, a community college, and much more. But because of Kalkaska’s size and the area’s rural nature, you can have the best of both worlds: wide-open space without giving up access to the benefits of a bigger community. “Most of the people here want to live on some acreage, but we still have the convenience of downtown” says Chad Anderson, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Schmidt in Kalkaska.

Beyond downtown Kalkaska, the county opens up into a gorgeous patchwork of lakes, rivers, farmland and forest, with townships where the populations range from a few hundred to about 2,000. The Manistee, the Boardman and the Rapid rivers all meander through the county, making it a big draw for paddlers and anglers (the Manistee and Boardman are renowned trout streams). In fact, the rivers are such a big draw that some area real estate agents even specialize exclusively in riverfront property. But lake life is also a big part of the culture here, and there are more than 80 lakes in the county, including popular Bear Lake, Twin Lake and Blue Lake, and portions of Lake Skegemog and Torch Lake. Anderson estimates that as many as half if not more of the residences on the majority of the county’s lakes are strictly vacation properties, meaning in the off-season that water feels gloriously yours.

Even with so much of the county forested or marshland, agriculture is an important part of the economy here, and there is land to be found for people looking to start up small farms or have space for giant gardens—which Anderson says he’s seen slowly catching on, paralleling trends in other parts of rural Northwest Michigan.

The average home sale price in Kalkaska County in 2014 was about $90,000, Anderson says. Housing stock runs the gamut in style and size, with plenty of vacant parcels available for those looking to build.

Anderson has lived in Kalkaska for 12 years and says the location lets him have a foot in both worlds—being close to the outdoors but not far from larger communities. “I like the recreational aspect; the amount of state land is amazing,” he says. “But the biggest plus about Kalkaska is we’re 30 minutes from Traverse, we’re 30 minutes from Cadillac, we’re 30 minutes from Gaylord, we’re 30 minutes from Grayling. And it’s affordable living.”

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowksi