A Finnish sauna with a 'Superior' view

A Hancock couple who reopened a cabin resort at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula have added a new amenity: A Finnish sauna.

Superior Steam sits on the same property as Fresh Coast Cabins on Route 26 outside Eagle Harbor. The 27-acre resort features 10 cabins, ranging from the rustic to the renovated. The upper level of the resort’s main building has been refurbished as a modern guest suite, the most luxurious accommodations on the property with expansive windows to view the Northern Lights.

“It was a foregone conclusion that we would add a sauna,” says Lynn Makela, who, along with her husband, Jason Makela, are the proprietors. “My husband is Finnish and grew up with saunas. We had dreamed about it for a long time. We knew it was going to happen.”

The U.P., of course, is rich in sauna culture, home to many Finnish immigrants who continued traditions from their homeland.

“We’re thrilled to offer a Finnish sauna experience highlighting the beauty of Lake Superior,” Lynn Makela says. “Superior Steam focuses on private sauna sessions in a spa-like environment for the ultimate way to relax and rejuvenate using hot and cold therapy. This new amenity is already loved by our cabin guests and we’re excited to offer sessions and events to the public in the days ahead.”

The reopening of the cabin resort and the construction of the sauna are among many improvements being made on the Keweenaw Peninsula that are bolstering the visitor experience. 

“The Keweenaw has benefited from numerous investments in recent years which have created new visitor experiences, recreational amenities, and accommodations. This includes Mount Bohemia’s Nordic Spa expansion and new chair lift, the creation of the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, and the new Hampton Inn & Suites and Keweenaw Waters Resort in Houghton to name a few,” says Brad Barnett, executive director of Visit Keweenaw, the tourism authority for the U.P.'s northernmost peninsula.

“It’s really exciting to share these new additions that bring visitors back to the region and support the local economy.” 
What’s happening: Lynn and Jason Makela have opened Superior Steam on the shores of Lake Superior, adjacent to their other business, Fresh Coast Cabins. The sauna sits on the far corner of the property, isolated from the cabins.  The structure includes an 8-foot-by-10-foot sauna, changing room and entryway. The sauna has capacity for four people. 

What Superior Steam offers: The sauna offers private and social seasons. Sauna-goers can expect quality, wood-fired saunas with a trained guide who will share the wellness benefits and history of saunas. Because of its location on the peninsula, the shoreline freezes less frequently than other stretches, making it accessible and safe for sauna users who take a cold plunge. 

The health benefits: Saunas offer a range of benefits for both the body and mind. They promote relaxation, relieve stress, and help to soothe tired muscles and joints. Saunas can also improve circulation, enhance cardiovascular health, and contribute to detoxification by inducing sweating. Some find that sauna sessions provide a sense of mental clarity, rejuvenation, and overall well-being. 

History saunas in the U.P.: The sauna tradition dates to the area's Finnish immigrants, who brought the practice when they arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Finland has a deep sauna culture, and many Finnish immigrants who came to Michigan were already well-versed in the art of sauna bathing. They introduced the practice to their new community, and it quickly took root.

The cabins: The couple purchased the cabin resort in 2020. The resort had been up for sale for several years after being in operation for a few decades. Some of the cabins date back to earlier in the 20th century.  The Makelas purchased the cabin resort in 2020 and opened that year, responding to throngs of people who fled cities to be in more open rural areas. Cabin renovations have been ongoing.

The couple lives in Hancock and both attended Michigan Technological University.  Jason is from Marquette originally and Lynn is from Bear Lake in the lower peninsula. They met at the Keweenaw Brewing Company in Houghton.

What’s next: The couple plans to make a short video welcoming guests to the sauna and how to experience an authentic Finnish sauna. “A lot of our guests come from the city – Minneapolis and Chicago – and they haven’t had this kind of sauna experience. We want to share what an authentic sauna is like and how it was practiced by Scandinavian countries,” Lynn Makela says.
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