I came into town for a couple days' bumming around en route to a family get-together, and just winged it on the lodgings. After going in to price some rather seedy chain hotels and motels along I-35 in the direction of West Duluth, I just gave up in disgust, blew past the main part of town, drove up London Road and onto the North Shore, and happened upon North Shore Cottages.
The proprietor ('forgot to ask his name, but a friendly and helpful sort,) took me out to have a look at a couple of units after I'd asked about his least-expensive units - I was trying to keep a semblance of a budget for this trip because I had a lot I wanted to do and see before the week was up. He mentioned he'd been having some wasp problems one of the smallest units and showed me the one he said they'd fixated on for whatever reason, and he wasn't kidding - a dozen wasps were buzzing lazily around the front door and a few had gotten inside the unit. They were oddly disinterested in humans however, so were more of an annoyance than anything else.
Even though I mentioned I'd be happy to share the unit with the insectoid air force, the owner thoughtfully declined and showed me the next one over, number 4 - wasp-free and with a better view of the lake. Both of these were the smallest units, priced at around $60 a night (this was the weekend prior to the Independence Day holiday, so a very good deal,) so I booked Friday and Saturday nights, June 29th and 30th.
The general feel is more or less exactly like a cabin at summer camp - only with carpeting, a fridge, microwave and coffeemaker. I didn't look at any of the bigger units, but from what I experienced, North Shore Cottages are exactly what they say they are and don't pretend to be anything more: Good, clean, comfortable and basic lakeside cabins.
The complex is not house-flipper polished-curb-appeal pristine, but I saw none of the maintenance issues that others mentioned. The room is clean; the mattress basic but comfortable; there's a small desk under the center window; a small flat-screen television with broadcast digital; a small table with the microwave and coffeemaker on it; a no-frills but clean and well-maintained bathroom with a shower stall.
Behind the bathroom door is a gas heating unit, which being late June I had no need to try out. The room could benefit from an inexpensive window A/C unit - there's a standard box fan bravely handling ventilation - but that would likely drive up the electric cost a bit during the summer months. The only other thing that's lacking is some form of Internet service. The owner mentioned they're planning on getting a network set up, but that there are some issues needing to be worked out first.
After a couple minutes' thought that quickly transformed itself into a positive: My stay there turned out to be far more enjoyable and relaxing for the absence of that great time-sucking electronic vortex standing at the ready. Too many people - myself among them - spend too much time with nose buried in communications devices and not enough time enjoying the world around them, I think. It was nice to have nothing to do after dark but dive into a book and catch a classic and supremely cheesy old gothic monster movie, I think "Son of the Second Cousin Twice-Removed of the Mummy" or something. Lots of the bandages and groaning and carrying passed-out girls around, plus a standard-issue torch-wielding mob of angry villagers to show him and his evil henchman what for. Just great stuff.
Unless you're planning on cooking gourmet feasts, the bare-bones fridge / microwave / coffeemaker combination is perfectly adequate and a nice suprise for small cottage-type lodgings. A week later I stayed at the Radisson high rise in Fargo for more than double this rate, and was both amazed and annoyed to find that the rooms there have neither fridge nor microwave - so North Shore Cottages can stick that feather in its cap, righteously. I didn't do any cooking, but the fridge was essential and vastly appreciated, for keeping some basics nice and cold in the balmy summer heat.
The scenic loop of North Shore Drive is perfect for a run or bike ride, and when you're done the shower, though a no-frills stand-up stall, has good water pressure and temperature and is kept flawlessly clean. The location is a ten-minute drive to downtown Duluth and maybe half an hour in the other direction to Two Harbors and Split Rock state park, but has the quiet and serenity of the country. Pretty near ideal, I'd say.
I'll be a repeat customer here when I'm back in the Duluth area, most definitely.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.