The Loud & Wild History of Port Austin’s Cartwheel Inn

The Fireside Inn near Port Austin, Mi, is our go-to place for large groups of people. With its fantastic pizza and large open space, it’s perfect for a family party. A couple of years ago, I came across these two black and white shots for the Cartwheel Inn outside Port Austin. It’s obviously the same building. While the establishment has expanded, I find it amazing that much of the interior has remained the same.

The Cartwheel Inn was a Social Spot

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The Cart Wheel Inn Near Port Austin

In the 1940s, the Cartwheel played host to graduation, social, and wedding parties. The Port Austin Rotary used the establishment to host events.  After World War II, the Rotarians hosted a party during the 1946-47 year at the Cartwheel Restaurant with NBC radio personality Edgar A. Guest, the featured speaker. 

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There is a postcard from 1962 that shows the Cartwheel Inn almost has it looks today. In the 1970s, local lore tells that the Cartwheel was a gathering spot during the Upper Thumb’s biker days. Top bands from the Detroit area would play the venue. Some of the stories are as rough as the infamous Farmers Daughter at Oak Beach. They still spoke of a wild time.

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Postcard 1962

We found this ad in the back of a booklet for the Centennial Jubilee Book of St. Michael’s Parish in Port Austin, dated from 1969. It indicates Rich Knoblock as the owner.

Cartwheel Inn Ad
Cartwheel Inn Ad – 1969

The Wild 1970s At the Cartwheel Inn

The Cartwheel Inn made a bit of a splash in the news in 1973. In April, “fireworks” erupted at a Port Austin township meeting when the board was asked to reissue a bar’s dance permit. The sheriff had yanked the bar’s permit the prior November. In August, the tavern was sued by 19 nearby landowners claiming the establishment was a nuisance. The group cited blaring bands and public nudity as the primary reason.

The bar played host to many emerging bands in the 1970s. These include The Fadeaways,

Today the establishment still thrives as the Fireside Inn. It’s known for its pizzas and has a great carry-out operation. If you have a memory or story of the Cartwheel Inn please let us know.

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2 thoughts on “The Loud & Wild History of Port Austin’s Cartwheel Inn”

  1. OMG! Been over eighteen years since I’ve been in there…….. am now 71 years old. Parents had a cottage just down the road eight of a mile to the west. Use to go there a lot as a kid to the Cartwheel Inn. then later when parents were older and we use to stay the summer months a lot,,,,,, we’d get the cottage. . Also had many parties there, coming from Bad Axe….. Brings back memories.

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  2. I remember one 4th of July, I think it was back in the late 60’s, there was a tragedy. A lady who had too much to drink, went out and sat down in the middle of the road. It was not long and she was hit and killed. It was more a Bar then restaurant and had a reputation as a ruff spot then.

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