Six Must-Visit Islands on Michigan’s Great Lakes

You’ve heard of the incredible beauty and fun of Mackinac Island, but what about some other islands found off the shores of Michigan’s four Great Lakes? Between natural and untouched landscapes to a state park not at all far from bustling Detroit, read more as Shalee Blackmer from The Awesome Mitten shares six island destinations to visit this year in Pure Michigan.

1. North & South Manitou
If you remember reading “The Legend of Sleeping Bear Dunes” as a child, you’ll know these two islands are the heart of Michigan. Sitting off the coast of Leland, they are serene, beautiful, and disconnected. A ferry drops eager adventurers off once a day, and once you have arrived there are no stores or restaurants to fill any needs. In fact, there are only a couple places on each island where campers have access to water. South Manitou is home to a freighter shipwreck, where snorkelers can swim around the structure and have a true Great Lakes adventure.

Photo Courtesy of The Awesome Mitten

The island is also home to some of the biggest and oldest trees in Michigan.The best part about these simple islands is that reality is far off on the horizon, with no way to connect to it. The only reason you’ll ever need a cell phone is for time, which simply fades with every worry.

2. Bois Blanc 

Have you ever heard of this island?  Would you be surprised to learn that it is Mackinac Island’s neighbor? Bois Blanc Island is much bigger than Mackinac Island, and also more desolate. A simple convenience store and old inn are two of the only buildings that stand here. The rest is filled with dense forests and rocky shorelines, beautiful and virtually untouched. The only way to get to the island is through the Plaunt Transportation ferry, which leaves from Cheboygan daily.

3. Isle Royale
Isle Royale is Michigan’s only national park, where roughly 17,000 visitors fall in love with Michigan every year. The small island in the middle of Lake Superior is filled with diverse wildlife and outdoor adventure. And although it is a national park, you won’t find many crowds.

Photo Courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

 Isle Royale is one of the least visited national park in the country, but not for lack of beauty, but lack of accessibility. A five hour boat ride from the Upper Peninsula is the most common way to get to island. Its secluded environment makes it the perfect location for visitors to connect with the beauty around it. So pack up your backpack, lace up your hiking boots, and don’t forget to bring your binoculars.

4. Beaver Island
A couple hundred residents claim Beaver Island as their permanent home, but in the summer thousands flock to the small town of St. James for a one-of-a-kind Michigan vacation. Located some 27 miles off the coast of Charlevoix, the island is home to some of the state’s most beautiful beaches, brilliant stars, and crystal clear waters.  It is the prime vacation for those looking to come back refreshed, relaxed, and rejuvenated. Residents joke that it is always 3:00pm on the island, because the only reason to keep time here is to make sure you get to Daddy Frank’s Ice Cream Shop before it closes.

5. Belle Isle
The beauty of Belle Isle continues to win the hearts of Michiganders around the state. The southern point offers a near-perfect view of the Detroit skyline, where you can often watch freighters slowly venture up the river or sit next to an old fountain to watch the sunset over the city.

The Detroit skyline seen from Belle Isle, Photo Courtesy of The Awesome Mitten

There is never a wrong time to visit Belle Isle. Winter bring ice skating, summer brings picnics, and every day spent here is a day not regretted.

6. Grand Island
Filled with cottages, woods, and ice caves, Grand Island is not to be missed on your next trip to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. In the summer, it is common for the island to be filled with families renting cottages, bon fires & s’mores, and calming waves against pebbled beaches.

Photo Courtesy of The Awesome Mitten

Winter brings daring adventures, where visitors make expeditions crossing a bay in Lake Superior to find ice caves lining the shore. They are majestic and mighty, each glowing with a tint of blue or green.Whether visiting for relaxing or excitement, Grand Island is always a good idea.

What is your favorite island found along Pure Michigan’s coastlines? Share with us below!

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About the author: Shalee Blackmer is a 21 year old college student who grew up in the small town of Mecosta. She currently attends Michigan State University as an advertising student and spends her time exploring the outdoors. Her hobbies include running her own travel blog, which aims to inspire college-age students to see explore on a budget and taking photos to share her story. She enjoys camping, road trips, hiking and cliff jumping and enjoying Pure Michigan beauty.

Celebrate Summer at the Mt. Pleasant Craft Beer Festival

Summer time kicks off in Mt. Pleasant, MI with the 3rd Annual Mt. Pleasant Craft Beer Festival! Hosted in downtown Mt. Pleasant, the craft beer festival brings together thousands of people with one common interest: the love of craft beer.

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The Mt. Pleasant Craft Beer Festival launched in 2014 and became an instant success, yet the idea of the festival was not new to the city of Mt. Pleasant.

“The Mt. Pleasant Jaycees saw an opportunity with the growing craft beer industry and decided to plan an event,” says Brian Wieferich, co-chair of the festival committee, “The Craft Beer Festival is a fun, educational event, and the proceeds raised are poured right back into the community to go toward various charitable causes.”

The festival features craft breweries from all over the state including New Holland Brewing Company, Shorts Brewing Company, and Mt. Pleasant’s local brews such as Mountain Town Brewing Company. Samples will including an array of beers, ciders, meads and wine. “Also this year, we will have four food vendors within the Festival area, so there will be plenty of options for food! We will have a photo booth and various merchandise vendors as well,” says Wieferich.

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The Mt. Pleasant Craft Beer Festival is a fun and safe way to enjoy local craft brews. The festival will be held on June 11th and take place in Jockey Alley parking lot, behind Max & Emily’s Eatery in Downtown Mt. Pleasant. Spend the weekend with beer, live music, food and friends.

Plan your stay at MountPleasantWow.com/Stay.

For more information about the participating breweries, food vendors, or ticket pricing visit mpbeerfest.com.

Roadtripping Along Michigan’s Sunrise Side

Start planning your summer road trip through the Mitten State. Guest blogger Shannon Saksewski from The Awesome Mitten share places to explore along Michigan’s Sunrise Side.

Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer in Michigan. Swimming pools open, barbecues become commonplace, and the weather errs more toward warm than cold. Summer weekends are built for road trips, and there’s plenty to explore in the Mitten. If you’re ready to grab some car snacks, pop in a mix tape (or, well, the modern-day equivalent), here are a few ideas for exploring Michigan’s Sunrise Side, from south to north:

Photo Courtesy of Bruno Vanzieleghem.

Photo Courtesy of Bruno Vanzieleghem.

Detroit

If you haven’t been to Detroit in a while, you should consider making a visit. The city’s experiencing a rebirth. While it’s one thing to read about urban renewal, experiencing changes first-hand is impactful both personally and regionally. When you’re in town, make sure to check out Detroit’s thriving restaurant and bar scenes, incredible opportunities to experience live music and the visual arts, and a season packed with festivals.

Ypsilanti

A college town with a lot to offer both residents and guests, Ypsilanti is one of Southeastern Michigan’s hidden gems. Only 35 miles west of Detroit, and ten miles east of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti’s roots are both academic– it is home to Eastern Michigan University– and working class. These influences form the foundation of a welcoming, entrepreneurial, diverse town. While in town, spend some time at the local museums, grab a mind-blowing meal at Beezy’s or Bona Sera, a beer at the ABC Microbrewery (formerly the Corner Brewery), or a coffee at the Ugly Mug. Not keen on these suggestions? There are plenty more to explore!

Ann Arbor

Photo Courtesy of Bruno Vanzieleghem.

Photo Courtesy of Bruno Vanzieleghem.

If you’re visiting Ypsilanti, it’s likely that you’ll visit Ann Arbor as well (and probably Detroit, too). Regardless of whether you side toward Sparty or the Wolverines, spending a few hours on the University of Michigan’s campus is likely to be rewarding. Take a walk across the Diag on Central Campus, or visit one of the University’s many museums and open spaces.

Off-campus, those who prefer outdoor adventure can rent a kayak or other watercraft along the Huron River, and then picnic at one of the beautiful local parks. If you prefer restaurant dining, or a well-crafted cocktail, spend some time at one (or many) of Ann Arbor’s many restaurants and bars.

Flint

Around 65 miles north of Detroit, Ypsilanti, and Ann Arbor, roadtrippers will find Flint. Many people road trip their way past Flint, (wrongly) assuming that the town, which was built on the back of the challenged automotive industry doesn’t have much to offer explorers. In fact, Flint offers a host of art museums and galleries, a thriving farmers’ market, and an active downtown. Instead of driving past Flint on your way up north, pull off the highway and spend some time getting to know this east side city.

Photo Courtesy of Shannon Saksewski.

Photo Courtesy of Shannon Saksewski.

Bay City

Downtown Bay City, built along the Saginaw River, is simultaneously quaint and stunning. Along the river walk, public art is on view and parks are available for sitting and enjoying the water– all within a couple of blocks of the locally-owned shops and restaurants. From spring through fall, Bay City and other towns in the Great Lakes Bay region host a plethora of festivals to which all are welcome.

Alpena & the Sunrise Coast

For those roadtripping from an area south of Alpena, do yourselves a favor and exit I-75 in Standish. Find your way to Old US-23, and head north until you get to Alpena. You’ll drive along a beautiful coast, through Au Gres, Tawas, Oscoda, and Harrisville (among others), each offering cabins and other lodging on the coast of Lake Huron. Situated on the shores of Thunder Bay, Alpena is a beach-lover’s dream. For those who prefer to explore, there’s plenty to do. Have an interest in nautical history? Spend some time at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and then take a cruise with Alpena Shipwreck Tours.

In addition to these towns, what others on Michigan’s east side do you like to explore? What are your recommendations for a #PureMichigan adventure?

Saksewski_informal_croppedShannon Saksewski is a life-long resident of Michigan. Professionally, she is a healthcare strategist focusing on consumer experience.  She was trained, and has experience in, psychology, social work, and business at the University of Michigan.  Outside of work, she enjoys cooking, traveling, writing, and experimenting with local beer and craft cocktails.  Connect with Shannon on Twitter (@ssaksews), or LinkedIn.