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!

Shalee2

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.

Fascinating Facts about Five Michigan Islands

Michigan’s islands are stunningly beautiful and rich with history – from functioning as a lush habitat for endangered wildlife to serving as the former stomping grounds of an American king – each island offers unique qualities and attractions. Here are some interesting facts about the islands that you may not be aware of. 

Curious for more information on Michigan islands? Be sure to check out our pages on Belle Isle and Isle Royale, just to name a few!

Les Cheneaux Islands

  1. “Les Cheneaux” is French for “the channels.”
  2. There are 36 islands that make up the Les Cheneaux Islands.
  3. The Les Chenaux Islands Antique Boat Show and Festival is the world’s largest antique wooden boat show. The next boat show takes place on Saturday, August 8 2015.
  4. You can learn how to build boats at the Great Lakes Boat Building School.
  5. Nicknamed Michigan’s Land of Water.
Les Cheneaux Island

Les Cheneaux Islands – Photo courtesy of Chris Arace

Mackinac Island

  1. Since 1898, motorized vehicles have been prohibited on Mackinac Island- there are more than 500 horses on the island for transportation.
  2. Fort Mackinac is home to the oldest surviving building in Michigan – Officers’ Stone Quarters.
  3. Doud’s Market, America’s oldest family-owned grocery store, has resided on the island for 131 years.
  4. The island’s Grand Hotel has the world’s largest front porch at 660 feet long!
  5. Five U.S. presidents have visited the Grand Hotel including Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Grand Hotel at Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island – Photo Courtesy of Grand Hotel

Beaver Island

  1. This island has a population of 600 people, mostly of Irish descent.
  2. Totaling 56 square miles, it is the largest island in Lake Michigan.
  3. The island is home to the Michigan monkey-flower, a federally-classified endangered species.
  4. Protar’s House, the Marine Museum and the Old Mormon Print Shop museum are major tourist attractions.
  5. The island was the only American territory ruled by a king.
Beaver Island

Beaver Island – Photo courtesy of Chris Arace

Drummond Island

  1. Drummond island is the largest freshwater island in the United States.
  2. The island boasts a population of 1,058 people.
  3. A main attraction is the DeTour Reef Light, an 83-foot tall lighthouse that marks a dangerous reef to help guide ship traffic from and to Lake Huron and Lake Superior through the St. Marys River.
  4. There are more than 13 ecosystems on the island including six forest types, five swamp-marsh types, inland lakes and rivers, and sand dunes.
  5. The island is ideal for bird watching as it is home to a host of avian species including loons, grebes, waterfowls and owls.
Drummond Island

Drummond Island – Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

Manitou Islands

  1. The Manitou islands are surrounded by over 50 known shipwreck sites, dating back to 1835.
  2. North Manitou Island is nearly eight miles long and over four miles wide.
  3. South Manitou Island is three miles wide and three miles long.
  4. North Manitou Island is powered by solar electricity.
  5. The South Manitou Island Light is a popular attraction among tourists. Between 1871 and 1958, ships took refuge here during severe thunderstorms.
Manitou Island Light

South Manitou Island Light, Manitou Islands – Photo courtesy of Michigan Nut Photography

Are you planning any trips to see Michigan islands this summer? Tell us below!

Aerial Assignment: Beaver Island

Photo credit - Kevin J. Miyazaki Kevin Miyazaki, a contributing photographer for Michigan Travel Ideas, shares his experience of shooting Beaver Island Michigan from a two-seater airplane.

I’m a frequent flier for photography assignments, but one thing I’m not accustomed to is chatting with the pilot during flight. Through the use of a headset and microphone, my partner in conversation is Keith Teague, owner of Fresh Air Aviation. Keith makes several trips a day from Charlevoix to Beaver Island in small but comfortable passenger planes. The one we’re in today is much smaller—a two-seater he’s pulled out of the hanger specifically for this occasion.

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