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!


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.

Cyber Monday Sales can Mean Savings for Pure Michigan Adventures

December is nearly here! The turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving have become sandwiches and shoppers everywhere will soon embark on some holiday shopping via the web. So while you’re ordering that wool sweater, why not take a few moments to gift yourself, or someone you love, with one of the great Michigan travel packages that are available this Cyber Monday and beyond. Here are some locales you may want to visit for a Pure Michigan experience:

Mackinac Island:

Mackinac island

Do you like rugged outdoor activities, beautiful coastal views and an experience from a more innocent time? If so, Mackinac Island is for you.

A favorite summer and fall destination, Mackinac Island offers great water sports, fine dining, luxurious lodging, historical sites and memories that will last a lifetime. Be sure to check out the “monthly specials page” for great rates for the iconic Pure Michigan island.

St. Ignace area:

downtown st ignace

With its breathtaking views and area museums and historic sites, the St. Ignace area is great way to start off an adventure in the Upper Peninsula.

Located just beyond the Mackinac Bridge, St. Ignace and surrounding communities offer signature Michigan experiences like the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and Whitefish Point Lighthouse in Paradise.

Grand Traverse Bay area:

Traverse city skiing

The Grand Traverse Bay area is a favorite spot for day trippers and those looking for more extended stays.

During the winter, you can enjoy the more than 200 miles of some of the finest and most diverse ski and snowmobiling trails in the nation. In the summer, visitors can work on their tan while stretched out on beautiful beach sand or go for a dip in the crisp blue waters of Lake Michigan.

The area is also home to resorts and spas, as well as beautiful parks, museums and entertainment venues for a wide array of activities and attractions.

Great Lakes Bay region:


The Great Lakes Bay region in Michigan is home to several communities with diverse experiences that the entire family can enjoy during and after the holiday season.

From Bay City’s antique shops and views of the Saginaw River to beautiful and picturesque Dow Gardens in Midland, there is no shortage of sites to see and activities to do.

The Frankenmuth area is a particular favorite during the holiday season. Go shopping at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland or get splashed at Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel & Indoor Water Park, a 30,000 square foot indoor waterpark.

For more ideas or information about travel packages and deals in Michigan, click here.

Try to Pronounce the Names of These 12 Michigan Destinations (#7 is a Tongue Twister!)

Have you ever wondered how Michigan was named Michigan? Before colonization, the now Great Lakes State was home to at least eight Native American tribes throughout the land, one of which being the Ojibwe Indians. The Ojibwe were the first people to openly interact with the French in Michigan, trading furs and knowledge of the area for guns and goods. Through translation, the state of Michigan was named after the Ojibwe Indian word “Michigama,” which means “great lake” or “land surrounded by water.”

With this in mind, we invite you to take a look at some other uniquely-named destinations found across the Great Lakes State.


1. Mackinac Island. This is an easy one. If you’re a native Michigander, you know that this popular Northern Michigan destination is correctly pronounced “Mackinaw Island”. Tourists have visited Mackinac Island in the summers to escape the heat of the cities for hundreds of years. Condé Nast Traveler magazine added Mackinac Island to its “World’s Best” list as one of the top 10 islands in the world. In December 2007 National Geographic Traveler magazine named Mackinac Island as the top island destination in the United States and 8th in the world. Don’t forget the fudge!

2. Tahquamenon. One of Michigan’s most popular waterfalls, Tahquamenon Falls, can be found in the Upper Peninsula in appropriately named Paradise, MI. If you’ve ever wondered how to correctly pronounce the falls, it rhymes with “phenomenon.”

3. Ypsilanti. Ip-sill-ann-tee, or Ypsi to those who know it well, is located just down the road from Ann Arbor. Home to Eastern Michigan University, the city was originally a trading post set up in 1809 and called Woodruff’s Grove after Major Thomas Woodruff. The name was later changed to Ypsilanti in 1829 in honor of Demetrius Ypsilanti. Ypsilanti was a hero in the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire.

4. Menominee.  Menominee (Men-om-in-e) is located at the gateway between the Upper Peninsula and Northeastern Wisconsin. This Pure Michigan destination gets its name from a regional Native American tribe known as the Menominee, which translates into “Wild Rice.” The area was originally the home of the Menominee Indian Tribe, who now have a reservation along Wolf River in Northern Wisconsin. Visitors can enjoy hunting, fishing, camping, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, hiking and much more.


 5. Sault Ste. Marie. The Soo! If you’ve traveled north of the Mackinac Bridge, you’ve probably passed through the town of Soo-Saynt-Ma-Ree. The Soo is home to many Michigan treasures, such as the Soo Locks and Lake Superior State University. If you do venture north, you’ll discover the rushing waterfalls that give way to majestic forests, rocky coastlines leading to picturesque lighthouses and engineering feats of man stand side-by-side with small fishing skiffs and buckets of bait.

 6. Hamtramck. Hamtramck (Ham-tram-ick) grew into a Polish enclave between 1910 and 1920 when large number of Polish laborers arrived seeking employment. Today, Hamtramck includes many different ethnic groups, but maintains its Polish identify as can be found in the shops, restaurants and bakeries in the area with a pierogi and a paczki.


 7. Kitch-iti-kipi. Pronounced Kitch-i-tee-ki-pee (say that five times fast!) is another U.P. gem located in scenic Palms Book State Park. Known as “The Big Spring”, Michigan’s largest freshwater spring is two hundred feet across and 40 feet deep. Over 10,000 gallons a minute gush from fissures in the underlying limestone as the flow continues throughout the year at a constant 45 degree Fahrenheit. By means of a self-operated observation raft, visitors are guided to vantage points overlooking fascinating underwater features and fantasies.

8. Dowagiac. The Grand Old City of southwestern Michigan. Dowagiac, pronounced doe-wah-jack, is nestled within the Fruit Belt, the city is surrounded by rolling farmlands and abundant orchards.  Enjoy fishing, canoeing, boating, water skiing and ice fishing.  Be sure to tour the historic train depot, too

9. Charlotte. If you’ve been pronouncing Charlotte like the city in North Carolina, guess again! Shar-lot (Not Char-lit) is located southwest of Lansing and home to some of the most beautiful historical buildings in Michigan. Charlotte annually welcomes visitors to experience the Eaton County Fair in mid-July and the pioneer spirit of the ever-popular Frontier Days in early September.

10. Bete Grise. Beet grease, you say? Not quite! Bay-dee-gree can be found southwest of Copper Harbor on Keweenaw County’s south shore. Bete Grise (French for “Grey Beast”) has a beautiful white sand beach as well as a wetland preserve stretching along Lake Superior.

11. Baraga. Bare-uh-gah is named after Bishop Frederick Baraga, located in Baraga County in the Western Upper Peninsula. Check out the statue of Bishop Baraga, which stands 35 feet tall and weighs four tons, holding a cross (7 feet high) and snowshoes (26 feet long.)  It floats on a cloud of stainless steel, supported by five laminated wood beams representing Baraga’s five major missions.


12. Isle Royale. Last but not least, Isle Royal (Not roy-ale!) Wolves and moose, the wild North Woods forest, ever-changing weather and a cool climate, and the crystal clear waters and rugged shoreline of Lake Superior characterize Isle Royale’s National Park.  Roadless Isle Royale is accessible only by boat or float plane.  This is a Pure Michigan destination fit for royalty – if you love the outdoors!

Do you have any Michigan tongue-twisters to add to our list? Tell us below!