Michigan Islands: What are some of the most popular?
| 4 min read
We all know that Michigan’s most famous island is Mackinac Island. But it’s just one of hundreds along Michigan’s coasts. Michigan has 420 named islands in the Great Lakes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. But many are inhabitable and very small. Some have been used for lighthouses and are important for navigation. Many are recognized as nature preserves. Let’s look at some of the better-known islands.
Mackinac Island. The state's most visited and beloved island sits in the Straits of Mackinac between the Lower and Upper Peninsulas in Lake Huron. What makes a visit special is that it feels like traveling back in time to a classic, nostalgic experience, with its Victorian homes and horse-drawn carriages. You can even explore the island’s past at Fort Mackinac, an 1800s military outpost that features reenactment demonstrations and exhibits.
North and South Manitou. These sibling islands are steeped in Native American folklore, as depicted in the classic children’s book “The Legend of Sleeping Bear Dunes.” These uninhabited islands are part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. They attract day hikers or campers who reach them by ferry service from Leland.
Drummond Island. This island is home to Michigan’s largest closed loop off-road trail system, with over 60 miles of ATV trails and 40 miles of ORV routes. It’s located just east of the Upper Peninsula in northern Lake Huron, requiring a ferry from the village of DeTour.
Bois Blanc. This island feels desolate compared to its neighbor Mackinac Island. You can visit the old Coast Guard chapel or the Bois Blanc lighthouse. Venture in and through the village of Pointe Aux Pins and see the active schoolhouse, church, historical museum, a little post office and the older homes. The only way to get to the island is by the Plaunt Transportation ferry, which leaves from Cheboygan daily.
Isle Royale. Located in Lake Superior, this is one of Michigan’s five national parks, drawing about 17,000 visitors annually. Isle Royale is one of the least-visited national parks in the country, but is known as a destination for hiking and biking, water sports and camping. It has diverse wildlife. But it’s a trek to get to the island. A five-hour boat ride from the Upper Peninsula is the most common way to get there.
Les Cheneaux Islands. This archipelago consists of 36 small islands, mostly small and unpopulated, along 12 miles of Lake Huron shoreline on the southeastern tip of the Upper Peninsula, about 30 miles northeast of the Mackinac Bridge. The name Les Cheneaux is French in origin, meaning "the channels." Its sheltered bays, channels and quiet coves are a haven for boats, protecting them from the winds.
Beaver Island. This island in Lake Michigan is about 55 square miles, making it the largest island in Lake Michigan and the third-largest island in Michigan, after Isle Royale and Drummond Island. It’s home to a few hundred year-around residents. It sits about 30 miles from Charlevoix, where you can catch a ferry to the island.
Belle Isle. Located on the Detroit River, this 985-acre island is home to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory and the Belle Isle Aquarium. From the southern shore, you can take in a view of Detroit’s skyline.
Grand Island. Located off Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, this island draws people year-round, from summer cottagers to winter adventurers who explore the ice caves lining the shore. You can take a ferry from Munising.
Grosse Ile. This island is located where the Detroit River meets Lake Erie and is the largest of several islands known as Grosse Ile Township. Its name, given by French explorers in 1679, means "big island.” It went under British rule after 1763 but was not settled by European Americans until after the United States achieved independence in the Revolutionary War. Now, it’s known for bike and nature trails as well as seasonal events hosted by the island’s local community.
Harsens Island. Located in the St. Clair River delta about an hour from Detroit, this island is known for fishing, wildlife, beaches and small-town charm. It’s roughly 24 square miles, most of which is a state-owned nature preserve, and is accessible by car ferry. The island is surrounded by over 2,100 acres of the largest freshwater delta in the Great Lakes Basin and one of the largest in the world.
Photo credit: Getty Images