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Five Amazing Great Lakes Islands to Explore

The Great Lakes contain over 35,000 islands, and many of them are uninhabited. However, a select few draw sailors and visitors from all over North America during the brief summer tourist season. Here are five of our favorite islands on the Great Lakes.

Island-Hopping on the Great Lakes

Sailing on Saginaw Bay
Sailing on the Great Lakes

When you think of island- hopping, your mind turns to swaying palm trees, seaside tiki huts, and white-sand beaches. However, with over 35,000 islands, the salt and shark-free Great Lakes have some of the most inviting and unique chances for island exploring anywhere in the world. Some of these magnificent island destinations are only accessible by boat or float plane, while others offer regularly scheduled ferry service. Here are five choice island destinations to explore.

Apostle Islands

Apostle Islands

Apostle IslandsSource: National Park Service

This is a group of 22 islands in Lake Superior, with the largest being Madeline Island. All the islands except for Madeline are part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

The islands are internationally known for their beautiful sea caves that are created when Lake Superior freezes in the winter. Madeline Island is inhabited year-round but is only accessible by boat or plane. It is a camping and hiking paradise and has a golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones.

The Apostle Islands are a well-known sailing and cruising destination in the Great Lakes with many gunk-hole spots to anchor and explore.

Isle Royale

Moose on the Loose

This is Michigan’s only national park, located in northern Lake Superior. It is also the most remote national park in the lower 48! Considered the ideal destination for serious hikers and paddlers, it has established trails, rustic campsites, and shelters.

The two major embarkation points to an Isle Royale adventure are Rock Harbor on the northern end of the island and Windigo on the southern tip. The park has a lodge and cottages at Rock Harbor for those who want to experience the park without camping.

The park is considered the least-visited national park due to its remoteness. Ferry and seaplane service is available from Houghton and Copper Harbor Michigan as well as Grand Portage, Minnesota.

Original Cabins Can Still Be Seen on Isle Royale
If you hike or paddle around the north end of the island, you will see some of the last private cottages still allowed on the island. These have been passed down from generation to generation but are slowly being phased out. Some cabins and boathouses have been left to nature to slowly fade away.

Beaver Island

Iron Ore Bay in southern Beaver Island,
Iron Ore Bay in southern Beaver Island,

The largest island in Lake Michigan, this island has ferry service from Charlevoix so you can bring your car and tour its 55 square miles. Known for its beaches and hiking trails, its remoteness draws those looking for adventure off the beaten path.

Beaver Island was, for a brief time, considered a kingdom of sorts for the Strangite Mormon Church in 1850. The “kingdom” ended in 1856 with the assassination of its leader—John Strang. Today, the island is a year-round tourist and vacationer’s destination. The island also has the nickname “America’s Emerald Isle,” as so many of its full-time residents are of Irish descent.

Charity Island

Charity Island from Space
Charity Island as seen from Space in the Middle of Saginaw Bay Source: Image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Big Charity Island sits in the middle of Saginaw Bay about halfway between Tawas and Caseville. An excellent fishing area, it was known as a resting spot for Native Americans crossing the bay and as a source for chert from which to make arrowheads.

A lighthouse guards the north shore and Explorer Charters offers visitors transport to the island from Caseville during the summer season. Visitors can tour the restored lighthouse and enjoy gourmet dining while watching the sunset over the bay.

Drummond Island

Great Lakes Island Drummond

Area Near Drummond Island –Source: Image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

This is the largest inland island in the United States, and at 249 square miles, there is a lot to do. It’s a true paradise for sportsmen and sailors.

For sailors, this island guards the famous cruising grounds of North Channel. De Tour Village is considered a must-do stop for provisions and fuel before venturing into the wilds of northern Lake Huron.

The biggest draw of this island is sport fishing. Charter captains can take you on the hunt for large lake trout and salmon. The other unique activity is exploring the numerous backwoods trails on ATVs.

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Mike Hardy

Author of a fun loving and event blog covering topics of the Upper Thumb of Michigan , the wind energy capital of the Great Lakes. Offering great trove of information on Wind Energy, Cheeseburger in Caseville, Saginaw Bay, Sailing.

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