All along the rivers, lakes and other freshwater areas of the world there are islands. Islands don't belong to the ocean exclusively. Some of the most amazing ones are in lakes. Some have lakes on them, with other little islands in them. Island in lake, with lake, with island. Plato's map of Atlantis looked like that. Maybe he was just wrong about it being in the ocean.
"I live in a world of endless possibilities. I love the outdoors and I am led by faith."
In the Great Lakes there are over 35,000 islands. WHAT? It’s true. Not just a fishing story. And that doesn’t include all the rivers that come from the Great Lakes. Thousands more are along the river systems in the US and CANADA. Which means there are probably more islands in fresh water than salt. And they are all amazing. Most are available for visiting.
Thousand Island National Park
Between New York state and Ontario is Lake Ontario. This is home to a place called the Thousand Island National Park. Don’t let the name fool you, there are over 1300 islands here. Settled on the lake and St. Lawrence River basins are a literal ton of islands.
You can fish, sail, snorkel, scuba, or just swim around in the beautiful waters. Also home to some amazing wreck dives. And no it’s not salt water. Scuba can be done in fresh water too.
There’s also a fort from the American revolution on Carleton Island. It dates back to 1779 and you can still visit it today.
Did I mention the castle? That’s right, a castle. One heart island you’ll find Boldt Castle. Built in 1900 by Charles C. Boldt as a summer home for his wife Louise. Unfortunately she passed just before it was completed. It sat untouched for nearly 70 years. Bow it’s been finished and refurbished and is open as a hotel. Great for weddings and other formal event, or get a room and just visit.
Is your mind blown yet? Mine was doing research for this article.
Michigan has more coastal miles than any other state except Alaska. It’s surrounded by 4 out of 5 of the Great Lakes. So If you want to explore the Great Lakes this might be a good place to make a home base.
Lake Michigan has several islands you should definitely take a closer look at. Some of which are inhabited. So it’s easy to find a cabin or hotel to stay at for those who don’t want to “Rough IT.” But they have islands for that too.
North and South Manitou
Sitting off the coast of Leland, Michigan are 2 spectacular examples of why I love the great lakes. When they come in view you see a lighthouse standing guard over a white sandy beach and clear blue waters. No it’s not the Caribbean, it’s just North and South Manitou Islands.
North Manitou has over 15.000 wildlife acres just waiting for you to explore. But it’s a hike. There are no vehicles on the islands. No restaurants either. There is a village where you can get lodgings for the night or two or 3 or. . . .But camping is the major attraction. You can spend all your days. And nights, under heaven's eaves. Camp fires are welcome. Just respect the local regulations on it. These are places that absolutely have to be around for future generations.
Need something a little more civilized try Beaver Island. This little wonderland has a standing population of 200, but during peak seasons this number goes up into the thousands. It has homes, stores, trails, parks, beautiful beaches, and even a small town called St. James. Islanders have a joke “It’s always 3:00 pm on Beaver Island.” The only reason you need to tell time is to make it to the ice cream shop, Daddy Frank’s, before it closes.
You could also go for a day trip from Beaver Island to Garden Island. It’s uninhabited, at least by humans. There are quite a few wild things living there. The cute and cuddly kind. It’s also a great place for a hike. Lots of old trees, like cedar, maple, and apple. Yes there are wild fruit trees on the island.
The least visited National Park in the US is in Lake Superior called Isle Royale. It’s not the least visited because there isn’t anything breathtaking about it. It’s the least accessible of them. A 5 hour ferry ride will get you there. Or sail to it. If you can. You won’t be disappointed. It’s an amazing home to all kinds of wildlife and plant life. There’s also great fishing and snorkeling. You might even get to see a hippo of the north; Moose.
You can go for a hike along the Greenstone Ridge trail. It’s a 45 mile hike around the island. No you don’t have to do this in one day.
There's cabins and Lodges to stay at. You will definitely need a few days to explore this island. And a few more and a few more.
Imagine those scenes of the Lighthouse sitting out watching over a rocky coastline protecting ships and sailors from the shore. Isle Royale has one too. Actually there’s three. Built in the late 1800’s to guide ships and sailors
It’s not called Isle Royale for nothing. It’s a place for Kings of exploration and the outdoors. It’s also the largest island on Lake Superior. The Biggest island on the biggest lake. And it should have one of the biggest slots on your bucket list.
Les Cheneaux Islands
If a resort style vacation is what you had in mind, then Les Cheneaux Islands is the place to go. There are a total of 36 islands in this archipelago and this is one the most interesting places on the Great Lakes to visit. The local history is , well, colorful. Haven Island was used as a stopover spot by bootleggers during prohibition.
They are located only 12 miles off the coast of Michigan. You can get there by boat, car, and there’s an airport located here too. So however you want to get there, you should. There is something here for everyone
- The annual wooden boat show. Started in 1978. It’s the largest wooden boat show in the world. This year will be august 13. Usually has about 150 boats and attracts thousands of people
- Lighthouse Cruise - You can take a ferry ride to see the Les Cheneaux Islands Lighthouse. It’s a 5 hour trip that you can’t miss. It’s narrated by an expert from the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association.
- Designated as one of the last great places by the Nature Conservancy because of its unchanged lands and waters
- Into Golf, there’s a world class golf course too
- Distillery - There’s a distillery where they make their own rum, vodka, gin, and whiskey. It’s all small batch produced just like the craft beers they make too. Yes, there is a tasting room. The bootlegger spirit remains
- 2 Museums - History and maritime. The history museum is a step back in time. The building itself is a shotgun shack and a log cabin made into one building. The maritime Museum has historical boat memorabilia from the area's rich nautical history. Both are worth seeing
- Winter Fun - Snowmobiling and skiing are available here all winter. The fun lasts all year here
- Take a guided kayak trip. Woods and Waters Eco tours will guide you through the islands on a kayak tour ranging from 4 hours to overnight. Woods and Water Ecotours
- Boat Building School - One of the few places in the world where you can learn the traditional method of boat building. In this one of a kind 5 ½ day school you’ll learn to build kayaks. Dinghies, paddleboards, and canoes. Along with some other traditional watercraft. Book in advance Great Lakes Boat Building School
- Lots of shops and boutiques. Items made by local artists and craftsmen are sold in the charming little shops on the islands
- Camping - If you want that under Heavens Eaves experience then Government Island is the only public land in the islands. Leave No Trace wilderness camping is here.
These are just some of the reasons to visit Les Cheneaux Islands. If you can find any other reason to go anywhere else, you might want to make sure it's not here first. Chances are it is. From large hotels and resort style accommodations to camping and outdoors. These should be on everyone's bucket list. Just ask a Michigander.
The southernmost point of Canada is Pelee Island. Keep going further south on Lake Eerie and you'll hit Ohio. Whichever way you come you’ll enjoy these lovely eight islands.
Pelee is actually a township on the largest island. Also called Pelee and is quite a charming little community. The standing population is 300 during peak season this might swell to 1500. Quaint and charming, from vineyards to marinas you’ll love your stay. Check with the local tourism office before you make your reservations. There’s a lot going on on these islands
- Hunting - Pheasant hunts start in late October and last 3 days. Get there a day early to settle in. Rabbit hunts start in November. Both end in March but Turkey season starts in April.
- Fishing - There are a ton of charters to book for fishing around the islands or to other parts of the lake
- Camping - Plenty of natural wilds available for camping and hiking East Park Campground
- Pelee ArtWorks - A unique art shop that has works from the island resident artisans and from the local areas peleeartworks.com
- www.peleeislandadventures.com - check with these people to schedule your adventure. They are experts of the islands and can help you get the most out of your stay
- Winery - Pelee Island has a wine making history going back over 170 years. There’s more than 700 acres of rich farmland growing grapes. For WINE! You can take a tour of the winery and get a tasting of the award winning wines they make here.
This is just a fraction of the islands in the Great Lakes. It would take a lifetime to explore them all, and it would be a wonderful life. With so many different varieties of trips and communities to visit, any one will feel welcome.
And these are just the Great :Lakes Islands. I didn't even get to the river system islands coming from them, and the other river systems in North America. I got caught up by the magic of the Great Lakes Islands. I’m sure you will too. Call ahead and book your stay, whatever kind of stay you're looking for. Winery and lazy summer, Kayaking and outdoor adventure, or just sitting on beautiful white sandy beach with a lighthouse in the background you can find it on The Great Lakes. Places where people know what life is for and live it with grace and amazing locations. Luckily, the door is open for the rest of us.