10 Secret Islands in the Great Lakes
Madeline Island, Wisconsin
Apostle Islands Getaway
Paddling, fishing, and hiking top the list of pastimes at Madeline Island, the largest of 22 isles in Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Big Bay State Park wows paddlers with its shoreline caves, a network of brilliant red sandstone grottos that kayakers can explore for hours. An artist enclave occupies the island town of La Pointe, tempting shoppers with Lake Superior-themed watercolors and souvenirs.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Horse-Drawn Carriages and Bicycles
Rent a bicycle or catch a ride on a horse-drawn taxi. Mackinac Island has never taken kindly to motorized vehicles (they’re strictly forbidden) and the residents like it that way. An 8-mile loop around the island takes in Lake Huron’s most stunning vistas, including photo ops at honey-colored Arch Rock and the Mackinac Bridge. Overnight at the gorgeous Grand Hotel, where you can enjoy the sunset from the world’s longest front porch.
Isle Royale, Michigan
Isolated National Park Beauty
Set in the northern reaches of Lake Superior, Isle Royale ranks as one of the nation’s least visited national parks. But those who make the effort to ferry over from Michigan discover an island nearly untouched by humans. Hike the remote Greenstone Ridge Trail. Paddle the rocky shores of Tobin Harbor. Hop a cruise boat out to Rock Harbor Lighthouse. And spot the resident moose population at Rock Harbor Lodge.
Beaver Island, Michigan
Life in the Slow Lane
Golf carts and bicycles roll past boutique shops and tiny bakeries in Beaver Island’s only town, St. James, a place where locals scarcely see the point in driving automobiles. (What’s the hurry?) The gravel road circling the island passes two weathered lighthouses from the 1850s: the St. James Harbor light near the ferry dock and Beaver Island Lighthouse on the island’s southern shore. Fresh-caught whitefish stars at Beaver Island Lodge Restaurant where guests dine overlooking Lake Michigan beneath a canopy of white pines.
South Bass Island, Ohio
Boutique Shopping and Winery Visits
It’s a quick trip from Ohio’s north shore to Put-in-Bay South Bass Island. Just steps from the ferry terminal, boutique shops and restaurants line the waterfront selling resort wear and Great Lakes-themed art. The Round House Bar ranks as the island’s oldest watering hole and its most eye-catching, a round red tavern that has satisfied the thirsty since 1873. Other fun stops include Heineman’s Winery (Ohio’s oldest) and Perry’s Cave, a limestone cavern adorned with stalagmites and stalactites.
<em>RELATED</em>: 20 Beautiful Beach Views From Around The World
Manitoulin Island, Ontario
Outdoor Exploration with the First Nations
Thick hardwood forests, brilliant stargazing, crisp fresh air and the lapping waves of Lake Huron draw visitors to this northern Ontario retreat, the largest freshwater island in the world. Explore Manitoulin’s wilderness from an aboriginal perspective on the Great Spirit Circle Trail. Ojibwe, Odawa and Pottawatomi tribal members share the history and traditional foods of the island’s first residents on guided hiking and paddling trips.
South Manitou Island, Michigan
Old Growth Forests and a Shipwreck
Daytrippers and die-hard backpackers savor South Manitou Island, part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Near the island’s ferry dock sits the South Manitou Island Lighthouse, with a brilliant white tower open for climbing. Further inland lie the remains of the shipwrecked Francisco Morazan, jutting above Lake Michigan’s surface, and a rare old growth cedar forest. Both may be reached via hiking trails or a Manitou Island Transit tour.
Centre Island, Ontario
Beneath the shadow of Toronto’s towering CN Tower and its glass-and-steel skyscrapers sit the Toronto Islands, surrounded by the aquamarine waters of Lake Erie. Take the ferry out to Centre Island for photo ops of the Toronto skyline. Then spend the day pedaling the island’s 600 green acres along numerous bike paths, or ride the roller coaster, log flume, and 30 other amusement park rides at Centreville Theme Park.
Pelee Island, Ontario
Watching Birds and Sipping Wine
Tucked tidily between southern Ontario and northern Ohio, Pelee Island ranks as one of Canada’s best-kept secrets...and one of the world’s most important migratory bird stopovers. Both the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways pass over Lake Erie and Pelee Island, drawing hundreds of bird watchers each season. After the colorful display, trade your binoculars for a sample of locally-grown Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir, produced at Pelee Island Winery, Canada’s largest estate winery.
Washington Island, Wisconsin
Door County Getaway
Hop the ferry from Door County’s northernmost tip to Washington Island, where Green Bay and Lake Michigan meet. Admire the crystal-clear water and smooth stones covering Schoolhouse Beach, one of only a handful of smooth limestone beaches in the world. Hungry? You can’t go wrong eating a lawyer (burbot) fish dinner or attending a Door County original fish boil at K.K. Fiske Restaurant.