South Manitou Island, located 17 miles off the western shore of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I’ve had two opportunities to visit this island so far this summer while leading adventure trips and here’s what I think you should know before you go:
Keep your trip short:
The island is only 10 miles in circumference, easily a day hike for most people. If you stay on the island for more than two nights you’ll be bored of finding new sights quickly. If, however, you want to take a hammock, get a beach-side campsite, and enjoy a very relaxing and pristine week then by all means, stay a while!
Visit these sights:
The best sights are the village (where the ferry drops you off) and visitor center, the wreck of the Morzan, and the dunes. Catch the lighthouse tour before you go as well, meet at the lighthouse at 2pm for a 20 minute ranger led tour to the top of the light with the best possible views of the entire island.
Bring water shoes:
Recent Zebra Mussel population spikes have left the shores of South Manitou Island littered with the razor sharp shells of these little guys. In some places you can walk for yards without even touching sand on the beach! Thanks to the Zebra Mussel there has been a spike in algal growth along most of the shoreline, so also expect a green muck-like consistency in some of the lake water.
Camp at Weather Station Campground #10:
Site #10 at Weather Station Campground has unobstructed views of Lake Michigan from a site perched atop a sand dune. It has direct access to the beach less than 20 yards down the sand and is very close to the potable water access and the restrooms. Best campsite on the island by far!
What are your favorite sites on South Manitou?