Traverse Magazine, This Summer: Discover Lake MIchigan’s Beaver Island by Dianna Stampfler. June 2010
Kick off the summer of 2010 with a trip to Beaver Island, the Great Lake’s most remote inhabited island, in the waters of Lake Michigan off of Charlevoix.
People come to Beaver Island for its abundant nature and solitude and much of what the island offers is free. With over 100 miles of scenic roads, old two-track trails and beaches, it is ideal for hiking and biking. Pristine woods welcome nature lovers for bird watching and photography, as well as sportsmen looking or hunting and fishing opportunities.
Visitors can expect to discover a wealth of ecological resources, including nature preserves and state land available for walking and exploring. Approximately 35 percent of the Island – located about 30 miles north of Charlevoix in Northern Lake Michigan – is state forest land.
Check Out These Naturally Awesome Beaver Island Adventures
Beaver Island Ecotours: Offering a wide variety of tours for outdoor enthusiasts, such as driving and walking tours, inland lake tours, biking tours and hiking and camping trips. Visit sandy beaches, bogs and inland lakes, marshes, cedar swamps and hardwood forests in search of loons, osprey, turtles, salamanders, deer and a variety of flora and fauna for family enjoyment. beaverislandecotours.com
Bonadeo’s Beaver Island Boat Charters: Explore the outer islands of the archipelago such as High Island, Hog Island and Squaw Island, on half-day or full-day excursions ideal for singles, couples, families and groups. Learn the history of the island lighthouses and former residents as you play a modern day explorer in Northern Lake Michigan. beaverislandboatcharters.com
Indigo Guide Service: Guided fly fishing and casting trips for smallmouth bass, carp and other species on Beaver Island and its surround islands make for some of the best flats-style fishing in the Midwest. indigoguideservice.com
Inland Seas School of Kayaking: Paddle the clear-blue waters of the Beaver Island archipelago where a variety of outdoor experiences are offered for all ages, including sea kayak trips in the St. James Harbor and on Lake Michigan or naturalist-led kayak eco-tours on the inland lakes. Be on the lookout for loons, eagles, osprey and beaver lodges during the morning or afternoon excursions or take part in a full-moon paddle and learn lunar lore while listening to the nighttime sounds of Northern Michigan. inlandseakayaking.com
Lakesports & Paradise Bay Gifts: This is the place to pick up a fishing pole, bait or tackle as well as rent canoes, kayaks, boats with motors, pedal boats, bikes and camp gear. Also offering hourly moped rentals. beaverisland.org/lakesports/index.html
Paradise Bay Dive Shop: Located on Beaver Island’s Paradise Bay – one of the finest harbors in the Great Lakes. The water surrounding the island contains shipwrecks and other underwater scenery just waiting to be explored. Sign up for Scuba instruction, snorkeling, diving classes, cruises aboard The Resolute or out-island adventures. paradisebaydiveshop.com
Beaver Island Boat Company Tours: Beaver Island Boat Company’s knowledgeable and well seasoned tour drivers will guide you through Beaver Island’s beautiful scenery and intriguing history, while giving you an idea of why island life is so unique. Your journey in one of our fifteen passenger vans to the southern tip of Beaver Island will take you through its beautiful dunes and forests and alongside several of the island’s pristine inland lakes, bays and beaches. Ultimately, the tour will pause to visit and climb one of the oldest lighthouses on the Great Lakes, Beaver Head Lighthouse. This is a great way to see the island for eco-adventurers who may not be able to walk or bike the many trails but still want to be surrounded by nature. bibco.com
Visitors will find two established campgrounds on Beaver Island, both owned and operated by the Island Townships and open from April 1 to the end of November. There are no reservations at either campground and the primitive sites are available on a first-come, first serve basis. Both campgrounds provide pit toilets and hand pumps, there are no showers at either facility.
Saint James Township Campground is located on the north end of the Island, off Donegal Bay Road one mile outside the St. James Harbor. The campground and its 12 sites overlook Lake Michigan and Garden Island, with views of Squaw and Whiskey Islands. ($5 per night, per campsite).
Bill Wagner Peaine Township Campground is located on the east side of the Island, seven miles south of the harbor and accessible via the East Side Road. This 22-site campground is on the shore of Lake Michigan with a view of the west coast of mainland Michigan. ($10 per night, per campsite)
Beaver Island is also home to the Central Michigan University biological field station, offering academic classes in biology, other sciences, and the arts. Faculty and students utilize the woods and waters surround the Beaver Archipelago as their outdoor classroom for field trips and lectures.
After a day, or more, of exploring the rustic nooks and crannies of Beaver Island, visitors can find luxurious packages at the East Wind Day Spa & Hair Salon (beaverisland.org/eastwind/index.html), where facials, massages, manicures and pedicures are offered to help relax both the mind and body.A variety of dining options can be found on the island, with Nina’s Restaurant at the Beaver Island Lodge offering a fine dining menu and extensive wine list.
Situated adjacent to Lake Michigan, Beaver Island Lodge (beaverislandlodge.com) has been a host to visitors since the 1950s and is one of many lodging properties on the island. Other noteworthy accommodations include The Brothers Place (beaverisland.org/brothers-place/index.html) – a rustic Northwoods lodge originally built on a 20-acre parcel in 1928 as a retreat house by the Christian Brothers religious order and Shanoule B&B (beaverisland.org/shanoule/index.html) – a rustic three-suite bed-and-breakfast tucked away on a 40 acre secluded wooded lot.
Getting to Beaver Island is easy. The Beaver Island Boat Company (bibco.com) runs from early April through December, with limited runs in the early and late season. The 32-mile ride takes approximately two hours. Fresh Air Aviation (freshairaviation.net) and Island Airways (islandairways.com) both provide plane service to the island. All three services operate out of Charlevoix.
Those searching for a truly removed up-north destination will find it on Beaver Island, one of the purist four-season vacation destinations in Michigan. When it comes to natural escapes, nothing compares to America’s Emerald Isle – Beaver Island. For more information: 231-448-2505, BeaverIsland.org.