Travel

This Midwest State Has All the Summer Island Vibes You'll Ever Need

Camp, kayak, eat some fudge, and explore century-old shipwrecks.

Narrow Window Photography/Shutterstock
Narrow Window Photography/Shutterstock
Narrow Window Photography/Shutterstock

When you imagine summertime in Michigan, you may think of picturesque lighthouses on the coast of Lake Michigan and $1000-a-night rentals for any cottage even remotely “up north.”  But rather than hanging with tourists in hot spots like buzzy Grand Haven or upscale Holland, adventurous locals in search of unplugged seclusion ferry or kayak their way out to one of the many island getaways in the Great Lakes.

Some are wonderfully kitschy (looking at you, Mackinac!) and highly developed, with B&Bs, jet ski rentals, and gourmet restaurants. Others are pretty savage, with zero cell service, rugged camping, and gray wolves and curious black bears roaming around. Divers after a challenge can seek out thousands of shipwrecks-some 70 to 105 feet below the surface-that have been perfectly preserved thanks to the cold, fresh water; meanwhile, summertime stargazers can enjoy some of the best night skies in the US. 

Top all that with Michigan staples like Rocky Road fudge and Superman ice cream, and it looks like you have some epic new summer vacation plans. Here’s where to enjoy an island getaway in the Great Lake State.

Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock
Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock
Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock

Mackinac Island 

Up first: the tourist favorite. Easily accessible by ferry from St. Ignace, this car-free island on Lake Huron tends to draw crowds because it’s just so darn wholesome. Leap back in time as you explore the town’s 100-year old Victorian architecture by tandem bike or horse-drawn carriage, and stay cool with a shaved ice from Scoops

If your budget permits, book a stay at the Grand Hotel, home to the world’s longest porch and the Cupola Bar, where you can catch the best views in town. Take in a leisurely dinner of whitefish and a lilac lemonade at the Pink Pony, consistently voted one of America’s best restaurants for outdoor dining thanks to their patio, which juts out over the water. Leave room for Kilwin’s famous rocky road fudge.

Posnov/Moment Open/Getty Images
Posnov/Moment Open/Getty Images
Posnov/Moment Open/Getty Images

Isle Royale

Michigan’s largest island-the state’s only national park-isn’t for everyone. It’s around 60 miles northwest of Copper Harbor in Lake Superior, about a 3.5 hour ferry ride out. There are no cars allowed, so you’ll get around by hiking, boating, canoeing, and kayaking. You might cross paths with foxes, beavers, and mink; there’s also gray wolves, but they tend to stick to themselves. 

There are over 165 miles of relatively rustic trails (we recommend the well-marked, 40-mile Greenstone Ridge Trail) and 30 different campgrounds spread throughout the island. Head over to rocky Rainbow Cove for sunset; on a clear day, the Rock of Ages Lighthouse and Minnesota shoreline can both be seen from the beach. Serious divers can check out Lake Superior’s infamous shipwrecks; the historical vessels are protected by the NPS, but they do sign off on guided dives.

Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock
Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock
Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock

The Manitou Islands 

Two islands make up this part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. North Manitou, 12 miles from Leland in Lake Michigan, is accessed by a somewhat choppy ferry ride. There are zero permanent residents, so beavers, chipmunks, deer, bald eagles, and the endangered piping plover are the real locals. Here, you’ll have 20 miles of shoreline, 23 miles of hiking trails, and inland Lake Manitou to explore. 

South Manitou has huge, gorgeous white cedar trees, a lighthouse, and the Francisco Morazan shipwreck, which you can explore without diving gear. You’ve also got Florence Lake, whose soft, sandy bottom makes a perfect swimming hole. Day visitors should plan hikes with enough cushion to catch the ferry back to the mainland-the trails may take longer than expected.

Beaver Island Retreat
Beaver Island Retreat
Beaver Island Retreat

Beaver Island

Located 32 miles northwest of Charlevoix, this large Lake Michigan island has a quirky history. In 1856, it was home to an American religious colony, ruled by the self-appointed “King Strang,” the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the time. No one seemed to blink an eye-the Strangites, as they called themselves, flourished under his rule and became a political power in the region.  “King Strang” was even elected to the Michigan House of Representatives… twice.

Now one of the more developed and populated islands in Michigan, Main Street bustles with activity in the summer. You can book a motel, B&B, or condo, rent a jet ski, or even bring your own dirt bike over on the ferry (which runs from April to around Christmastime). There’s even two pet-friendly airlines, Fresh Air Aviation and Island Airways, that serve Beaver Island daily year-round.  

Thanasis/Moment/Getty Images
Thanasis/Moment/Getty Images
Thanasis/Moment/Getty Images

Grand Island

Just a few minutes off the coast of Munising-a stone’s throw from the famous Pictured Rocks and the Alger Underwater Preserve, known for its “sea caves,” shipwrecks, and underwater interpretive trails-you’ll find lesser-known Grand Island. It’s part of the Hiawatha National Forest, so be prepared for a nominal park fee-currently $5. You can take a quick ferry between May-October, but for maximum fun, try paddling over in a kayak. Dramatic sandstone cliffs dominate the coastline, so grab directions on where to port before you leave the mainland.

Once you hit the shore, rent a mountain bike and explore over 20 miles of trails. You can reserve a campsite or book a stay at the Grand Island Cabins-but one of the best things about Grand is that rugged camping is allowed, no permit necessary (with a few requirements). Fair warning: there are a black bears on the island, so if you plan to wild camp, bring plenty of rope to tie your food up in a tree before you go to bed.

Drummond Island Tourism Association
Drummond Island Tourism Association
Drummond Island Tourism Association

Drummond Island

Just a mile or so off the mainland, Drummond Island in Lake Huron is known as the “Gem of the Huron.” One of the largest freshwater islands in the US, it attracts all kinds of travelers: summer yachters drawn to its many available slips and well-marked passages; ATV enthusiasts, who come for the over 100 miles of trails; hunters of whitetail deer, bears, and small game; and fisherman after pike, perch, and walleye. But if you’re after a more resort-like stay in nature for the weekend, rent a cottage that comes with its own boat and enjoy access to not just one, but two golf courses

ehrlif/Shutterstock
ehrlif/Shutterstock
ehrlif/Shutterstock

Government Island

Government Island-also known as Island No. 6 of the Les Cheneaux Islands-is the place to play out your Into the Wild fantasies (minus the poisoning, of course). It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you’re an expert outdoorsperson after a challenge, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better escape in the Great Lake State. Government is only accessible by small boat, kayak, or canoe; if you paddle out from Cedarville, your arms better be in good shape. Map out routes ahead of time and come ready with plenty of supplies. There are campsites on the island, but it wouldn’t be weird if you were the only one there. For those who are really passionate about boats, consider taking a class at the Great Lakes Boat Building School in Cedarville before your trip and make your own transport out to the island.

Harsens Island

Even locals who live in nearby Detroit have barely heard of Harsens Island. Located on the largest freshwater delta in North America, it’s a marshy place that’s about as far east as you can go without heading into Canada. Get there with Champion’s Auto Ferry, which has run 24/7/365 for generations. 

The true owner of the 140-mile waterfront has been disputed since the end of the American Revolutionary War. The Brits, the Americans, and the Walpole Island First Nations people just across the border in Canada have staked claim in the past, making it a place history buffs can really sink their teeth into. The waterways and canals are tranquil, and the St. Clair Flats are on two ancestral migration routes, so each spring and fall hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese, swans and other birds fill the air here-ideal conditions for bird watching from a paddleboard. Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Cathy Brown splits her time between traveling the globe writing for Lonely Planet and CNN, working with Indigenous rights in the Brazilian Amazon, and hanging out at home in her garden and hosting permaculture and medicinal plant retreats.

Travel

Airbnb’s New Tool Makes it Easy to Discover Homes You Didn’t Know Existed

And provides comprehensive protection in travel, included for free with every stay.

airbnb new features

We’re living in a new world of travel, which means we’re looking for new destinations and new ways to find places to stay. Airbnb is one of the most popular booking platforms for travellers, and for the first time in a decade, they’ve launched their biggest change yet.

The new tools help travellers find unique homes and provide more options for longer stays.

“The way people travel has changed forever. We’re introducing the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade,” said Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-Founder of Airbnb.

Airbnb Categories

Millions of people are now more flexible about where they live and work. But travel search has been the same for 25 years—you enter a location and dates into a search box. Most of us can only think of a few dozen cities to type into the search box, but there are Airbnbs in 100,000 towns and cities worldwide.

When you open Airbnb, you’re presented with 56 categories that organize homes based on their style, location, or proximity to a travel activity. When you search for a destination, your search results are also organized by categories relevant to that destination. As you view different categories, the map intelligently zooms to show you where the homes are located.

Airbnb Categories uses machine learning to analyze titles, written descriptions, photo captions, structured data from Hosts, and reviews from guests. Airbnb’s curation team members review listings and hand-pick featured photos—so if a listing is in the Amazing Pools Category, the first photo shows a pool. Then, each category goes through a final check to help ensure consistency and photo quality.

The 56 Airbnb Categories include more than 4 million unique homes that are made possible by Hosts all around the world. Airbnb Categories organize homes by what makes them unique, which helps people discover places they wouldn’t have otherwise found. This can help alleviate over-tourism by redistributing travel to new locations beyond the same popular destinations.

Split Stays

In the last three months, nearly half of the nights booked on Airbnb were for a week or more trips. Split Stays is an innovative new feature that splits your trip between two homes. With Split Stays, you will typically see around 40% more listings when searching for longer stays.

When searching a specific destination, Split Stays automatically appear in your search results. They also appear within 14 categories—including Camping, National Parks, Skiing, and Surfing—to inspire you to stay in two destinations as part of a longer trip. For example, when browsing the Skiing Category, Split Stays might suggest a pair of homes near Thredbo and Mt. Hotham.

When viewing Split Stays on a map, an animated line visually connects the two homes to show you the distance between them and the sequence of the stays. Once you select a Split Stay, you’re guided through an easy-to-use interface to book each stay, one home at a time.

MORE: These Are Australia’s 10 Most Wishlisted Airbnb Stays

Aircover for Guests

This northern and southern winter, millions of people will travel for the first time since the pandemic’s start. AirCover is the most comprehensive protection in travel. AirCover is always included and always free, and it represents the biggest upgrade to Airbnb customer service in a decade.

With AirCover, you’re covered by four protections every time you stay on Airbnb:

  • Booking Protection Guarantee – In the unlikely event a Host needs to cancel your booking within 30 days of check-in, Airbnb will find you a similar or better home or refund you.
  • Check-In Guarantee – If you can’t check into your home and the Host cannot resolve the issue, Airbnb will find you a similar or better home for the length of your original stay or get a refund.
  • Get-What-You-Booked Guarantee – If at any time during your stay you find your listing isn’t as advertised—for example, the refrigerator stops working and your Host can’t easily fix it, or there are fewer bedrooms than listed—you’ll have three days to report it and Airbnb will find you a similar or better home or refund you.
  • 24-hour Safety Line – If you ever feel unsafe, you’ll get priority access to specially-trained safety agents, day or night.

AirCover has been designed directly into the Airbnb app and website, making it easy for you to contact an agent and resolve issues quickly. There is a team of specially trained agents for last-minute rebooking assistance. Airbnb also has significantly expanded its 24-hour safety line to cover 16 languages.

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