My favorite part of our mitten state are the Great Lakes and all the other bodies of water Michigan is blessed with. Scattered throughout these beautiful lakes are several islands and peninsulas of all shapes and sizes. Two such islands, located just off of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, are the South and North Manitou islands. In order to visit the islands, one must take a boat, and that is when the Manitou Island Transit is ready to serve you.
The Manitou Island Transit business has been in Megan Munoz’s family since 1917 (acquired by her grandfather through the US Postal Service). Before serving as a convenient transportation service for visitors to the islands, the boats served as mail carriers. Later on the island transit became associated with the National Park Service.
Between 7 and 8 thousand guests visit the islands through the Manitou Island Transit annually. And both of the Manitou Islands have much to offer. Particularly, the Islands are great for camping. The North island features more rustic/wilderness camping, while the South island provides a more traditional style (designated spots, potable water). The Islands also offer a variety of hiking trails, kayaking and canoeing, beautiful beaches, and more. Regardless of which island you choose, the Manitou islands provide a secluded destination (even some of the available designated camping sites, on the southern island). With few permanent residents, you are free to wander, experience, and explore.
In addition to the water transit from the mainland to the islands, there are wagon tours available on South Manitou island. Part of these tours takes visitors to The Valley of the Giants, “the white cedars (which are some of the largest and oldest- over 500 years old- in the country).” From that same trail, one can view the “shipwrecks from the overlooking cliffs,” mentions Munoz. Another landmark on the southern island is the South Manitou Island Lighthouse, “re-lit” and continuously being preserved and restored. This particular building is the second lighthouse (erected in 1858); the first one burned in a fire.
General Information: Manitou Island Transit runs from 1st weekend in May (just weekends through Memorial Day) through Labor Day (back to weekends through Columbus Day weekend, in October). The boats run their roundtrips once a day (one for each island). During the peak of the season, there are additional boats running on some Fridays and Sundays. Reservations are recommended, please call 231-256-9061.
Rates (for both islands): $35/adults. $20/Kids (12 & under). Round Trip.
There are additional rates for bringing canoes or kayaks on board.
When asked about her favorite part of the islands, Munoz spoke of being able to “go to the beach [with] no one else around, [looking at] shipwrecks up the shore, [and watching] the sunset from one top of the dunes all by yourself.” Next time you are visiting the Sleeping Bear Dunes or the Leelanau peninsula, be sure to take a trip on the Manitou Island Transit out to the islands; they are a sight you don’t want to miss.