The Manitou Islands' Beaches, Michigan
In a past life, these two Lake Michigan islands, part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Traverse City, were densely inhabited. Hike to endless miles of empty sugar-sand beaches and you'll see the mysterious ruins of cemeteries, barns, and farm equipment reclaimed by the wilderness. A beach walk on South Manitou takes you to two shipwrecks: one that ran aground in 1960 and another that sank in six feet of clear water in 1911. North Manitou is for serious backpackers seeking wilderness solitude. On the beaches of North and South Manitou, you can run, tumble, and roll down towering dunes to Lake Michigan.
What to Do: On South Manitou, climb the lighthouse or explore the small village near the docks. Back on the mainland, check out the U.S. Coast Guard Station's Maritime Museum or walk through the restored early-1900s logging village.
Getting Here: Follow Highway 72 west of Traverse City for 25 miles to Empire. Access the islands by private boat or passenger ferry.