It's hard to imagine that from the center of New York's Time Square, among the bright lights and tourists, you're a short train ride away from white sand, surfing, and quietude. If you're looking to get out of the big city – whether that metropolis is New York, Boston, LA, or Houston – look offshore. Islands like South Manitou and Madeline have been passed over and left alone – making them the perfect, close-to-home refuge for city-dwellers. Here are the top island getaways that are a hop from civilization.
Chicago: South Manitou
Part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, South Manitou island has no permanent residents or habitable structures. The former farming and fishing outpost in Lake Michigan instead has great campsites and an excess of natural beauty. Hikers here drop there bags where they intend to bed down then explore the forest island, which has white sand beaches, long-abandoned homesteads, and abundant bird life. The 100-foot lighthouse once marked the only natural harbor in the area for Chicago-bound freighters. Today, it offers travelers a sweeping view and the opportunity to reflect on the days – not long gone – when the lakes were as wild as the seas.
More information: Individual campsites are limited to four people and two tents. Anyone intending to spend a night on the island must have a backcountry permit and a park pass, both of which are available at the ferry dock in Leland. The island is open year round, but you won't want to be there when a southerly wind kicks up in winter.
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