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.