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Island flying adventures: Great Lakes islandsIsland flying adventures: Great Lakes islands

Fly in to explore the islands of the Great Lakes.

A view of Iron Ore Bay on the southern end of Beaver Island. Photo courtesy Wikimedia commons.

Beaver Island, Michigan: Rising gently from the depths of upper Lake Michigan, Beaver Island provides affordable year-round recreation. Many local businesses provide free airport pick-up. You can go kayaking, bicycling, fishing, snorkeling, hiking, or camping—nearly half the island is pristine state-owned conservancy land, with old-growth forests. In winter you can ski cross-country, snowshoe, or ride fat-tire bikes. Charter a boat to other islands, take a sunset cruise, or play golf. Beaver Island has two airports, Beaver Island and Welke, rental cars, two lighthouses, and two museums. Learn about the island’s former occupation by a unique American religious monarchy called the Strangites. Irish immigrants later brought their own traditions, which continue today on “America’s Emerald Isle.” 

Mackinac Island, Michigan: Mackinac Island Airport is your portal to this island at the northwest corner of Lake Huron, best visited May to October. Step back in time as you board a horse-drawn carriage at the airport—there are no cars here! Tour the island to see beautifully maintained Victorian homes. At Fort Mackinac, built in 1780, “soldiers” fire cannons and lead tours. Book a room at the Grand Hotel, where the Jane Seymour–Christopher Reeve classic Somewhere in Time was filmed; the hotel celebrates its 130th anniversary in 2017. Other delights include horseback riding, golf, bicycling, two butterfly conservatories, and famous fudge shops!

Bois Blanc Island, Michigan: Want to really get away from it all? Fly to the other Straits of Mackinac island, Bois Blanc. Stay at the Insel Haus B&B; they’ll pick you up and you can borrow a car. Catch up on your reading; go for long, forested walks; fishing; swimming; or exploring. Foxes, loons, butterflies, ducks, and eagles all live around the inn. Hawks Landing, the only store on the island, also provides hearty meals and spirits, or you can enjoy occasional live music with your meal at the Bois Blanc Tavern. Or, make arrangements for a special meal at the inn, prepared by a team of chefs trained at Le Cordon Bleu and French Pastry schools in Chicago.

The deer on Drummond Island are unafraid of people and often hang around the Drummond Island Resort and golf course. Photo courtesy Drummond Island Resort & Conference Center.Drummond Island, Michigan: In Lake Huron near the Canadian border, Drummond Island is the perfect weekend getaway. Stay at the Drummond Island Resort & Conference Center and enjoy fine cuisine, a championship golf course called The Rock with unique island greens, off-roading on trails carved out of the island’s natural limestone, wildlife photography (the deer are accustomed to people), sporting clays, and cabins and lodges nestled in the woods.

The Drummond Island Resort’s championship golf course, “The Rock,” offers unique greens surrounded by water. Photo courtesy Drummond Island Resort. South Bass Island, Ohio: A cluster of islands rise from the west end of Lake Erie, between Detroit and Cleveland. They are Pelee Island, Kelleys Island, and the Bass Islands. Fly to Put-in-Bay Airport on South Bass Island to explore the town of Put-in-Bay, population about 150, a popular summer resort destination. Rent a moped, bicycle, or golf cart. Historic homes, quaint restaurants and pubs, and America’s third-tallest monument await. Take a boat cruise or kayak or jet-ski in the bay; and visit the nature and wildlife center, historical museum, butterfly house, and winery.

Washington Island, Wisconsin: The island lies about 7 miles northeast of the Door Peninsula, which separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan. Washington Island Airport has two intersecting grass runways, 2,300 feet to 2,500 feet long. In summer, a courtesy van and numerous courtesy bikes are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The year-round population of about 700 people, many of Scandinavian descent, welcomes visitors with an array of activities like kayaking; public parks and beaches; fishing; birdwatching; golf at the Deer Run resort; a nature trail and center; maritime, farm, and pioneer museums; a school of fiber arts; and a performing arts center. Stay at the resort or in a rental cottage, Danish vertical log cabin, inn, B&B, or shorefront home.

  • A horse taxi in front of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Motor vehicles have been banned on the island since 1898 (except for emergency vehicles). As a result, everyone gets around the island on foot, bicycle or horse-drawn carriage. Photo by Jasperdo, via Flickr.
  • One of the quiet streets of Mackinac Island, home to historic buildings and famous fudge shops. Photo by Jasperdo, via Flickr.
  • The pilot-friendly innkeepers at the Insel Haus B&B on Bois Blanc Island will pick you up at the airport and can even loan you a vehicle if you need one. Photo courtesy Insel Haus.
  • You may arrive as a stranger on Bois Blanc Island, but you’ll depart as a friend. Photo courtesy Insel Haus.
  • Perry's Victory International Peace Memorial rises above Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island, Ohio. Photo by Alvin Trusty.
  • The view from the top of the Perry’s Victory International Peace Memorial. The airport can be seen in the distance, as a cutout in the forest. Photo by Sean Munson.
  • Strawberry shots at the Beer Barrel, “world’s longest bar,” in Put-in-Bay. Photo by Rona Proudfoot.
  • A stave church on Washington Island, Wisconsin. Photo by Leif and Evonne, via Flickr.
  • Follow your dreams to Washington Island. Photo by Michael B via Flickr.
  • Sunset on Washington Island, Wisconsin. Photo by Christian Dory via Flickr.
Crista Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as both the managing editor of Pilot Getaways magazine and editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association.
Topics: US Travel

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