South Manitou Island is located in Lake Michigan, approximately 16mi west of Leland, Michigan. It is part of Leelanau County and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The uninhabited island is 8.277sqmi in land area and can be accessed by a ferry service from Leland. Guided tours on open-air vehicles are available to visitors, but most traffic is on foot. Larger North Manitou Island lies to its north.To visit South Manitou Island Lighthouse and other attractions in Glen Arbor, use our Glen Arbor trip itinerary builder website.
The island is 3mi wide and 3mi long. It is part of an island chain that extends north to the Straits of Mackinac. The island consists of a ridge of tilted layers of limestone, buried under a blanket of glacial debris. Glaciers carved out the Lake Michigan basin. When the basin filled with water, the peaks of the ridge remained exposed as islands. During post-glacial times, winds blowing on the high, sandy bluffs on the west side of the island moved sand inland, forming sand dunes. Florence Lake is the island's only inland lake. The island has a system of trails and campsites.
A growth of Northern white cedars on the southwestern corner of the island are among the oldest and largest in the world. The largest is 18ft around and is estimated to be over 500 years old.
South Manitou Island was originally settled in the mid-1830s by William Burton to provide cord wood to fuel the Great Lakes steamships. His dock was built in the middle of the crescent-shaped bay on the eastern side of the island, which offered the only natural deep-water harbor between Chicago and Buffalo. In 1847, the village included Burton's Wharf, a house, blacksmith shop, grocery store, barn, and a wooden tamarack railroad track extending from the dock inland to haul wood for the steamers. When the first post office opened in 1870, it was located here. When logging operations ended and the dock fell into disrepair, the original island village dwindled in size and importance. Burdick’s moved their general store from its original location near the old dock to a site near the Lifesaving station in 1923 on the southeastern shore, and that marked the shift of the island community to the current village site located at the present dock where the passenger ferry arrives.
South Manitou Island Lighthouse Reviews
Get out here on your own boat if you can. Beautiful and quiet. Great views of the mainland and the dunes out here are double the size. more »
Vistied the Lighthouse to gain information to make a model of it. Parks Service Volunteer Docent Mark was very knowledgeable and helpful. It's a short walk from the boat dock to the lighthouse... more »
Amazing place. After staring at this place from Homestead and Glen Arbor for years, I did finally make it awhile ago. Wish I could live in the lighthouse. Definitely work a visit. One of my favorite lighthouses in the country. Been over 20 years, but I'm seriously considering moving back to this area.
I had an amazing experience with my family. We had a volunteer tour guide take us up to the top and she has to be one of the best guides I've ever had. Had lots of information on the history of the lighthouse and stories too! I also took a trip to a cliff overlooking one of the shipwrecks and the cedar forest on the island. Beautiful scenery and amazing weather!
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