South Manitou Island, Leland

4.9
#9 of 10 in Things to do in Leland
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.
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.
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South Manitou Island Reviews
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9 reviews
Google
4.9
TripAdvisor
  • Camping is not really our style so we went with the day trip to the island lol. We booked a tour with the ferry company instead of trying to hike it because you only get about 4 1/2 hours on the islan...  more »
  • The ferry from Leland is 1.5 hours, one way. We had great weather heading to the island and many people were gathered on the bow, enjoying the air and sights. We stayed one night on the Island at Weat...  more »
Google
  • Nice place to get away and unplug. Plenty of history and sites to see. Camped several years ago on the Island and going back this year. Perfect addition to a trip to see family that lives up north in Cedar and Leland. Just watch the Black Flies and mosquitoes. When camping make sure your food is secure or the chipmunks will get in it.
  • Stayed for two days and one night, everyone was friendly and the island was BEAUTIFUL. Mosquitoes were really bad on the trails going to the north side of the island.. but that just added to the adventure

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