Island Vacations in the Midwest and Great Lakes Region

Point Pelee, Lake Erie
Point Pelee, Lake Erie

Michigan's Mackinac Island attracts day trippers as well as seekers of weekend getaways to a place that's simply out of sync with the pressures of modernity. With only three miles of territory, and a mere 500 full-time residents, the pace remains so slow that the annual springtime lilac festival makes headlines- and draws crowds.

Wisconsin can boast more than dairy cows and lots of creameries. As the Land of Lakes, it has plenty of islands as well. One of them, Madeline Island on Lake Superior, is one of about 20 islands comprising the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Take a ferry or bring your own boat for an island vacation that's slow paced and seriously away from it all. Another jewel of Wisconsin, Washington Island on the Lake Michigan side of the state, resides in agriculturally rich Door County. Here, orchards deliver 20 million pounds of apples, cherries, and other fruit as part of the annual harvest. If you're searching for Wisconsin scenic drives, this northern peninsula has it all.

Sandusky, Ohio attracts rollercoaster fans to its world class amusement park, but a select few embark from there (or from Port Clinton) via ferry to the Lake Erie Islands. It's a short 12-mile ride from Cleveland's urban and industrial sprawl to another world entirely. Victorian homes, restaurants, and a typical small-town island feel make the Lake Erie Islands a perfect island getaway. Sleepy and very flat, Ontario's nearby Pelee Island maintains a year-round population of only 300, but that swells in warmer months to 1,200 with the arrival of cottage owners and renters. In October, 700 hunters drop in each weekend for the pheasant season.

Blink and you may miss Quinte's Isle, on a remote spot in northern Lake Ontario that doesn't even appear on most maps. It used to be part of a peninsula bisected by a canal, and now boasts an island identity bolstered by interesting geological formations, including sand dunes.

There is an island in north Ontario largely unfamiliar to everyone but Canadian aficionados of remote island vacations. At least it's statistically famous - Lake Huron's Manitoulin Island is the world's largest fresh water island, 100 miles long and in places, 38 miles across. More than 100 lakes have been mapped inland, attracting anglers and campers in droves. The island takes its name from a Native American word for Great Spirit, Gitchi-Manitou, and various myths point to the stark beauty of its forests, waterfront, and meadowlands.

By using the canals of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, it's possible to set sail and be ocean bound from such inland towns as Ithaca, NY and other well known towns in the Finger Lakes of New York. Along the way, spring, summer, and fall travel opportunities for weekend getaways and island escapes pop up on both sides of the border to Canada. Prime among them is the Thousand Islands vicinity which begins where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence. Attractions include precious examples of industrial age architecture, flora and fauna, and outdoor recreation. Among the more than 2,000 islands in the stream - some falling on the New York side of the border, others in Canada - you can find island getaways at key sites such as Clayton, Cape Vincent, Kingston, Gananoque, Alexandria Bay, Morristown, Ogdensburg, Massena, and Sackets Harbor.

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