Camp on South Manitou Island

Michigan South Manitou Island Ferry, MI

Added by Shalee Blackmer

  • 10 mile loop around the island
  • Duration: overnight
  • Part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
  • Secluded
  • Shipwreck snorkeling
  • Sand dune climbing
  • No cell phone service
  • Only accessible by ferry

South Manitou Island is situated off of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Lake Michigan. The island is only accessible by a two-hour ferry ride, which leaves once a day from Leeland.

Upon arriving at the island boat dock, you'll soon realize this isn't an ordinary experience. South Manitou is designed for back-country camping and does not allow vehicles or motorized transportation onshore. The only buildings are for the park rangers who live there, and there are only two water sources available on the entire island.

Camping can be done at one of three campgrounds. The Bay Harbor Campground is the most common and easily the most popular, because it is conveniently located only .4 miles from the ferry dock. A campground known as Weather Station is roughly a two mile hike, and Popple campground is a 6 mile journey across the island. Pack light - don't forget that all equipment must be hiked to your destination.

The island loop hike is a 10 mile journey along the beaches of Lake Michigan. You'll stumble upon hundred-foot sand dunes, rocky shorelines, a lighthouse, and even a freighter shipwreck that ran aground during a storm in 1960.

The interior of the island is filled with hiking routes which allow hikers to wander about some of the oldest cedar trees in the country, discover an old school house, and crawl up dunes that seem to last forever.

Be sure to arrive at the ferry dock at least 45 minutes prior to departure and make reservations ahead of time. The South Manitou Transit Ferry is almost always booked in the summer months. After unloading, all overnight vehicles must park at specified lots and then be transferred back to the dock via shuttle.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • CamelBak
  • Hiking shoes
  • Bathing suit
  • Swimming goggles
  • Hammock
  • Food
  • Towel
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Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Swimming

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn




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2 months ago

Great Experience!

This was our first time backcountry camping trip, so it was a great time. Got to test out all our gear, and identify what we needed. Weekdays seems to have a smaller crowd. The weather station campground has some great views. Bring bug spray, the mosquitos are bad and they'll bite through thin clothes.

2 months ago

about 1 year ago

I just got back from South Manitou a few week ago and I had a great time. The island has scenic campsites and the campgrounds are nice and quiet. It is easy to find solitude and beautiful views by hiking the dunes and then the perimeter of the island. If you are a good swimmer and have time, swim out to the Francisco Morazan shipwreck on the south side of the island, or snorkel out to and dive down to to the wreck of the Three Brothers, located near the ferry dock.

about 1 year ago

about 1 year ago

I just got back from South Manitou a few week ago and I had a great time. The island has scenic campsites and the campgrounds are nice and quiet. Hiking the dunes and then the permiter of the island

about 1 year ago

Added by Shalee Blackmer

I have my heart in Michigan and my mind around the world. Adventurer, travel blogger and outdoor enthusiast. You'll probably find me in the woods.

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