Marine News from the Great Lakes

Charlevoix And Beaver Island, Michigan: A Boater’s Paradise

Published: Sunday, July 1, 2018

It is often said that the water of Northern Michigan displays such various shades of blue that it could be mistaken for the Caribbean. These waters call to weekend warriors as well as avid wanderers, and Charlevoix and Beaver Island have been welcoming these visitors for centuries.

Located approximately 25 nautical miles off the coast of Charlevoix, Beaver Island is Lake Michigan’s largest island. The rustic beauty of the island’s paradise transports you to a bygone era, allowing visitors to enjoy a quieter pace of life. With a vibrant mixture of history and outdoor activities, Beaver Island — America’s Emerald Isle — is just waiting to be explored.

Curious how to get to this remote island? Visitors can either float or fly! Ferries have always been the lifeline to the island. Beaver Island Boat Company offers passenger, vehicle, and freight transportation to America’s Emerald Isle. The two-hour, 32-mile journey from the sands of Charlevoix to the shores of Paradise Bay make for a relaxing ride with freshwater views. Along with passengers, the two ferry vessels are equipped to haul several trailers, boats, campers, and vehicles, which makes it a breeze for boaters to haul all their gear, along with family, pets, and friends.

By plane, the trip takes about 20 minutes. There are two air services offering multiple daily flights (Island Airways or Fresh Air Aviation). If you’re more adventurous, chart your own course in a seaworthy vessel. Beaver Island Municipal Marina and Beaver Island Marina offer everything you’ll need to assist you in your island adventure from slip rentals to boat launches and even fuel stations. Should you choose to cruise to Beaver Island, it’s highly encouraged that you plan your trip accordingly due to the distance to the island.

Once you arrive on the island, there are so many places to explore. Should history buffs wander into one of the many museums, they will soon discover the island’s historical connection to Ireland and the Mormon religion. Beaver Island Historical Society has a detailed history and artifacts dating back to Beaver Island’s self-appointed King Jessie James Strang and his Mormon followers. Learn about Strang’s rise to power, his political influence, and eventual assassination. If you’re traveling with kids, or are one at heart, stop by the Beaver Island Toy Museum and Store. It’s free to visit, exhibits are hands on, and all toys sold at the museum are non-motorized, no batteries required! The Toy Museum is a reflection of years gone by and they also have a great collection of classic penny toys.

Beaver Island has numerous inland waterways, making it an outdoorsmen’s paradise perfect for fly-fishing, paddling, or simply exploring. The island has gained a renowned reputation for carp fishing. Try your hand at carp fishing with a guided carp fly-fishing experience with Indigo Guide Service. Bring your personal bikes or rent outdoor recreation gear from Happy Paddle, to explore hidden trailways. Journey to the two historic lighthouses. On the north end, Whiskey Point Lighthouse is perfect for a photo-op at the tip of the bay. Then, tour the Beaver Island Lighthouse on the south end of the island. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb your way to the top of the spiral staircase for an unbeatable view.

After discovering the island, you are sure to grow hungry. Swing by Dalwhinnie’s Bakery and Deli to grab a delicious and hearty sandwich. For a fun evening, dinner at the Shamrock is a must. You are sure to experience an evening of bantering, legend telling with locals, and catch live traditional Irish pub music over a glass of Guinness. After a fun filled day, stroll downtown St. James Harbor while sampling ice cream from Daddy Franks. Finally, take in a world-class sunset overlooking Lake Michigan. There’s something awe inspiring about an island sunset knowing you’re off the grid, miles away from busy mainland life.

Charlevoix is your gateway to the Emerald Isle, and worth taking time to discover, too. From Lake Michigan, motor through the Pine River Channel, enter Round Lake under the quaint drawbridge, and you will find a picturesque marina and small-town charm. Charlevoix is known for its welcoming atmosphere, lively festivals, delicious local whitefish, plentiful bike and water trails, and walkable downtown. Boats seeking transient slips have their choice of the Charlevoix City Marina, Northwest Marine Yacht Club, or Irish Boat Shop on Lake Charlevoix for a reservation. If you’re trailering your boat, area lodgings offer plenty of parking to accommodate most pleasure craft. Boat launches are conveniently located on Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix allowing for easy access to the lakes. On lively Bridge Street, steps from Round Lake, watch a free concert in the East Park on Tuesday and Thursday nights throughout the summer, grab dinner at Stafford’s Weathervane overlooking the Pine River Channel, and sample a flight of craft beer at Lake Charlevoix Brewing.

If you’re looking to stretch your sea legs, stroll through the surrounding neighborhoods to view one of the most popular attractions in Charlevoix: the charming Earl Young Mushroom Homes. These landmark homes, created by self-taught architect Earl Young, feature quirky designs, whimsical architecture, unique boulder exteriors, and rounded, wavy cedar shake roofs. The Mushroom Houses are within easy walking distance of downtown and the marina if choosing to explore on your own, or you have the option to explore with a guided tour. A visit to Castle Farms will leave you in awe of majestic gardens, historic castle buildings, and Michigan’s largest model train collection.

Get information for these attractions and more at, 231-547-2101, or 109 Mason Street in downtown Charlevoix.

This article first appeared in the Summer Issue (Jul/Aug) 2018 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

tags: Destination, Lake Michigan


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