Sleeping Bear Dunes: South Manitou Island
Part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, South Manitou Island is located 18 miles west of Leland and is the southernmost island of a Lake Michigan archipelago that stretches northeast to the Straits of Mackinac and includes North Manitou Island and Beaver Island.
South Manitou’s most impressive features are the perched dunes along its west side that rise more than 400 feet above Lake Michigan and the lighthouse, boathouses and other historic buildings of a former U.S. Lifesaving Station. Scattered inland are old farmhouses, barns, a schoolhouse and other remains of the island's agricultural past while just offshore are several shipwrecks. The 5,260-acres island is also laced with 17 miles of trails and primitive roads that provide day hikers and backpackers access to various historic sites and natural features, including a stand of old growth white cedars, as well as three walk-in campgrounds.
During much of the summer South Manitou is a tropical-like paradise with crescent-shaped beaches, calm, turquoise water and a slow, idyllic pace to it. There is no food service or stores on the island and not transportation other than a motorized tour offered by Manitou Island Transit. Both day and overnight visitors must arrive fully equipped with food, rain gear, sun protection, tents and other camping equipment.
Maintained trails are posted and easy to follow. Secondary trails are not marked but not overly difficult to find. One of South Manitou’s most popular hikes is a 9-mile loop to the perched dunes, including the Valley of the Giants loop and with a return along the shoreline past Francisco Morazan shipwreck.
Along with the Francisco Morazan, a freighter that ran aground in 1960, another popular shipwreck is the Three Brothers. Located near the South Manitou Lighthouse, the 162-foot wooden streamer ran aground in 1911 and now lies on the steep slope just 30 yards off Sandy Point. Because her bow is in fairly shallow water, it has since become Michigan’s most popular wreck for snorkelers.
|Difficulty - Challenging|
|Difficulty - Moderate|