Fantasy Islands: 7 Midwest Getaways
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Midwest island fun
Want to get away from it all? Forget booking flights. Islands in the northern Midwest offer their own brand of fun, whether you want to read, fish, hike or chat up some locals. The one thing that stays the same: 360-degree views of crystalline blue waters.
Click ahead to find seven of our top picks for Midwest island getaways. At left: Surrounded by Lake Michigan, Beaver Island's 600 residents talk about "island time," code for "just relax."
Beaver Island, Michigan
A two-and-a-half-hour ferry ride from Charlevoix carries visitors northwest across Lake Michigan to an island as relaxed as any in the Caribbean. Bicycles and in-line skaters cruise Main Street in St. James, the only town and home to about a dozen shops. The eight hotel owners learn their guests' names.
Visitors don't need a car, but bringing wheels makes it easier to visit the one-third of Beaver Island that is state-owned and undeveloped. Wherever you go, the sights on this 13x6-mile island are beautiful enough to land in nature calendars. You'll see flocks of sandhill cranes and admire the quiet fishing banks of Fox Lake, where the beavers grow to weigh 60 pounds.
Whitefish stars on every menu here. It's caught in the morning and fried or sauteed that night. If you want to have dinner at a restaurant outside of downtown, most hotels happily offer free shuttle service (typically in the manager's car). In many ways, Beaver Island remains a world apart. beaverisland.org
Stout's Island, Wisconsin
In 1903, the Stout family brought their lumber fortune and summer-home dreams from Chicago to this 1,800-acre haven on Red Cedar Lake near Birchwood, Wisconsin (120 miles east of Minnesota's Twin Cities). Frank D. Stout called this place the Island of Happy Days, and he modeled this retreat after the Adirondack resorts in upstate New York.
The 1912 lodge still sports gleaming, wide-plank hardwood floors; framed black-and-white family photographs; and wool spreads on some of the king-size beds. Its 43 rooms capture turn-of-the-20th-century class, while some of the eight cabins have twin beds in sleeping porches (the best place to listen to waves from boats puttering past).
In the dining room, couples, families and friends gather over garden-fresh soups, tasty burgers and cooked-to-order steaks. Outside, the great lawn gently rolls downhill toward a quiet dock, past a croquet game, a fire pit and Adirondack chairs begging for visitors with thick books to sit awhile. From $149. (715) 354-3646; stoutsislandlodge.com
Republic Island, Michigan's Upper Peninsula
A humble pontoon boat and a rowboat near a white picket fence are all that greet visitors to Republic Island in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Guests can see the cabin out on the Michigamme River; to get there, they have to pilot themselves.
On this 2-acre tract 35 miles west of Marquette, barbecue grills, two fire pits, Adirondack chairs with river views and a fish-cleaning table await outside the little cabin on the hill. An extra-wide hammock hangs between majestic pines. It's a destination for those from busy places who are searching for privacy.
Exposed cedar log walls date to the cabin's humble beginnings in the late 1800s. A kitchen, three bedrooms with full-size beds, and a cozy living room stocked with books and board games give a place to rest and recharge. Visitors bring groceries to supplement dinners of fresh-caught fish. From $150 ($1000/week in July/August). (734) 837-4976; upmichiganrentals.com
Ludlow's Island Resort, Cook, Minnesota
A crank telephone summons a wooden boat to ferry guests to this Lake Vermilion getaway known for its friendly service—and spendy rates.
Twenty cabins dot the island (90 miles northwest of Duluth), each with its own decor and personality. The fanciest is Dreamcatcher (pictured at left), a four-story tree house with beautiful wooded views—and a $3,700/week price tag.
A cabin on the north shore has one bedroom, while the rest range from two to five bedrooms. All have decks, wood-burning fireplaces and screen porches. An honor-system pantry stocks the makings for s'mores, and activities for kids round out days spent fishing and swimming. Visitors either bring their groceries or take the 10-minute boat ride back to the mainland for dinner. From $450 for two per night. (877) 583-5697; ludlowsresort.com
Mission Point Resort, Mackinac Island, Michigan
Nestled between Michigan's Upper and Lower peninsulas, Mackinac has been drawing tourists to its Lake Huron shores for more than 100 years. Bicycle rentals, golf, pools, a spa and four restaurants give Mission Point's visitors lots of on-site options, but most blend time on the 239-room property with trips downtown. Visitors come to this carless isle for horse-and-buggy rides, fudge, shopping and hikes in Mackinac Island State Park. From $199. (800) 833-7711; missionpoint.com
Xanadu Island Bed and Breakfast and Resort, Battle Lake, Minnesota
Five guest rooms and three cottages welcome visitors to this 1920s hideaway on a 5-acre island (get there by driving across a narrow causeway, 175 miles northwest of Minneapolis). Days start with ham and eggs on a wild rice patty, pears steeped in spices and sugar, and waffles with fruit. Guests can use canoes, fishing boats and a sailboat, then end the day in front of a stone fireplace in the fishing lodge. From $105. (800) 396-9043; xanadu.cc
Nicollet Island Inn, Minneapolis
Since the 1970s, the Nicollet Island Inn has operated as a romantic little stone lodging in a rehabbed 19th-century factory. Guests drive over a short suspension bridge to a city neighborhood that includes homes, a park, trails and a high school.
The inn's rooms are small but charming; flower boxes are a great touch. Filled with antiques, some rooms have four-posters; amenities include Aveda products, Select Comfort beds and Wi-Fi. Several rooms face the river; so does Nic's restaurant, which serves eggs Benedict with perfect tomato-bearnaise sauce. From $169. (612) 331-1800; nicolletislandinn.com