Escape to Beaver Island, Michigan | Midwest Living

Escape to Beaver Island, Michigan

A ferry ride across Lake Michigan ends at an island as relaxed as any in the Caribbean.

Where to eat

The Restaurant at Beaver Island Lodge The menu at this shoreside fine-dining spot sometimes features whitefish with cherry sauce (pictured at left; 231/448-2396; beaverislandlodge.com).

Daddy Frank's May through September, Daddy Frank's offers better-than-average fast food in a cheery place that feels like a 1950s diner (231/448-2570).

Dalwhinnie Bakery and Deli For breakfast, try the Michigan blueberry pancakes (231/448-2736; mcdonoughsmarket.com/dalwhinnie).

Harbour Market The market serves fresh baked goods (including delicious raspberry scones) and locally famous Moomers Ice Cream (231/448-2950).

Shamrock Bar and Restaurant The signature Shamrock Angus burger comes loaded with cheese, bacon, mushrooms and onions (231/448-2278; shamrockbarrestaurant.com).

Stoney Acre Grill Service can be unbearably slow, but the lightly breaded whitefish is worth the wait (231/448-2560; stoneyacregrill.com).

A world apart

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. (If you rent a car, you're likely to find it near the dock, unlocked and with your first name written on a piece of paper stuck on the windshield.) Gravel roads lead through thick sugar maple forests and alongside inland lakes.

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. Harbor Light (pictured) remains an active -- and picturesque -- beacon.

Whitefish stars on every menu here. It's caught in the morning and fried at the Shamrock or sauteed at the Beaver Island Lodge that night. And if you want to have dinner at a restaurant lying outside of downtown, most hotels happily offer free shuttle service (typically in the manager's car). It's been a long time since the island was a sovereign state. But in many ways, Beaver Island remains a world apart.

Planning your trip

For general information, contact the Beaver Island Chamber of Commerce (231/448-2505; beaverisland.org).

For transportation, contact the Beaver Island Boat Company. Ferries leave Charlevoix for the 2.5-hour ride to Beaver Island. BIBCO offers service from early April through mid-December (twice daily in peak season). $26 each way (888/446-4095; beaverislandboatcompany.com).

What to do

Beaver Island Gift Shop In downtown St. James, this is the place to go for souvenirs and gifts (231/448-2860).

LakeSports On St. James Harbor, LakeSports rents bikes, mopeds, canoes, fishing tackle and other gear (231/448-2166).

Whimsy This cheerful shop sells a variety of gift and home decor items (231/448-3058).

Where to eat

The Restaurant at Beaver Island Lodge The menu at this shoreside fine-dining spot sometimes features whitefish with cherry sauce (pictured at left; 231/448-2396; beaverislandlodge.com).

Daddy Frank's May through September, Daddy Frank's offers better-than-average fast food in a cheery place that feels like a 1950s diner (231/448-2570).

Dalwhinnie Bakery and Deli For breakfast, try the Michigan blueberry pancakes (231/448-2736; mcdonoughsmarket.com/dalwhinnie).

Harbour Market The market serves fresh baked goods (including delicious raspberry scones) and locally famous Moomers Ice Cream (231/448-2950).

Shamrock Bar and Restaurant The signature Shamrock Angus burger comes loaded with cheese, bacon, mushrooms and onions (231/448-2278; shamrockbarrestaurant.com).

Stoney Acre Grill Service can be unbearably slow, but the lightly breaded whitefish is worth the wait (231/448-2560; stoneyacregrill.com).

Where to stay

Shanoule Bed and Breakfast Expect to chitchat with the owners at this secluded three-guest-room B&B (pictured). Bob and Joan Banville pick up and drop off guests at the ferry dock and offer tours of the island. From $150 (231/448-2092; shanoule.com).

Emerald Isle Hotel The Emerald Isle offers comfortable, no-frills rooms near downtown St. James. The staff is friendly but sometimes hard to find. (They might be at home eating or shuttling guests to dinner.) From $149 (231/448-2376; emeraldislehotel.com).

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