If we were playing word association, then most people would associate an island getaway with a Caribbean vacation. The fact that many islands exist within the U.S., some of which are equally as beautiful and remote, doesn't cross traveler's minds often. The state that's known for the best island retreats, surprisingly, isn't one that even borders the ocean. It's not one that has a plethora of bays that echo the seaside breezes of the East or West coasts, and it's not one that sits along the Gulf.

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That state is Michigan, and its position on the Great Lakes gives it access to some of the best lake islands in the country. The biggest of those is Beaver Island, which loses some popularity to its cousin in the east, Mackinac Island. While it's not as well-known, it's a destination that people can - and should - visit at least once in their lives. It's remote but beautiful, featuring a hotel that overlooks the lake with dreamy views of the waterfront, and plenty of nature for outdoor enthusiasts to explore. Ready for more? We should warn travelers, though - don't be surprised if this island is next on your bucket list.

Getting There

The reason that Beaver Island is not as popular as some of the other surrounding islands is likely due to the fact that it's quite rustic. Compared to the refined, summer destination nature of Mackinac, it's almost a destination that many people would question as far as a suitable alternative. The few streets that run through this island are quiet and friendly, its wildlife and wooded greenery practically untouched, and its 'in town' activities wholly quirky and slightly off-kilter. However, these are exactly the kind of reasons why this island is so worth visiting. So, how do you get to such an off-the-beaten-path place?

The easiest, and most cost-efficient way to get to Beaver Island is to take the ferry. Travelers will be leaving from Charlevoix no matter which means of transportation they choose, however, the ferry only costs $27.50 for an adult during non-peak season and $32.50 during peak season. For kids ages 5 to 12, it's $20 and $15, respectively, and children under the age of four ride the ferry for free. For pets, it's an extra $12 fee. The costs start to go up if travelers plan on bringing their cars with them but even so, it's still less than airfare in most cases. More often than not, a ferry ticket fee for a car will still be below$120 (unless travelers are bringing larger trucks or RVs). Bikes and motorcycles don't exceed fees of $50, and canoes or kayaks also accrue minimal fee charges.

For airfare, travelers can find flights out of Charlevoix, as well, through Fresh Air Aviation or Island Airways.

What To Do

Since Beaver Island was once ruled by royalty and had a king by the name of James Strang, the history of the island is always an interesting thing to root around in. The island was once a haven for Irish immigrants after coming in through Ellis Island, which is how the island has maintained such a strong Irish-centered culture. This is also where the island got its nickname of the 'Emerald Isle' of America.

One of the most popular stops on the island is the Beaver Island Head Lighthouse, which can be found at the end of a 20-mile-long gravel road. Along the way, visitors will have no shortage of views and, at the end of it, they'll be face to face with a lighthouse that has stood in the same place since 1858. This also gives way to one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, and from the top of the lighthouse (there are only 46 wrought-iron steps), visitors will be graced with views of the surrounding islands and waterfront.

There's a secondary lighthouse in Paradise Bay, which is a fun and scenic island destination just to walk around in. There's plenty to explore here on a nice day, and this is also where visitors can call ahead and get a first-hand education on the history of the area from the Beaver Island Historical Society. If you're hungry (and at this point, you will be) then McDonough's Market is the place to go to pick up snacks and other odds and ends. If you're ready for lunch, there are several places worth trying, including Shamrock Bar & Restaurant, Stoney Acre Grill, Dalwhinnie Bakery & Deli, and the Beaver Island Lodge for dinner (which is also where visitors can book the most scenic rooms on the island). At night, it's dark enough to see thousands of stars and, if you time your visit correctly, you might just be able to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, too.

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