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Discover Beaver Island Michigan: America’s Emerald Isle

Explore Beaver Island, Michigan

If you’re looking for a unique trip idea or spots for romantic getaways, you’ll want to put Beaver Island Michigan on your Michigan travel bucket list.

Located off the coast of Charlevoix in northern Michigan, the island boasts some amazing opportunities for outdoor activities and many chances to experience the natural beauty of Michigan in a special island setting.  

Discover Beaver Island, the Emerald Isle

Beaver Island, located between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas, is the third largest island in Lake Michigan, stretching 13 miles in length.

Also known as “America’s Emerald Isle” due to its lush emerald forests, the island is rich in fascinating history and is also a great vacation spot. To make planning your trip a little easier, I’ve put together a short and helpful guide to give you more information about the island and its history, as well as some great travel ideas.

Read on for travel info and some great tips for things to do on Beaver island, Michigan.

beaver island french bay
South Bay on Beaver Island

Beaver Island’s History and King Strang

The island has a lot of interesting history, and the most well-known is that of James Jesse Strang and the Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint movement, which all took place in the mid-1800s.

James Strang joined the Mormon Church in Illinois led by Joseph Smith. After Smith’s assassination, Strang claimed to have received a letter from Smith stating that he was to become his successor. Only a handful of people believed him, and the Church divided into three places across the United States.

Strang moved his church to Beaver Island, Michigan, and this was where he appointed himself as “King.” 

King of Beaver Island: Lake Michigan Gem 

A common misconception is that Strang had claimed to be “the King of Beaver Island.” In actuality, he considered himself the King of his church, which he considered the true “Kingdom of God.”

Though he never claimed to reign over Beaver Island itself, his sect was the main religion on the island and Strang often asserted his power over the island’s inhabitants, Mormon or not.

Being fed up with him, a group formed and assassinated him in 1856 at the St James Harbor, by firing three gunshots into his back. It’s said that there were witnesses (including officers) who did nothing to warn nor defend Strang.

He passed away in the hospital three weeks later.

Irish immigrants came to the island in 1851 through exile. A lot of Irish heritage remains a part of Beaver Island’s culture today, and remnants of Strang remain on the island to this day. James Township, or St. James Township is named for him.

The Beaver Island Historical Society operates two museums on the island and well as two historcal sites that tell more about the islands strange history. The Print Shop Museum and the Marine Museum, as well as the  Heritage Park and the Protar Home are both open to the public. 

bicycle on beaver island

The Community of Beaver Island

Being an island only 13 miles long, people often wonder whether or not Beaver Island is civilized.

The short answer is yes, absolutely!

Beaver Island is home to over 600 people, keeping a fairly consistent population year-round. The island has a thriving community, with gas stations, convenience stores, coffee shops, airports, clinics, schools, and various other establishments.

There are also miles of roads for driving, but the most frequent mode of transportation is getting around by a moped or bicycle.

Does Beaver Island have WIFI?

While signal may be spotty in some areas, some service providers have invested in installing antennas on the island, and there is high-speed internet available in most restaurants, as well as in the library or community center which also have public computers.

Electricity on Beaver Island

If you’re wondering where the island gets its electricity, most of it comes from the mainland, but there is also a backup generator, just in case.

beaver island michigan

Beaver Island’s Natural Beauty

With its lush green forests and sandy beaches, it’s no wonder that Beaver Island is a popular spot for summer vacations.

As part of the 705-acre Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge, made up of nine islands in Michigans Lake Huron and Lake Michigan,  you’ll find variety of protected waterbirds and plant species. 

There are many great spots for fishing, and there is an abundant animal population of deer, squirrels, beavers, rabbits, raccoons, songbirds, waterfowl, foxes, and the occasional coyote or moose.

There are also many beautiful flora and fauna, including uncommon or endangered species like the dwarf lake iris or the Michigan monkey flower. Hiking through the island’s woodlands is a great way to unwind and take in the surrounding nature.

While summer is the more popular time to visit, many locals and frequent visitors claim that spring and fall are the best times of year to experience Beaver Island’s natural beauty. Being a part of Michigan, the fall foliage is a must-see with its vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows.

Planning Your Trip to Michigan’s Beaver Island 

Making plans for your trip can be a real hassle, especially if you don’t have prior knowledge about your destination and how you can make the most of your time there.

To make trip planning less stressful, I’ve provided answers to several questions frequently asked by visitors like you. I’ve also included methods of travel from the mainland to the island, along with links to fare prices.

Beaver Island Michigan
Photo via Beaver ISland Boat Company

How Do I Get to Beaver Island?

Located 32 miles from the mainland in Charlevoix County, Beaver Island requires a boat or plane to get there.

There’s a boat company offering ferry rides to the harbor, and there is also a private airline that operates between Charlevoix city and Beaver Island, as well as other areas of northern Michigan, like Mackinac Island or Bois Blanc Island.

The Beaver Island Boat Company

Founded in 1984, Beaver Island Boat Company (BIBCo) has always strived to provide passengers and freight shippers with safe, reliable, comfortable, convenient, and affordable transportation. They have two ferries—the Emerald Isle and the Beaver Islander—to safely transport passengers, vehicles, and freight between Charlevoix and Beaver Island. Yes, you can bring your car aboard!

The Emerald Isle can hold over 290 passengers, up to 20 vehicles (with capability for even a semi-truck!), and 90 tons of freight. It has 150 indoor or covered seats, five unisex restrooms—one of which is handicap accessible with a baby changing station, power outlets, wi-fi, and vending machines.

The Beaver Islander can hold over 170 passengers, up to 10 vehicles, and 40 tons of freight. This ferry also has a few vending machines and restrooms, but it’s not handicap accessible. The Beaver Islander runs on most weekends during the summer, but the Emerald Isle runs more frequently.

Check out BIBCo’s Ferry schedule and fares on their website. A boat ride to the island takes two hours.

Fresh Air Aviation provides transportation to Beaver Island MI
photo from Fresh Air Aviation

Fresh Air Aviation

“Take a breath of fresh air” and fly with Fresh Air Aviation! If you want a fast and convenient ride to Beaver Island, Fresh Air Aviation makes it their mission to provide a safe and comfortable flight with excellent service, and the trip only takes 15 minutes.

The planes have quiet engines and interiors that make it pet-friendly, and there is ample space for your luggage. Flights run daily all year-round, and their schedule runs between 8am or 9am through the afternoon or early evening, based on demand. 

The planes fill quickly, especially during the summer, so making your reservations ahead of time is strongly recommended.

Ticket prices vary depending on age, pets, or business, so make sure to check out their rates. You can choose between roundtrip or one-way, in case you want to ride a combination of both the plane AND ferry. 

If you choose to visit during winter in Michigan, air transportation is your only option. 

Are Cars Allowed on Beaver Island?

You can most certainly bring your vehicle or bike aboard the Beaver Island Ferry, but if you decided to leave the car behind in Charlevoix, there are other alternatives. There are various companies on Beaver Island that offer car and bike rentals if you still want to venture out on your own. There is also the option of taking the bus line or seasonal taxi service, but having a vehicle of your own will take you much further.

What is There to Do on Beaver Island?

Beaver Island is a great place to take a scenic drive or go hiking, and Fox Lake is said to be the best spot for fishing. Besides activities involving nature, there are plenty of other things to do on Beaver Island.

As it is rich in history, there are many historical sites you can visit, such as the Beaver Head Lighthouse, preserved historical buildings, monuments, or the Protar Home, to name a few.

There are also interesting museums like the Mormon Print Shop Museum, the Toy Museum, and the Marine Museum. Some of these places even offer private tours. There are various events held throughout the year, as well as farmer’s markets and festivals.

Also stop by one of the various gift shops for a souvenir!

dark sky parks

More Things to Do on Beaver Island

See Michigan’s Dark Sky 

Miles away from the artifical light of the main land, you can clearly see the beauty of the night sky and catch some amazing views of the the Northern Lights and shooting stars. Beaver Island is a designated Dark Sky Sanctuary, which, like a Dark Sky Park, provides opportunity to explore night sky free from light pollution. 

Kayak the Beaver Island Water Trail 

This 42-mile water trail that goes around the entire island, and is perfect for paddlers. 

Beaver Island Events 

The Beaver Island Music Festival, also known as Music in the Woods, is a 3-day outdoor event combining nature, renewable energies, music and artwork. Both local and nationally-known bands are featured at this fun event. 

Where Can I Stay on Beaver Island?

If you’re looking for a nice place to rest your head during your trip to Beaver Island, there are several options. The hotels and motels on Beaver Island are pleasantly affordable, and you can land a great deal with their competitive prices.

There are also luxurious and comfortable lodges available, as well as houses for rent. If you want to go a little cheaper though, there are many great camping spots where you can enjoy the surrounding quiet nature and sleep under the stars.

To get you started in your search, here’s a list of highly rated places.

Beaver Island Lodge
Address: 38210 Beaver Lodge Dr, Beaver Island, MI 49782
Phone: (231) 448-2396

Beaver Island Retreat
Address: 34195 King’s Hwy, Beaver Island, MI 49782
Phone: (614) 571-5062

Emerald Isle Inn
Address: 37985 King’s Hwy, Beaver Island, MI 49782
Phone: (231) 448-2376

Harbor View Motel
Address: 26246 King’s Hwy, Beaver Island, MI 49782
Phone: (231) 448-2201

Bill Wagner Campground
Address: 31790 East Side Dr, Beaver Island, MI 49782
Phone: (231) 448-2505

Charlevoix Michigan Travel Guide

Where Can I Get Food on Beaver Island?

There are several convenience stores and gas stations on the island, but if you want quality food and internet access, there are some great restaurants you’ve got to try out during your stay. Here’s a list of some great suggestions to start with.

Daddy Franks
Address: 26320 Forest Ave, Beaver Island, MI 49782
Hours: 11:30am-9pm, every day
Phone: (231) 448-2570

Shamrock Restaurant
Address: 26245 Main St, Beaver Island, MI 49782
Hours: 11:30am-9pm, every day
Phone: (231) 448-2278

Circle M
Address: 26300 Old Church Crest Rd, Beaver Island, MI 49782
Hours: 5-9pm, every day
Phone: (231) 448-2513

Address: 38240 Michigan Ave, Beaver Island, MI 49782
Hours: Sunday – Friday, 8am-2pm; Saturday, 8am-8pm
Phone: (231) 448-2736

Paradise Bay Coffee Shop
Address: 34230 Donnell Mor’s Lane, Beaver Island, MI 49782
Hours: Thursday – Monday, 8:30am-3pm (Summer only, check before you go)
Phone: (231) 448-3003

Whiskey Point Brewing Company LLC
Address:  38230 Michigan Ave, Beaver Island, MI 49782
Phone:  (231) 448-2112

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About the Author –

Aiden Peltier is a content writer for My Michigan Beach who is currently in their senior year studying at Grand Valley State University, with a major in Writing. They have enjoyed writing and drawing since they were a child, and they take a lot of inspiration from music and nature. They are currently exploring many opportunities in the writing field and plan to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in December 2022.