South Manitou Island

South Manitou Island beach

South Manitou Island is part of an island chain in Lake Michigan that extends north to the Straits of Mackinac. The island consists of a ridge of tilted layers of limestone, buried under a blanket of glacial debris. It features unique sand dune formations, 10 miles of pebble beaches and a grove of old growth white cedars that date back over 500 years. The campgrounds lie on sandy soils among younger forests.

Visitors enjoy learning more about the island's rich history at the visitor center and museum in the village; visiting the lighthouse grounds; hiking to unique sand dune formations and old growth cedar forests or along the beach around the island; camping in rustic settings; poking around ghost towns and the old coast guard station outbuildings; or taking a wagon tour to view the giant cedar trees and the Francisco Morazan shipwreck or weaving through the once thriving farm homesteads.

The island dunes are a fragile environment, so please stay on existing paths and avoid stepping on plants. As is the grove of virgin white cedar trees: one of the fallen trees showed 528 growth rings, dating its existence to before Columbus.

The Manitou Passage State Underwater Preserve was established in 1988 to conserve the historic and archeological value of over fifty known shipwreck sites, dating from 1835 to 1960. For more information about the preserve, contact a park ranger. These sites are protected by state and/or federal law.


Know before you come

Getting there

Access to North and South Manitou Islands is by private boat or by passenger ferry service run by Manitou Island Transit (231-256-9061). The ferry service operates from the Fishtown Dock located in Leland, MI.

The ferry operators have been servicing the islands for many generations and the company is still run as a family business.Reservations are recommended.
Plan to arrive at the Fishtown dock 45 minutes prior to departure.

Leland is located 27 miles north of Empire on M-22.
The following suggestions are offered to help you have a safe and enjoyable visit. The boat trip can be cool even in summer, so plan ahead and bring a jacket.On your way to the islands you will see the North Manitou Island Lighthouse Crib. It has become a favorite resting spot for the double-crested cormorant.

You will need a Park Pass

Visitors to North and South Manitou Island are required to secure an entrance pass to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.


Visit the South Manitou Island camping page for everything you need to know to plan a successful trip.


Visit the South Manitou Island hiking page for a list of hikes.

What to bring for a day trip

Bring rain gear. Wear comfortable hiking boots. Mosquitoes, flies and ticks are common in summer and fall, so wear clothes to cover arms and legs and bring some insect repellent.

Emergency Services

There is no food service, stores or medical centers on the islands. Emergency medical responders primarily come from the mainland which can take hours to days depending on weather.

Returning to the mainland

Rangers and ferry crew will tell you when to return to the dock for the return trip. If you will be staying for a few days, check in with the ranger to be sure when the boat will arrive. Weather conditions or other issues may cause the schedule to change. Don't miss the boat!


Explore the Lighthouse Complex

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    Places to visit on South Manitou Island

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      4 minutes, 50 seconds

      Learn more about the treacherous Manitou Passage.

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      3 minutes, 47 seconds

      Talk a walk through and learn about South Manitou Island's old growth cedars.

      Last updated: April 19, 2024

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      Contact Info

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      9922 Front Street
      Empire, MI 49630


      231 326-4700

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