rating: $ 179 per night
Glam factor: 5 out of 5
With Gordon Lightfoot sang that “the islands and bays of Lake Michigan are for athletes,” and was no doubt referring to Beaver Island, Michigan, the largest of the former. Located 32 miles off the coast of Charlevoix, a posh boater’s paradise, the 58 square kilometer enclave is home to dense pine and cedar forests, more than 700 acres of public nature reserve, seven inland lakes, and about 550 of your new best friends.
The island’s year-round residents, many of whom come from a group of 19th century Irish settlers, are so friendly it is easy to imagine buying land and joining their ranks. Just ask Brian Vaeth and Maria Dal Pra who did just that when they opened the Beaver Island Retreat in 2019 about a hotel, except maybe a flashlight – with minimal impact on the environment, from sustainable bath products to full safety precautions for Forest fires.
Each safari tent is located on its own 2,500 square meter Glamp site with a queen-size bed and memory foam mattress, a private picnic area and an outdoor kitchenette. Charcoal and firewood are provided. A self-service buffet with groceries is just a few steps away. The solar energy of each tent offers luxurious glamping amenities like bedside lamps with iPhone chargers, sparkling outdoor lights for the ambience and a bluetooth speaker. Toilets with showers, a commercial kitchen, and WiFi are available in the main pavilion, where guests gather to connect to the mainland (temporarily) or share a bottle of wine while the whip-poor wills sing everywhere.
Getting to the island is a pleasure, whether it’s a 15-minute flight aboard a propeller plane or a two-hour ferry ride from Charlevoix. The camp is several miles from any transit, so car rental is recommended. The King’s Highway, the main street, is named after a 19th century Mormon leader who crowned himself and made Beaver Island the only kingdom in America. Residents have little consideration for His Majesty James Strang, but after a few days on his trodden ground, you can’t help but agree that the island is suitable for glamping kings. 34195 Kings Hwy., Beaver Island, Michigan, 614-571-5062, beaverislandretreat.com
While you’re there …
eat:: Just outside the port city of St. James, Circle M. (beaverisland.org/circle-m) serves a reliable menu in a former rectory. The place is revered by the locals as the best restaurant on the island and also sells you a bottle of wine to bring back to your tent.
Hike: Bring binoculars as Beaver Island is a key location for around 250 species of migratory birds. The Beaver Island Birding Trail (Beaverislandbirdingtrail.org) offers 35 unique viewing areas.
Explore: Two historic lighthouses oversee the northern and southern points of the island and are both worth a visit to catch the sunset Donegal Bay.