Whether you come by air or sea, Beaver Island's 60 square miles of beautiful terra firma beg exploring. The quiet back roads that wend out of the Beaver's only hub, the village of St. James, lend themselves to mountain biking (fat tires are a must for the island's miles of clay-gravel roads). Bring your own bike, or stop by Lakesports & Paradise Bay Gifts and rent one (231-448-2166, beaverisland.org). Once your wheels are turning, set your sights on the picturesque 46-foot Beaver Head Light on the island's south end. There, you'll climb the circular wrought-iron staircase for a big blue lake vista. You might turn around before you make it the full 18 miles (remember, you'll need to ride back to St. James to catch your ride to the mainland). That's okay - the spectacular tapestry of forest, rocky shoreline and dune beaches you pass along the way are a destination unto themselves.
Stoke up for your ride at Dalwhinnie Bakery and Deli (231-448-2736), where everything from the bread to the bear claws are homemade. Pack along a ham and cheddar on cheese bread for a beach picnic. As you head south on King's Highway, take a moment to stop into the Old Mormon Print Shop Museum (231-448-2254) to learn about this island's rich history - and why the road is called King's Highway. (Hint: Beaver Island once had a king.) Pick up Elizabeth Whitney Williams's book Child of the Sea. The author grew up at the Beaver Head Lighthouse in the 19th century. Now get pedaling. You'll want time to lounge on the beach by the lighthouse and let Williams's book make this beautiful spot come alive.
Getting to Beaver Island: The 32-mile flight over Lake Michigan from Charlevoix is less than a half hour (Island Airways, 800-524-6895; Fresh Air Aviation, 888-359-7448; beaverisland.org). The ferry the Emerald Isle takes two hours (888-446-4095, bibco.com), but the payoff for the extra time is freshwater spray on your face. For island lodging info contact the Beaver Island Chamber of Commerce (231-448-2505; beaverisland.org).
Elizabeth Edwards is managing editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
Note: This article was first published in May 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.