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We all know, of course, that an island is a place where the lake bottom rises up to pierce the water's surface, just a hill surrounded by liquid. Great Lakes islands can be piles of clay, gravel and sand, or bulbs of cooled lava, or slabs of limestone - which, after all, is simply compacted shells from dead sea animals. There's little romance in any of that.
Still, we heap romantic notions upon our islands. We say islands float, a flat denial that they are even connected to this world. They are dream clouds, lands upon which we project our visions of the ideal escape, or even an ideal life. (If I were marooned on a deserted island I would … ). The fact that we can point to islands, actually see them floating there, makes such fantasies seem plausible.
So does the fact that so many Great Lakes islands are within easy reach. If you never thought you really could escape to a water-locked oasis of toasty sand and cool forests, read on. We map out six Great Lakes island vacations for you - show you how simple it is to get there and to stay for days, weeks, maybe longer. Explore wilderness solitude on North Manitou Island, time travel in the Victorian grace of Mackinac Island, or rejuvenate your soul amid the island quiet and easy ways of Bois Blanc Island. And there's more.
Your cloud on the water awaits.
So long as your backseat reverberates with an "Are we there yet?" refrain, Drummond Island deserves a top notch on your list of family vacation destinations. In one fell swoop, a 10-minute ferry ride across the St. Mary's River answers your antsy interrogators and brings the fam to an Up North island where rest and ruddy-cheeked recreation - think bikes, boats and beaches - rule.
Drummond, aka the Gem of the Huron, is a 136-square-mile hunk of rock, prairie meadows, cedar swamps and hardwood forests. The key to appreciating the value of this gem's varied landscape? Use every mode of transport available.
Bike along the island's eastern shore from Glen Cove to Marble Head or Shale Beach. Kayak the western shore - Potagannissing Bay is nice for novice paddlers; stronger paddlers can push on toward the cluster of tiny offshore islands. Drive the roads that cut through the Maxton Plains, a hot and dry spread of alvar grasslands that looks like an African savannah. Off-road at Turtle Ridge ORV Park (turtleridgeorv.com). Hop aboard the Dreamseaker for a cruise to the DeTour Lighthouse (906-647-7276, dreamseaker.com). Or fly over it all with Bailey's Air Sightseeing Tours (906-493-5411).
Prefer to keep your feet on the ground? Walk the township park's Heritage Trail - a favorite haunt of eagles, ospreys, owls, hawks and 200 kinds of songbirds. Hike the new 80-acre Williams Nature Preserve - the island's first. Or simply kick around the shallows at Big Shoal Beach, sink your toes into the sandy beach and inform the kids: you are here, and here you'll stay.
Lodging: Bunk up at Drummond Island Resort and Conference Center's Woodmoor Lodge and you'll have free access to movies, mountain bikes, kayaks and canoes. It boasts a lot of on-site perks families will love - tennis, volleyball, pool and more. (800-999-6343 or drummondisland.com) - Lynda Twardowski