Northern Michigan fall color tours are a premiere Michigan travel experiences no matter where you head. But this year, make your last boat ride of the season to one of these three islands where fall color touring takes on a world of its own.
As you cruise through the Straits of Mackinac headed for Mackinac Island, tell the ferry driver to set the speed to slow—you’ll need to take in the McGulpin Point Light, the Old Mackinac Point Light, the St. Helena Island Lighthouse and the Bois Blanc Light.
And if you are free for midweek travel, this is the time to stay at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. For $199 per couple, you’ll have lodging, dinner and breakfast, a hotel tour and a visual treat as you watch the staff “Close the Grand” for the season. You can even attend a lecture on the process (MONDAY, OCT. 25–TUESDAY, OCT. 26; grandhotel.com, 800-33-GRAND). The only thing to rival the horse-drawn carriage ride through the woods is the dining experience at Woods, a Tudor mansion filled with Bavarian charm (grandhotel.com/dining/woods, 906-847-3331).
The barefoot sister to Mackinac Island, Bois Blanc Island is a rustic retreat in the Straits where the trees close behind you once you come ashore. No carriages or fudge, just plenty of nature and loads of autumn color. Take your ATV for a ramble through the forest, or kayak the shoreline for scenery few people get to see. At the Insel Haus Bed & Breakfast you’ll be treated to lodging as lovely as the colors outside and European cuisine from the Berlin-born owner ($105–$185, inselhausbandb.com, 888-634-7163). If you’re looking for local color head over to the Bois Blanc Tavern (231-634-7100), or enjoy a local staple at the island’s only store (with attached restaurant), the Hawk’s Landing (231-634-7375).
With a year-round population of 600 (close-knit), and most inhabitants of Irish descent (cultural affection for parties), Beaver Island understands the importance of a good time—best check it out this fall. Cruise around by boat or plane to see remote lighthouses on Squaw Island, St. Helena Island and the Fox Islands. At Beaver Island’s north end, Paradise Bay opens at St. James Harbor Light, at the south end find Beaver Head Light Station, one of the oldest lighthouses on the Great Lakes (beaverisland.org/transportation).
Your color tour won’t end when you stay at the Beaver Island Lodge, on a bluff at the north shore. Each condo unit is unique, and the lodge has a B&B atmosphere (FROM $70, beaverislandlodge.com, 231-448-2396). Have a lucky breakfast at Dalwhinnie Bakery, with Irish favorites like the corned beef skillet and the High Island sandwich (mcdonoughsmarket.com/dalwhinnie, 231-448-2736).
Lisa Doublestein writes from Petoskey. email@example.com