North and South Manitou Islands are located in Lake Michigan, are part of Leelanau County and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. South Manitou is approximately 16 miles west of Leland, and 8.277 square miles in land area. Larger North Manitou Island lies to its north, approximately 12 miles from Leland, and has a land area of 22.346 square miles. The islands are rich is history. Visit the visitors center and museum on South Manitou Island, climb to the top of the lighthouse (view from top on left), or take a wagon tour to view the Giant Cedar Trees on the Southwest corner of the island, and the Francisco Morazan shipwreck. Or choose the historical Farm tour, weaving through the once thriving island homesteads.
Hiking and designated camping are allowed on the islands, which can be accessed by the Manitou Island Transit ferry service from Leland or upon private watercraft with limited docking. Park passes and camping fees are required, and can be purchased in Fishtown or from the island Ranger Stations. North Manitou is considered a Wilderness Area, and no campfires are allowed.
A legend attributed to the Ojibwe explains the origin of the Manitou Islands and the Sleeping Bear Dunes... Long ago the mother bear Mishe Mokwa and her two cubs sought to cross Lake Michigan from the Wisconsin shore to escape a great forest fire. The mother bear made it across, but her twin cubs, although they swam hard behind her, drowned in Lake Michigan. The great spirit covered them with sand to form the two Manitou islands. The mother bear lies and waits forever for her cubs to reach the shore - the Sleeping Bear Dunes.