North Manitou Island

Turquoise waters of NMI

Fifteen thousand acres of wilderness floating in the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan, North Manitou Island offers visitors a primitive experience emphasizing solitude, a feeling of self-reliance, and a sense of exploration. Visitors enjoy hiking the dune topography, playing in turquoise waves, spying island flora and fauna, exploring the village and ghost towns, seeking out inland lakes, hearing the stories of its people, and learning the island's history.

Know before you come

Getting there

Access to North and South Manitou Islands is by private boat or by passenger ferry service run by Manitou Island Transit (231-256-9061). The ferry service operates from the Fishtown Dock located in Leland, MI.

The ferry operators have been servicing the islands for many generations and the company is still run as a family business.Reservations are recommended.
Plan to arrive at the Fishtown dock 45 minutes prior to departure.

Leland is located 27 miles north of Empire on M-22.
The following suggestions are offered to help you have a safe and enjoyable visit. The boat trip can be cool even in summer, so plan ahead and bring a jacket.On your way to the islands you will see the North Manitou Island Lighthouse Crib. It has become a favorite resting spot for the double-crested cormorant.

You will need a Park Pass

Visitors to North and South Manitou Island are required to secure an entrance pass to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.


Visit the North Manitou Island camping page for everything you need to know to plan a successful trip.

What to bring

Bring rain gear. Wear comfortable hiking boots. Mosquitoes, flies and ticks are common in summer and fall, so wear clothes to cover arms and legs and bring some insect repellent.

Emergency Services

There is no food service, stores or medical centers on the islands. Emergency medical responders primarily come from the mainland which can take hours to days depending on weather.

Returning to the mainland

Rangers and ferry crew will tell you when to return to the dock for the return trip. If you will be staying for a few days, check in with the ranger to be sure when the boat will arrive. Weather conditions or other issues may cause the schedule to change. Don't miss the boat!


Docking is limited to 20 minutes. Fuel service is not available. There are no protected anchoring locations anywhere around the island.


Low impact camping is the rule to minimize human impact on the fragile natural resources.

  • Entrance Pass Required.
  • Campers must purchase a Backcountry Use Permit before camping. You may obtain a permit at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center, Sleeping Bear Dunes campground offices, or Leland dock. Upon arriving at the island, a park ranger will meet you at the dock to complete camper registration.
  • Pets are prohibited
  • All human waste and toilet paper must be buried at least 6 inches deep.
  • Use down and dead wood only.
  • Do not leave a fire burning unattended. Put out all fires before leaving the campground.
  • Carry out all trash.
  • Wheeled vehicles (snowmobiles, bikes, etc.) are prohibited.
  • Explosives, including fireworks, are prohibited
  • Please do not enter any area posted as CLOSED for nesting piping plovers. These endangered birds need all the assistance we can provide.
  • Fires are permitted only in the communal metal fire rings.
  • Open fires are prohibited in the wilderness area. Use gas or alcohol stoves.
  • Don't take firewood to the islands! Island campers may collect dead and down wood found on the island for personal use during their visit; however, unused wood must remain on the island. Transporting firewood when camping on the islands means you risk carrying tree-killing insects and diseases inside the firewood. The pests can spread to the trees and forest at the campground and begin to destroy those trees and forests. Help slow the spread of pests by gathering dead and down wood on the islands for firewood.
  • Please pack out all your trash. Trash cans are located in the village. Please place empty fuel cans next to the trash cans.

Leave No Trace

Please follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles to minimize human impact on Nouth Manitou Island.

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors


Potable water is available only at the ranger station. All water should be boiled and/or treated with appropriate purifiers. Washing is not permitted at or in any water source.


North Manitou features almost 23 miles of maintained trails. These trails wind through magnificent stands of maple and beech, across old farm fields, and along bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. The highest point on North Manitou, nearly 1,000 feet, is located in the island’s rugged northwest corner. But overall, the terrain is gentle on North Manitou and most backpackers will find the hiking is level and easy.


A State of Michigan fishing license is required for fishing on the island. Artificial lures only are allowed on or in Lake Manitou and Tamarack Lake. Caught bass must be at least 18 inches in size; there is a daily limit of one.

Boats without motors are permitted on the inland lakes (you may not use wheels to transport boats to the lakes). Park rangers must decontaminate any watercraft before use in inland lakes to prevent the spread of non-native species. This is free of charge.


Areas Closed to Hunting
The majority of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is open to hunting. However, most high visitor use areas and facilities are closed and include a 450-foot safety zone. The safety zone is defined as the area beginning at the edge or exterior boundary of any road, site, or development and extending outward for 450 feet.

Rules and Regulations
Hunters are asked to be familiar with both the State of Michigan and federal rules and regulations concerning hunting in Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Many park visitors are unaware that hunting activities may be ongoing within the Lakeshore.

Information on State of Michigan hunting regulations can be found in the Michigan Hunting and Trapping Guides. National Park Service regulations are not contained in those guides.


Last updated: June 7, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

9922 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630


231 326-4700

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