Camping on South Manitou Island




Access to North Manitou Island 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. Weather conditions or other issues may cause the schedule to change. Reservations are recommended.

There is no transportation for camp gear. All gear must be packed in, so travel light. Food should be stored in hard containers or hung from a line to thwart chipmunks.


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


  • 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.

Drinking Water

Potable water can be obtained only in the village. All other water must be boiled for one minute or treated with a water filter or purifier before drinking. Most backpacking water filters will remove present waterborne bacteria. Pumps, gravity bladders, and water tablets are examples of useable water purifiers. It is suggested that each hiker have the capacity to carry a minimum of 2 liters of drinking water.

Human Waste

Outhouses on North Manitou Island are present only in the village and the campgrounds. In the backcountry, use a small hand trowel to dig a cathole, which is a pit for human feces. Catholes must be at least 100 feet away from trails, campsites and buildings, 300 feet from water, and 6-8 inches deep. When finished, cover the hole with dirt and other natural materials to disguise the cathole. Groups should establish a communal privy and cover it after the last use.

Toilet paper should be used sparingly, and must be either buried deep in a cathole or packed out. Place toilet paper in a sealable plastic bag to pack out.

Used feminine items must be packed out.

Urine has little impact on the environment or human health. Diluting urine with water can decrease impacts.


Wash yourself and your dishes at least 200 feet (about 70 adult steps) away from streams or lakes using a small amount of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater after use. Pack out all food waste.

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


Individual Campsites
Individual sites are limited to 4 persons and 2 tents. Campers must purchase a Backcountry Use Permit before camping. Park passes and permits are available at the Fishtown dock in Leland during the summer months. During the off-season, you can contact the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire for permits. Upon arriving at the island, a park ranger will meet you at the dock to complete camper registration and to help you plan your visit.

Community (shared) fire rings are provided in the Bay and Weather Station campgrounds only.

Group Campsites
There are three group campsites at Bay Campground and three group campsites at Weather Station Campground, each designed to hold from 9 to 20 campers (maximum of 10 tents). Group sites are available by reservation only.

Reservations for group campsites at Bay and Weather Station campgrounds can be made (up to one year in advance) on-line and over the phone through

South Manitou Island group sites online reservation
Phone reservations: Reservation Center at 1-877-444-6777.
The center is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. eastern time.

If you have questions, please call the park at 231-326-4700.

The fee for group camping does not include transportation to the island.

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Planning a backpacking trip to the Manitou Islands? Check out these prep tips from a ranger.


Camping on South Manitou Island is only permitted at three following locations:


What to bring


Comfortable camp shoes/sandals
Hiking shoes (broken in)
Hiking socks
Insulated jacket
Long underwear
Non-cotton hiking pants
Non-cotton shirt (long sleeved)
Non-cotton shirt (short sleeved)
Rain jacket
Rain pants
Sock liners
Warm hat

Feminine supplies
Hand sanitize
Prescription drugs

General Camping
Backpack rain cover (or large garbage bags)
Biodegradable soap
Blister kit or medical tape
Bug spray (DEET)
Cooking pans
Cooking/eating utensils
Day pack
Duct tape
First aid kit
Food bags (for hanging)
Food/snacks (NOTE: bring two extra days' worth of food, in case of ferry cancellations due to weather)
Large plastic garbage bags
Lighter/waterproof matches
Pocket knife
Repair kit for tent, stove, etc.
Scrub brush for dishes
Sealable plastic bags
Sleeping bag (3-season)
Sleeping pad
Stove fuel
Tent groundsheet
Toilet paper
Topographic map
Trash bags
Water bottles (2 liter carry-capacity per person)
Water purification/filter

Last updated: March 25, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

9922 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630


231 326-4700

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