Island Hopping, Lake Michigan Style!

by Yasmina Soria Platt
Published in Midwest Flyer – June/July 2020 issue

One may not always think of Michigan when thinking about “island hopping,” but there are a number of small islands on Lake Michigan with General Aviation (GA) airports. They are perfect for camping, hiking, biking, kayaking (yes, inflatable kayaks that fit in your airplane), fishing, and/or all those other kinds of outdoor activities a lot of us pilots like to do.

While South Fox Island (3MI2) in Northport, Michigan, looks very nice and tempting, it is privately-owned and, therefore, requires prior permission for access. For additional information, call 248-364-2400, 248-364-2431, or 248-867-0476.

North Fox Island is an uninhabited island and the perfect place to relax, read a book, and/or practice some outdoor activities. North Fox Island Airport (6Y3) is open to the public during the summer months (normally between April/May and October). It is the perfect spot for camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, etc. in a completely remote spot. You may quickly notice that it does not have any services or facilities of any kind. So, it’s just you and nature. Oh, how nice!

Beaver Island is home to some of the state’s most beautiful beaches, brilliant stars, and crystal, clear waters. The only real town on the island is on its northeast corner. There, you can find a few lodges, restaurants, shops, museums, beaches, a lighthouse, the St. James Township Campground, and the George & Althea Petritz Nature Preserve.

Beaver Island has two airports: Beaver Island Township Airport (KSJX), and Beaver Island-Welke Airport (6Y8). Beaver Island Township Airport is the largest of the two airports, features a modern terminal building, 100LL self-serve fuel, a 4299 X 75 ft. asphalt runway (09/27) and two turf crosswind runways, but the airport is quite a distance from town. Beaver Island-Welke Airport, on the other hand, is closer to town, and has a 2512 X 30 ft. asphalt runway (09/27), and a 3500 X 140 ft. grass runway (17/35). There’s also a golf course and a beach nearby. Because of the airport’s close proximity to town, and the fact that Island Airways operates a lot of flights between Charlevoix, Michigan on the mainland and Beaver Island, ferrying passengers and cargo, pilots are required to call ahead before landing at night: (231) 448-2071 (www.islandairways.com). Car rental is available at either airport if arranged in advance.

Mackinac Island is mostly developed on the south end with other private homes and communities scattered around the island. This is where Fort Mackinac, the Jewel Golf Course, Mission Point, the majority of restaurants and hotels, and the harbor are located.

Mackinac Island Airport (KMCD) is part of the Mackinac Island State Park, Michigan’s first state park. However, it is important to keep in mind that while the state park has lots of trails to hike, a visitor center to visit, the British Landing Nature Center to experience, etc., camping and hunting are not allowed.

The airport is the only link with the mainland from early January to mid-April when the ferries start operating again. The airport is located adjacent to the Wawashkamo Golf Club and the Mackinac Community Equestrian Center.

Landing and tiedown fees do apply, and self-service fuel is available across the bay at Mackinac County Airport (83D) in St. Ignace, Michigan, but not on the island.

Mackinac Island Airport is attended 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (with possible reduced hours in the winter). There’s plenty of tiedown spots on the concrete ramp, and a modern, but historical period-looking terminal building that fits well with the island’s American Revolutionary War heritage.

The island appears to have multiple underground caves, such as the Cave of the Woods by the airport, and Skull Cave, or the Eagle Point Cave. However, if you are looking for scenic views, head to Fort Holmes and/or Arch Rock.

For additional information on Mackinac Island, refer to the articles in the June/July 2013 issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine beginning on page 44: https://midwestflyer.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/MFM-JuneJuly2013.pdf, and https://midwestflyer.com/?s=mackinac+island.

Bois Blanc Island appears to be more of a “resident” island than a “tourist” island. However, one can still find a few lodges and B&Bs and plenty of things to do, such as fishing, hiking, swimming, bird watching, and kayaking.

Bois Blanc Island Airport (6Y1) does not have fuel and is mostly unattended. For additional information, contact James Gilligan III at 231-838-0029 (mobile), 231-634-7052 (office), or the town office at 231-634-7275.

There is camping available at the airport, as well as a modern terminal building with a pilot lounge.

There are excellent views and a peaceful atmosphere all over the island, and many pilots will bring bicycles in order to take advantage of the island’s trails.

I guess you could refer to Bois Blanc Island as “Gilligan’s Island!” In fact, Gilligan’s grandfather was a pilot and avid boater, and named his boat the “S.S. Minnow” after the ship featured on the CBS television show, “Gilligan’s Island,” that ran from September 26, 1964 to April 17, 1967. Like Gilligan’s Island on television, there are very few full-time residents on Bois Blanc Island. Sixty-five, to be exact.

North Manitou Island looks like it had a gravel strip at one time, but I cannot find any information on it.

The Michigan Department of Aeronautics offers an airport diagram app (for both Android and Apple products) with more information about these and other Michigan airports.

You can learn more about the app here: https://www.michigan.gov/aero/.

Much of the information on Michigans island airports in this article was obtained from our friends at ForeFlight. As usual, always call ahead for times, months open and the availability of fuel, which if available, will cost more than fuel on the mainland.

To read more about this and other destination articles, visit www.airtrails.weebly.com. Also see articles posted at the Midwest Flyer Magazine website: https://midwestflyer.com/?p=8692

  There’s so much exploring to do, so fly safe and fly often!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yasmina Soria Platt has been with the international airport planning and development consulting firm AECOM since 2016. She also writes an aviation travel blog called “Air Trails” (www.airtrails.weebly.com), in addition to articles on pilot destinations for Midwest Flyer Magazine. Pilots can locate articles Yasmina has written by going to www.MidwestFlyer.com and typing in her name in the search box.

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