Beaver Island has made it close to the top of the best places we have seen on the loop. Like top 2. Because today rocked! And it really, like most things, is because of the people.

We have been hanging out with the Neal family from the anielia for the past five days as we travelled from the Northern Channel to Michigan. They are from northern Michigan and this is their home turf. Today we spent the day together on a beach on the western side of the island. You have to get there by car and Steve/Meagan rented a big van that could carry all of us. In the morning we walked over to the local deli and ordered sandwiches for lunch then headed out on a spectacularly sunny day. The beach is a long narrow sandy strip of land; in past it has been wider, but is much smaller now because of the high water of the lake. There were two other groups of people when we arrived, and when we left three hours later, it had a lot of families enjoying the day at the beach.

DSC03134The water was clear and blue. And cold. The boys tried to fool us adults by getting in the water and proclaiming loudly that it was “WARM!” And that we adults should “COME ON IN BECAUSE IT IS WARM!” Shouting, one presumes, because the water was too cold for them to be able to speak normally. We did get in the water and the children were not telling the truth…it was cold.

In spite of the cold water, the beach was fantastic. The temperatures were maybe in the low 70s, but the sun was warming all of us and we spent hours sitting on the beach (adults) and climbing over dunes and throwing sand (kids).

We went back to our boats late in the afternoon and we (Jan and I) prepared for tomorrow’s trip and got dinner ready for the evening. The boys headed out where ever boys go when parents aren’t paying much attention, with instructions to be back by 5:50pm for dinner. Steve, Meagan and the kids came over at 6pm for the dinner and we hung out until 8pm, then walked three blocks to get some ice cream to top off the day.

The other people that made Beaver Island are the ones living on the island. There are two ways to get to this place; plane and boat. Unlike Mackinac Island, cars are permitted and a ferry boat comes here a couple of times a day from the mainland (30ish miles from Charlevoix) with both people and cars. The population here is in around 600 year around residents. There is a school that has about 70 full time students (K-12). The ferry doesn’t operate year around–it stops between December and April. In the past, the lake would freeze and you could snowmobile (or drive) between mainland and Beaver Island, but that hasn’t been the case in quite awhile. So you fly in/out if you need anything from the mainland. Most of the people have multiple jobs in the summer that keep them extremely busy when the tourists come to town, and use the winter to relax and catch up with their friends. But there is always something to do in the winter, even if you can’t make it to the mainland.1

The Island itself is gorgeous. After we got over the trauma of our arrival through the washing machine, we could see how pretty the bay and the island are. This is the second island that we visited in the past four days that is inhabited year around and that is cut off from the mainland except by plane, during the winter. Which led us to the:

Comparison of Mackinac island to Beaver Island:

Mackinac Island Beaver Island
Pronounced like it is spelled No Yes
Area 3.776 sq miles 55.73 sq miles
Distance to mainland 6 miles 32 miles
Cars? No Yes
Has horses as primary mode of transporataion Yes No
Had a king No Yes
Aided in deposing king Yes No
Requires suit at dinner Yes No
Number of fudge shops 20ish in three blocks! 1
Number of tourists Tens of thousands a day Tens a day
Number of ferries per day A lot Not a lot
Number of bicycles for rent Thousands 10?
Full time residents 500-600 551
Revenue from Hotel Room sales $52M $52
Place to get away from it all and relax Maybe. With 20000 other people Definitely

We certainly enjoyed our stay in Beaver Island and spending time with the Neal Family. Jan picked out her favorite house on the island just in case it goes on the market. And was looking for my tape measure so she could begin to size the curtains. Can the rest of Norther Michigan possibly look as good as this? We will see tomorrow when we head to Charlevoix.

1This is a theme that we have seen not only here but since Canada (Trent-Severn Waterway) and through Canada. The businesses that focused on the marine/sailing/boating sector have zero summers. The people who worked on the Trent-Severn or in the marinas or on these islands work six or more likely seven days a week from April to September/October. And long days. But they get the winters off and if they are on the mainland, a lot of them pack up their stuff and head someplace warmer. Like the Bahamas. Because why wouldn’t you!!!

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