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Beaver Island Retreat, In Up-North Michigan

For when you want to glamp with about 550 of your new best aquatic friends.

Rate: $179 per night

Glam Factor: 5 of 5

When Gordon Lightfoot sang that Lake Michigan’s “islands and bays are for sportsmen,” he was no doubt referring to Beaver Island, Michigan, the largest of the former. Located 32 miles off the coast of Charlevoix, a posh boater’s haven, the 58-square-mile enclave is home to dense pine and cedar forests, more than 700 acres of public nature preserve, seven inland lakes, and about 550 of your new best friends.

The island’s year-round residents, many of whom are descended from a group of 19th-century Irish settlers, are so friendly that it’s easy to fantasize about buying some land and joining their ranks. Just ask Brian Vaeth and Maria Dal Pra, who did just that when they opened Beaver Island Retreat in 2019. Looking to escape their daily corporate grind in Ohio, the couple designed their 35-acre woodland utopia to maximize creature comforts—bring only what you would to a hotel, except perhaps a flashlight—with minimal impact on the environment, from sustainable bath products to extensive forest-fire safety precautions.

Beaver Island

Each safari tent is situated on its own 2,500-square-foot glamp site, with a queen-size bed and memory foam mattress, private picnic area, and outdoor kitchenette. Charcoal and firewood are provided, with a self-serve buffet of supplies just steps away. Every tent’s solar power offers luxury glamping amenities like bedside lamps fitted with iPhone chargers, outdoor twinkle lights for ambience, and a Bluetooth speaker. Restrooms with showers, a commercial kitchen, and Wi-Fi are available at the main pavilion, where guests gather to (temporarily) plug into the mainland or share a bottle of wine as the whip-poor-wills sing all around.

Getting to the island is a treat itself, whether via 15-minute flight aboard a prop plane or a two-hour ferry voyage from Charlevoix. The camp is several miles from any transit, so car rental is recommended. King’s Highway, the main road, is named for a 19th-century Mormon leader who crowned himself and made Beaver Island America’s only kingdom. Residents hold little regard for his majesty James Strang, but after a few days roving his stomping grounds, one can’t help but agree the island is fit for glamping royalty. 34195 Kings Hwy., Beaver Island, Michigan, 614-571-5062, beaverislandretreat.com

While You’re There…

Beaver Island

One of Beaver Island’s historic lighthouses.

Eat: Just outside the harbor town of St. James, Circle M (beaverisland.org/circle-m) serves a reliable menu in a former rectory. Widely revered by locals as the best eating on the island, the place will also sell you a bottle of wine to take back to your tent.

Hike: Bring binoculars, as Beaver Island is an important site for some 250 species of migratory birds. The Beaver Island Birding Trail (beaverislandbirdingtrail.org) offers 35 unique viewing areas.

Explore: Two historic lighthouses keep watch over the island’s northern and southern points, and they’re both worth a visit to catch the sunset off Donegal Bay.

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