Matt Johnson

Glamping in Michigan: Beaver Island Retreat

Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: Feb 7, 2021Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Glamping in Michigan is a truly magical experience, especially when you’re glamping at the Beaver Island Retreat.

Although it is challenging – ahem, at least different – to get there, this glamping experience is like no other. In fact, the trip is part of the experience.

You’ll find that once you get to the island, you’re in one of the most remote and beautiful places in the Midwest United States.

Travel to Beaver Island and Getting Around

Beaver Island Retreat is located deep in the heart of the 55 square mile island in Lake Michigan.

As the 3rd largest Michigan island, you’ll have to combine a couple of modes of transportation to get there.

Don’t worry, you have a few options, and it’s totally worth it.

Take the Ferry on Lake Michigan

To get to the retreat without getting airborne you’ll have to travel by boat.

The infamous, Beaver Island Boat Company (aka BIBCO), has been in operation for over 30 years.

Ferry to Beaver Island on the Emerald Isle
Travel on the Emerald Isle. Photo from Beaver Island Boat Company.

You’ll start your journey in the town of Charlevoix on the Michigan mainland, and load your car and your family onto one of their majestic ferries – The Emerald Isle or the Beaver Islander.

Note: you don’t have to take your car on the ferry if you don’t want to. There are other options which we’ll cover shortly.

This trip will take you about 2 hours and 10 minutes from dock to dock, during which you’ll be able to view the beautiful sites of Lake Michigan.

Throughout the summer these vessels run between 1 to 2 times a day, and sometimes more. However, in the winter when there are fewer island visitors, they may run every other day.

Fly to the Island

If 2 hours is too much to spare for the trip and you don’t feel like taking your car, you can always opt to fly in on a 12 minutes flight from Charlevoix.

You’ll have your choice of either Island Airways or Fresh Air Aviation. Both of which will cost between $40 and $60 per person, depending on their age.

Affordable and fast, you can’t beat that.

For either of them, you’ll park and load up into one of a few multi-engine small airplanes at the Charlevoix Municipal Airport (KCVX). You’ll then depart for a short 30-mile flight to Beaver Island Airport (KSJX).

Once you touchdown on Beaver Island, you’ll have a few transportation options to get you to the retreat.

Getting Around on the Island

Once you’re on the island you’re going to want to get around to see and do all of the things Beaver Island has to offer.

If you opted to fly or not bring your vehicle, you can choose to take a taxi or choose from one of the rental car services.

Whether taxi or rental, both will pick you up and drop you off at the airport or the marina for your convenience.

And, to be honest, if you pack light enough you could get away with renting bicycles to get around. After all, the retreat is only around 1 mile from the airport and about 4 miles to the town and harbor.

It’s a small island and fairly easy to get around.

Staying the Night in Amazing Safari Tents

If you’ve never been glamping before then the Beaver Island Retreat is a great first, especially if you’re glamping in Michigan.

Safari Tents at Beaver Island Retreat
Beautiful safari canvas tent at Beaver Island Retreat

You’ll enjoy the safari-style tents that are elegantly decorated and furnished for your total comfort and relaxation. They provide everything from towels, to coffee, to laundry. It’s the full-service glamping experience.

There is plenty of space in this glampground as each tent area provides between 2,500 and 5,000 square feet of privacy. The 184 square foot tents themselves are designed to sleep up to 3 adults if you use the included cot for an extra person.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the retreat for families, perhaps very small families, but it’s great for a cozy getaway with your loved one.

While they don’t include their own bathhouses, there is a community bathhouse that is no more than a 2-minute walk from your tent. It’s really a great combination of a camping experience and hotel accommodations.

Beaver Island activities and things to do.

There’s just so much to do when you’re glamping in Michigan, especially on Beaver Island.

With this being an island, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities, especially those on the water. Whether fishing or kayaking is your thing, or biking and hiking the trails, you’ll find endless opportunities to let your adventurous side free.

Now, since this is northern Michigan, it would be remiss of me not to mention the winter activities. You can rent snowshoes and cross-country skis to take to the trails during the colder months. However, be sure to dress warm!

But I get it, sometimes you just want to relax. You can do that as well.

If you’re looking for some leisure attractions on the magnificent island check out the St James and Beaver Island lighthouses. The St James Lighthouse, also known as the Beaver Island Harbor Light is on the north end of the island whereas the Beaver Island Head Light is on the south end.

However, if you’re looking for something fun and casual to do while on the north end, you have to check out Mary Scholl’s Toy Museum. It’s full (and I mean chocked full) of knick-knacks, various toys from different eras, and so many things to see.

There really is something for everyone during the day, but when it comes time to head back to the Beaver Island Retreat you can start a glampfire with their unlimited firewood and enjoy a cold beverage under the beautiful starlit sky.

Our Recommendation: Take a trip to the Beaver Island Retreat in Northern Michigan.

Glamping on an island in northern Michigan is definitely different than most other glamping experiences. However, don’t just take my word for it. This glampground is something you have to see for yourself.

Have you stayed at the Beaver Island Retreat? Have you glamped elsewhere in Michigan? We’d love to hear your thoughts and get your take on this island retreat. Just drop a comment below!


Matt Johnson

Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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