Located in northwestern Lake Superior near the border with Canada, Isle Royale is one of the least visited national parks. To get there, you’ll hop aboard either a boat, ferry, or seaplane, and once you arrive, bask in the pristine forest and waterways around the island. Be sure to keep a lookout for moose, wolves, loons, beavers, shorebirds, and plenty of other wildlife. Open from May until September, Isle Royale in Michigan is the perfect summer getaway fit for royalty.
How to Get to Isle Royale
Isle Royale is an island in Lake Superior. The only way to get there is by boat, ferry, or seaplane, departing either from Michigan or Minnesota.
Travel to Isle Royale from Michigan
- Ranger III: Ferry, 6 hours, departs from Houghton
- Isle Royale Queen IV: Ferry, 3 hours and 45 minutes, departs from Copper Harbor
- Isle Royale Seaplanes: Seaplane, 45 minutes, departs from Hancock
Travel to Isle Royale from Minnesota
- Voyageur II: Ferry, 7 hours, departs from Grand Portage
- Sea Hunter III: Ferry, 1 hour and 30 minutes, departs from Grand Portage (This ferry only goes to Windigo)
- Isle Royale Seaplanes: Seaplane, 45 minutes, departs from Grand Marais
Isle Royale National Park: What to do
Isle Royale is known as one of the most remote national parks in the United States, with 99% of the land designated as wilderness and no roads. The island has over 165 miles of hiking trails, 36 campgrounds, and excellent fishing. Around the island, you’ll find abundant wildlife, ancient mining sites, and historic lighthouses. During your stay, you’ll find plenty to do while you enjoy the bounty of nature.
Book a Fishing Charter
Hop aboard a 24-foot charter boat and set sail on the lake for some fishing. All you need to bring is yourself and your fishing license (which can be purchased at the Lodge Office), everything you’ll need to fish will already be on the boat, including a knowledgeable captain who is passionate about fishing.
When you’ve made your catch of the day, you can bring it back to Rock Harbor Lodge, where the Lighthouse Restaurant will prepare it for you to eat. The restaurant can also package and freeze your catch if you want to take it home with you.
With no roads, the only way to tour Isle Royale is by foot or by boat. You can join a sightseeing cruise any day of the week and see more of the island. Tours may include historic lighthouses, shipping lanes, commercial fisheries, and light hiking. Check with the Rock Harbor Lodge front desk for current offerings.
Shipwreck Scuba Diving
Many visitors come to Isle Royale for one reason: wreck diving. Near the island are ten major shipwrecks, most of which can be reached with traditional scuba diving equipment. Some of the wrecks are accessible to beginner divers, though many require an advanced license. Before diving, be sure to review the rules and safety precautions.
Favorite shipwrecks for diving include:
- Emperor: A steel freighter that struck Canoe Rocks off Isle Royale in 1947 caused it to sink. The wreck sits between 25 and 170 feet of water, with most divers approaching this as two separate dives, with the bow accessible to beginner divers.
- Glenlyon: A bulk freighter was lost in 1924 along a rocky shoal. The wreck rests at 15 to 60 feet of water, with the propeller, engine, and boilers open for inspection.
Spend the Day on the Water
At the Rock Harbor Marina or Windigo Marina, you’ll find boats, canoes, and kayaks available for rental. You can rent a watercraft for a half-day or full-day and enjoy exploring the shoreline of the island.
Where to Stay: Rock Harbor Lodge or Windigo Camper Cabins
Rock Harbor Lodge
Along the shores of Lake Superior, you’ll find the Rock Harbor Lodge. Choose between a stay in the lodge or one of the nearby cottages, many of which offer spectacular lake views. Lodge rooms include private bathrooms and coffee makers. The cottages sleep up to six people and include a kitchenette, coffee maker, kitchen table, and private bathroom.
For dining, you won’t even have to leave the property. Choose between the Lighthouse Restaurant and the Greenstone Grill, where you’ll find dinner options such as burgers, fresh-caught fish, and bratwurst.
Windigo Camper Cabins
For a rustic island experience, you can stay in one of the Windigo Camper Cabins, which are located in Washington Harbor. These cabins come with bunk beds and a pull-out futon, as well as an outdoor grill and dining area. Not all cabins have indoor plumbing, but guests have access to shared outdoor bathroom facilities.
If you’ve forgotten anything or want to pick up some snacks for your days of adventure, stop by the Windigo Store or the Dockside Store. You’ll find groceries, camping meals, fishing gear, bagged ice, and souvenirs to take home to remember your trip.
If you’re looking to truly get away from it all, look no further than Isle Royale. Located in Lake Superior in Northern Michigan, this island is remote and wild. With no roads, you’ll spend your time exploring on foot or taking a tour boat or kayak around the island to watch wildlife and enjoy nature.