Les Cheneaux Islands, Michigan
Location: Lake Huron
Ease of Getting There: 9/10
Ease of Staying There: 8/10
Ease of Eating There: 8/10
Come discover, slow down and relax. Les Cheneaux Islands (pronounced: Lay shen O) is a group of 36 small islands, some inhabited and some not, along 12 miles of Lake Huron’s shoreline on the southeastern tip of Michigan’s upper peninsula. You will find fresh air, fresh water, and bright sunrises waiting for you in this magical place. This under-the-radar gem is such a well-kept secret that even most native Michiganders haven’t heard of it.
Les Cheneaux Islands have a feel all their own; their name means “the channels” in French, and that is what you will discover as you kayak or boat through the channels between the many islands of this enchanted area. It is a classic boat destination for anyone interested in wood boats. Chris Craft opened their first dealership in Hessel, Michigan, in 1925. Here you will find many beautiful wooden antique boats, especially in August when Hessel hosts a Wooden Antique Boat Show and Art Festival. The well-loved festival celebrated its forty-second year in 2019. Sign up to take a boat-building class to learn how to build a paddleboard, kayak, dingy or canoe. Of course, you can canoe, kayak or boat the waterways, enjoy the federally protected national forest, explore the North Huron Birding Trail (you may spot a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker or Caspian Terns) and revel in amazing sunrises, star gazing and northern lights.
In addition to Hessel, Cedarville is another quaint town you’ll find among Les Cheneaux Islands. Lodging options aren’t expansive, but visitors can choose from old-fashioned cottages, AirBnBs or motels. Food choices can be limited depending on time of year, but Les Cheneaux Distillery offers freshly brewed beers, Les Cheneaux Culinary School offers a well-reviewed restaurant during summer months, and there are a number of trusty diners, bars and even food trucks that are sure to satisfy.
Les Cheneaux Islands is 20 minutes east of St. Ignace, Michigan, and a 5.5-hour drive from Detroit.