South Manitou Group Campground is a tent-only backcountry facility on South Manitou Island in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan. Campers must take a 1.5-hour ferry or boat ride to reach it, and must backpack their gear into the campground from the dock.
This facility is comprised of three reservable group sites at Bay Campground and three others at Weather Station Campground. Each site is open to groups of nine to 20 people only. Smaller parties must plan to occupy multiple first-come, first-served individual sites at Popple, Bay or Weather Station Campgrounds on the island. Bay is the closest campground to the dock (less than a mile) and a short walk from the beach. Weather Station overlooks Lake Michigan from the bluffs on the south side of the island; the hike from the ferry is about 1.3 miles.
If group sites are full, your group may be able to split up into multiple individual campsites. Be sure to make reservations for the ferry (231-256-9061) for transportation to the island. For more information, call 231-326-4700 ext 5010
Summer temperatures range from the upper 70s to 90s during the day and drop about 20 degrees at night. Winters are cold, with daytime highs in the 20s to 30s and lows in the 10s and 20s; snow is usually on the ground from late November through March.
South Manitou Island is part of an island chain in Lake Michigan that extends north to the Straits of Mackinac. The island consists of a ridge of tilted layers of limestone, buried under a blanket of glacial debris. It features unique sand dune formations, 10 miles of pebble beaches and a grove of old growth white cedars that date back over 500 years. The campgrounds lie on sandy soils among younger forests.
There is no shortage of activities on South Manitou Island. Visitors can hike around the 10-mile perimeter of the island via pebble beaches, take a tour of the South Manitou Island Lighthouse during summer months, view the 1960 shipwreck of the Francisco Morazanon or go on a motorized tour to learn the history of the island.
Visitors can also hike day-long excursions to unique sand dune formations and old growth cedar forests. Both campgrounds have beach access where campers can beachcomb and swim; group sites are closer to the beach at Bay Campground than at Weather Station.
Water is only available in the Village area. Group campsites are secluded and set apart from one another. Each site has a fire pit for open fires (firewood must be purchased or collected in the park). Wooden pit toilets are provided, however campers must bring their own toilet paper.
Visitor Center: Ranger Station
Sailed tonSouth Manitou from Glen Arbor. Some group camping.
Don’t forget the bug spray
The only way to reach South Manitou Island is to take a ferry over to the island. You must pack in anything you will need and pack out all of your trash. I love to go camping for extended periods of time. My four year old son and I took the ferry to South Manitou Island and had planned to stay for a few days. We had numerous people gift us food they had packed over to the island and did not want to pack out. We ended up extending our trip by a couple days. There are numerous fun day hikes to do on the island. You can hike to see the wreck of the Corazon, the cedar forest or the old homestead farms. We ate sweet plums that were ripe from one of the old trees on one of the farms. We camped at the Weather Station Campground and swam daily.
I stayed at the campsite nearest to where the ferry drops you off. There were several sites to choose from, and we were able to snag a spot with a small trail to Lake Michigan. There was a fire pit with a grill, and an out house style bathroom a short walk away. We hung our food to keep the chipmunks out of it- they did chew on my sunglasses case that I left out!
Hiking trails on the island are well marked, and fairly easy. I would recommend staying 2 nights if you want to see the whole island, though. With the ferry schedule, you wouldn't have time to see everything. I'd also recommend bringing more food than you think you need, in case the weather turns and the ferry can't pick you up on the day planned.
South Manitou island is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake shore. The island does have drinking water but you have to hike from your sites ot get it our you can get water from Lake Michigan and make it drinkable. There is no electricity at any of the camp sites, there is a charger station at the docks you can use. There is a Ranger station and a small museum along with old houses that the staff use who stay on the island. The Island has a Light house that has daily tours, a ship wreck and old growth ceder trees you can hike to along with the dunes. There are three campgrounds on the island all sites are first come first pick. Bay Campground is located the closest to the docks about a 1/2 mile walk with your gear, we did not camp here during our trip but we did stop to check out the sites available. These's sites are located along the cove of the island so they are on soft sand felt good to site or lay on without mats. These sites have awesome views of the sun rise in the morning. Popple Campground is the furthest away from the dock, and has the more sever hiking terrain, but is well worth the 7.4 mile round trip hike to get to it. Very secluded, all sites are close to the water's edge. Our site had it's own access trail to the beach, some area's on this side are sandy beach and some is rocky. On the other side of the island and only a 2.7 mile round trip hike from the dock is Weather Station Campground which seems to be the most popular. It is on the South side of the island and has sites on the cliff side and other sites scattered into the forest in the Campground. We were lucky enough to get a site on the cliff over the water and we could watch the waves from inside our tent. Some water side sites have their own trail down to the beach below. There are other trails along the beaches that lead back up to the camp sites. The island has plenty of hiking trails and attractions to see. The only bathroom is located by the docs. Most hiking trails are full shade. There are lots of mosquitoes so be prepared. We can't wait for our next trip to the island.
There are three campgrounds on South Manitou Island. I have stayed at the Weather Station Campground. The sites are back country camping with little to no amenities. A few sites are secluded while others are close together. A few sites offer amazing views of Lake Michigan atop some small bluffs which make this campground amazing. The area has a pit toilet or you can use nature and bury your waste (follow LNT principles!). The solar driven well is no longer operating so grab your water from Lake Michigan and treat it accordingly. This is a fun back country campground.