The islands which are visible from the beaches and ridges are known as South Manitou and North Manitou. They played an important role in the history of Great Lakes shipping as South Manitou had the only natural harbor along the Michigan shore for 220 miles. As result, a small community was established on the island which offered wood, provisions, and ice for the early steamers and their successors. Many ships sank when passing through the area beween the islands and the mainland, which is known as the Manitou Passage as there is a relatively shallow area where there can be fierce winds. Many more weathered sometimes fierce storms in the island's lee. You may find the Map of Shipwrecks to be of interest.
Most of the land on the islands is now owned by the National Park Service and is open to the public. Manitou Island Transit, which operates from the harbor at Leland, provides regular ferry service to both islands. The 16-mile trips take about 1 1/2 hours each way.
Call 231.256.9061 or visit www.leelanau.com/manitou.