I want to live on an island.

View from the Huron Island Lighthouse

Let’s be honest.  Part of me wants to live on an island.  The other parts are completely satisfied living in our Little House in the Big Woods in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The part that wants to live on an island thrilled to read an article in Lake Superior Magazine last week.  The article “Wintering on the Island” by Madelaine Karwoski shares her life on Madeline Island, Wisconsin.  This island, propped in Lake Superior just off Bayfield, is 14 miles long and four miles across.  It hosts about 300 or so year-long residents.

What a great story Madelaine shared!  I wish I could provide a link so everyone could read it.  She starts by saying “If you live on Madeline Island and you forgot to get fresh mushrooms at the store, fetching that ingredient could cost $37–counting in the full cost of a round trip ferry to the mainfland.  Plus figure it will take a couple of hours if ice slows the crossing…”

Gazing out at the Huron Islands from shore

She’s lived on the island since January, 2007 when she moved north from St. Paul, Minnesota.  She shares about the community on the island–the Mission Hill Coffee shop (which is also Information Central in winter), the ferry liner, the local theater group (the Lake Affected Players!) the local food shelf which is never locked, the choir, the magical Christmas Pageant, and the auspicious date when the ice freezes between the island and the mainland and vehicles can traverse the ice road.

Doesn’t this sound ideal?  Doesn’t this sound like The Life?  To live on an island…it contains a grand mystique.  What is it about this thought that intrigues us and makes us want to move onto our own secluded island complete with a special community?

North Entry Light, Portage Canal, Lake Superior

Two of my blogging friends live on islands.  If you want to learn more about island life please visit Terrill over at Creative Potager.  She lives on Mayne Island, one of the islands off Vancouver.  I nudged her about life on the island last week.  Here is what she summarized:

We have a little over a 1,000 full-time residents here on Mayne Island. Yes we have a grocery store, a bakery, a gas station with DVDs and a post office open half days Mon – Fri. We have a liquor store, a library and a school. We have a health food store, insurance office, Realtor offices, a clothing store, and a hardware store and more. We have a Health centre with a lab on Tuesday morning. We have volunteer fire and ambulance services. We have over a dozen small food farms. We have a bookstore and a home and garden store. To learn more about Mayne Island please have a look at http://www.mayneisland.com/ and as you scroll down you might even see some images that are familiar. Basically we have everything we need.

Bree lives on Mackinac Island during part of the year–a little island between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.  There are no motorized vehicles on this island which is a popular summer tourist destination.  Mackinac Island has always stirred the souls of those who imagine living there.  Even though Bree winters in southern Georgia, I suspect that part of her never leaves the island.  Her popular Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog attracts hundreds of folks daily who dream of living on the island.

Seaplane arrives at Tobin Harbor, Isle Royale

Island life…it sounds so romantic.  So isolated.  So ideal. 

But would we truly feel this way if we lived on an island?  Would we be content?  Would we begin to feel cloistered, claustrophobic, shut in?  Would we begin to feel cut off from the rest of the world?  Would we long for the convenience of fresh mushrooms at less than $37 a carton?  Would we feel too limited?

I told Barry last week, “I want to live on an island.”

He stared back at me.

“You do live on an island,” he replied,  “Sort of.  What would be better for you if you lived on an island?”

(Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is almost an island because it is mostly surrounded by water.  But not quite.  Land connects us to Wisconsin.  A bridge connects Michigan and Canada.   It does feel like we live on an island–here in the woods–because we’re completely surrounded by trees.  We’ve carved out a little island among the poplar and maple and spruce.)

Moose and calves on Isle Royale

I contemplated this all week.  What would be different if I lived on an island?  What part of island-life intrigues?

I think it is that I would have to learn to be more self-reliant.  To live even more simply.  To be more thoughtful, more contained.  To live on less–or at least to be able to live on less– until the next trip to the mainland. 

Which perhaps is a goal that I could cultivate even more completely in our island on the woods.  Perhaps we wouldn’t need to hop in the car and go out to a restaurant at the first whim.  Or to run to town so easily.  Perhaps growing some deeper roots among the trees might satisfy the part that wants to live on an island.

I want to live on an island. Don't you?

Thanks to my husband, Barry, and Cathy Newland for these photos of Isle Royale and the Huron Islands.

Does anyone else harbor a hidden desire to live on an island?  (It can be just part of you…and you don’t have to move there tomorrow!)

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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60 Responses to I want to live on an island.

  1. holessence says:

    Kathy, I love what you said:

    “I think it is that I would have to learn to be more self-reliant. To live even more simply. To be more thoughtful, more contained. To live on less–or at least to be able to live on less– until the next trip to the mainland.”

    That’s the part that’s extremely attractive to me!

    • Kathy says:

      Laurie, isn’t it good how we can extract what really matters to us? That somehow our deeper desires are buried within other desires? I like that, too.

  2. Oh Kathy things change so fast! From the time you asked me about island life and your post our Post Office has gone from half days to full days six days a week. Just like that progress reach in and brought us up to snuff! To let you in on a secret, we still slip out to a restaurant on a whim Wed to Sunday. Monday and Tuesday most of the larger eating place are closed. But it is our local Bakery that we most often go for soup and a treat. During the winter when the skies are grey and the rain is coming down this becomes most important. We order our movies through the mail as well – Zip.ca . They have the most fantastic resource for the best of the best global movies through time.

    We are more self-reliant, and less consumer focused – though I did go by three pairs of wool socks from the neighbour yesterday that were made from wool that came from the sheep grazing in the valley below our property.

    But one of my most contented times of the day is hearing the foghorn sounding whistle of the last ferry as it goes through Active Pass. There is a settling and inner quiet that still, after over three years, makes me feel slightly giddy and always makes me smile.

    Thank you Kathy for sharing Creative Potager and our island life.

    • Kathy says:

      My goodness, Terrill. Things DO change fast. Congratulations for your island postal progress. So living on an island doesn’t prevent restaurant whim? Hmmm…must re-think this! Your wool socks sound lovely.

      Thank you for the island inspiration, as well as the creative inspiration…

  3. Kiah says:

    Momma, I live on an island …. and I can’t wait to get off! But I don’t think you had this particular island in mind when you wrote your blog!

    • Kathy says:

      For some reason I wasn’t thinking of MANHATTAN when writing this blog, Kiah! How funny. Maybe you are living out my latent desire to live on an island? ha ha…

  4. Carol says:

    An island would be nice, sometimes. In the summer, I would like that. Providing there was mail, UPS and FedEx deliveries if I NEEDED to buy something online. Like mushrooms. Or something else. I think I’d be happy with the coast.

    • Kathy says:

      The coast sounds good, too, Carol! Summer–especially after this morning’s snowy ride–sounds good too. I skidded past a road I was suppose to turn on. Due to the ice. Thank goodness we don’t have much traffic.

  5. Colleen says:

    Hello Kathy, I have SO enjoyed your thoughts and wonderings about island living. And yes, I think that once one has lived on an island there is always a part of us that stays on that island. We lived on Vancouver Island for many years….much larger than Terrill’s Mayne Island but not without it’s own charm and beauty, especially in the earlier years. One day we hope to go back, maybe to live one one of the smaller islands, maybe…… Terrill’s description the “settling and inner quiet” that she feels touches my heart this morning.
    Thank you to both of you.

    But will admit that I haven’t really missed the looooooong winter rains.

    • Kathy says:

      I like those words too. “settling and inner quiet”. That is the idealism inherent in the island fantasy. Long winter rains–or snow–could always be challenging. And I have always been one who simultaneously loves solitude AND community. Are you the same way?

  6. John says:

    Mackinac Island would be a little too much like living in Disney World. Mayne Island sounds a bit cozier. Then there is AuTrain Island that is for sale if you have the money (currently $3.5 mil) just east of Marquette. I think I would tire of living there alone after a while. Mayne Island is sounding better as each minute goes by. I think I am with Barry, Drue Island in the woods sounds pretty nice to me. One of you (speaking of your many selves) would enjoy the remoteness of an island, but there is the other self that is the wanderer that may feel limited eventually. Then there is the self that so likes getting away at a moment’s notice and going to Marquette or Houghton to some little shops or cozy restaurants that might feel a bit restricted. As for me any time you folks want to abandon Drue Island I would be happy to take your place. 😉

    P.S. Am I the only one who is seeing occasional snow falling across the pictures?

    • Kathy says:

      Ha ha, John…I’ll have to pull out my $3.5 million….um, no. So we’ll have to forget Au Train island for now. You know…after writing this…I think I have satisfied my island fantasy. I am agreeing with Barry, too. We’ll settle for the Island of the Woods. My many selves are nodding. Not all of them, but many of them. lol! What would we do without our trips to Marquette or Houghton? We probably wouldn’t survive! Smiling at the thought of Drue Island. (I am now wondering if you google Drue Island will this blog come up??)

      • John says:

        Yes it was the first of several responses to come up on google. You need to select one of your many pictures and tag Drue Island on google earth. Actually I already have an island tagged near by. The island that Cyrus McCormick had his lodge on in White Deer Lake, in what is now the McCormick Wilderness. I really love that place and enjoy conjuring up images of what it was like when it was in its prime.

        • Kathy says:

          Oh my gosh, John, it’s really there on google! How funny! We used to camp in the McCormick wilderness, maybe in that very lodge. You have just brought back some memories.

  7. Dawn says:

    I would move tomorrow if I could convince the spouse…and could afford not to work. Anywhere close to water and small town works for me. Of course we all view life somewhere else with rose-tinted glasses…whatever ails us where we are will most likely follow us to the new place. But still…an adventure on an island sounds heavenly. I too think my favorite time would be after the last ferry left, to know I was “home and cozy” and without outside interference…that sounds lovely. And with the internet …do they HAVE internet? LOL! you’re never truly alone unless you want to be!

    • Kathy says:

      Ah, yes. The big IF. If we could afford not to work. It’s always challenging to find work when you live in the woods or on an island. And I am convinced that our Life follows us wherever we are. All my problems would show up on the island, too, darn them! (we would have to have internet on our island, wouldn’t we? How else would we write our island blogs?)

  8. Karma says:

    Your words ring so true (as always). The island mystique! My family and I vacation in Maine in view of a little island, and each time we are there, my husband and I muse about what it would be like to spend the summer there. This island is unique. It is less than a mile from shore, and is actually connected by a sandbar at low tide. The inhabitants of the island (there are only 7 houses on this island) drive across the sandbar. No ferry service exists, so it is boat at high tide or sandbar at low tide, so one must plan ahead, with the tides. Any time I visit Cape Cod, I try to think of an excuse to board a ferry for Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket – mystique indeed!

    • Kathy says:

      What an interesting island there in Maine! Can you imagine driving across a sandbar at low tide? One is really at the mercy of nature in those circumstances. Wondering if that island mystique is universal?

  9. bearyweather says:

    There is a couple near here that live on a small island in the middle of a lake. Just them … no businesses, no electric, nothing but their creative ways of living there. They boat to the mainland in the open water months and cross via the ice in the winter. There are two seasons where they are stranded (now when the ice is not completely frozen and ice out in the Spring) I am not sure how they do it … but, I know that is not for me.
    I don’t want to live on a physical island (visiting would be enough for me). However, we can create our own isolated islands where ever we live … and I have done that here several times. Sometimes by choice .. sometimes not (after all, the closest town is over 25 miles away). There is a limit to how much time I can live happily in isolation in my created island of woods.
    Thanks for sharing … maybe some future vacation spots …

    • Kathy says:

      I like what you say, bearyweather. “We can create our own isolated islands where ever we live”. I suppose it’s best when we’re creating these by choice. Come to think of it, I have done the same. Your closest town is over 25 miles away? Ours is 12 miles. Are you in the middle of the woods too?

      • bearyweather says:

        Yep … middle of woodsy nowhere. There is a resort about 2 miles south of me and nearest neighbor to the north 3 miles. Except for summer time, then there area few more people in little cabins and tents a little closer. Nearest town … is very, very small .. cafe, grocery, gas, a mechanic, hardware and a few churches … not much else. Nearest city (small city) about 60 miles.

        • Kathy says:

          I think you are more isolated than we are, bearyweather. Our nearest town has about 2,000 folks. Our nearest small city is about 45 miles away. We do have neighbors, though.

  10. Gerry says:

    Hmmm. No. I enjoy visiting islands, but I like to live with long vistas and elbow room. When I reconnected with friends who had moved to Hawaii, I asked them where people go for vacations when they already live in paradise. The answer was immediate: “Anyplace that’s not an island.” On the other hand, this tiny blue marble we’re living on is pretty much an island in the grand scheme of things!

    • Kathy says:

      That’s funny, Gerry. People from islands want to go ANYWHERE else! I like how you’ve equated our blue marble as an island in the grand scheme of things. Sigh…that is so true.

  11. Michael Childers says:

    Kathy – thanks for your comments – and as luck would have it, I do have the amazing and unexpected good fortune to live on Madeline Island – sharing this incredible place with wonderful people like Madelaine K. Simplicity, peace, a place apart from the mainland – all are part of the joy of living here. But I also found another benefit – not one I expected – I have never felt so involved and connected to other people as I do the community that makes up the Town of La Pointe on Madeline Island. I’ve lived in a number of large cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. But while surrounded by people in those places, life was isolated. Living in an isolated place – relationships become intimate. Chance meetings at the Post Office and a quick update about the issues of the day, choir practice to prepare for the annual Christmas pageant, football afternoons at the Bell Street Tavern, offers of help during difficult weather events – all make up parts of this amazing life – connections with other people – in the middle of this extraordinary, beautiful island.

    • Kathy says:

      Michael, how fun to get a comment from someone who actually LIVES on Madelaine Island! I love what you have shared here. OK, you’re making me want to move there again. If you see Ms. Karwoski tell her how much we enjoyed her article! Glad to hear that you moved there and still describe your life as amazing and the island as extraordinary and beautiful. How wonderful.

  12. Krystal says:

    Oh, to live on an island. North Manitou specifically. If you want to read about a lady who did it, read Rita Hadra Rusco’s “North Manitou Island: Between Sunrise and Sunset.” Great island, good book. I can’t live there since it’s now a Nat’l Park but a piece of my heart lives there year-round!

    • Kathy says:

      I remember when I first learned about Manitou Island. I wanted to move there, too. I thought it was a magical mystical place. I am smiling gently thinking about your soul living on Maintou Island. Wishing you could live there, Krystal.

  13. Marilyn Durand says:

    I wouldn’t want to live on an island. However…I think they’re beautiful and love to paddle to them. I wouldn’t miss shopping but…I need a ski hill, trails, tennis courts, etc. I live in a paradise already…Big Bay Mi.

    • Kathy says:

      Hi Marilyn! You live just across the Triple A road from us. (We live close to Skanee in Arvon Township.) You do live in Paradise, and I think we do, too. I love your idea of paddling ot the islands. If only we had a kayak. Thanks for visiting.

  14. Anny says:

    I lived on Sugar Island one winter 35 years ago survived ferry crossing the night the Fitzgerald went down . Dealt with a medical emergancy that had to be coped with til morning when the ferry was running (if it was bad enough the ambulance could get the ferry out for a special run). I enjoyed it. My sister lives on St. Joseph Island on the Canadian side of the St. Mary’s river and I love the special feel of that Island and the conveince of the bridge! Visited lots of other Great Lake Islands and love them all! I am happy in my little house on Mission Creek in the MarShunk community in Sault Sainte Marie Michigan! It too is like an island within the larger community. Great article ! Madelaine is one I have not been to … hmmm another trip!

    • Kathy says:

      Anny, thank you for visiting the blog and sharing about your island experiences. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to survive a ferry crossing on the night the Fitzgerald went down! That must have been so scary. I am smiling thinking about your island within the larger community of the Sault. We want to get over that way for a vacation one of these years…

  15. I have but mine would be of a more tropical variety. 🙂 Though I had hoped to study on Isle Royale just out of college. That dream did not come to pass as my life diverged in other directions. I like how you surmised about having an island mentality anywhere if you so choose it.

    • Kathy says:

      Now you’re talkin’, Scott! A tropical island fantasy…yep, that sounds good, too. I’ll bet in would have been an interesting study on Isle Royale. Barry loves his fishing trips over there every summer.

  16. Dana Benson says:

    I would love to attempt island living, and I know my husband would too. My family has had a cabin in the upper peninsula just down the street from Strongs Road, about 45 minutes from the Soo. I have been going up there since I was a child, but went almost 11 years without a summer spent up there do to school, work, a child. I finally made it up about two summers ago, and was in absolute heaven. In some ways, I do feel like staying in the UP is kinda like island life, but I have also been to Mackinac Island, and feel we have a few more luxuries at our cabin. I love the “middle of no where feeling”. I was believe it or not, bored out of my mind when I was little, didn’t appreciate the natural beauty, the over abudance of activities we could do, but I sure do appreciate it now that I’m getting close to 30 & truly disliking Florida more and more everyday. I long to live in the north, either in the LP, UP or island. I loved reading your article and I can see all the fine points of island living that you made. Sure adjustments would be necessary, but if you don’t try it, how will you ever know whether it is for you or not. I say go for it!

    • Kathy says:

      Dana, when my family and I first visited the Upper Peninsula I was 12 years old. We spent a few days in a cabin in the middle of the woods and I prayed to God to “get me out of this godforsaken place.” No kidding! So God laughs and says, “Yep, that’s where she’ll spend her life.” There is a special feeling about living in the middle of nowhere. Whether on an island or in the UP, it’s special indeed. (I don’t suspect I will ever live on an island in actuality…) Thank you for visiting the blog!

  17. sonali says:

    what an amazing thought, Kathy! Live on less, be more self reliant. Yes. how very true! The place where I work is a land locked city with lots of shopping centres and eat out places. But the place I come from, my birth place which is Goa, India is a beautiful place with lot many beaches. Within, Goa we have small islands which are extremely beautiful! nature at its best. Goa is the smallest state of India. small & cute 🙂

    Its so very important to be self reliant, live on less, be contented. I appreciate your healthy thinking 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Goa sounds lovely, Sonali. Especially the beaches and islands. What is it about nature which often causes us to long for isolated places? I am always trying to be more self-reliant (although a community of like-minded others also helps), to live on less (except for travel money!) and be contented. Oh yes. To be contentented with what we have…

  18. Jill says:

    I/we/used to summer on Big LaSalle Island in the Les Cheneaux Islands, not far by boat from Mackinac Island, which we visited annually. (Fudgies!) As time wore on and kids grew up, their visits there grew less frequent owing to jobs, distance, etc. Finally, our little cottage had to be put up for sale because no one used it much any more and it cost far too much to maintain while lying empty. A rich guy bought it and promptly tore it down, building in its place a small “McMansion” (is that an oxymoron?). My husband and I had built a log cabin on the mainland, in view of our (former) island, in which we summered for 7 more years. The trip from GA became too arduous after that, so we sold it to someone from MI. Two years later, we learned it had burned to the ground….no more Michigan. Except in my dreams and heart!

    • Kathy says:

      I am glad that Michigan is still in your dreams and heart, Jill. I’ll bet it was tough seeing that “McMansion” being built. It does feel like an oxymoron. My in-laws moved from Gaylord to Georgia several years ago. My mother-in-law still sounds like she really misses Michigan. (Not the winters so much.)

  19. Robin says:

    I’ve often thought I would love to live on an island. It wasn’t until the end of your post that I figured out why:

    I think it is that I would have to learn to be more self-reliant. To live even more simply. To be more thoughtful, more contained. To live on less–or at least to be able to live on less– until the next trip to the mainland.

    You summed it up beautifully. And then you so wisely contemplated cultivating that attitude on your own island in the woods. I think you’re right and it’s an attitude I’d like to adopt in my quest to live more simply.

    Thank you. 🙂

  20. Mom says:

    Fort Myers Beach is an island!!!

  21. Bob Dahl says:

    I lived on an island in Lake Superior (Apostle Islands) for many years. You learn to plan ahead and really don’t miss the city life very much. We lived year ’round until I was three and then we moved to town in the winters so my older siblings could go to school. We lived there summers of 25 years.

  22. Marianne says:

    Kathy, the photos are beautiful! Living on an island looks great from afar. I’m not much of a boater or flyer and driving on ice scares the daylights out of me.

    I use to do all of those things when I was younger and didn’t give them much thought, however, since experiencing health issues, that all changed. Not sure why though.

    • Kathy says:

      Hi, Marianne! Driving on ice scares the heck out of me too. WALKING on ice scares the heck out of me! Especially during our ice fishing adventures the last couple of years. Isn’t it interesting how our daredevil side comes out when we’re younger and retreats as we age? I think we’ll have to lure it out–in safe measures, of course. 🙂

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  24. Cindy Lou says:

    How beautiful and thought-provoking, Miss Kathy! Having lived on the island of Oahu as a kid, I personally love islands…..though I must say that tropical ones appeal to me much more than the thought of an ice-bound island in the middle of Lk. Superior. Every time I drive by AuTrain Island, I think about being able to live there…kind of like living in a box car only different! 🙂

    And no, John – there does seem to be snow floating around…thought it was just me!?!?

    • Kathy says:

      OK, Cindy Lou–you’ve already lived the dream! Tropical ones sound definitely romantic and WARM. You are right about the Box Car scenario…very similar indeed!

      And YES there is snow floating around. It’s a special WordPress feature during the month of December. Hope you like it! (and it’s not even cold… No snow drifts either…)

  25. Gus O. Linja says:

    In theory anybody who lives north of the Portage Waterway in Upper Michigan lives on an island, because the only connection to the mainland is The Portage Lift Bridge (it has been called Copper Island.)

    • Kathy says:

      Gus, I am now sitting in a coffee shop in Houghton. My husband is taking girls basketball pics in Hancock. Therefore–when I go pick him up in a half hour–I’ll be visiting the island of the Keweenaw Peninsula! (I have never heard it called Copper Island, but that is perfect…) Thanks for stopping by.

      • Gus O. Linja says:

        Well at one time north of the Portage was thought of by many as Copper Island and there was at onetime a small newspaper called Copper Island Times

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  27. Lindsay says:

    Thank you so much for the lovely photos! I especially enjoyed the North Entry lighthouse picture. It reminded me of my youth, walking out on the breakers past McClain’s and watching my brother and his friends jump off the lighthouse (forbidden adventure!) Thanks again. I’m glad I found this blog. It makes me a little less homesick.

    • Kathy says:

      Lindsay, I am glad you found this blog too. Sounds like that was a very forbidden (but fun!) adventure. I have a picture–somewhere–of my daughter jumping off a buoy in Saginaw Bay. (I was too scared to jump.)
      Thanks again for visiting!

  28. Connie says:

    I know people dream of living on an island, but how many make it a reality? My husband and I did for 15 years – all four seasons in Northwestern Ontario – beautiful Lake of the Woods. We would have never left but he became chronically ill. Now it’s up for sale with so few people who really understand and who wish to commit. You have given me a start to find someone. I agree with many who have described an island dweller – self-reliance; love to live the simple life; thoughtful; and I believe there’s a few others like – resourceful, a cultivator of creativity, and someone who really likes themselves – and perhaps wants to love themselves deeper. Developing this profile will help me – so please if you have any other words that describe and island dweller, let me know.

    • Kathy says:

      I can’t think of any more words right now Connie–you have expressed this so beautifully! I LOVE what you said especially: someone who really likes themselves – and perhaps wants to love themselves deeper. That is so important. Bless you for recognizing this! (And I hope you find someone to share that island-life with you again…or maybe you will be called to do it alone?) Thanks for stopping by with your island-dweller soul.

  29. Duane Aho says:

    If you live north of the Houghton lift bridge you live on an island.
    If the bridge broke only way off is to swim or fly.
    I realize it isn’t recognized as such by the fed but it is a body of land surrounded by water , no bridge no connection to the mainland.
    We have all thought of it as an island the nearly 50 years I have been around at least north of the canal.

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