If your idea of camping involves RVs and full electrical hookups, I can save you some time right now and tell you that Michigan’s Beaver Island Music Festival probably isn’t for you. Started in 2003, this music festival brings together the best aspects of Michigan’s great outdoors and incredible up-and-coming bands to make for a hell of a weekend. It takes you back to those camping trips many of us had as kids where we spent days running in the woods, getting dirty, and loving life.
The Beaver Island Music Festival happens every July and is an absolute paradise for outdoor lovers. Beaver Island sits in Lake Michigan just west of the lower peninsula, and it is accessible by ferry from Charlevoix or by air. The Emerald Isle is the main ferry that takes patrons to and from the Island to Charlevoix for a beautiful two-hour cruise on the lake.
Ride on the top deck for sweeping views of the sapphire water and sip some beers in the sunshine and do some people watching (and usually some adorable dogs, too). There is also inside seating if you get stuck on the boat on a rainy day. People can also bring their cars over on the ferry with adequate reservations and there is room for bikes and four-wheelers, which come in handy when getting around the island.
When you get to the dock at Beaver Island, grab your stuff and head for the shuttle pick up. Volunteers help run the whole show, and there are shuttles available all day to haul campers to the campground. There are some great spots to get food right in town like the historic Shamrock. “The Island”, as locals call it, has a relaxed atmosphere with people from all over coming to explore. Don’t be surprised if The Island seems to operate on its own time – just sit back and enjoy it.
The Beaver Island Music Festival has grown significantly since 2003, and it has even become a non-profit organization. One of the thriving cultural events that have helped bring people back to The Island after its once busy fishing industry collapsed, the weekend promises to be packed with great music, beautiful handmade treasures, gorgeous views of the island, and some incredible homemade cooking. Camping is included in the cost of the festival tickets, and you can set up wherever there is room at the Beaver Island Hideaway Campground.
The Beaver Island Music Festival is completely family-friendly, and at the front of the festival site, there is even a kids area set up with toys and crafts. With an elaborate garden for visitors to walk through and enjoy during their stay, it is an oasis unlike many other camping or festival destinations. There is little to no service cell service at the campground, but not to worry because there is more than enough to see and do. The Island is one place where I embrace being completely unreachable.
Vendors tents near the stage sell a variety of handmade items and some of the popular Michigan oddities like Petoskey stones. Local craft breweries and distilleries can usually be found passing out free samples (Yes, free!) of alcoholic libations in addition to a concession area to purchase your usual snacks and delicious homemade meals.
During the day, The Island has plenty to offer.
- Take the shuttle back into town where you can shop the local boutiques or check out the Beaver Island Harbor Lighthouse in St. James Township.
- The Beaver Island Marine Museum tells the history of the once busy fishing industry.
- Discover some of the strange and interesting finds at the Beaver Island Toy Museum.
- There is also a walking tour that will take you around some of the historic and interesting sights in the town of St. James and explain the fascinating history behind King Strang.
- Take a dip in the chilly waters of Lake Michigan at the public beach or rent bikes, kayaks and more to enjoy.
The Beaver Island Music Festival is one of the many summer events that draw people from all over the country, and it is packed with a variety of great bands as well as mesmerizing entertainment like fire dancers. The music varies from folk to rock and plenty of in-between.
2019 MUSIC LINEUP
ZAYNAB WILSON MOONBEAU LOREN COLE G-SNACKS FALLING THROUGH APRIL CLUSTERPLUCK ED PALMER ESCAPING PAVEMENT HYMN FOR HER THE HACKY TURTLES FLEXADECIBEL JO SERRAPERE & JOHN DEVINE JESSE RAY & THE CAROLINA CATFISH BIGFOOT BUFFALO HE SAID SHE SAID THE BOOTSTRAP BOYS DAVE BOUTETTE & KRISTI LYNN DAVIS SHELLY SMITH
Beaver Island is a place of adventure and beauty and the music festival is just one of the many incredible events that bring people to its shores, and the open, welcoming atmosphere has made it a highlight of The Island. Get in on the fun in 2020 and mark your calendars for next summer!