A primitive island in Lake Michigan, Rock Island offers a unique and secluded camping experience. With no cars allowed on the island, an intriguing history, and pet-friendly camping, a visit to Rock Island State Park is something you'll never forget.
Before going any further, we should point out that this isn't the easiest state park to get to. There are boat mooring spaces for visitors who want to bring their own boat -- though please take note that reefs and storms make Lake Michigan quite hazardous -- and a ferry service for other visitors. If taking the ferry, you'll need to take the Washington Island Ferry from Northport to Washington Island, then make your way to the island's northeast to board the Rock Island Ferry.
The Washington Island Ferry carries people, vehicles, and bicycles, and pets must remain in a car and be kept on a leash if traveling on the car deck. The Rock Island Ferry is a passenger-only vessel and pets must be kept on a leash. It's also important to point out that while the park is open year-round, the ferry only runs from Memorial Day Weekend to Columbus Day.
The fact that accessing Rock Island is a bit of a mission means it's not the ideal destination for everyone, but it also means that this is a quiet and peaceful place to visit. There are 40 primitive sites with their own picnic tables and fire rings, while drinking water and vault toilets are also provided. Leashed dogs are welcome but must be cleaned up after.
There's also a whole lot to see and do on the island. The Pottawatomie Lighthouse dates back to 1836 and is open for tours seven days a week, while many other visitors enjoy taking a canoe or kayak out on the lake.
Rock Island also features a beautiful sandy swimming beach, but if you want to jump in the water right in front of your campsite, you can do that as well.
Although we haven't listed an entrance fee above, you will have to pay to spend a night here. As well as camping costs, visitors who bring their own boats must pay a nightly fee of $1 for every foot of boat length when mooring at Rock Island State Park. Those who take the ferry should be aware that fees apply on both the Washington Island Ferry and the Rock Island Ferry, so contact the ferry operator to find out how much your trip is going to cost you.
When reserving your site, please be aware that there's a separate state park in Tennessee that shares the same name. Double-check to make sure you're booking a spot in the right Rock Island State Park.
And while it might take you a little while to get there, the serenity and unique atmosphere in Rock Island State Park make it well worth the journey.