This Remote Island in Lake Michigan Is the State’s First and Only Dark Sky Sanctuary — With Stunning Views of Meteor Showers, Northern Lights, and Comets

Travel Leisure
3 Min Read

Even when the skies are cloudy, it’s clear that 2024 is the year of astro-tourism. From solar eclipse mania to Dark Sky-certified accommodations, travelers can’t get enough of northern lights and stargazing. Luckily, destinations are getting on board, too, working with organizations like DarkSky International (the former International Dark Sky Association) to combat the effects of light pollution, conserve wild spaces, and protect designated areas as dark sky places. 


DarkSky International recently announced the newest Dark Sky Sanctuary: the Beaver Island State Wildlife Research Area International Dark Sky Sanctuary. It is the 20th spot in the world to earn that label.


According to the organization, “a Dark Sky Sanctuary is public or private land that has an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural, or educational value, its cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.” Due to the remote nature of Dark Sky Sanctuaries, this designation is specially designed to increase awareness and conservation of these sites.


“Dark Sky Sanctuaries recognize and protect some of the most pristine skies in the world. We’re honored to partner with advocates in Michigan to ensure that some of the darkest and most natural skies in the United States are preserved for future generations,” Ruskin Hartley, CEO of DarkSky International, told Travel + Leisure


Maria Dal Pra, owner of the Beaver Island Retreat and member of the local Dark Sky Sanctuary task force, shared that achieving sanctuary certification took approximately five years to complete. “The awarding of a Dark Sky Sanctuary status on Beaver Island is a landmark achievement for the community and its conservation efforts. The designation underscores Beaver Island’s commitment to preserving its exceptional night skies and the natural environment,” she told T+L.


Dal Pra hopes the recognition will boost eco-tourism on the island and continue reinforcing residents’ commitment to sustainable practices and environmental education.


As Michigan’s first certified International Dark Sky Sanctuary, the area is also part of the UNESCO Obtawaing Biosphere. “Michigan offers out-of-this-world stargazing opportunities,” Kelly Wolgamott, VP of Travel Michigan, told T+L. “With three international Dark Sky Parks, six state parks with Dark Sky Preserves, and the newest sanctuary on Beaver Island, there’s no doubt that Michigan is a premier destination for avid stargazers and visitors alike to immerse themselves in the beauty of the night sky.”