If you surveyed average people living in Metro Detroit and asked them to name the island in Michigan with the largest year-round population, I suspect the majority would answer Mackinac. While Mackinac attracts about 15,000 tourists a day during the summer, it only has a year-round population of fewer than 600.
You may be surprised to learn that the largest island in the Detroit River, Grosse Ile, comes in as No. 2 in the largest year-round population category in the Great Lakes, with a permanent population of around 11,000.
Grosse Ile is also rated in the top 25 most populated year-round island communities in the entire U.S. and No. 38 in the CNN / Money Magazine Best Places to Live small town list.
While at the same time a somewhat rural and upscale community, with great schools, situated within the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, it is also worth pointing out that Grosse Ile is a popular place to live as island communities go in general.
Grosse Ile is really an island in area with suburban convenience located near a major metropolitan area — a combination which is completely unique in Michigan.
Harsen’s Island is # 3 with a permanent population around 2,000. (Harsen’s ferry boat access to the mainland is not particularly convenient, especially in the winter.) There are relatively few examples across the U.S.
So, which island is the No. 1 largest year-round population in the Great Lakes?
It is the Canadian island of Manitoulin in Lake Huron which has a permanent population of about 13,000 and many thousands more during the summer (http://www.manitoulinliving.com/regional_profile.htm).
Islands by land size and population http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_islands_of_the_United_States_by_area.
Islands (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islands_of_the_Great_Lakes) and Michigan islands on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_islands_of_Michigan