Getting to Mackinac Island is the first step to your Northern Michigan vacation on the island. It’s a process that’s been streamlined throughout the decades of island tourism, but planning ahead will prevent any headaches when trying to make it from the mainland to the island’s shore. Visitors can access the island by boat or by plane. Read on to discover travel ideas for getting to and from Mackinac Island.
Ferries are the most economical and popular means of getting to the island. With views of the Mackinac Bridge and the prismatic waters of the Straits of Mackinac, a ferry ride is an enjoyable experience in itself. Passengers are not only transported quickly across the water, but seemingly back in time upon arrival at Mackinac Island.
Ferries service the island from Mackinaw City to the south and St. Ignace to west; Mackinaw City is in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, and St. Ignace is in the Upper. Ferry services begin in early spring and run into the late fall—the exact window is sometimes dictated by the presence of lake ice. Services begin early in the morning (about 7:30 am) and last until evening, with the final rides being conducted later and later during peak tourism weeks. Three companies handle all passenger ferry services to and from the two mainland ports and the island, and those are:
Round-trip fees cost around $25 for an adult, while kids cost about half of that, although the exact pricing may vary depending on the time of year and duration of stay on Mackinac Island. Bikes may be brought onto the ferries for an additional charge of about $10 ($20 for tandems). Tickets may be purchased online at Shepler’s and Star Line, while Arnold only sells at the dock (and at the lowest prices). Mainland parking is offered by each company, although parking fees may apply; check with each company for details.
The ferry companies also offer various tours around the Straits of Mackinac. The Fireworks Cruise from Shepler’s takes passengers out during the 4th of July fireworks display above Mackinac Island for an unforgettable evening under the stars and stunning pyrotechnics display, while weekly Sunset Tours from Star Line offer an up close perspective of the Mackinac Bridge and surrounding islands during the most picturesque time of day.
Mackinac Island is home to the Mackinac Island Airport, which accommodates charter and private planes. Great Lakes Air offers regular service to Mackinac Island from St. Ignace for $30 per adult, and half that for children, with a $60 minimum for two people. Visit GreatLakesAir.net or call 906.643.7165 to make a reservation.
Additionally, charter flights from the nearby commercial airports in Pellston and Traverse City can be arranged. Northern Michigan-based companies like North Country Aviation, Pentastar Aviation and others offer charter flights from various Northern Michigan towns to Mackinac Island.
The Mackinac Island State Harbor is open from mid-May to mid-October, and is comprised of 76 slips. Located in the shadow of Fort Mackinac, the marina is a 5-minute walk from downtown Mackinac Island, putting boaters right in the middle of all the action on Mackinac Island. Boaters can access the harbor via a cruise from Mackinaw City or St. Ignace—or any other Great Lakes harbor, for that matter.
For slip rental information, call 906.847.3561 or visit Michigan.gov.