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 (around 7:30 a.m.) 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:
Arnold Mackinac Island Ferry: Arnold Mackinac Island Ferry is $18 per adult round trip and $9 per child age 5-12, pets and children age 4 and under ride free. Bicycle transportation is $8 each, including tandems. Tickets may be purchased online at arnoldline.com. Day and overnight parking are free at Arnold Mackinac Island Ferry. Information about the most popular tours, Arnold’s Sip n’ Sail Cruises including sunset & fireworks, featuring live entertainment and cash bar is available at ArnoldLine.com.
Shepler’s: An adult round-trip ticket is $26; a child (ages 5-12) round-trip ticket is $14; an online discounted adult round-trip ticket is $24 from Mackinaw City and St. Ignace; an online discounted child (ages 5-12) round-trip ticket costs $13; and children under 5 are free! Bikes and bike trailers: $10 each (this charge is for bringing your own bike/ bike trailer). Free day parking, overnight parking (outdoor and unsecured for five nights is free; outdoor fenced is $15 per night; indoor drop-off is $30 per night). Specialty cruises include lighthouses and Les Cheneaux Islands.
Star Line: Adult round-trip tickets with Star Line are $24; children ages 5 to 12 are $13. Children under 5 are free. Bikes and bike trailers cost $10 each (this charge is for bringing your own bike/ bike trailer). Star Line offers free day and overnight parking (up to 5 nights). Indoor and outdoor valet parking available for an additional fee. Find out about specialty cruises including fireworks, sunset and live music.
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 as low as $28 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. Click here to learn more about charter flights 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.
Article contributors: Evan Perry
Originally published June 4, 2014