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5 ways of getting to Mackinac Island from Pittsburgh

It’s an 8-hour drive from Pittsburgh to the Mackinac Island ferry docks in Mackinaw City, at the tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. From there it’s just a short ferry ride to the “Crown Jewel of the Great Lakes.” You could leave tomorrow morning and be here in time for dinner and a magical Mackinac Island sunset.

But, of course, that’s not the only way to get from western Pennsylvania to the No. 1 Island in the Lower 48 states. You can also get to Mackinac Island by plane, train or bus. Which route you choose depends on whether you want to get here as soon as you can, or if you’re up for an adventure along the way.

Check out these these five ways of getting to Mackinac Island from Pittsburgh and elsewhere in western Pennsylvania:

  • The fastest way to get to from Pittsburgh to Mackinac Island is to fly. Pellston Regional Airport (PLN) is the commercial airport nearest Mackinac Island. Although there are no direct flights to Pellston from Pittsburgh International Airport, you typically can connect via the Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) with a relatively quick layover. From Pellston, you can catch an airport shuttle to the Mackinac Island ferry docks in Mackinaw City.

Where do you catch the ferry to Mackinac Island?

A family takes a photo on a rocky Mackinac Island beach with a ferry boat and Round Island Lighthouse in the background.

  • Another option is to fly into Chippewa County International Airport (CIU) in Sault Ste. Marie via a connecting flight through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). Then, take an airport shuttle to the Mackinac Island ferry docks in St. Ignace, at the southern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Or, catch a flight out of St. Ignace direct to the Mackinac Island Airport, where a horse-drawn carriage can take you to wherever you’re staying on Mackinac Island. The flight time from St. Ignace? Just 7 minutes!

Yes, you can fly to Mackinac Island

An aerial view of Mackinac Island’s Mission Point Resort taken from a plane

  • Although cars are not allowed on Mackinac Island, it’s easy enough to park your ride at the ferry docks on the mainland if you choose to drive. From Pittsburgh, it’s an 8-hour trip that routes through northern Ohio to Toledo, then turns straight north through Ann Arbor, Flint and the beautiful wilds of northern Michigan to the Mackinac Island ferry docks in Mackinaw City.

What to do with your car when visiting Mackinac Island

Five ferry boats cruise past the Mackinac Bridge on their way to Michigan’s Mackinac Island

  • It’s also possible to make your way from Pittsburgh to Mackinac Island without driving or flying. Just take the Capitol Limited Amtrak route out of Pittsburgh’s Union Station to Toledo, Ohio. Then hop on a bus north to Mackinaw City. You can complete your voyage with a ferry ride from the mainland to Mackinac Island.

Tips for a first-time visit to Mackinac Island

A Shepler’s Ferry boat approaches the Mackinac Bridge while bringing passengers to Mackinac Island

  • If time is no constraint, then you can really make an adventure out of a trip from Pittsburgh to Mackinac Island. The drive through Chicago and Milwaukee on the west side of Lake Michigan and then back east to Mackinac Island through Michigan’s gorgeous Upper Peninsula takes 14 hours. The drive through Buffalo and Toronto on the east side of Lake Huron and then north and west through Ontario to Mackinac Island takes 13 hours. You can even mix in some car-ferries along the way: There are Lake Michigan crossings between Milwaukee and Muskegon, Mich. and between Manitowoc, Wisc. and Ludington, Mich., and there are international Lake Huron crossings between Sombra, Ont. and Marine City, Mich. and between Walpole Island, Ont. and Algonac, Mich.

11 FAQs for Mackinac Island vacation planning

A girl smiles at the camera from the top deck of a Star Line Ferry boat at Michigan’s Mackinac Island

See this map of routes from Pennsylvania to Mackinac Island

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