It’s no wonder that Michigan’s Mackinac Island is such a popular vacation destination for people from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
For one, it’s just a day’s drive – or even a super quick flight – from the hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities to the relaxing, clip-clop pace of life on Mackinac Island. And, two, there’s a variety of routes you can take from Minneapolis to Mackinac Island, with lots of sights to see along the way.
If you like the soothing sounds of horse-drawn carriage rides, fog horns, seagulls and bicycle bells, then start planning your trip to Mackinac Island!
Here are five ways of getting from Minneapolis to Mackinac Island and back
- The shortest route from Minneapolis to Mackinac Island is across northern Wisconsin and through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Head east out of Minneapolis-St. Paul on I-94 to Eau Claire, then continue toward Green Bay before crossing the border into Michigan for a scenic stretch along the northern coast of Lake Michigan. Travel time to the Mackinac Island ferry docks in St. Ignace: 8 hours. Here’s what to do with your car when visiting Mackinac Island.
- The circle tour around Lake Michigan combines the shortest route from Minneapolis to Mackinac Island with a return trip through Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and Chicago. On your way back home, cross the Mackinac Bridge and head south through the heart of Michigan to Grand Rapids, the state’s second-largest city, and the many beach towns along the eastern coast of Lake Michigan. You’ll continue on through a sliver of Indiana (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is worth a stop) and into Chicago before taking I-90/I-94 past Madison, Wisc. and the Wisconsin Dells to the Twin Cities. Travel time: 12 hours.
- The car ferry option from Minneapolis to Mackinac Island includes a choice of two Lake Michigan crossings: the Lake Express ferry from Milwaukee to Muskegon, Mich. or the S. Badger ferry from Manitowoc, Wisc. to Ludington, Mich. From the Twin Cities, it’s about a 5-hour drive to Milwaukee, then another four hours from Muskegon to the Mackinac Island ferry docks in Mackinaw City. It’s also about a 5-hour drive to Manitowoc, then another three hours from Ludington to the ferry docks in Mackinaw City. The Lake Express crossing takes about two-and-a-half hours, while it takes about four hours to cross Lake Michigan on the S.S. Badger.
- Flying from Minneapolis to Mackinac Island is the quickest route. Fortunately, there are daily direct flights from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to the Chippewa County International Airport (CIU) in Sault Ste. Marie, just 30 miles north of the Mackinac Island ferry docks in St. Ignace. No need to rent a car there. Just hop on the airport shuttle to the ferry docks and catch a 15-minute boat ride to Mackinac Island. Or, you can fly directly to Mackinac Island. Just catch a flight from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island Airport and be sure to call ahead and have a horse-drawn taxi meet you at the airport when you land. The flight from MSP to CIU is a quick one that takes only about 90 minutes. The flight from St. Ignace into Mackinac Island? Just 7 minutes!
- Taking a cruise to Mackinac Island is another option for Minnesotans looking to experience the Jewel of the Great Lakes. Mackinac Island is a popular port of call for Great Lakes cruise ships including some that depart from Duluth on the shore of Lake Superior. You’ll make your way through the Great Lakes on a luxury cruise ship and spend one of your days exploring the unique charm and natural beauty of Mackinac Island!