Did you know the big city closest to Mackinac Island is in Canada?
Mackinac Island is a short drive from downstate Michigan cities including Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing. And Mackinac Island is just a day’s drive from most other metro areas around the Midwest and toward the East Coast, from Minneapolis and St. Louis to Nashville and Washington, D.C.
Yet, the nearest city with at least 50,000 people is actually Sault Ste. Marie, across the Canadian border in Ontario. And it’s less than an hour’s drive away!
Tips for Traveling to Mackinac Island from Canada
Travel to Mackinac Island from Canada was limited during the COVID-19 pandemic. But now that restrictions have eased and the border is back open to tourists, there’s once again a great opportunity for Canadians to experience the unique charm and beauty of historic Mackinac Island.
Still, because it involves crossing an international border, traveling to Mackinac Island from Canada is a little different than just driving up to the ferry docks from Indianapolis or Cincinnati. Here are a few things to keep in mind when visiting Mackinac Island from Ontario or another Canadian province:
- The land border crossing closest to Mackinac Island is the International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie (which is the name shared by cities on both the Canadian and American sides of the border). The 85-kilometer drive to the Mackinac Island ferry docks in St. Ignace takes about 50 minutes. Canadian travelers currently are required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination at the border, although proof of a negative COVID test is no longer needed.
- There are three other land border crossings between Ontario and Michigan. They are the Blue Water Bridge between Sarnia and Port Huron, which is about 4 hours and 480 kilometers from the Mackinac Island ferry docks in Mackinaw City; and the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel between Windsor and Detroit, which is also about a 4-hour, 470-kilometer drive to the ferry docks in Mackinaw City.
- The nearest commercial airports to Mackinac Island are Chippewa County International Airport (CIU) south of Sault Ste. Marie and the Pellston Regional Airport (PLN) south of Mackinaw City. While neither airport services direct flights from Canada, you can connect to CIU from either Detroit or Minneapolis and to PLN from Detroit. Both airports offer shuttle service to the Mackinac Island ferry docks in either Mackinaw City or St. Ignace. On the Canadian side of the border, the Sault Ste. Marie Airport is another option with daily flights from Toronto, Thunder Bay and Sudbury. Canadian airline passengers currently must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination to board a flight into the United States. Tips for Flying to Mackinac Island
- Most visitors ultimately reach Mackinac Island on a ferry from the mainland in either St. Ignace, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or Mackinaw City, in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. (You can also reach Mackinac Island directly by private or charter plane or reach Mackinac Island by private boat.) Canadian visitors can first take a ferry across the border, if they choose. International ferry crossings into Michigan include the Bluewater Ferry between Sombra, Ont. and Marine City, Mich., and the Walpole-Algonac Ferry between Walpole Island, Ont. and Algonac, Mich.
- Another fun way for Canadians to visit Mackinac Island is on a Great Lakes cruise ship. Several ships include Mackinac Island as a port of call on cruises that navigate Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay.