Now, how can you get there without any hiccups?
Follow this guide for smooth travel to Mackinac that will give you peace of mind – and put you in the right frame of mind – to enjoy every timeless moment of your stay:
It Starts at The Ferry Dock
There’s no bridge to Mackinac and motor vehicles are prohibited on the island anyway, so you can’t drive all the way here. Two options for getting to Mackinac are by plane (Great Lakes Air offers a 7-minute charter flight from St. Ignace and Fresh Air Aviation also offers charter flights) or private boat (there are 76 slips in the island’s harbor). But most visitors catch a ride to Mackinac on ferry boats that depart from Mackinaw City (at the tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, at the southern end of the Mackinac Bridge) and St. Ignace (at the bottom of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, at the northern end of the bridge).
You can drive to the ferry docks and park your vehicle or fly into one of northern Michigan’s airports – PLN or CIU – and catch a shuttle to the docks. Two ferry companies service Mackinac with rides that take 16 to 18 minutes and bring you right into the heart of town on the island.
Day-trippers can park their car for free in designated ferry lots in Mackinaw City or St. Ignace. For overnight guests on the island, the ferry companies offer a range of parking options.
Q: How do I get ferry tickets?
A: You can buy tickets when you get to the dock or buy tickets online (usually at a reduced rate) and then bypass ticket lines at the dock. Tickets purchased online are good for any day and time, so you can catch the ferry that works for you. Both companies run several boats a day to the island in season, with rides departing as often as every 15 minutes in the peak summer season. If there’s a particular boat you want to catch, be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes early to make sure you can get on it.
TIP: When buying ferry tickets, take a look at the special deals that package a ferry ride with island attractions such as carriage tours or Fort Mackinac admission.
Q: What do I do with my luggage?
A: If you’re staying overnight on Mackinac, the ferry company will take your luggage and transport it to the island free of charge. Some of the island’s lodging facilities work with the ferry companies to deliver your luggage right to your room, while others have porters who can transport your bags once you claim them upon arrival to the island’s dock.
Q: Can I bring dogs on the ferry? How about strollers?
A: Yes! You can bring dogs to Mackinac on ferry boats free of charge. Dogs must be leashed or crated for the ride. On the island, some of the lodging facilities are pet friendly and many restaurants offer outdoor seating with pets. Dogs also are permitted at many island attractions including carriage tours and Fort Mackinac.
Strollers are welcome on ferry boats free of charge and are stored on the boat during the ride as children sit in their own seat or on a parent’s lap.
TIP: One item many Mackinac visitors bring on the ferry boat is a bicycle, which can be taken aboard for a small fee. Since bicycling is one of the primary ways of getting around on the island, it can be handy to have a bike available whenever you need it. There also are several vendors on the island that rent a variety of bikes by the hour or by the day.
Make a Plan for Getting Around the Island
Whether you take a ferry to the island, a private boat or charter a flight, every visitor has the same basic means of moving around on Mackinac – by foot, by bicycle or by “taxi.”
Note the quotation marks around “taxi.” Motor vehicles are prohibited on Mackinac, so the taxis are horse-powered, literally. You can order up a horse-drawn taxi 24 hours a day in season. Be sure to have cash on hand because drivers don’t accept credit or debit cards.
Bicycles are a popular mode of transportation around town and a great way to experience the miles of trails through the state park that makes up more than 80 percent of the island. Here are the rules of the road for riding bikes on Mackinac.
Because it measures less than four square miles, Mackinac is very walkable. You can even walk all the way around the island in just a couple hours if you want. Many of the island’s attractions are close to town and can be reached on foot from most lodging facilities. Electric wheelchairs are available to rent from most bike shops.
Have More Questions? Don’t Hesitate to Ask!
While planning your trip, you can contact the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau for answers to any questions that pop up. Once you’re on the island, if you have questions about getting around, places to eat or things to do, stop by the Mackinac Island Visitor Center at 7274 Main St. for printed maps and guides and local advice.