Visiting Mackinac Island in December

In December, Mackinac Island becomes a winter wonderland, embracing the quiet beauty of the season amidst its usually bustling landscapes. From November through April, Mackinac Island transforms in the winter offseason to a different place compared to the sunshine and summer energy the island is famously known for. Most of the island undergoes a hibernation as shops close their store fronts, attractions close for the winter, and only a handful of restaurants and places to stay remain open in the winter months.

Mackinac Island is still accessible by ferry and air taxi flights during December, but traveling in the winter can be unpredictable with weather. Stay up to date with ferry schedule changes and weather conditions for flying when making plans to visit.

While most places are closed in the winter, two noteworthy events take place on Mackinac Island in December: The Mackinac Island Christmas Bazaar and the New Year’s Eve Great Turtle Drop. Keep reading for more information on both events and what to expect during a winter visit.

Snow blankets Main Street on Mackinac Island at night with streetlights aglow and snowmobiles lining the road

WEATHER ON MACKINAC ISLAND IN DECEMBER

Mackinac Island is generally cold and snowy in December. Daytime highs are around 31 degrees with lows averaging 20 degrees.  Snow is a defining feature of the winter weather on Mackinac Island. We generally receive a substantial amount of snowfall, transforming the landscapes into a winter wonderland. Visitors should come prepared with layers, hats, gloves, boots, and possibly snow pants.

Snowmobiles line the street out front of Doud’s Market in downtown Mackinac Island on a sunny winter day

GETTING TO MACKINAC ISLAND IN DECEMBER

Many people don’t know that Mackinac Island is still accessible after the tourism season is over. There are two ways of getting to Mackinac Island in December: on a ferry boat or in an airplane.

After arriving, residents and visitors alike get around Mackinac Island with bicycles, walking, snowmobiles, horse-drawn taxis, wheelchairs, and mobility scooters.

Ferries to Mackinac Island

Taking a ferry is the most popular mode of transportation to and from Mackinac Island any time of the year. In the winter season, the ferry operates from the Mackinac Island Ferry Company out of St. Ignace only.

The winter ferry runs on a limited schedule with the “slow” boat, the Mighty Huron, that takes about 45 minutes one way with no ice. The ferry runs as long as it can before the ice becomes too thick, usually in January or February.

Parking, ticket, and schedule information can be found on the Mackinac Island Ferry Company website.

Flying to Mackinac Island

There are three options when it comes to flying to Mackinac Island: take a 7-minute air taxi, order a charter flight to pick you up from a different airport, or fly your own plane into Mackinac Island Airport.

  • Fresh Air Aviation operates out of the St. Ignace Airport and flies directly to the Mackinac Island Airport. It is about $45 for a one-way adult ticket and a 7-minute flight. Call ahead to schedule a flight with them at 906-285-6727.

 

 

  • You can also fly a private plane to Mackinac Island. Click here for more information about Mackinac Island Airport prices, details, and contacts.

If you are flying into the Mackinac Island Airport, it is recommended to arrange a horse-drawn taxi ahead of time 906-847-3323. The Mackinac Island Airport is about 2 miles from the downtown area.

Read this blog for more information regarding the closest and largest airports near Mackinac Island.

In addition to taking the ferry or flying, you may have heard about getting to Mackinac Island using the ice bridge in the winter. Like many city organizations and businesses, we will not provide updates nor information on the status, location, or details about the ice bridge because of how unsafe it is. Using the ice bridge is “riding at your own risk” and should be considered with extreme caution. Snowmobiles on Mackinac Island require a DNR trail permit that can be ordered online or purchased at mainland gas stations. Mackinac Island does not have designated snowmobile trails as snowmobiles are used for transportation and not leisure by locals.

Toys and a “Happy Holidays” sign fill the showroom window of a Mackinac Island storefront.

WHAT’S OPEN ON MACKINAC ISLAND IN DECEMBER

Most stores and businesses are closed in December except for select event weekends. These stores and dates vary year to year so check the Mackinac Island winter page for the most up to date information.

 

  • Outdoor Activities: Hiking and biking the 70 miles of trails gradually transforms into cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Mackinac Island has a robust cross-country community and, depending on snowfall, they begin grooming designated cross-country ski trails on Mackinac Island. There are no bicycle rentals in the winter season so please bring your own bike if interested.

 

  • Horse-drawn carriage tours: Carriage tours do not run in the winter season. Horse-drawn taxis are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. by calling 906-847-3323.

 

 

 

  • Accommodations: There are a variety of places to stay on Mackinac Island in December. In addition to a few accommodations that are open all year, select hotels open for event weekends. See the accommodations list on the Mackinac Island winter page for more information.

A reminder that the only restrooms are at the lodging establishments, Mackinac Island Ferry Company Dock 1 when the ferry is running, and the restaurants.

Please visit the Mackinac Island Winter Page to see more open dates and hours for different businesses in the winter.

A Christmas tree with multicolored lights sparkles in the middle of Mackinac Island’s snowy Main Street on a winter night

ACTIVITIES & EVENTS ON MACKINAC ISLAND IN DECEMBER

There are two big events on separate weekends in December: the Christmas Bazaar Weekend and New Year’s Eve Celebration.

  • The Mackinac Island Christmas Bazaar Weekend is a 3-day event that generally begins the first Friday of December. It kicks off with carols and the lighting of the town Christmas tree and is followed by silent and live auctions, raffles, and community dinners helping to raise money for the heat bills at the island churches and Medical Center.

 

  • The New Year’s Eve Great Turtle Drop rings in the new year with friends and fun. Activities vary year-to-year so visit the winter page or call the Tourism Bureau office at 906-847-3783 for up to date information.

5 things to do on Mackinac Island in December

A “No Climbing” sign is posted at the foot of a snow-covered Sugar Loaf rock formation in Mackinac Island State Park

ADDITIONAL THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT MACKINAC ISLAND IN DECEMBER

  • Mackinac Island in December is very different than during the tourism season. Prepare for a quiet, cool stay during the off-season. If you’ve never visited Mackinac Island, we recommend making a trip between May and October.

 

  • The ferry runs with Mackinac Island Ferry from St. Ignace only and the schedule is limited during the winter season.

 

 

  • Pack layers and warm clothes for the blustery winter days and nights on Mackinac Island.

 

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