Whenever you visit Mackinac Island, it’s really important to catch the last ferry back to the mainland if you’re not planning to spend the night. Because if you miss that boat, then you’ll be spending an unplanned night on Mackinac Island!
Once that last boat leaves, there’s no looking back. The ferries won’t return until early the next morning.
The time the last ferry leaves the dock on Mackinac Island varies over the course of the season. So, it’s a good idea to be aware of your ferry company’s daily schedule, whether you are riding back and forth to Mackinac Island with Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry or with Star Line Mackinac Island Hydro-Jet Ferry.
In general, the two ferry companies resume a regular schedule of daily passenger trips to Mackinac Island in late April. Both companies tend to increase ferry frequency and extend the daily schedule as the season progresses, with the most boats and the latest times in the summer. Then, both ferries reduce the number of boats going back and forth to Mackinac Island and shorten the daily schedule again in the fall until regular passenger service stops at the end of October.
Here are a few more things to know about that last Mackinac Island ferry boat of the day:
- Ferry schedules change not only during the course of the season, but from season to season. So even if you remember catching an 11 p.m. ferry back to the mainland a few years ago, that doesn’t mean there will be an 11 p.m. ferry available on your next visit. In fact, staffing shortages through the COVID-19 pandemic often have pushed the time of the last ferry earlier than 10 p.m. even in the peak of summer.
- Did you know there used to be ferry boats leaving Mackinac Island as late as 2 a.m. to accommodate day trippers who wanted to enjoy nightlife on Mackinac Island? The ferry companies didn’t keep that schedule in effect for long because most visitors who patronize Mackinac Island bars late into the night choose to spend the night on Mackinac Island. However, it’s possible that boats may be running later into the night the next time you visit. Just be sure to check the latest Mackinac Island ferry schedule from Shepler’s and the latest Mackinac Island ferry schedule from Star Line.
- Whenever the last boat is scheduled to leave Mackinac Island, plan to reach the dock well in advance. The last boat of the night might very well be a full boat! Likewise, when you’re taking a ferry from the mainland to Mackinac Island, be sure to arrive at least 45 minutes early.
“We say give yourself an hour, just to make sure,” said Chris Shepler, vice president of Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry. “It’s getting to be like an airport. In the old days you could pull up at 10 minutes to 7 and catch a 7 o’clock ferry, no problem. Now, because of the amount of people that are going to Mackinac Island, you need to plan a little bit more time on each end.”