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What to do with your car when you go to Mackinac Island

You can fly to Mackinac Island. You can take a personal boat to Mackinac Island. And at certain times of the year, you may even be able to snowmobile to Mackinac Island.

But you can never drive a car to Mackinac Island.

So then, what do you do with your car when you visit Mackinac Island?

Maybe you’ve heard of the mighty Mackinac Bridge. The longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere actually doesn’t connect to Mackinac Island (although an alternate Mackinac Bridge plan would have). Instead, the Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas, just a few miles west of where Mackinac Island rises out of Lake Huron like a great turtle shell.

Since you can’t drive to Mackinac Island, the vast majority of visitors take a ferry boat (while some visitors do fly to Mackinac Island). The ferries depart from both Mackinaw City, at the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula, and St. Ignace, at the southern tip of the Upper Peninsula. It’s there where visitors typically leave their cars for the length of their stay on Mackinac Island.

Two ferry companies – Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry and Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry Company – service Mackinac Island out of both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. Both ferry companies offer daytime and overnight parking for customers, with different options and pricing depending on the kind of parking you prefer.

A Mackinac Island ferry boat welcomes passengers aboard at the dock

Here’s a rundown of basic parking options for Mackinac Island visitors:

  • Both Star Line and Shepler’s offer free day parking in lots at or near the ferry docks in Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. It’s a great cost-saving service for day-trippers who visit Mackinac Island and then return to the mainland that same day. In some cases, the ferry companies use shuttles or trams to transport you from the parking lot to the ferry dock. For current details and directions, check the parking information pages for Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry Company and Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry.



  • Both Star Line and Shepler’s provide overnight parking, too. Star Line offers unsecured overnight parking for free, or secured parking in Mackinaw City for a nominal daily fee. Shepler’s offers overnight parking for a nominal daily fee in both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. Both ferry services also offer premium parking in Mackinaw City at a higher price point. For current details and directions, check the parking information pages for Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry Company and Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry.



  • Star Line also offers valet parking in both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, with both indoor and outdoor spaces available. Check the parking information page for Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry Company for the latest information.

RELATED: History of cars, er, ‘horseless carriages,’ on Mackinac Island

A horse-drawn taxi passes Island House Hotel on a beautiful summer day on Mackinac Island

Once you arrive on Mackinac Island without a car, then what?

Well, that’s part of the charm!

Horses are king on Mackinac Island, and visitors love the clip-clop of hooves on the pavement. Horse-drawn carriage tours and taxi rides are popular ways to see Mackinac Island and travel from here to there. RELATED: 7 sights to see on a horse-drawn carriage tour of Mackinac Island.

Mackinac Island also is home to tons of bicycles. You can take your own along on the ferry or rent from one of the many fine bike rental shops on Mackinac Island. Many visitors enjoy riding a bicycle all the way around Mackinac Island on M-185, the only state highway in the country that prohibits automobiles. RELATED: What to expect on the 8.2-mile trek around Mackinac Island

Of course, everyone’s a pedestrian while visiting Mackinac Island, too. People walk to Mackinac Island’s bars and restaurants. They walk to Fort Mackinac and other historic Mackinac Island attractions. Some visitors even hike up into the interior of Mackinac Island and explore some of the 70-plus miles of trails through Mackinac Island State Park. RELATED: 10 ‘supernatural’ sights to see in Mackinac Island State Park

However long you stay on Mackinac Island and however you choose to get around while you’re here, you can rest assured that your car will be safe back on the mainland. You might even like being apart from it for a while!

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