Alright, let’s answer this question the old-fashioned Michigan way. Hold up your left hand, palm facing out, and stick out your thumb. There, you’ve created a quick and easy map of the Mitten State.
Now, look at the tip of your middle finger. That’s where Mackinac Island is – at the tip of the mitt, in the water between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas.
Mackinac is close enough to everything that you can get here from anywhere. Yet, it’s far enough away that it really does feel like you’re getting away. And, in some ways, it’s almost like you’re stepping back in time with the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages ringing through the streets instead of the noisy roar of cars and trucks.
Because the island prohibits motor vehicles, you can’t drive here – at least, not all the way here. Part of the fun is the variety of transportation you can take on a trip to Mackinac, getting here by car, bike, ferry or flight.
Here’s the rundown on how you can get to Mackinac from major cities around the Midwest and beyond.
Driving time to the Mackinac Island ferry docks in Mackinaw City (on the south side of the Mackinac Bridge that connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas) and in St. Ignace (north side of the bridge):
- Lansing, 3 hours, 30 minutes
- Grand Rapids, 4 hours
- Detroit, 4 hours, 30 minutes
- Milwaukee, 6 hours by way of the Upper Peninsula (or 8 hours through the Lower Peninsula)
- Chicago, 6 hours, 30 minutes
- Columbus, 7 hours
- Cleveland, 7 hours
- Indianapolis, 7 hours, 30 minutes
- Buffalo, 7 hours, 30 minutes
- Cincinnati, 8 hours
- Toronto, 8 hours
- Minneapolis, 9 hours
- Louisville, 9 hours
- Louis, 10 hours, 30 minutes
- Nashville, 11 hours, 30 minutes
- Washington, D.C. 12 hours
From the ferry docks, the boat ride to Mackinac takes about 16 to 18 minutes and takes you right into the heart of town on the island.
Flight paths to Mackinac Island:
- The nearest commercial airports to Mackinac Island are Pellston Regional Airport (PLN), about 15 minutes south of the ferry dock in Mackinaw City, and Chippewa County International Airport (CIU), about 35 minutes north of the ferry dock in St. Ignace. You can fly direct to the Pellston airport from Detroit (DTW), and nonstop to the Chippewa County airport from Detroit or Minneapolis (MSP). From either airport, you can catch a shuttle to the Mackinac Island ferry docks.
- From Chicago’s O’Hare airport (ORD) you can fly nonstop to Cherry Capital Airport (TVC) in Traverse City, which is a two-hour drive from the Mackinac ferries. During the summer, the Traverse City airport also has direct flights from Newark (EWR), New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA), Atlanta (ATL), Dallas (DAL), Minneapolis (MSP) and Denver (DEN).
- Additional nonstop flights are available to other major Michigan airports including Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) in Grand Rapids, which is a four-hour drive from Mackinac ferries, and Capital Region International Airport (LAN) in Lansing, which is a three-and-a-half-hour drive to the ferry docks.
- Mackinac Island has a small airport for private planes and charter flights. Great Lakes Air and Fresh Air Aviation charter flights into the island from around the Midwest and can meet commercial flights arriving at other Michigan airports. Flight time from St. Ignace to the island is 7 minutes. If you charter a flight or fly a private plane into the island’s airport, make plans for a horse-drawn taxi to meet you upon arrival and transport you to your island lodging.
Once you’re on the island, the primary ways to get around are on foot, bicycle or horse-drawn carriage. Bikes are everywhere on Mackinac, which has more of them per capita than anywhere else in the world. You can take your own bicycle on the ferry for a small fee or rent a bike from one of the island’s many vendors.