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 Island 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 Mackinac Island’s horse-drawn carriages ringing through the streets instead of the noisy roar of cars and trucks.
Because Mackinac 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 Island.
Here’s the rundown on how you can get to Mackinac Island from major cities around the Midwest and beyond.
Driving to Mackinac Island
Here’s drive 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 6 ways of getting to Mackinac Island from Chicago
- Columbus, 7 hours
- Cleveland, 7 hours
- Indianapolis, 7 hours, 30 minutes
- Buffalo, 7 hours, 30 minutes
- Pittsburgh, 8 hours 5 ways of getting to Mackinac Island from Pittsburgh
- Cincinnati, 8 hours
- Toronto, 8 hours How to get to Mackinac Island from Canada
- Minneapolis, 9 hours 5 ways of getting to Mackinac Island from Minneapolis
- Louisville, 9 hours
- St. Louis, 10 hours, 30 minutes
- Nashville, 11 hours, 30 minutes
- Washington, D.C., 12 hours
From the ferry docks, the boat ride to Mackinac Island takes about 16 to 18 minutes and takes you right into the heart of town on the island. Both Shepler’s Ferry and Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry Company run a regular schedule of ferry boats back and forth to Mackinac Island from late April through the end of October.
Flying to Mackinac Island
Here are various 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. RELATED: Can I fly to Mackinac Island?
- 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 Island ferry dock. 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 the Mackinac Island ferry dock, and Capital Region International Airport (LAN) in Lansing, which is a three-and-a-half-hour drive to the ferry dock. RELATED: Tips for flying to Mackinac Island
- Mackinac Island has a small airport for private planes and charter flights from around the Midwest. Flight time from St. Ignace to Mackinac 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. RELATED: Everything you need to know about Mackinac Island taxis
Once you arrive, the primary ways of getting around on Mackinac Island are on foot, bicycle or horse-drawn carriage. Bikes are everywhere on Mackinac Island, 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.
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