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How Long Is The Ferry Ride To Beaver Island


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Geneva Goddard



Welcome to Beaver Island, a hidden gem nestled in Lake Michigan! This beautiful island is a popular destination for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and those seeking a tranquil retreat. With its pristine beaches, lush forests, and abundant wildlife, Beaver Island offers a unique and idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.


One of the things that make Beaver Island so special is its unique accessibility. Located approximately 32 miles off the coast of Charlevoix, Michigan, reaching the island requires a scenic ferry ride. The ferry ride is not only a practical means of transportation but also an opportunity to soak in the breathtaking beauty of Lake Michigan.


In this article, we will explore the length of the ferry ride to Beaver Island and provide you with all the information you need to plan your journey.


If you’re wondering how long the ferry ride takes, you’ve come to the right place. The duration of the ferry ride can vary depending on several factors, including the route, the weather conditions, and the ferry service provider. Let’s delve into these factors to give you a clear understanding of what to expect when embarking on your journey to Beaver Island.


Understanding Ferry Routes to Beaver Island

Before diving into the specifics of the ferry ride duration, let’s first familiarize ourselves with the different ferry routes to Beaver Island. Currently, there are two main routes that you can take to reach the island.

  1. Charlevoix Route: The most common and popular route to Beaver Island is from Charlevoix, Michigan. The ferry departs from the Charlevoix Municipal Marina and takes you directly to St. James, the main town on the island. This route offers a scenic journey across Lake Michigan, providing you with stunning views of the water and the surrounding landscapes.
  2. St. Ignace Route: The second route to Beaver Island is from St. Ignace, Michigan. This route involves a longer ferry ride as it takes you across the northern part of Lake Michigan. While not as commonly used as the Charlevoix route, it offers a different perspective and an alternative option for those coming from the northern part of the state or driving from the Upper Peninsula.

Both routes provide unique experiences, and the choice between them depends on your location and preference. Now, let’s move on to the factors that can impact the duration of the ferry ride to Beaver Island.


Factors Affecting Ferry Ride Duration

Several factors can influence the duration of the ferry ride to Beaver Island. Understanding these factors will help you better plan your trip and manage your expectations. Let’s take a closer look at them:

  1. Route Distance: The distance between the mainland and Beaver Island varies depending on your chosen route. The Charlevoix route is relatively shorter, with a distance of approximately 32 miles. On the other hand, the St. Ignace route covers a longer distance, as it is situated at the northernmost part of Lake Michigan.
  2. Weather Conditions: The weather plays a significant role in determining the duration of the ferry ride. In cases of inclement weather, such as strong winds, heavy waves, or storms, ferry schedules may be altered or delayed for safety reasons. It is essential to keep an eye on weather forecasts and check with the ferry service provider for any updates or changes to the departure times during adverse conditions.
  3. Boat Speed: The speed at which the ferry operates can impact the overall duration of the ride. Different ferry service providers may have varying speeds, so it’s worth considering when planning your trip. Additionally, the type of vessel being used, such as a high-speed ferry or a traditional ferry, can also affect travel time.
  4. Passenger and Vehicle Load: The number of passengers and vehicles boarding the ferry can influence the boarding and disembarking process, which can, in turn, impact the overall journey duration. During peak travel seasons, the ferry may be busier, potentially resulting in longer wait times or additional stops along the way.

It’s important to note that while these factors can affect the duration of the ferry ride, the average time for the journey is around two to three hours. However, it’s always best to check with the specific ferry service provider for the most accurate and up-to-date information on travel times.


Ferry Service Providers

When planning your trip to Beaver Island, it’s essential to be familiar with the ferry service providers that operate on the routes to the island. Currently, there are two main ferry service providers:

  1. Beaver Island Boat Company: The Beaver Island Boat Company is the primary ferry service provider for the Charlevoix route. They offer regular ferry trips from the Charlevoix Municipal Marina to St. James, Beaver Island. The company provides comfortable and reliable transportation, with experienced captains and crew members to ensure a safe journey. They offer various ticket options, including round trips and one-way tickets, giving you flexibility in planning your trip.
  2. Beaver Island Boat and Plane Company: The Beaver Island Boat and Plane Company is another option for reaching the island. They provide a unique service that combines both ferry and air transportation options. In addition to the ferry service from Charlevoix, they also offer flights from Charlevoix Airport directly to Beaver Island. This option is convenient for those who prefer a quicker and alternative mode of transport.

Both ferry service providers have their own schedules, prices, and amenities. It’s recommended to check their websites or contact them directly for detailed information on ticket prices, departure times, and any additional services they may offer.


Choosing the right ferry service provider depends on your preferences, schedule, and other factors such as convenience, price, and transportation needs. Whichever option you choose, you can expect a comfortable and enjoyable ride to Beaver Island.


Schedules and Departure Times

When planning your trip to Beaver Island, it’s essential to consider the schedules and departure times of the ferry service providers. Knowing the departure times will help you plan your journey accordingly and ensure a smooth travel experience.


The Beaver Island Boat Company operates regular ferry services from Charlevoix to St. James throughout the year. During peak travel seasons, such as summer, there are multiple daily departures to accommodate the higher demand. However, it’s important to note that ferry schedules may vary depending on the day of the week and the time of year. It’s recommended to check the Beaver Island Boat Company’s official website or contact them directly for the most up-to-date schedule information.


The Beaver Island Boat and Plane Company also offer ferry services from Charlevoix but with an additional option of flights. Their schedule may differ from the regular ferry services, so it’s advisable to check their website or contact them for detailed information on departure times.


It’s important to arrive at the departure location well in advance of the scheduled departure time. This allows time for ticket purchase, vehicle boarding (if applicable), and any necessary safety protocols or procedures. Arriving early ensures a smooth boarding process and reduces any potential stress or rush before the ferry departs.


Remember, ferry schedules are subject to change, especially due to weather conditions or unforeseen circumstances. It’s always a good idea to double-check the schedule a day or two before your planned departure to avoid any last-minute surprises or delays. The ferry service providers will usually provide updates regarding any changes to the schedule on their official websites or through customer communication channels.


By being aware of the schedules and departure times, you can plan your journey effectively and make the most of your time on Beaver Island.


Weather Conditions and its Impact on the Ferry Ride

One of the factors that can significantly impact the duration and even the scheduling of the ferry ride to Beaver Island is the weather conditions. As the island is located on Lake Michigan, it is subject to the unpredictable nature of the lake’s weather patterns.


Inclement weather, such as strong winds, heavy waves, or storms, can pose safety risks for ferry travel. In such cases, the ferry service providers may modify their schedules or even cancel trips to ensure the safety of passengers and crew. It is crucial to stay informed about weather conditions and any potential disruptions in ferry service.


Fortunately, both the Beaver Island Boat Company and the Beaver Island Boat and Plane Company closely monitor weather conditions and provide frequent updates to their passengers. They aim to keep travelers informed about any changes to departure times or cancellations. It is recommended to regularly check their websites or contact them directly for the latest weather-related information and any adjustments to the ferry schedules.


Keep in mind that weather conditions can change rapidly, especially on a large body of water like Lake Michigan. Even if the weather seems calm at the time of departure, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for any possible changes during the journey. It is advisable to dress in layers, carry essential items like sunscreen and rain gear, and follow any safety instructions or guidelines given by the ferry crew.


While weather delays or cancellations can be inconveniences, they are necessary to ensure the safety of all passengers. It’s important to maintain a flexible mindset when planning your travel to Beaver Island and consider alternative arrangements or backup options, such as rescheduling or exploring other activities on the mainland, in case of any ferry disruptions.


By staying informed about weather conditions and understanding their impact on the ferry ride, you can better prepare for your journey and enjoy a safe and pleasant experience to Beaver Island.


Scenic Views and Wildlife Spotting Opportunities

Embarking on a ferry ride to Beaver Island not only provides a means of transportation but also offers incredible opportunities to enjoy scenic views and spot wildlife along the way. The journey across Lake Michigan presents a picturesque experience, surrounded by the serene beauty of the water and the natural landscapes.


As the ferry glides through the lake, be sure to keep your camera ready to capture the breathtaking sights. The vast expanse of Lake Michigan, with its sparkling blue waters, is a sight to behold. You may also be treated to stunning views of the coastline as you approach the island.


Another delightful aspect of the ferry ride is the opportunity to spot wildlife. The surrounding waters of Lake Michigan are home to a diverse range of aquatic life, including various species of fish, birds, and even larger mammals. Keep your eyes peeled for seagulls, herons, and other bird species swooping gracefully over the water’s surface. Dolphins and seals may occasionally make appearances, adding a touch of excitement to your journey.


Beaver Island itself is known for its rich ecosystem and abundant wildlife. From the ferry, you might catch glimpses of bald eagles soaring overhead or catch sight of deer grazing on the island’s shores. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a majestic osprey or a playful otter during the crossing.


Don’t forget to have binoculars handy to enhance your wildlife spotting experience. With a closer look, you can observe the intricate details of the animals and birds that call this region home.


Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of the great outdoors, the ferry ride to Beaver Island offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the scenic wonders of Lake Michigan. Take in the panoramic views, keep an eye out for wildlife, and create lasting memories of your journey to this enchanting island.


Tips for a Comfortable Ferry Ride Experience

Making the most of your ferry ride to Beaver Island involves ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable journey. Here are some tips to help you have a pleasant experience:

  1. Arrive Early: Arriving at the ferry terminal early allows you ample time to park your vehicle, purchase tickets, and find your way around. It also helps reduce any stress or rush before the departure time.
  2. Dress Appropriately: Lake Michigan weather can be unpredictable, so it’s advisable to dress in layers. This way, you can adjust your clothing based on the temperature and weather conditions during the journey.
  3. Bring Essentials: Pack essentials such as sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and a refillable water bottle for sun protection and hydration. It’s also a good idea to carry a small bag or backpack for your personal belongings.
  4. Consider Motion Sickness: If you’re prone to motion sickness, be prepared. Taking over-the-counter motion sickness medication or wearing wristbands designed to alleviate symptoms can help make your ferry ride more comfortable.
  5. Snacks and Entertainment: While most ferry rides provide onboard refreshment options, bringing snacks and entertainment, such as books, magazines, or games, can enhance your overall experience during the journey.
  6. Listen to Safety Instructions: Pay attention to the safety instructions given by the ferry crew. They are there to ensure your well-being. Familiarize yourself with the location of emergency exits and life jackets, and be aware of any safety protocols in place.
  7. Respect Fellow Passengers: Keep in mind that ferry rides can be social experiences. Be respectful of your fellow passengers by refraining from loud conversations or disruptive behavior. This way, everyone can enjoy a peaceful and pleasant journey.
  8. Enjoy the Scenery: Take the time to soak in the beauty of Lake Michigan and the surrounding landscapes. Look out for wildlife and seize photo opportunities to capture the memories of your journey.
  9. Stay Informed: Keep yourself updated with any schedule changes, weather updates, or other important information. Check the ferry service provider’s website or contact them directly to ensure a smooth and hassle-free journey.

By following these tips, you can make your ferry ride to Beaver Island more comfortable, relaxing, and enjoyable. Sit back, unwind, and get ready to embark on an adventure to this captivating island.



Reaching Beaver Island is an experience in itself, as it requires a scenic ferry ride across the vast expanse of Lake Michigan. The duration of the ferry ride can vary depending on factors like the chosen route, weather conditions, and ferry service provider. However, with careful planning and proper information, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey to this hidden gem.


Understanding the ferry routes, schedules, and departure times of the ferry service providers is crucial for planning your trip effectively. Be sure to check the websites or contact the ferry service providers directly for the most accurate and up-to-date information. Arriving early at the ferry terminal gives you enough time to board and settle in comfortably.


When embarking on the ferry ride, take advantage of the breathtaking scenic views and wildlife spotting opportunities. Capture the beauty of Lake Michigan and keep your eyes peeled for birds, marine life, and other wildlife that may grace your journey.


To make your ferry ride experience more comfortable, dress appropriately, bring along essential items such as sunscreen and water, and consider any motion sickness remedies if needed. Respect your fellow passengers and follow the safety instructions provided by the ferry crew for a safe and pleasant journey.


Lastly, stay informed about weather conditions and any potential disruptions to the ferry schedules. Be flexible and prepared for any changes, and consider alternative options if necessary.


By applying these tips and embracing the journey, your ferry ride to Beaver Island becomes not just a means of transportation, but an integral part of your adventure. Soak in the scenic beauty, relish the wildlife sightings, and cherish the unique experience of reaching this captivating Michigan island.