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How Long Is The Ferry Ride To Isle Royale


by Sonja Faber



Welcome to the beautiful Isle Royale, a remote and pristine island located in the northern waters of Lake Superior. This national park, known for its scenic beauty and unique wildlife, attracts nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. If you’re planning a trip to Isle Royale, one of the questions you may have is, “How long is the ferry ride?”


In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive overview of the ferry options available to reach Isle Royale and the duration of the ferry rides. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, this information will help you plan your journey and make the most of your time on the island.


Isle Royale offers a true escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With its rugged landscapes, pristine forests, and abundant wildlife, it’s the perfect destination for hikers, campers, and nature enthusiasts. However, due to its remote location, the only way to reach Isle Royale is by boat or seaplane.


The most popular and convenient option for reaching Isle Royale is by taking a ferry. Several ferry services operate in the area, providing transportation to and from the island. These ferries offer not only a mode of transportation but also a chance to enjoy the scenic beauty of Lake Superior.


The duration of the ferry ride to Isle Royale can vary depending on the departure point, weather conditions, and the specific ferry service you choose. It’s important to note that Isle Royale is approximately 45 miles long and 9 miles wide, so the distance you need to travel will depend on your starting point.


Now that you have an overview of what to expect, let’s dive deeper into the different ferry options available and the duration of their rides.


Overview of Isle Royale

Isle Royale is a remote and unspoiled island located in the northwest corner of Lake Superior. It is part of the state of Michigan, and is also a designated national park. Known for its rugged beauty and untouched wilderness, Isle Royale offers a unique and awe-inspiring experience for visitors.


The island is characterized by its rocky shorelines, dense forests, and pristine lakes. It is home to an abundant array of wildlife, including moose, wolves, foxes, and a variety of bird species. The diverse ecosystem of Isle Royale has made it a popular destination for nature lovers and researchers alike.


One of the main attractions of Isle Royale is its extensive network of hiking trails. These trails offer visitors the opportunity to explore the island’s remote and beautiful landscapes. From the challenging Rock Harbor Trail to the scenic Tobin Harbor Trail, there is a trail for every level of hiker.


In addition to hiking, Isle Royale offers a range of outdoor activities, including fishing, kayaking, and wildlife watching. The island’s many lakes and waterways are teeming with fish, making it a favorite spot for anglers. Kayakers can paddle along the pristine coastlines and explore hidden coves and inlets.


For those interested in history and culture, Isle Royale has a rich heritage. The island was once home to indigenous tribes, and evidence of their presence can still be found in the form of rock art and ancient artifacts. The island also boasts several historic lighthouses, which have guided ships through the treacherous waters of Lake Superior for centuries.


Visiting Isle Royale offers a chance to disconnect from the modern world and immerse yourself in nature. With no roads, cars, or cell phone reception, the island provides a true escape from the distractions of daily life. Whether you’re seeking solitude and tranquility or adventure and exploration, Isle Royale has something for everyone.


Now that you have a brief overview of what Isle Royale has to offer, let’s explore the various ferry options available to reach this remote island.


Ferry Options to Isle Royale

When it comes to reaching Isle Royale, there are several ferry services available that provide transportation to and from the island. Each ferry service offers a unique experience and operates from different departure points, allowing visitors to choose the option that suits their preferences and travel plans.


One of the most popular ferry services is the Isle Royale Line. This ferry departs from Copper Harbor, Michigan, and offers multiple trips to Isle Royale throughout the summer season. The Isle Royale Line provides both passenger and vehicle transportation, making it a convenient option for those who wish to bring their own gear or supplies. The ferry ride with Isle Royale Line takes approximately 3 hours, offering passengers ample time to relax and enjoy the stunning views of Lake Superior.


Another ferry service to consider is the Ranger III. Operated by the National Park Service, the Ranger III departs from Houghton, Michigan. This large vessel can accommodate both passengers and limited vehicles. The ferry ride with Ranger III takes longer, approximately 6 hours, but it provides a unique opportunity to learn and engage with National Park Service staff who are on board to provide informative talks and answer questions about Isle Royale and its ecosystem.


If you prefer a more adventurous and scenic option, you can opt for seaplane transportation. Isle Royale Seaplanes operates flights from Houghton, Michigan, to Isle Royale. The seaplane trip takes around 30 minutes, offering breathtaking aerial views of the island and Lake Superior. It’s important to note that seaplane travel is limited in terms of baggage allowance, so make sure to check the restrictions before planning your trip.


With these ferry and seaplane options, visitors have the flexibility to choose the mode of transportation that best fits their preferences, budget, and travel plans. Whether you prefer a leisurely ferry ride or a thrilling seaplane adventure, there is a transportation option to suit every traveler.


Now let’s take a look at the schedule and duration of the ferry rides to help you plan your trip to Isle Royale.


Ferry Schedule and Duration

When planning a trip to Isle Royale, it’s important to consider the ferry schedule and the duration of the ferry rides. The schedules and durations may vary depending on the ferry service and departure point, so it’s essential to plan ahead and check the availability and timings.


The Isle Royale Line operates several trips to Isle Royale from Copper Harbor, Michigan, during the summer season. The ferry schedule typically starts in late May and continues until early September. It’s advisable to check the Isle Royale Line website or contact their customer service to get the most up-to-date schedule for your desired travel dates. The ferry ride with Isle Royale Line from Copper Harbor to Isle Royale takes approximately 3 hours.


The Ranger III, operated by the National Park Service, also offers ferry service to Isle Royale. The schedule and duration of these trips may vary, so it’s recommended to check the National Park Service website or contact them directly for the most accurate information. The ferry ride with Ranger III from Houghton to Isle Royale takes approximately 6 hours.


For those considering seaplane transportation, Isle Royale Seaplanes provide flights from Houghton to Isle Royale. The seaplane schedule and flight duration may vary, so it’s important to check their website or contact their customer service for the latest information. The seaplane trip from Houghton to Isle Royale takes around 30 minutes.


It’s worth noting that the ferry schedule and duration can be affected by weather conditions and other unforeseen circumstances. Lake Superior is known for its unpredictable nature, so it’s always a good idea to stay informed and flexible with your travel plans.


When planning your trip, consider the time you’ll need to reach the departure point as well. If you’re flying to Michigan, you may need to arrive a day earlier to ensure you make it in time for the scheduled departure.


Now that you have an idea of the ferry schedule and duration, it’s important to take into account the factors that can affect the actual duration of the ferry rides.


Factors Affecting Ferry Ride Duration

When planning a trip to Isle Royale, it’s important to understand that the duration of the ferry ride can be influenced by various factors. These factors can impact the overall travel time and should be taken into consideration when planning your journey.


1. Weather Conditions: The weather plays a significant role in determining the duration of the ferry ride. Lake Superior is known for its unpredictable weather patterns, and rough waters can cause delays or longer travel times. It’s important to be prepared for potential changes in the schedule due to adverse weather conditions.


2. Ferry Service: The specific ferry service you choose can also affect the duration of the ride. Different ferry companies may have varying speeds of their vessels, resulting in different travel times. It’s a good idea to research and compare the ferry services to select the one that best aligns with your travel goals and preferences.


3. Distance and Route: The distance between your departure point and Isle Royale will also impact the ferry ride duration. The exact route taken by the ferry can vary, and some routes may be longer than others, affecting the travel time. It’s helpful to check the map and understand the route your chosen ferry service takes to Isle Royale.


4. Number of Stops: Some ferry services may have intermediate stops at other locations before reaching Isle Royale. These stops can add additional time to the overall travel duration. It’s important to be aware of the number of stops and factor them into your travel plans.


5. Passenger Load: The number of passengers on board the ferry can also influence the duration of the ride. A higher passenger load may require additional time for boarding and disembarking, which can lead to a longer overall travel time.


While these factors can impact the duration of the ferry ride, it’s important to remember that exploring Isle Royale is about the journey as much as the destination. Take the opportunity to enjoy the scenic views, relax, and immerse yourself in the beauty of Lake Superior during the ferry ride.


Now that you have an understanding of the factors that can affect the ferry ride duration, let’s explore some tips and recommendations to make your ferry travel to Isle Royale more enjoyable.


Tips and Recommendations for Ferry Travel

Planning for a ferry trip to Isle Royale involves more than just booking your ticket. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey, here are some tips and recommendations to keep in mind:


1. Book in Advance: Isle Royale is a popular destination, and ferry tickets can sell out quickly, especially during peak season. It’s advisable to book your ferry tickets well in advance to secure your preferred travel dates and times.


2. Check the Ferry Schedule: Before your trip, verify the ferry schedule to Isle Royale. Schedules may change due to weather conditions or other unforeseen circumstances. Stay updated by checking the ferry service’s website or contacting their customer service.


3. Arrive Early: Arrive at the departure point early, especially if you’re traveling with luggage or need to collect tickets. This allows for a stress-free check-in process and ensures you don’t miss the ferry.


4. Pack Essentials: Pack essential items such as sunscreen, bug repellent, comfortable clothing, and sturdy shoes. Additionally, bring any necessary medications, as there may be limited facilities on the island.


5. Carry Snacks and Water: While some ferries may offer food and beverage services, it’s a good idea to bring your own snacks and water. These will come in handy during the journey and while exploring Isle Royale.


6. Dress in Layers: Lake Superior’s weather can be unpredictable, so it’s wise to dress in layers. This allows you to adjust your clothing based on changing temperatures and weather conditions during the ferry ride.


7. Bring Entertainment: Depending on the duration of the ferry ride, it may be beneficial to bring along some form of entertainment. This could include books, magazines, portable music devices, or even a deck of cards to help pass the time during the journey.


8. Follow Safety Guidelines: Pay attention to safety instructions provided by the ferry staff and follow their guidelines. Familiarize yourself with emergency exits and procedures, ensuring a safe and secure journey.


9. Enjoy the Scenic Views: Take advantage of the ferry ride by enjoying the stunning views of Lake Superior. Keep your camera handy and capture the beauty of the surrounding landscapes, and if weather permits, head out to the deck for an unobstructed view.


10. Stay Informed: Stay updated with weather conditions and any potential changes or delays in the ferry schedule. Many ferry services have online updates or customer service representatives who can provide you with the latest information.


By following these tips and recommendations, your ferry travel to Isle Royale will be more enjoyable and hassle-free. Remember to relax, take in the surroundings, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure on this remote and beautiful island.


Now, let’s conclude our article on the ferry ride to Isle Royale.



Reaching the remote and pristine Isle Royale is an adventure in itself, and taking a ferry is the most popular option for reaching this spectacular island in Lake Superior. With various ferry services operating from different departure points, visitors have the flexibility to choose the option that fits their preferences and travel plans.


In this article, we explored the different ferry options available, such as the Isle Royale Line, Ranger III, and seaplane transportation. We discussed the ferry schedules, durations, and factors that can impact travel time, including weather conditions, distance, and passenger load.


To ensure a smooth and enjoyable ferry ride, we provided several tips and recommendations. These included booking in advance, checking the ferry schedule, arriving early, and packing essential items. We also advised dressing in layers, bringing entertainment, and following safety guidelines during the journey. By following these suggestions, visitors can make the most of their ferry travel experience to Isle Royale.


Once you arrive on Isle Royale, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking landscapes, pristine forests, and a chance to disconnect from the modern world. With opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife watching, Isle Royale offers a truly immersive and unforgettable outdoor experience.


As you plan your trip to Isle Royale, remember to stay informed about any changes or updates related to the ferry service. Weather conditions and other factors can influence the ferry schedule and duration, so it’s important to be flexible and prepared for any adjustments that may arise.


Whether you choose to take a leisurely ferry ride, embark on a thrilling seaplane adventure, or marvel at the stunning views of Lake Superior, the journey to Isle Royale is just the beginning of an incredible exploration of this remote and captivating island.


So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to create unforgettable memories on your journey to Isle Royale!