Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

How Long Is The Ferry Ride To Mackinac Island


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Viole Alejandro



Mackinaw Island, located in Michigan, is a charming and picturesque destination that offers a unique experience for visitors. Known for its stunning natural beauty, historic landmarks, and vibrant culture, Mackinaw Island is a must-visit for both locals and tourists alike.


One of the most common questions that arise when planning a trip to Mackinaw Island is, “How long is the ferry ride?” The journey to the island is an essential part of the overall experience, as it offers breathtaking views of the surrounding Great Lakes and allows travelers to unwind and embrace the serene atmosphere.


Whether you are coming from the Lower Peninsula or Upper Peninsula of Michigan, there are multiple ferry options available to transport you to Mackinaw Island. Understanding the duration of the ferry ride from different departure points and the factors that can affect it will help you plan your itinerary and make the most of your visit.


In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide to the ferry ride duration to Mackinaw Island, including the different departure points, factors affecting the travel time, scenic views during the journey, and tips for a comfortable ride. So, let’s dive in and discover everything you need to know before embarking on this exciting adventure to Mackinaw Island!


Overview of Mackinaw Island

Mackinaw Island is a small island located in Lake Huron, just off the coast of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Known for its natural beauty, rich history, and car-free environment, Mackinaw Island attracts thousands of visitors each year.


This charming island is steeped in history and offers a glimpse into the past with its well-preserved architecture and landmarks. One of the most famous attractions on the island is the historic Grand Hotel. With its Victorian-style architecture and elegant charm, it has become an icon of Mackinaw Island.


In addition to its historical significance, Mackinaw Island is also known for its stunning natural landscapes. From the crystal-clear waters of Lake Huron to the lush forests and rolling hills, the island boasts a diverse range of scenic beauty. Visitors can explore the island’s many hiking and biking trails, or simply relax on the pristine beaches, taking in the breathtaking views of the Great Lakes.


One of the unique features of Mackinaw Island is its prohibition on motorized vehicles, making it a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly destination. This creates a peaceful and serene atmosphere as visitors traverse the island on foot, horse-drawn carriages, or bicycles. The absence of cars allows for a quieter and more environmentally-friendly experience, allowing visitors to truly disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.


With its rich history, natural beauty, and unique atmosphere, Mackinaw Island offers a wide range of activities and attractions to suit all interests. From visiting historic sites and museums to enjoying water sports and outdoor adventures, there is something for everyone on this captivating island.


Now that we have a glimpse of what Mackinaw Island has to offer, let’s delve into the ferry options available for reaching this enchanting destination.


Ferry Options to Mackinaw Island

When planning a trip to Mackinaw Island, one of the key considerations is choosing the right ferry option to reach the island. Fortunately, there are several reputable ferry companies that provide convenient and reliable transportation to Mackinaw Island from various departure points.


One of the most popular ferry companies is Shepler’s Ferry. Operating since 1945, Shepler’s provides daily service from both Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula and St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula. Their fleet of comfortable vessels ensures a smooth and enjoyable journey for passengers.


Another well-known ferry option is Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry. With their high-speed catamarans and traditional ferry service, Star Line offers frequent departures from both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. Their diverse range of vessels accommodates various needs, including bicycles, pets, and large groups.


Arnold Mackinac Island Ferry is another popular choice. They offer ferry service from Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, providing a convenient option for travelers coming from either direction. Arnold Mackinac Island Ferry has a reputation for friendly service and comfortable transportation.


Finally, there’s the Mackinaw City-based ferry company, Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse Ferry. While primarily focused on offering tours to the historic Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, they also provide passenger transportation to Mackinaw Island during peak tourist season.


These ferry options provide a range of departure times throughout the day, allowing visitors flexibility in planning their trip. It’s important to check the ferry schedules in advance to ensure smooth and timely transportation to and from the island.


Now that we know about the different ferry companies, let’s explore the duration of the ferry ride from various departure points.


Duration of Ferry Ride from Different Departure Points

The duration of the ferry ride to Mackinaw Island can vary depending on the departure point. Each ferry company offers different travel times from their respective locations, allowing visitors to choose the most convenient option for their trip.


When departing from Mackinaw City, the ferry ride to Mackinaw Island typically takes around 15-20 minutes on the high-speed catamarans provided by Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry. These vessels offer a quick and efficient transportation experience, allowing visitors to reach the island in no time.


For those departing from St. Ignace, the ferry ride to Mackinaw Island is slightly longer, with an average travel time of around 30-40 minutes. Shepler’s Ferry and Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry both operate from St. Ignace and provide a comfortable and enjoyable journey across the waters of Lake Huron.


It’s important to note that these durations are approximate and can be influenced by various factors. The weather conditions, lake traffic, and the type of vessel being used can all impact the actual travel time. During peak tourist season, the ferry rides might take slightly longer due to increased passenger volume.


Regardless of the departure point, the ferry ride to Mackinaw Island offers a unique opportunity to enjoy stunning views of the Great Lakes. As you glide across the crystal-clear waters, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of the surrounding natural beauty, creating a memorable experience even before you reach the island.


Now that we have an idea of the ferry ride durations, let’s explore the factors that can affect these travel times.


Factors Affecting Ferry Ride Duration

Several factors can impact the duration of the ferry ride to Mackinaw Island. It’s essential to be aware of these factors to better plan your trip and understand any potential delays or changes in travel time.


1. Weather Conditions: The weather plays a significant role in the ferry ride duration. High winds and rough waters can result in slower travel times or even cancellations for safety reasons. It’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast before your trip and be prepared for any potential changes.


2. Passenger Volume: During peak tourist season, the number of passengers traveling to Mackinaw Island increases significantly. This can result in longer boarding and disembarking times, which may slightly extend the duration of the ferry ride. It’s advisable to arrive early and allow extra time for these peak travel periods.


3. Vessel Type: The type of vessel being used for the ferry ride can also affect the travel duration. High-speed catamarans, like those operated by Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry, offer faster travel times compared to traditional ferry boats. The specific ferry company and vessel being used will impact the overall travel time.


4. Lake Traffic: The amount of boat traffic on Lake Huron can impact the ferry ride duration. Depending on the time of day and other factors, there may be more boats sharing the waterways, which can affect the speed and efficiency of the ferry ride.


It’s important to note that while these factors may influence the ferry ride duration, the ferry companies strive to provide the best possible service to ensure a comfortable and timely journey. Updates and announcements regarding any changes to the schedule or travel times are typically communicated by the ferry operators.


With an understanding of the factors that can affect the ferry ride duration, let’s move on to the next section to explore the scenic views you can enjoy during your journey to Mackinaw Island.


Scenic Views during the Ferry Ride

The ferry ride to Mackinaw Island is not just a means of transportation but also an opportunity to soak in the breathtaking natural beauty of the Great Lakes region. As you sail across the pristine waters of Lake Huron, you’ll be treated to panoramic views that will leave you in awe.


From the moment you step aboard the ferry, you’ll be greeted by picturesque vistas of the surrounding landscape. The crystal-clear waters of Lake Huron stretch out before you, reflecting the vibrant hues of the sky above. The tranquil atmosphere and the gentle rocking of the ferry create a sense of peace and serenity.


As you navigate your way towards Mackinaw Island, you’ll have the chance to witness the majestic Mackinac Bridge in all its glory. This iconic suspension bridge spans the Straits of Mackinac, connecting the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. The sight of this engineering marvel against the backdrop of the open waters is truly awe-inspiring.


The journey to Mackinaw Island also offers captivating views of the lush greenery and rolling hills that surround the island. As you approach the island’s shores, you’ll catch glimpses of the pristine beaches, the vibrant colors of the wildflowers, and the dense forests that cover the landscape. These natural wonders provide a feast for the eyes and create a sense of anticipation for the adventures that await on the island.


Spring and autumn bring their own unique charm to the ferry ride as well. In spring, you can witness the rebirth of nature as the trees and flowers come alive with vibrant colors. In autumn, the foliage transforms into a breathtaking display of reds, oranges, and yellows, creating a stunning backdrop for your journey.


Throughout the ferry ride, be sure to keep your camera handy to capture these unforgettable moments. Whether you prefer to snap photos or simply soak in the scenery, the views during the ferry ride to Mackinaw Island will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression.


Now that you are aware of the scenic beauty that awaits you, let’s move on to discovering the activities and amenities available on the ferry.


Activities and Amenities on the Ferry

As you embark on your ferry journey to Mackinaw Island, you’ll find that the ferry companies offer various amenities and activities to make your ride more enjoyable and comfortable.


Most ferry companies provide spacious seating areas where you can relax and take in the scenic views during the journey. You can choose between indoor seating with large windows or outdoor seating on the deck, allowing you to customize your experience based on your preferences.


For those seeking entertainment during the ferry ride, some vessels offer onboard amenities such as onboard movies, live music performances, or narrated guides that share interesting information about the history and geography of the area. These activities add an extra layer of enjoyment to your journey and enhance your overall experience.


As for refreshments, many ferry companies have onboard snack bars or cafes where you can grab a bite to eat or enjoy a hot or cold beverage. Whether you’re in the mood for a quick snack, a refreshing drink, or a light meal, these onboard options ensure that you stay fueled and satisfied during the journey.


Additionally, some ferry companies may offer onboard shops where you can purchase souvenirs, local products, or even Mackinaw Island-themed merchandise. These shops provide an opportunity to pick up unique gifts or mementos to commemorate your journey to this special island.


Another amenity that is worth noting is the availability of restrooms on the ferries. These facilities ensure that you can freshen up or take care of any necessary needs during the journey, adding to your comfort and convenience.


It’s important to note that the specific amenities and activities offered may vary depending on the ferry company and the vessel being used. It’s advisable to check the website or contact the ferry company directly for the most up-to-date information on the amenities available during your ferry ride to Mackinaw Island.


Now that we have explored the activities and amenities on the ferry, let’s move on to some helpful tips for a comfortable journey.


Tips for a Comfortable Ferry Ride

To ensure a pleasant and comfortable ferry ride to Mackinaw Island, consider the following tips:


1. Arrive Early: It’s advisable to arrive at the ferry terminal well in advance of your scheduled departure time, especially during peak tourist season. This allows you to secure a good seat and avoid rushing to board the ferry.


2. Dress Comfortably: Wear layers of clothing to accommodate changing temperatures during the journey. The weather on the water can be cooler than on land, so having a light jacket or sweater is recommended. Also, don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes for walking around the ferry and exploring the island later.


3. Pack Essentials: Bring necessary items such as sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and any medications you may need during the journey. It’s also a good idea to carry a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated, as well as snacks or light refreshments if you prefer to have your own provisions.


4. Bring Entertainment: Consider bringing a book, magazine, or your favorite music to keep yourself entertained during the ferry ride. Alternatively, you can take advantage of onboard amenities such as movies or live performances offered by some ferry companies.


5. Enjoy the Scenery: Take advantage of the panoramic views during the ferry ride by spending time on the deck or near the windows. Capture moments with your camera or simply take in the natural beauty of the Great Lakes surrounding you.


6. Embrace the Experience: Use the ferry ride as an opportunity to disconnect from the outside world and immerse yourself in the calming ambiance of the journey. Take a break from your phone, embrace the car-free environment, and enjoy the tranquility that Mackinaw Island offers.


7. Follow Safety Instructions: Pay attention to any safety instructions provided by the ferry crew and follow their guidance. This includes staying seated or holding on to handrails during rougher waters and obeying any rules or regulations set forth by the ferry company.


By following these tips, you can make the most of your ferry ride to Mackinaw Island and ensure a comfortable and enjoyable journey.


With these helpful tips in mind, you are now prepared to embark on your ferry adventure to Mackinaw Island. Enjoy the scenic views, embrace the car-free atmosphere, and get ready to create unforgettable memories on this captivating island!


If you have any further questions or need additional information, don’t hesitate to reach out to the ferry company or consult their official website for the most up-to-date details.



As we reach the end of our comprehensive guide to the ferry ride to Mackinaw Island, we hope you now have a clear understanding of what to expect during your journey. The ferry ride to this enchanting island offers not only a means of transportation but also a chance to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Great Lakes and embrace the serenity of a car-free environment.


With multiple ferry options from both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, you can choose the departure point that suits you best. Keep in mind that the duration of the ferry ride can vary based on factors such as weather conditions, passenger volume, vessel type, and lake traffic.


During your ferry ride, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, including the iconic Mackinac Bridge and the lush greenery of Mackinaw Island itself. Be sure to have your camera ready to capture these awe-inspiring moments.


The ferry companies provide a range of amenities and activities to enhance your journey, including comfortable seating areas, onboard entertainment, food and drink options, and onboard shops. These amenities ensure that you have a comfortable and enjoyable experience throughout the trip.


To make the most of your ferry ride, remember to arrive early, dress comfortably, pack essentials, and take advantage of the onboard amenities. And as you enjoy the mesmerizing scenery, don’t forget to embrace the experience and disconnect from the outside world for a while.


By following these tips, you can have a comfortable and memorable ferry ride to Mackinaw Island, setting the stage for a truly remarkable visit to this charming destination.


Now that you have all the information you need, it’s time to start planning your trip to Mackinaw Island and embark on this unforgettable adventure. Whether you’re seeking history, natural beauty, or a serene escape, Mackinaw Island offers it all.


So, pack your bags, hop on the ferry, and get ready to create lasting memories on this captivating island. Enjoy your ferry ride and have a fantastic time exploring the wonders of Mackinaw Island!