Tips for getting to Mackinac Island, what happens after ferry arrives

Published on March 6th, 2019

Last updated on December 3rd, 2022

So, this is where you can find Mackinac Island. And this is when is the best time to visit Mackinac Island.

Now, how can you get to Mackinac Island without any hiccups?

Follow this guide for smooth travel to Mackinac Island that will give you peace of mind – and put you in the right frame of mind – to enjoy every timeless moment of your stay:

Your Trip to Mackinac Island Starts at the Ferry Dock

There’s no bridge to Mackinac Island and motor vehicles are prohibited anyway, so you can’t drive all the way here. One option for getting to Mackinac Island is by plane. Great Lakes Air offers a 7-minute charter flight to Mackinac Island Mackinac Island travel routes from St. Ignace and Fresh Air Aviation also offers charter flights to Mackinac Island. Another option for getting to Mackinac Island is by private boat. There are 76 boat slips in the Mackinac Island harbor. But most visitors catch a ride to Mackinac Island on ferry boats that depart from Mackinaw City (at the tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, at the southern end of the Mackinac Bridge) and from St. Ignace (at the bottom of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, at the northern end of the bridge).

You can drive to the Mackinac Island ferry docks and park your vehicle or fly into one of northern Michigan’s airports – PLN or CIU – and catch a shuttle to the docks. Two ferry companies service Mackinac Island with rides that take 16 to 18 minutes and bring you right into the heart of town.

Day-trippers can park their car for free in designated ferry lots in Mackinaw City or St. Ignace. For overnight guests on Mackinac Island, the ferry companies offer a range of parking options.

Mackinac Island Ferry FAQs

Q: How do I get Mackinac Island ferry tickets?

A: You can buy tickets when you get to the dock or buy Mackinac Island ferry tickets online (usually at a reduced rate) and then bypass ticket lines at the dock. Tickets purchased online are good for any day and time, so you can catch the ferry that works for you. Both companies run several boats a day to Mackinac Island in season, with rides departing as often as every 15 minutes in the peak summer season. If there’s a particular boat you want to catch, be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes early to make sure you can get on it.

TIP: When buying ferry tickets, take a look at the special deals that package a ferry ride with Mackinac Island attractions such as horse-drawn carriage tours or Fort Mackinac admission.


Q: What do I do with my luggage when I arrive on Mackinac Island?

A: If you’re staying overnight on Mackinac Island, the ferry company will take your luggage and transport it to Mackinac Island free of charge. Some of Mackinac Island’s lodging facilities work with the ferry companies to deliver your luggage right to your room, while others have dockporters who can transport your bags once you claim them upon arrival to the dock.


Q: Can I bring dogs on the ferry to Mackinac Island? How about strollers?

A: Yes! You can bring dogs to Mackinac Island on ferry boats free of charge. Dogs must be leashed or crated for the ride. On Mackinac Island, some of the lodging facilities are pet friendly and many restaurants offer outdoor seating with pets. Dogs also are permitted at many Mackinac Island attractions including carriage tours and Fort Mackinac.

Strollers are welcome on ferry boats free of charge and are stored on the boat during the ride as children sit in their own seat or on a parent’s lap.street on Mackinac Island

TIP: One item many Mackinac Island visitors bring on the ferry boat is a bicycle, which can be taken aboard for a small fee. Since bicycling is one of the primary ways of getting around on Mackinac Island, it can be handy to have a bike available whenever you need it. There also are several vendors on Mackinac Island that rent a variety of bikes by the hour or by the day.

Make a Plan for Getting Around Mackinac Island

Whether you take a ferry to Mackinac Island, a private boat or charter a flight, every visitor has the same basic means of moving around – by foot, by bicycle or by “taxi.”

Note the quotation marks around “taxi.” Motor vehicles are prohibited on Mackinac Island, so the taxis are horse-powered, literally. You can order up a horse-drawn taxi 24 hours a day in season. Be sure to have cash on hand because drivers don’t accept credit or debit cards.

Bicycles are a popular mode of transportation around town and a great way to experience the miles of trails through Mackinac Island State Park that makes up more than 80 percent of the island. Here are the rules of the road for riding bikes on Mackinac Island.

Because it measures less than four square miles, Mackinac Island is very walkable. You can even walk all the way around Mackinac Island in just a couple hours if you want. Many Mackinac Island attractions are close to town and can be reached on foot from most lodging facilities. Electric wheelchairs are available to rent from most bike shops.

Have More Questions About Mackinac Island? Don’t Hesitate to Ask!

While planning your trip, you can contact the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau for answers to any questions that pop up. Once you’re on Mackinac Island, if you have questions about getting around, places to eat or things to do, stop by the Mackinac Island Visitor Center at 7274 Main St. for printed maps and guides and local advice.