Great Turtle Island (Part 1)

Dear Reader,

Thinking about the American Midwest does not usually inspire visions of horse-drawn carriages and turquoise waters. Mackinac Island (pronounced “Mack-uh-nah”), Michigan, however, is not your typical Midwestern destination.

Situated on Lake Huron right across from the Mackinac Bridge, joining Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas, lies Mackinac Island. Just 3.8 square miles and home to fewer than 500 year-round residents, Mackinac Island is a magical little vacation destination for those who want a quiet place to relax and explore.

Mackinaw City + Mackinac Bridge

Who visits Mackinac Island?

  • Retirement-aged individuals. We saw groups of senior citizens people-watching in rocking chairs, enjoying lunch at the Tea Room, and perusing the shelves at the many souvenir shops.
  • Families. We passed by a number of families with school-aged children. These groups enjoyed peddling on the backs of bikes, riding in carriages, and frequenting the kid-friendly restaurants.
  • Rich people. Mackinac is no Nantucket, but some of the hotels are outrageously expensive. One could certainly buy themselves a fun time at the Grand Hotel and enjoy all the shops and amenities that come with it.
  • Grand Hotel

    Altogether, Mackinac Island is great for a nice, quiet time. (I.e. it’s not the place for debauchery, cavorting, or general rabble rousing.)

    There are so many great things to say about Mackinac Island, but first (and perhaps, most importantly), one must get there. So, this post (part 1 of 2) will be devoted to explaining how to actually reach Mackinac Island.

    Shepler’s Ferry

    Unless you are within easy driving distance of the port, getting to the beautiful and secluded island will be a bit of a trek. Mackinac Island is most notable for its lack of cars. This means that all outsiders must abandon their vehicles at the port before boarding the short ferry ride to the island. St. Ignace on the southern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Mackinaw City on the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula are the two most popular points of entry to Mackinac Island. Riding aboard Shepler’s Ferry or Star Line will get you to the island in just a quarter of an hour.

    If you are coming from too far away to drive to these ports, one can also fly into Michigan’s small Pellston Regional Airport (most likely with a connection through Detroit). With only two gates and not even a bathroom or a restaurant on the airside of the “terminal,” you won’t have to worry about any big crowds on your arrival at Pellston.

    Pellston Regional Airport

    If you are looking for cheap ways to travel from Pellston to the port cities of St. Ignace or Mackinaw City, let me save you the trouble — there aren’t any. There are no forms of public transportation between the airport and the ferry ports. There are neither Ubers nor Lyfts, and taxis will set you back, like, a hundred bucks for a 20-minute journey. Instead, just book yourself on a shuttle (like the Mackinaw Shuttle), which will monitor your flight time, meet you at the airport, take you straight to the ferry of your choice, and, if you are taking Shepler’s Ferry, arrange for your bags to be delivered straight to your Mackinac Island hotel!

    Mackinaw City, Michigan

    All in all, getting to Mackinac Island can be a bit of a hassle. Let’s review — if you’re coming from out of Michigan, you will fly to Detroit, next you will take an hour flight to Pellston, then a 20-to-30-minute shuttle to a port city (either Mackinaw City or St. Ignace), subsequently, you will board a 15-minute ferry (either Shepler’s Ferry or Star Line; both run frequently all day!), and finally, you will make the short walk to your hotel once you are on the island. In short, one full day may very well be devoted to travel, but it’s totally worth it!

    Stay tuned for part 2 of this post, for all things Mackinac Island.



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