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Getting to Mackinac and Getting Around Without a Car

I know. It’s weird for people to even contemplate: there’s no driving! Seriously?!? Yup. Seriously. There is no driving. There is no motorized anything, to be completely clear (except maybe motorized scooters and snowmobiles in winter; you can call their police department and ask if you have specific questions about what’s ‘street legal’ there.) They passed the law originally to keep cars off the island so they didn’t scare the horses and the law just stayed on the books. Without access to a car, you have to think a bit more about logistics, so I want to give you some tips on how to do it.

The first two questions you probably have are related: how do you get there and what do you do with your car if you can’t bring it to the island? You have two options to get to the island itself: either by ferry or by plane. There are two ferry companies, Sheplers and Star Line. They have parking lots and you can make arrangements with them if you are going to be more than a few days on the island. I recommend leaving your car and taking a cab or getting a ride to the ferry terminal from someone not going on the trip with you. Then you don’t have to worry about parking. Ferries vary from about 15 minutes to a half hour depending on the type of ferry and where you leave from—either St. Ignace or Mackinaw City. If you don’t like boats, there’s also flying. Great Lakes Air runs a 6 seater back and forth for a decent price and it is not a very long trip.  You can also stay at a hotel nearby one of the ferries or the airport and make arrangements for your vehicle there. You can either take a shuttle or taxi to your chosen mode of transportation from there.

If you’re going there in the winter, however, you do have one more option: the ice bridge. I’ve never done this because I have a thing against walking across that much ice, but in winter the ferries have to stop when the water freezes. Once it is frozen solid enough, you can actually walk/cross-country ski/snowmobile your way from St. Ignace to the island. People usually line the path with their old Christmas trees. This isn’t entirely safe, so I’m not endorsing this as a mode of transportation but I wanted to mention it because it is an option.

I am sure you have one other question, though: once you get to the island, how do you get around? Well, there are horse drawn taxis at the Mackinac Island side of the ferry terminals and airport that can take you wherever you want to go. They will have either have room for your luggage or you can make arrangements for it to follow you on. Many of the hotels on the island will pick up your bags for you—you should inquire about that when you make reservations. Once you are on the island itself, there is my favorite mode of transportation: horseback riding and carriage rides. You can also rent or bring your own bicycle. There’s always walking. The Island is only about 4 square miles (about 8 miles around) so it isn’t like anywhere on the island is all that far from anywhere else. Once you get there, you won’t even miss your car. I promise.