Mackinac Island – Logistics: Part 2

In the first part of our Logistics post, we talked about whether to stay on the island or the mainland, and the options for island accommodations. This time we’ll talk about ferries, bicycles and luggage!


This information is based on things we’ve experienced on our first three visits to Mackinac Island. Our preferences won’t be the same as everyone’s, but we can share our experiences and hope they offer some insight! If you have any questions about Mackinac Island logistics, please post them in the comments and we’ll do our best to help!

Which ferry line should we use?

There are three ferry lines that service Mackinac Island:

All three offer transportation from Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, to and from Mackinac Island.

Shepler's Ferry

We chose Shepler’s for our first stay, for one reason: they offer a three-day “Mack and Back” pass with unlimited ferry rides, and we were staying in Mackinaw City rather than on the island so we’d need to go back and forth several times. This pass (which cost about the same as two round-trip tickets) allowed us to come and go as often as we wanted while we were there, and on most days we did indeed go back and forth more than once. So we definitely got our money’s worth.


Once we experienced Shepler’s, there was no question we would continue to use this service. I’m sure the other ferry lines are great too, and their schedules are similar. But Shepler’s was so wonderful, there was no need to look elsewhere. There’s plenty of free parking, friendly and extremely helpful staff, easy and efficient boarding and luggage handling, and valet service if you are spending the night on the island. They just can’t be beat!

Our preference: Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry

Should I bring my own bicycle or rent?

Bike Row

Here are some things to consider when making this decision.

  • There is a charge for your bicycle to ride the ferry. This is because your bike is loaded and unloaded by ferry staff. The fee also serves as your bicycle’s island registration, which is required. I believe the fee was $8 round trip when we last took our bicycles (July, 2011).
  • Renting bicycles on the island can get pricey depending on your needs. They run between $30 and $50 per day per bicycle, with an equivalent security deposit. Hourly rentals are also available.
  • It’s not unheard of, during busy times, for the island to run out of rental bicycles.
  • If you do bring your own bicycle, you simply park it on the ferry dock, with its “ticket” secured on the handlebars, and the ferry staff takes it from there! They’ll return it to you when the ferry arrives at your destination. It’s a very efficient and seamless process.

Bicycle License

  • It’s cooler on Mackinac Island than on the mainland. This is refreshing most of the time, but not always for bike riding. When we go to the island in the spring and fall, we leave our bikes at home. We figure if it’s warm enough to ride we can always rent a tandem!

Our preference: Bring your own bicycle. We can easily spend days upon days exploring the various trails. If you’re just going to ride for an hour or two, rent something!


How do we manage our luggage?

This was a big question of mine before we stayed on the island for the first time. We pack very minimally and bring nothing we don’t truly need, but I still had no desire to drag my bags from the ferry line to the inn since we weren’t staying right there on Main Street. No worries! When you arrive at the ferry, someone from Shepler’s will take your luggage, and manage its ferry trip from there! They load it onto the ferry on one of many large luggage racks, and take it to the Main Street arrival area once on the island. Next, dock porters  meet each incoming ferry, and they will happily deliver your luggage to your hotel on your behalf while you meander there yourselves. Additionally, most hotels will hold your luggage even if you arrive well before check-in so you can shop, have lunch, or take a bike ride in the meantime. Don’t forget to tip your dock porter, since usually you will not see him or her again. Typical rates are $2 to $5/bag. I no longer worry about over-packing, because they will take as many bags as we have!

Another alternative is a taxi. This is not your typical taxi, since you may remember cars are not allowed on Mackinac Island. The taxis are carriages pulled by horses, and they’re usually also near the ferry arrival areas waiting for anyone needing a ride. They will transport your luggage as well, but they will not transport your luggage without you which is different from the dock porters who will handle your bags whether you are going directly to your hotel or not. Taxis will also not transport your bicycle, and since you have to be with your luggage you can’t ride your bike at the same time. If you absolutely need a taxi and you’ve brought your bicycle, lock it up somewhere downtown while you take the taxi to your hotel then walk back downtown later to pick it up!

Our preference: Arrive early, send your luggage along with a dock porter and enjoy your day!

The next few posts in our series will cover our spring 2012 island visit. Hope you’ll follow along!

All photos courtesy of White Pine Photo. We wouldn’t have a blog if not for our fantastic photographer! Connect with White Pine Photo: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

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7 Responses to Mackinac Island – Logistics: Part 2

  1. Sarah says:

    I’m really enjoying reading about Mackinac Island and you are making me desperate to go there on vacation! However, I live in New Jersey so that would be a humongous trip for us 😦

  2. Heidi says:

    It’s totally worth it Sarah! You must go!!

  3. Kerri Tang says:

    My sister & I have been going to the island, each fall, for 20 yrs or so. We’ve used both ferry lines, but a long time ago we realized that Sheplers is, indeed, the best, hands down. The most reasonable, always giving special rates & offers, and the workers are the friendliest. And, between St Ignace and Mac City, we love the kids that work the St Ignace ferries. They are so polite and thoughtful. We always stay on the island, but didn’t know about the “Mack & Back” offer, thanks for the info. We will travel back to the island each fall, for as long as we can get ourselves there and still get around… We love it. Nothing like it.

  4. Kerri Tang says:

    Yes, Sarah you must go there! Plan a flight into Detroit, and then it’s a 5-1/2 hr drive. You will not regret it, it’s well worth the traveling.

  5. Elizabeth Homza says:

    Sarah I understand. We feel the same way about visiting Washington DC, a stone’s throw for you but a bigger deal for us! But Heidi and Kerri are right, you won’t regret it if you ever do have the chance to visit!

  6. Ruth says:

    Loving this blog as I’m enjoying the Island at the same time @ the Violet Residence. For Sarah…You really MUST plan a trip here – it’s beyond magical and truly is a “step back in time”. I highly recommend anyone flying in from out-of-state to look into the rates to fly right into the “Pellston Regional Airport” in Pellston, MI. I know Delta flies into there as I just dropped a friend off for her return flight to Pennsylvania. It’s about 16 miles south of Mackinaw City & they have shuttles that will bring you right to the ferry docks. Or if you have the extra money – you can look into actually flying directly to the Island but that is a more expensive option.

  7. As a guy raised in Cheboygan where you can look across the Straits and see Mackinaw Island and having been there dozens of times through the years I gotta say, this blog is doing a great job and anyone following it’s instruction is certain to have a great time.

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