Mackinac Island in
Winter
Day trip

Flying to Mackinac Island
on Great Lakes Air
 

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Winter flight over Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City,
the Mackinac Bridge and lighthouses

Mackinac Island, Michigan in the winter.
Mackinac Bridge in winter
Mackinac Bridge
Although Mackinac Island is visited by hundreds of thousands of people a year, far fewer than 1% of Mackinac Island's tourists visit Mackinac Island in Winter. Arnold Transit offers limited scheduled ferry service until the ice stops them from running (usually sometime in early to mid January). 

There may be a few weeks during the winter when it is possible to get to Mackinac Island from St. Ignace by crossing the ice on cross country skis or snowmobile. But the St. Ignace "ice bridge" is not sanctioned by the Coast Guard or the Mackinac County Sheriff's Department. Every few years someone dies while attempting to cross the ice bridge.

The best way to get to Mackinac Island in the winter is flying with Great Lakes Air, which operates out of the Mackinac County Airport in St. Ignace, Michigan. Great Lakes Air has three 5 passenger airplanes that are available for charter ($28 per adult, with two person minimum), or by 5 daily scheduled flights (only during the weeks when ferries are not running) for $25 each way. Children under 13 are half fare. No reservations are necessary for the scheduled flights, but you better arrive early, because Great Lakes Air's plane may be in the air by the time they are officially scheduled to depart.
 

Great Lakes Air 2014 Winter Schedule
Effective January 2, 2014

Departures are from Mackinac County Airport in St. Ignace at 8AM, 10AM, 12:30PM, 3PM and 4:45PM daily (no 8AM fight on Sunday). Return flights from Mackinac Island are 10 minutes later.
(906) 643-7165
1220 N State Street, St Ignace, Michigan 49781

The following trip report and photos are from Keith Stokes' winter day trip to Mackinac Island on March 29, 2008. Keith's other trips in the United States and occasionally around the world are available here.

Saturday, March 29 was forecast to be sunny with a high of about 37 degrees and light winds - just about perfect for this time of year. I drove over the Mackinac Bridge from Mackinaw City about 9:30 AM. The Straits of Mackinac was beautiful with blue skies, ice cover and bright sunlight. As I approached the Mackinac County Airport, I called the taxi service operated by Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, to arrange for a taxi to meet my flight. The phone number for the Mackinac Island taxi is (906) 847-3323.

'09 Mackinaw City winter trip report

Mackinac Island Summer Day Trip

Tahquamenon Falls with autumn colors Tahquamenon Falls Trip Report

Keith's other trips
 

Mackinaw City in winter Mackinaw in winter

Mackinac Island pictures Mackinac Island

Great Lakes Air operates out of a small modern building where they also provide service to other aircraft passing through the Straits area. When I arrived at the Mackinac County Airport about 25 minutes before the 10AM flight, a couple of men were already waiting for the flight. I paid for a round trip ($44 that winter). Great Lakes Air never asked for my name and identification or said anything about restrictions on what items could be transported on the plane. 

One more person arrived for the flight, and we were led out to the single engine Piper Cherokee Six. It took only a couple of minutes for us to board, and we were in the air before 10AM. The flight to Mackinac Island is very short. If you know where to look, the end of one runway can be seen from the end of the other. But I did have time to snap a few quick pictures of the Mackinac Bridge in the distance.

Mackinac Island airport terminal
Great Lakes Air's Piper airplane at the Mackinac Island Airport terminal.

Snowmobiles parked at the Mackinac Island airport.
Mackinac Island airport parking lot.

At the smaller Mackinac Island airport, it was about 10 minutes before the horse drawn taxi arrived. I was the only passenger, and sat next to George, the driver. I had never met the driver before, but he had lived on Mackinac Island all of his life, and I enjoyed talking about Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City, and people that we both knew. He was the only taxi driver operating on this day.

Mackinac Island horse drawn taxi
Horse drawn taxi.

The taxi ride into the Village of Mackinac Island was on snow and ice packed roads that we shared with snowmobiles. The horses were obviously very used to the snowmobiles and didn't shy from them. The road was starting to get sloppy with the spring thaw and would only get worse over the next few weeks. The fare between the airport and downtown Mackinac Island was $6.50 with a 2 fare minimum, so I had to pay $13. It took about 10 minutes to travel the mile and a half to the downtown.

Passing the Grand Hotel in a horse drawn taxi.
Passing the Grand Hotel on the way to downtown Mackinac Island. (prints & cards of this photo)

Getting out of the taxi, I immediately fell on the slippery ice and my legs started to slide under the carriage. After picking myself up, I made my way to a step where I could sit down and pull rubbers on over my shoes. Even with the much better traction of the slip-ons, I fell a couple of more times during my visit.

Mackinac Island street in winter
Mackinac Island's Market Street with Fort Mackinac in the distance

Turtle Sculpture on Mackinac Island, Michigan
Turtle sculpture on a fence post at the French Outpost

Little Stone Church on Mackinac Island, Michiga
The Little Stone Church is a Congregational Church which was built in 1904. It is closed in the winter.

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Other Keith Stokes travel reports

LS-3/14    Copyright 2001 - 2014 by Keith Stokes. These photos may not be reproduced without written permission. .