Written by Deb DeBusscher
July 2019

A spectacular cruising destination and a dream trip for Great Lakes boaters, the journey to the Straits of Mackinac presents a vacation of a lifetime. Boaters cruise north across Lake Huron, enter the Straits of Mackinac and then cross into Lake Michigan. As they pass from one Great Lake to another, Mackinac Bridge, the largest suspension bridge in the world, marks the transition and connects Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas. Whether you are cruising from Metro Detroit or the “thumb area,” chart your way to scenic Presque Isle to start a remarkable journey to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Leg 1: Presque Isle State Harbor
Presque Isle, MIPresque Isle Lighthouse | The Straits of Mackinac | Cruising Stories | Marinalife

Presque Isle is a spectacular, unspoiled peninsula with natural habitats for wildlife and plant life. A regular stop for boaters on the way to any northern Michigan port, State Harbor awaits with about 80 transient slips, gas and diesel fuel, and a party store with a limited assortment of supplies. Nearby Portage Restaurant serves fresh native fish from Lake Huron and beyond. Take time to explore the trails that wind through the dunes and woods. A highlight of this scenic port is visiting both of the Presque Isle lighthouses. The New Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse on the Great Lakes, and the Old Lighthouse is renowned for seafaring ghost stories.

Leg 2: Cheboygan County Marina
Cheboygan, MI

Estimated Mileage: 42 NM

The Cheboygan River meets Lake Huron at the “top of the mitt” and is the entrance to some of the most famous inland waterways and locks in the country. More than 40 miles of rivers and lakes make this area a mecca for boaters. Spend the day frolicking down the river on your own boat or inflatable or rent a pontoon for an awesome floating party. This guarantees one of the most unique boating experiences you will ever have. As you cruise along the river and lakes, you pass through a couple of locks, sandbars for swimming and several waterfront restaurants including The Boathouse & Rum Runner Lounge and Hack-Ma-Tack Inn & Restaurant (est. 1894).

Leg 3: Straits State HarborMackinac Bridge South Tip | The Straits of Mackinac | Cruising Stories | Marinalife
Mackinaw City, MI

Estimated Mileage: 15 NM

Mackinaw City is a historic city positioned as a crossroads for boaters and tourists exploring the Straits of Mackinac. The southern base of the Mackinac Bridge is located right in Mackinaw City and is a spectacular sight, especially at night. The bustling downtown is home to more than 100 shops, multiple restaurants and bars, Fort Michilimackinac, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s largest Great Lakes icebreaker. Top attractions: Experience a reenactment at the fort, fly above the trees on a zip line at Millcreek Park, eat local seafood and creamy chowder at Scalawag’s Whitefish & Chips, indulge in sweet treats from Murdick’s Candy Shop, watch the laser light show at Mackinac Crossings or buy souvenirs at the many downtown stores. Straits State Harbor offers 136 transient slips, electricity, boat launch, grills, picnic areas, pavilion, laundry, showers, restrooms, dog run, and gas and diesel fuel.

Leg 4: St. Ignace Municipal Marina
St. Ignace, MI

Estimated Mileage: 7 NM

St. Ignace claims the unique location as the waterway joining Lake Michigan to Lake Huron at the Straits of Mackinac, and it’s situated at the north end of the Mackinaw Bridge. This unique port embraces its rich history and showcases the past in elaborate museums and historical sites. Castle Rock, a 200-foot rock formation, displays a spectacular view of the town and waterways. More than 15 shipwrecks dot the regional waters, and divers from around the world travel here to explore sunken ships such as the Cedarville, Eber Ward and Sandusky. The St. Ignace Public Marina is a state-of-the-art, full-service marina with 136 slips and is home to three ferry lines providing water shuttle services to nearby cities. If you want to keep your boat docked in the harbor and visit other ports, a short ferry ride will chauffer you to seaside destinations.

Leg 5: Mackinac Island State Harbor
Mackinac Island, MIMackinac Bridge from Fort Michilimackinac | The Straits of Mackinac | Cruising Stories | Marinalife

Estimated Mileage: 6 NM

Known as the Jewel of the Great Lakes, Mackinac Island is by far the most-visited destination in Michigan. People from all over the globe visit this magical island for a memorable vacation. Autos are banned on the island, so the only mode of transportation is horse and carriage or bicycle. A walk through the past includes the famous Grand Hotel, Fort Mackinac and Victorian-era downtown. You encounter an abundance of amazing restaurants and bars, but the most popular gourmet delight is the renowned Mackinac Fudge. Treat yourself to this confection and buy extra for souvenir gifts. Within walking distance to the downtown is Mackinac Island State Dock, where space is at a premium and reservations must be made well in advance.

Leg 6: Hessel/Clark Twp. Marina
Les Cheneaux Islands, Hessel, MI

Estimated Mileage: 17 NM

Off the southeastern coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Les Cheneaux Islands are popular with boaters who love rustic cruising experiences. With 36 islands in the chain, some of which are uninhabited, boaters spend days exploring the crystal clear waters, unspoiled beaches and hidden coves. The first port-o-call in the islands is Hessel Marina, which offers 24 transient slips, gas and diesel fuel, laundry, and pump-out. Many boaters who cruise to the North Channel and Georgian Bay use Hessel as a stopover. For a first-rate dining experience, the Les Cheneaux Culinary School Restaurant chefs source local foods and fish for their master creations. The casual Islander Bar & Grill offers an outdoor patio, extensive menu and drink selections, billiards, and live entertainment. If you want to test your luck, the Kewadin Casino is a short drive from the marina.

Leg 7: Cedarville Marine
Les Cheneaux Islands, Cedarville, MI

Estimated Mileage: 7 NM

The small town of Cedarville is located in a deep bay in the Les Cheneaux Islands. Boaters are encouraged to strictly follow the marked channels and charts to navigate safely to the harbor. Cedarville Marine has about 20 transient slips, showers and restrooms, marine store, Wi-Fi, pump-out, and fuel. Places to visit include the Historical Maritime Museum and Les Cheneaux Historical Museum. You find a few restaurants and markets, a hardware store, drugstore, ice cream shop and convenience store in the downtown area. ml