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Author Topic:   Mackinaw Island
SWarren posted 06-05-2002 09:09 AM ET (US)   Profile for SWarren   Send Email to SWarren  
My wife wants to take a vacation and worked at the Grand Hotel one summer when she was in college. I live in Charleston SC and would want to trailer my revenge or my dads montauk to use. When would be the the best time to go July or August? Do they have plenty of slips? What about the best hotel for boat acess? I am sure it will take forever to drive, but I want to go boating. Do they have boat rentals? If so what types of boat? Thanks for any help or advise.
dfmcintyre posted 06-05-2002 10:05 AM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
Question - How long are you planning on staying in that area?. I've been told it's about a 12 - 13 hour drive from around Jamestown, NC to the Flint, Michigan area. From Flint, it's about a three hour drive to reach Mackinaw City.

The dates where the island could get crowded, are during the 15th - 16th of July, and again about a week later, the 22nd to the 24th. Those dates are the approximate arrival dates for the annual Port Huron to Mackinac Island Sailboat Race (the first dates) and the subsequent Chicago to Mackinac Race. It can get crowded. If you bring the Montauk, there are locations that you can slip into that would work (BTDT). There are also an area where you could anchor, and if you have an inflatable, be able to make it ashore.

Hitting the island mid-week is a good bet to find a slip, as the weekend is the popular time for arrivals.

After the second week of August, it clears out, but the weather can get funky.

There is no "best" hotel/motel for boat access on the island. It's either downtown, overlooking the harbor (or within a few very walkable blocks) or further inland or "up" on the island (for reference, the Grand is considered "up", btw...)

Another choice is to stay off island, either in Mackinaw City (last city before the Mackinac Bridge) or in St. Ignace (first city across the bridge). Either has an overabundance of lodging. Both have harbors, M/C is about seven miles from the island, S/I, about three. M/C has some motels along a beach area, that you could moor the boat out in front of.

If your really looking for a great boating area, I'd also recommend thinking about doing a "loop" around Lake Huron, staying around M/I for only a day or so, then proceeding up to Soo St. Marie, and heading east to the North Channel area, and re-launching again over there, either on the mainland or Manatoulin Island side. From there, you would take the ferry (about a two hour trip) to Tobemory, then back down the east side of Huron. Cross over in Sarnia to Port Huron, then back towards Detroit. If your only planning on one real pocket cruising trip to this area, you _really_ want to hit that area.

If you need more info or want to talk on the phone, just let me know.


Ventura16 posted 06-05-2002 10:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for Ventura16  Send Email to Ventura16     
Don's info is right on...

If you were thinking about an early August date, you might try and join us for the August 3rd Whaler rendezvous we are having on Mullet Lake. Mullet Lake is on a chain of lakes not far south of Mackinaw City. It is a beautiful (and very popular) inland cruising area with lots of good ramps, restaurants, and places to stay.


lhg posted 06-06-2002 02:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
Steve - I have extensively "Whalered" around the area you are talking about, and it is magnificent clear blue freshwater boating like you have never seen. It's well worth the drive, spoken by a trailer boater who doesn't let distance get in the way of seeing the great waterways of the US & Canada! But to really enjoy the area, and take advantage of the nearby cruising destinations, both in Huron and Michigan, I would bring your twin engine 22, ideally suited for Great Lakes offshore cruising safety. You may need to overnight in it, as hotel reservations in Northern Michigan can be booked solid late July/early August.

Heading east into Lake Huron, there is the Les Chenneaux Island area, Drummond Island and the huge North Channel (see JimH's "travelog" on this area, in this site). Heading west into Lake Michigan, there is Beaver Island, and the very fancy & beautiful Harbor Springs/Charlevoix areas.

Mackinaw Island is very nice, but tends to be a tourist trap area in some respects. It is quite busy, and a day or two there, on land, is plenty. You definitly want to miss the mid-July madhouse when the Chicago-to-Mackinaw sailboat racers show up, 300 boats strong. This is party time big-time, but there is no room for other boats.

Once up in this part of the boating world, you will not want to leave.

jimh posted 06-16-2002 07:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The last time we were at Mackinac Island, we enjoyed three nights in the harbor.

The policy at the Municipal Marina dock was that there were no reservations, boats were served first-come, and you must be in visual contact with the harbormaster to get on the waiting list. In other words, you could not call in on a VHF radio from 40 miles out to get on the waiting list. The harbormaster had to see your boat in the harbor.

Boats were allowed a maximum of 3 days at the dock, then have to leave.

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon, got on the list, but could not get to the dock that night. We anchored in the harbor, which is not well protected from the east. Until the ferries stop running at 10-PM there are constant ferry boat wakes in the harbor every ten minutes. A passing boater or freigher on the lakes can also roll in a wake to the harbor.

You have to anchor on short scope because of the crowd in there. There are also plenty of private boats on mooring floats to avoid, too. But you can anchor there for free, typically. How you get over to dock from your anchorage is up to you. While we swung at anchor I always had someone stay on the boat in case it became necessary to get underway in a hurry--we took turns rowing to the dock in our dingy.

The next day we got a dock space. The cost then was only $0.70/foot. We stayed for two more nights. So in all we had four days and three nights on the island for $42. (That's a 30-foot boat).

In contrast, I saw an add for the Grand Hotel and their rooms start at $400/night.

There are good facilities for launching at Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. There are also municipal marinas at each city, too. They are not as picturesque as staying on the island at anchor or at the dock.

I have not checked this information in a long time; you might contact the marinas to see if they allow any reservations. I think there was a general reform in the DNR policy about taking reservations, and they may allow a limited number to be made, although if they do I would guess they might be filled by now.

The water in the straits can be rough. There is very sheltered boating available in the Les Cheneaux Islands to the east. Launch at Hessel

Another jumping off spot is Detour Village at the extreme eastern end of the upper peninsula (UP). There is a large marina and launch there, and once in the water you can explore Drummond Island and Potaginissing Bay. Shore accommodations are a little rustic in Detour, I recall.

If you do want to enter Canadian water by boat and return to US, I would advise checking on an I-68 form before you go. Otherwise it would be much simpler to haul the boat across the border and launch it in Canadian water. The customs and immigration situation has gotten more strict since last September's terror attacks.

If you do go to Canada by boat, report entry at your first port of call. When you return to the US, you are supposed to report and await inspection...I think they charge you for this service, too. Much easier to get the I-68 (which can exempt you from US inspection on return), or to cross the border on the trailer, where there will be no hassles with the boat (assuming you don't fit a terrorist's profile!).

As Don and Larry have said, once you see what we have for boating up there you'll never go anywhere else!

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