Make St. Ignace Your Home Port to explore the eastern Upper Peninsula - it’s the easiest way to see it all! The upper Great Lakes – Superior, Michigan and Huron - are each within a one-hour drive and Mackinac Island, Les Cheneaux Islands, Newberry, Sault Ste. Marie and even Ontario Canada are close by! Take your family for scenic outings and adventures across this unique ecosystem and beyond. With St Ignace as Your Home Port, you'll be sure to have all the comforts and amenities needed at the end of a great day!
Don't forget to browse our accommodations listings and discover why St. Ignace offers the most affordable lodging in the Straits of Mackinac area. Before making your reservation visit our Travel Savings for special offers!
Great Lakes and Shorelines
Straits of Mackinac
Any adventure in the Upper Peninsula includes the sights and sounds of the Great Lakes and the Straits of Mackinac. The clean, clear waters are fundamental to the history and development of this part of Michigan. The waters refresh the spirits in perfect communion with nature.
St. Ignace is situated on Moran Bay, a small harbor just north of the Straits of Mackinac on Lake Huron. The harbor is large enough to accommodate ferries from each of the three companies that provide passenger service to Mackinac Island. There is also a public marina with stone breakwall creating slips for 136 boats. The Wawatam Light on the former railroad pier is the southern navigational marker. The Huron Boardwalk along the shore of Moran Bay hugs the shoreline and tells the history of the area with the help of strategically located information kiosks. Many motels and hotels dot downtown waterfront. Immediately north of St. Ignace, and bordering Horseshoe Bay, is the Horseshoe Bay Wilderness, a 3,787 acre wilderness area. There are excellent fishing opportunities along the Carp River and the Pine River both of which flow into this part of Lake Huron. Further along the shore of Lake Huron, Search Bay offers a wilderness beach that is home to many bird species. The Point Brulee Road leads to the Birge Nature Preserve west of Hessel. The Preserve consists of 275 acres of cedar wetlands and upland hardwoods on Mismer Bay and Little Loon Lake. The villages of Hessel and Cedarville, positioned at the Les Cheneaux Island archipelago, maintain the wooden boat tradition historic to the area. Further east, the Lake Huron natural shoreline provides scenic viewing opportunities at Bush Bay Overlook and other small parks. Detour Village located at the extreme eastern tip of the Upper Peninsula marks the turning point for the shipping channel connecting the St. Mary’s River with Lake Huron and the Straits of Mackinac. The car ferry servicing Drummond Island, one of the largest islands in the St. Mary’s River, departs from DeTour Village.
Lake Michigan unfolds to the west of St. Ignace. There is a wild bird sanctuary, home to swans, egrets, herons, and hundreds of ducks, at the base of the Mackinac Bridge. It is not uncommon to seean osprey diving for fish or a majestic bald eagle soaring across sky. St. Helena Island is about ten miles west of St. Ignace in the Lake Michigan approach to the Straits of Mackinac. The lighthouse constructed on the Island in 1872 is visible from shore as well as from the lookout at Gros Cap. St. Helena is a favorite stopping spot for kayakers and pleasure crafters. West of Point Aux Chenes, the lakeshore becomes a beautiful series woodland dunes that cascade towards the water. Sheltered beaches provide some of the area’s best swimming spots with warm, shallow waters and clean, white sand. The Cut River Gorge about four miles west of Brevort is a striking limestone gorge created where the Cut River empties into Lake Michigan. A bridge and a footpath offer a breathtaking view of the gorge and a hiking trail provides access to Lake Michigan.
Lake Superior with its rugged shoreline and breathtaking views is just one hour north of St. Ignace. The eastern end of the Lake drains into the St. Mary's River which, in turn, flows into Lake Huron. A series of canals and locks – the Sault Locks – were built to facilitate the movement ships between the two uneven lake levels. Scenic communities such as the aptly named Paradise and historic Grand Marais dot Lake Superior's rocky coast. Each spring and fall avid birders gather near Paradise to witness the spring and fall migrations. The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Munising features Miners Castle and Munising Falls. The colorful sandstone bedrock and cliffs that comprise the Pictured Rocks were sculpted into their current forms by freeze-and-thaw erosion and glacial Lake Nipissing about 5,000 years ago. The Two Hearted River memorialized by Ernest Hemingway in his great story of the same name is a popular spot to canoe. Crisp Point Light at Paradise stands as a reminder of fierce storms that threaten ships off-shore. The historic Whitefish Point Light and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum stand at the windswept spot where Lake Superior opens wide to the gales of November. The Museum displays the stories of many shipwrecks including the Edmund Fitzgerald. The Seney National Wildlife Refuge, about half way between Lakes Superior and Michigan, offers the visitor 95,000 acres of protected wildlife habitat. The Seney Visitor Center provides an opportunity to view slide show, check out exhibits, and participate in hands-on activities and special events. Visitors can hike the Pine Ridge Nature Trail or take the Marshland Wildlife Drive.
St. Ignace is located on an isthmus, surrounded on three sides by the waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The downtown overlooks Moran Bay, a sheltered cove just north of the Straits of Mackinac. All this water provides great recreational opportunities minutes from the city center. Search an ancient shipwreck, parasail over the Bay, reel in a fish for dinner, sail on the tumbling waves - whatever your sport or hobby, you'll find the adventure of your dreams.
The upper Great Lakes are dotted with islands. Some are large with villages and towns to explore. Others are populated only with trees and wildlife.
Mackinac Island – Mackinac is the island closest island to St. Ignace. A tourist mecca, the Island is accessible only by passenger ferry, private boat or airplane.
Les Cheneaux Islands – Les Cheneaux are north and east of St. Ignace off-shore of the villages of Hessel and Cedarville. A small bridge connects to residential Hill Island. The other islands, however, are accessible only by water.
Drummond Island – Drummond Island is east of Les Cheneaux. It is accessible by a car ferry from Detour Village. The island has its own village in the interior and is a unique, woodland getaway.
Bois Blanc Island – Bois Blanc is located in the Straits of Mackinac east of Mackinac Island. Visitors can reach this island by way of car ferry from Cheboygan, east of Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula. Bois Blanc is a rustic, forest covered island but there are a few year-round residents.
Sugar Island – Sugar Island is located in the St. Mary's River just east of Sault Ste. Marie. It is easily accessible by car ferry. This island has many year round and seasonal homes.
Neebish Island – Neebish Island is also located in the St. Mary's River. Like Sugar Island, it has both year round and seasonal homes and is accessible by car ferry.
Beaver Island – Beaver Island is located in northern Lake Michigan, some 23 miles off-shore of Charlevoix. It is accessible by air and by car ferry.
Driving Tours of Historic Cities & Towns
St. Ignace has much to offer the traveller who likes to take to the open road, to enjoy not only the highways and byways but also the country roads, to drink in the scenic beauty of the country side. The lakeshores, fields, forests and picturesque villages are sure to create memories that will last a lifetime.
North of St. Ignace
Prior to the completion of the I-75 freeway in 1960, the Mackinac Trail was the main highway linking St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie. Although not as popular as the faster I-75, travellers often prefer scenic beauty the 55 mile stretch of Mackinac Trail that begins at the north end of Business Loop I-75 in St. Ignace and extends north to Business Spur I-75 in Sault Ste. Marie Michigan making its way through the villages of Rudyard, Kinross, Dafter and Cottage Park.
A second northward scenic drive leads the traveller to the awe-inspiring Tahquamenon Falls in the Tahquamenon Falls State Park near Paradise. Visitors taking this side trip may want to take in the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point before looping back to St. Ignace. Villages and towns along this stretch include Moran, Ozark, Trout Lake, Eckerman, Paradise and Newberry.
Want to Visit Another Country?
Visitors who want to leave the United States and spend time in a foreign country can cross into Canada by way of the 2.8 mile International Bridge linking Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The International Bridge is at the north end of I-75, 55 miles from St. Ignace. The bridge is a border crossing so visitors are advised to ensure that they have proper documentation both to enter Canada and to return to the United States. If you've never been outside the U.S.A., this is your chance to visit a foreign country! Sault Ste. Marie offers excellent shopping, fine dining and access to all kinds of activities ranging from world-class golf courses to excellent skiing to the celebrated Agawa Canyon Train Tours.
Sault Ste. Marie
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, the oldest continuous settlement in Michigan is just an hour north of St. Ignace on I-75 or along the more scenic Mackinac Trail. This vibrant northern city is located on the shore of the St. Mary's River. The Sault is the site of the Sault Locks, built in 1855 to move ships around the 21 foot difference between Lakes Huron and Superior. The city is also home to Lake Superior State University and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
Brimley is a village at the mouth of the Waiska (Whiskey) River where it flows into Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior, some 50 miles north-west of St. Ignace. The Bay Mills Indian Community owns land nearby, and Brimley is part of a tax-agreement area with the tribe. Brimley Today is home to Bay Mills Community College and to two tribally owned casinos.
Rudyard is a farming village located on Mackinac Trail about 30 miles north of St. Ignace. The community was originally named "Pine River"; because there was already another town in Michigan with that name, it was changed in 1890 to Rudyard. The name was suggested by Fred Underwood, an executive with the Soo Line Railroad because of his great admiration for Rudyard Kipling.
Pickford is a farming community about 40 miles north-east of St. Ignace. Charles W. Pickford from Ontario, Canada was one of the first settlers at this village on the Munuscong River and the village was named for him in 1877.
South of St. Ignace
The southern approach to the Mackinac Bridge is the gateway to the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and beyond. The Bridge merges with I-75 which wends its way south to Florida. A network of highways crisscrosses the area south of the Bridge beckoning travellers to enjoy all the area has to offer.
Mackinaw City anchors the south end of the Mackinac Bridge. The population of the village swells in summer months as the tourist shops open and travelers arrive to enjoy the amenities. Visitors enjoy all the community has to offer including Fort Michilimackinac, the Old Mackinac Lighthouse, and the Mackinac Millcreek campground.
Cheboygan is just twenty miles southeast of St. Ignace at the mouth of the Cheboygan River. Originally a native settlement, the town is the Lake Huron entry point to the inland waterways of northern Michigan and the home port for the ferry to Bois Blanc Island. The town boasts an historic theater, The Opera House, where musical and dramatic presentations are staged.
The City of Petoskey is forty-two miles south-west of St. Ignace. It is situated on Lake Michigan between Grand Traverse and the Straits of Mackinac at the mouth of Bear River. Petoskey is named for Chief Petosega, a mixed-race Ottawa and French merchant and fur trader who is generally regarded as the founder of the settlement. Today the city boasts a beautiful gaslight district with distinct shops and a medical complex that includes a full service hospital with many specialities.
East of St. Ignace
Eastward travellers can cruise the north shore of Lake Huron along M-134. The highway stretches to DeTour Village where visitors interested in discovering the particular joy of riding a car ferry can set sail for Drummond Island. The highway resumes at the ferry dock on the Island and continues into the Drummond’s interior. The views along M-134 are spectacular. The highway passes through the villages of Hessel and Cedarville brings the traveller near the beautiful Les Cheneaux Islands. The highway features many scenic turnouts with opportunities for picnicking, swimming, wading or simply relaxing. The shores are undeveloped for the most part, providing an ideal habitat for birds and other wildlife.
Cedarville and Hessel
The Les Cheneaux Islands archipelago and surrounding area include the villages of Cedarville and Hessel. Both communities provide a broad spectrum of tourism supports and marina services. Cedarville and Hessel are just 15 miles east of I-75 along the north shore of Lake Huron.
Detour Village is a community on Lake Huron at the extreme eastern tip of the Upper Peninsula some 25 miles east of Les Cheneaux. A car ferry links Drummond Island to the mainland at Detour Village. North of the village, visitors can watch the Great Lakes vessels as they travel the North Channel that connects Lake Superior to Lake Huron.
Drummond Island, one of the largest islands in Lake Huron, measures some 83,000 acres. It boasts natural features including miles of shoreline, a forested landscape and 34 inland lakes as well as a small village and a world-class golf course. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy year round amenities including hiking and biking trails, ATV and ORV trails, as well as water recreation during the warm weather months and groomed cross country skiing and snowmobile trails during the winter. Drummond Island is accessible by car ferry from Detour Village.
West of St. Ignace
The scenery along the north shore of Lake Michigan ensures yet another unique driving adventure. A trip westward along US-2 takes the traveller through an eclectic collection of local businesses and unique attractions. Just 10 miles west of St. Ignace, the road edges closer to the lakeshore and to the sand dunes that ring the water. Beautiful sandy beaches invite the traveller to stop and swim or just admire the warm, clear, clean waters of Lake Michigan. On a windy day the waves break long and white adding yet another dimension of fun, beauty and adventure. A little further along, a spectacular bridge crosses the Cut River Gorge. A park area adjacent to the gorge provides visitors with a picnic turnout as well as footpaths to the gorge bottom.
The Moose Capitol of Michigan, Newberry is surrounded by thousands of acres of forest and rivers. The village is accessed from St. Ignace by way of M-123 and M-28 west. Tahquamenon Falls, Oswald's Bear Ranch, the Logging Museum and the Riverboat Cruises are just some Newberry’s attractions.
Naubinway is a community 40 miles west of St. Ignace on US-2. The Indian name is believed to translate, "Place of Echoes". This former lumbering settlement and commercial fishing village is home to the Garlyn Park Zoo, a popular attraction for vacationing families.
Engadine, originally called Kennedy Siding, is village 48 miles west of St. Ignace on US-2. The one-time lumbering settlement was renamed after a Swiss valley by the postmaster in 1893. Engadine is home to the Hiawatha Club, a golf course carved from the forest.
Come take a walk through our historic waterfront village! The Michilimackinac Historical Society presents the St. Ignace Historical Walking Tour of Downtown St. Ignace. The Society has prepared a 36-page booklet that walks the visitor through a self-guided, interactive tour of the historic downtown area and the waterfront boardwalk. The walk highlights the hustle and bustle of olden days and showcases the reminders of an era gone by.