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Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 6:52 PM


Anyone who loves the water and watching boats will get their heart’s content in the Straits area. From ferries to “footers” and catamarans to cabin cruisers, you’re sure to see them all plying the waters of the Straits of Mackinac.

Freighters sailing the Straits range in size from 500 feet to more than 1,000 feet. The 1,000-foot-long boats, known as “1,000-footers,” carry a variety of cargo that includes iron ore, coal, grain, limestone, and salt. Some of them can accommodate more than 70,000 tons in their holds. 

Boats that are northbound for Lake Superior must go through the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, a 50-minute drive north of St. Ignace. A viewing stand in Soo Locks Park in downtown Sault Ste. Marie provides the public with an opportunity to watch the freighters as they pass through the locks – and it’s free. There are also boat tours of the locks for those wanting a first-hand experience locking through. 


 “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” ~ Jacques Cousteau


There are several ways to find out when freighters are anticipated to pass through the locks. You can visit www.marinetraffic. com or download its app. The Soo Locks Visitor Center has information on site at Soo Locks Park or you can call its boat schedule hotline at (906) 202-1333. You can also stop in at the Sault Convention and Visitors Bureau at 225 E. Portage Avenue or call them at (906) 632-3366. 

St. Ignace has several public parks and vantage points to view the ferries bound for Mackinac Island. For a unique view of the Mighty Mac, there are ferry trips offered by both Shepler’s Ferry and Mackinac Island Ferry Company (also known as Star Line) that make a detour under the Mackinac Bridge before going to the Island. 

Another spectacular site to see in the Straits of Mackinac are hundreds of colorful, billowing sails as sailboats race their way to Mackinac Island during two of the most iconic freshwater sailboat races in the country – the Wintrust Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac and the Bayview Mackinac Race, both in July. You will also see a variety of local vessels racing with the wind all summer long, as well as power boats and fishing vessels headed out for a day of pleasure boating and net pulling. 



St. Ignace has a historic boat on display in downtown St. Ignace in a viewing building next to B.C. Pizza. The Edith Jane, a Mackinac Boat, was donated to the city by the Michilimackinac Historical Society. She was built in St. Ignace in 1899 by the Chenier family who settled in the area around 1830. The boat is made of pine planks with an oak frame and is 19-feet eight-inches long, has a six-foot four-inch beam, and draws one-foot six-inches. She was later converted to power.



Mackinac Straits Watersports Rental Co.

For the past several summers, Mackinac Straits Watersports has offered kayaks and jet-skis for rent for guests looking for an on-the-water view of St. Ignace. While costs are subject to change, hourly rentals of kayaks cost about $35 per hour per person, while jet-skis cost about $120 per hour per person. For those looking for a more thrilling experience during your St. Ignace vacation, contact Mike for rental availability and current rates at (517) 528-9545.

Mackinac RIB Adventure Tours

A new addition to the water recreation scene in the St. Ignace are is Mackinac RIB Adventure Tours with local Captain Jerry. Join Captain Jerry aboard his RIB (rigid inflatable boat) , a former U.S. Navy special operations boat for an unforgettable tour of the Straits of Mackinac. Contact Captain Jerry at [email protected] or by telephone at (906) 430-8560 to schedule your tour today.

Sip n’ Sail Cruises, Mackinac Island

Hop aboard a Sip n’ Sail Cruise to experience historic Mackinac Island and the Mackinac Bridge from the sparkling blue waters of the Straits of Mackinac. While viewing spectacular scenery, you can sip a favorite beverage, chat with friends old and new, and listen to live music or an award-winning DJ. Choose from the 81-foot-long Isle Royale Queen III or the 55-foot-long Robin E, a glass bottom boat, that offer a variety of cruises running from mid-May to mid-October. Private charters are also available. For more information or to make a reservation, visit www.sipnsailcruises.com, where you can purchase tickets online, or call (844) 906-9006.

Shepler’s Sightseeing Tours

Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry offers a variety of special cruises in addition to its daily ferry service to Mackinac Island. Choose from night sky viewing cruises and lighthouse excursions for a unique view of the towering structures from the water. For details and more information, visit www.sheplersferry.com, or call (231) 436-5023.


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