We have taken Shepler’s Ferry to Mackinac Island more times than we can count and always have a great time. Visiting the island is a summer tradition for many people but did you know that Shepler’s Ferry offers cruises beyond their traditional ferry service to and from Mackinac Island?
There are multiple options throughout the season that include eastbound lighthouse cruises, a westbound lighthouse cruises, Les Cheneaux lighthouse cruises and night sky cruises. For this excursion we decided to go on an eastbound lighthouse cruise.
After boarding The Hope, the 150-passenger vessel most often used for the cruises, we made our way under the Mackinac Bridge. Let me start here by saying that the cruises are live narrated by extremely knowledgeable people from The Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association. As we went under the bridge the narrator shared some great bridge facts and you get to see the bridge from underneath, which makes for an interesting view! The bridge looks a lot different underneath than you could ever imagine! Also, right by the bridge is a marked shipwreck, the Minneapolis, which sank in 1894 and sits in 124 feet of water. There are many shipwrecks in the area of the tour and the guide shares details on many of them throughout the cruise.
After we left the Mackinac Bridge, the cruise headed towards Mackinac Island. Here we stopped to see the two lighthouses that are passed when taking a typical Shepler’s Ferry to the island. First is the Round Island Light which was built in 1895, this being the more traditional looking lighthouse of the two lights in this area. It is said to be the most photographed lighthouse on the Great Lakes based on the amount of ferry passengers that pass it each day on their way to the island. The second is the Round Island Passage Light. These lights were established to make a shorter route through the Straits of Mackinac.
As we made our way past Mackinac Island, we approached an area that was all new to us as we came upon the Bois Blanc Light, the oldest lighthouse in this area. This is a fun stop for a variety of reasons. One, because of the stories and history of this light and facts about what it means for a light to be established. The second was because of the different pronunciations for this lighthouse and island. There seems to be a lot of ways that are acceptable!
Next up was the Poe Reef Light. This light sits out on its own structure in the water and had a unique look and remote feel to it. This lighthouse also led to some great photo opportunities, and this is a good time to point out that it doesn’t matter which side of the vessel you sit. The captain swings around so both port and starboard passengers get a good view. We also learned an easy way to remember ship lingo with port being the left side of the vessel. “Port” and “left” both are four letter words. “Starboard” and “right” do not.
Moving on, we arrived at Fourteen Foot Shoal before heading into the Cheboygan River and past two more lights, The Cheboygan Crib Light and the Cheboygan Riverfront Range Light. As we headed through the river we were lucky enough to see the USCG Mackinac docked. After turning around in the river, we headed back out. Like before, both sides get great views of everything in the river.
The cruise continues back towards the Shepler’s Ferry Mackinaw City dock and past Bois Blanc Island with much more Straits of Mackinac history shared by the narrator.
Overall, this cruise was a great way to see lighthouses that are only accessible by water and also learn a lot about the history of the area! To see our full experience, you can check out the video in the link below.
c:| Andy Behling