The first step in planning any visit to Isle Royale National Park is planning how long to spend in the park and how you are going to get there. Isle Royale is probably the most remote and complex national park to visit in the lower 48. It can be a little tricky to visit. We are going to break down all your options for how to get to Isle Royale National Park.
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- Quick Guide for the getting to Isle Royale National Park
- Isle Royale Entrances
- Isle Royale Gateway Cities
- Best way to get to Isle Royale National Park
- Airports near Isle Royale National Park Departure Locations
- Driving to Isle Royale National Park
- Pin to Save for Later: how to get to Isle Royale National Park
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Quick Guide for the getting to Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royale National Park is located in the middle of Lake Superior. The only way to reach Isle Royale is to take a seaplane or boat out to the island. There are NO roads or bridges to Isle Royale National Park. There are two main entry points to Isle Royale – Rock Harbor and Windigo.
Rock Harbor is the main entry point on the east side of the island. There is a visitor center, campground, full hotel, restaurant, gas station, and camp store.
Windigo is an entry point on the west side of the island. There is a visitor center, camper cabins, campground, gas station, and camp store.
Seaplane: Isle Royale Seaplanes offers daily fights from Grand Marais, Minnesota or Hancock Portage Canal to either Rock Harbor or Windigo.
Ferry: There are 4 different ferry options.
- Ranger III – NPS’s ferry service. Starts in Houghton, MI heads to Rock Harbor with occasional trips to Windigo.
- Isle Royale Queen IV – Ferry service from Copper Harbor, MI to Rock Harbor.
- Voyageur II – Ferry service from Grand Portage, MN to Windigo then circumnavigates Isle Royale.
- Hunter II – Ferry service from Grand Portage, MN to Windigo.
Private boats or seaplanes: You are welcome to travel to Isle Royale on your own boat or seaplane. Seaplane land is limited to Rock Harbor and Windigo. All boats/seaplanes need to check-in at Rock Harbor, Windigo, or the Houghton Visitor center before exploring the rest of the island.
Isle Royale Entrances
Rock Harbor is the located on the northeastern end of Isle Royale. This small harbor is home to the Rock Harbor Lodge complex.
The Rock Harbor Lodge Complex includes
- Rock Harbor Visitor Center – Displays, interpretive programs, and backcountry permits
- Rock Harbor Lodge – Historic lodge with 60 rooms with Lake Superior views
- Housekeeping Cabins – 20 duplex cottages with private bath and kitchenette
- Gift Shop and Dockside Store – Small store with Isle Royale themed gifts, outdoor supplies, limited snacks, sandwiches, and groceries.
- Dining Room and Greenstone Grill – Servers hearty breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Marina and Water Taxi – 450 ft of dock space with boat hook-ups along with motorboat, canoe, and kayak rentals. Water Taxi services provide pick-up and drop off around the islands.
- Fishing Charters and Sightseeing – fully equipped fishing trips and guided sightseeing tours
- Rock Harbor Campground – 11 individual tent sites, 9 shelters, 3 group sites
Windigo is the located on the southwestern end of Isle Royale.
The Windigo services include includes
- Windigo Store – Small store with Isle Royale themed gifts, outdoor supplies, limited snacks, sandwiches, and groceries.
- Windigo Marina – Dock space with a motorboat, canoe, and kayak rentals.
- Windigo Camper Cabins – Two rustic one-room cabins with basic amenities
- Washington Creek Campground – 5 individual tent sites, 10 Shelters, 4 group sites
Isle Royale Gateway Cities
Houghton, Michigan is the home of Isle Royale’s mainland headquarters and the Houghton Visitor Center. This visitor is open-year round. The Ranger III ferry and Isle Royale Seaplanes depart from this city.
Houghton is also home to the the Quincy Unit of the Keweenaw National Historical Park. About 15 mins north is the Calument Unit.
Where to stay in Houghton, Michigan?
Hotels in Houghton
- The Vault Hotel – A splurge worthy hotel with sophisticated style. Rooms from $214/night; book on Airbnb, Booking.com, or Hotels.com
- Holiday Inn Express Houghton – Modern budget-friendly with a pool, away from the bustle of downtown Houghton. Rooms from $101/night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com
- Quality Inn & Suites Houghton – Basic and budget-friendly, located in the heart of Houghton. Rooms from $110/night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com
Vacation Rentals & Airbnbs in Houghton
- Check out this cute 1 bedroom that overlooks the Portage Canal near the lift bridge. From $140/night; book on Airbnb. (Get Up to $65 off your first Airbnb stay with this link!)
- Or, the Quincy View Suite which is located within walking distance of downtown Houghton. From $65/night; book on Airbnb (Get Up to $65 off your first Airbnb stay with this link!)
Copper Harbor, Michigan
Copper Harbor is a former mining town turned world class mountain biking destination. The town boasts miles upon miles of some of the best mountain biking in the world. The town is home to the Fort Wilkins Historic State Park and the End of U.S. Highway 41. In the harbor is the Copper Harbor Lighthouse.
The Isle Royale Queen IV departs from the Capper Harbor Marina.
Where to stay in Copper Harbor, Michigan?
Hotels in Copper Harbor
- Keweenaw Mountain Lodge – A Historic WPA Lodge with comfy cabins. Rooms from $150/night; book on Hotels.com or direct.
- Read my full review of the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge
Vacation Rentals & Airbnbs in Copper Harbor
- The Garden Cabin is a beachfront cabin on Lake Fanny Hooe and is within walking distance to downtown Copper Harbor. From $200/night; book on Airbnb. (Get Up to $65 off your first Airbnb stay with this link!)
- This lakeshore cottage enjoys private beach located between Copper Harbor and Eagle Harbor. From $171/night; book on Airbnb (Get Up to $65 off your first Airbnb stay with this link!)
- If you are planning to camp on Isle Royale then consider this lakefront cabin in Copper Harbor. You will need to provide linens and filter your own water. From $251/night; book on Airbnb (Get Up to $65 off your first Airbnb stay with this link!)
Grand Marais, Minnesota
Grand Marais is a small town on the northwestern shore of Lake Superior. The town is an entry point for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The Superior Hiking Trail passes nearby and Judge C. R. Magney State Park with the unusual Devil’s Kettle waterfalls is near the town..
Isle Royale Seaplanes depart from this Grand Marais.
Where to stay in Grand Marais, Minnesota?
Hotels in Grand Marais
- The Shoreline Inn– A quaint budget-friendly beachfront inn with modern amenities. Rooms from $79/night; book on Hotels.com
- Harbor Inn – A typical modern budget-friendly waterfront hotel. Rooms from $149/night; book on Hotels.com
- Cascade Lodge – A waterfront lodge offering hotel rooms and cabins. Rooms from $125/night; book on Hotels.com
Vacation Rentals & Airbnbs in Grand Marais
- The Harbor Home is a colorful bungalow within walking distance of downtown. From $139/night; book on Airbnb. (Get Up to $65 off your first Airbnb stay with this link!)
- The Agua Norte Cabin comes with Lake Superior Views. This timber frame cabin is a little ways away from town and is perfect for star gazing. From $263/night; book on Airbnb (Get Up to $65 off your first Airbnb stay with this link!)
- If you are backpacking on Isle Royale then you will already have all the extras you need for a stay at the Mökki Dwelling. This cozy Scandinavian dovetail log cabin offers a food-fired sauna and great star gazing. From $123/night; book on Airbnb (Get Up to $65 off your first Airbnb stay with this link!)
Grand Portage, Minnesota
Grand Portage, Minnesota is located in the Grand Portage Indian Reservation. This small community of the Grand Portage Band of Cippewa is home to the Grand Portage National Monument and Grand Portage State Park. There is also a casino.
The Hunter II and Voyageur II ferry depart from the Hat Point Marina.
Where to stay in Grand Portage, Minnesota?
Head 40 minutes down the road to Grand Marais, MN for a range of accommodation options.
Best way to get to Isle Royale National Park
Flying to Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royale is one of the few National Parks you can directly fly to. Well first you have to get to Michigan or Minnesota then you can fly to directly to Isle Royale.
Map of Isle Royale National Park Airports
Seaplane flights to Isle Royale
All flights to Isle Royale are via sea planes. There is no runway in the park.
Isle Royale Seaplanes is the only authorized provider of flights to the island.
The flight to Isle Royale takes about a hour and provides amazing areal views of the islands.
Isle Royale Flights:
- Grand Marais to Windigo
- Grand Marais to Rock Harbor
- Hancock Portage Canal to Windigo
- Hancock Portage Canal to Rock Harbor
- Flights between Rock Harbor and Windigo
The flights cost between $200 and $260 per person for one-way tickets.
Round trip costs between $290 and $380 per person.
Inter-island flights cost $130 a person.
Airport in Isle Royale National Park
Windigo Seaplane Dock
Windigo is located on the southwest end of Isle Royale. Windigo is located in Washington Harbor. The landing area has a small dock. Visitors to Windigo offers several camper cabins, portable water, showers, a camp store and a campground.
Rock Harbor Seaplane Dock
Rock Harbor is located on the northeast end of Isle Royale in Tobin Harbor. It is a short walk from Tobin Harbor to the Rock Harbor area. Visitors to Rock Harbor offers a hotel and cabins along with a campground, restaurant, and general store.
Ferries to Isle Royale National Park
The Ranger III ferry is National Park Service’s largest motorized vessel and the cheapest ferry option to Isle Royale National Park. The Ranger II is 165 ft long and 34 feet wide. Services are offered from late May though early September. The boat has indoor and outdoor seating, four passenger lounges, luncheon grill and interpretative ranger led program.
- Houghton to Rock Harbor – Tuesday and Fridays
- Rock Harbor to Houghton – Wednesdays and Saturdays
- Houghton to Windigo – First Sunday of the month
- Windigo to Houghton – First Monday of the month
Round Trip Fares: $110 to $140 per person
Houghton to Rock Harbor: 6 hours
Isle Royale Queen IV
The Isle Royale Queen IV is a 100-foot long private vessel that carries 85 passengers. It departs from Copper Harbor, Michigan and travels to Rock Harbor and back in the same day.
Isle Royale Queen IV does day trips. Day-trippers will have between 1.5 and 3 hours in the Rock Harbor area. Time varies based on weather conditions.
- May 15 – June 5
- Monday and Friday
- June 8 – June 30
- Everyday except Wednesday and Sunday
- July 2 – July 21
- Everyday except Wednesday
- July 23 – September 7
- September 9 – October 2
- Monday and Friday
Round Trip Fares: $248 to $272 per person
Houghton to Rock Harbor: 3.5 hours
The Voyageur II is a 65-foot long vessel. It departs from Grand Portage, MN and circumnavigates Isle Royale over two days. The outbound trip stops at Windigo, McCaroe Cove, and Belle Isle before arriving at Rock Harbor. The following day the Voyageur stops at Dasiy Farm, Chippewa Harbor, Malone Bay, and Windigo before returning to Grand Portage, MN.
Voyageur II passengers need to stay on Isle Royale overnight.
The Voyageur II departs Grand Portage on Monday, Wednesdays and Saturdays. It returns on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
- Depart: Grand Portage, MN – 7:30 AM CDT
- Arrive: Windigo, Isle Royale – 9:30 AM CDT
- Depart: Windigo, Isle Royale – 10:00 AM CDT
- Arrive and depart: McCargoe Cove – 01:00 PM CDT
- Arrive and depart: Belle Isle – 01:30 PM CDT
- Arrive: Rock Harbor – 03:00 PM CDT
- Depart: Rock Harbor, Isle Royale – 8:00 AM CDT
- Arrive and depart: Daisy Farm – 8:30 AM CDT
- Arrive and depart: Chippewa Harbor – 9:00 AM CDT
- Arrive and depart: Malone Bay – 10:00 AM CDT
- Arrive: Windigo, Isle Royale – 12:30 PM CDT
- Depart: Windigo, Isle Royale – 01:00 PM CDT
- Arrive: Grand Portage, MN – 03:00 PM CDT
Round Trip Fares: $124 to $188 per person
Grand Portage to Windigo: 2 hours
Sea Hunter II
The Seahunter III is a 65-foot long vessel. It departs from Grand Portage, MN and travels to Windigo and back on the same day. This vessel takes 1.5 hours each way.
Seahunter III does day trips. Day-trippers will have about 4 hours in the Windigo area. Time varies based on weather conditions.
- June 10 – July 11
- Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday
- July 15 – August 16
- Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
- August 19 – September 5
- Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday
Airports near Isle Royale National Park Departure Locations
Closest Airports near Isle Royale National Park Departure Locations
Houghton County Memorial Airport
Houghton County Memorial Airport (CMX) is a tiny airport located in Oneco, MI. It is near the cities of Calumet and Houghton. This small airport has year-round flights from Chicago through United. There are several rental cars available along with an shuttle to Copper Harbor.
Distance from Houghton / Copper Harbor: 8.8 miles / 14 miles
Drive time from Houghton / Copper Harbor: 16 minutes / 55 minutes
Sawyer International Airport
Sawyer International Airport (MQT/SAW) is a small airport and located in Marquette, Michigan. Sawyer has year-round flights provided by American Airlines and Delta. There are direct flights from Chicago, Detroit, and Minneapolis. Rental cars are available.
Indian Trails Bus Company offers buses from Marquette to Houghton.
Distance from Houghton / Copper Harbor: 108 miles / 154 miles
Drive time from Houghton / Copper Harbor: 2 hours / 3 hours
Duluth International Airport
Duluth International Airport (DLH) is a small airport in Duluth, Minnesota. Duluth provides access to all three of Isle Royale’s ferry locations. The airport is served by American Airlines, Delta and United. It has direct flights from Chicago and Minneapolis. Rental cars are available.
Arrowhead Transit offers daily service between Duluth and Grand Marais.
Distance from Houghton / Copper Harbor / Grand Portage: 217 miles / 262 miles / 75 miles
Drive time from Houghton / Copper Harbor / Grand Portage: 4 hours / 5.5 hours / 1.5 hours
Thunder Bay International Airport
Thunder Bay International Airport (YQT) is located in Thunder Bay, Ontario, CANADA. You WILL need a passport to fly into this airport. This small Canadian airport is serviced by the major Canadian airlines and has regularly scheduled service from most major Canadian cities.
Distance from Grand Portage: 55 miles
Drive time from Grand Portage: 1 hours
Major Airports within a one day drive of Isle Royale National Park
Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport
Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) is the closest major airport to Isle Royale National Park and located in Minneapolis, MN. Minneapolis is Delta’s third largest hub and offers flights to a wide range of US and international destinations. Rental cars are available.
Distance from Houghton / Copper Harbor / Grand Portage: 373 miles / 419 miles / 309 miles
Drive time from Houghton / Copper Harbor / Grand Portage: 6.25 hours / 7.25 hours / 5 hours
Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport
Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) is a medium sized airport located near Milwaukee, WI. It is primarily serviced by Southwest, United, Delta, and American Airlines. It offers flights from most major US cities. Rental cars are available.
Indian Trails Bus Company offers buses from Milwaukee to Houghton.
Distance from Houghton / Copper Harbor / Grand Portage: 334 miles / 380 miles / 582 miles
Drive time from Houghton / Copper Harbor / Grand Portage: 5.5 hours / 6.5 hours / 9.5 hours
Driving to Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royale is an island in the middle of Lake Superior. There are NO real roads on the islands so there is no driving to the park but you can drive to the ferry or seaplane ports in Michigan or Minnesota.
Driving Distances to Houghton, MI National Park (add an hour if headed to Copper Harbor)
|Duluth, MN||216 mi||348 km||4 hours|
|Milwaukee, WI||326 mi||525 km||5.5 hours|
|Madison, WI||331 mi||533 km||5.5 hours|
|Minneapolis, MN||369 mi||594 km||6 hours|
|Chicago, IL||416 mi||669 km||7 hours|
|Grand Rapid, MI||501 mi||806 km||8 hours|
|Detroit, MI||554 mi||892 km||8.75 hours|
|Omaha, NE||736 mi||1,184 km||11.5 hours|
|Washington, D.C||1,057 mi||1,701 km||16.5 hours|
|Atlanta, GA||1,138 mi||1,831 km||17.5 hours|
|New York City, NY||1,151 mi||1,852 km||18 hours|
|Denver, CO||1,273 mi||2,049 km||19 hours|
|Houston, TX||1,456 mi||2,343 km||23 hours|
|Salt Lake City, UT||1,597 mi||2,570 km||24 hours|
|Miami, FL||1,802 mi||2,900 km||27 hours|
|Seattle, WA||1,879 mi||3,024 km||29 hours|
|Portland, OR||1,953 mi||3,143 km||31 hours|
|Phoenix, AZ||2,002 mi||3,222 km||31 hours|
|Los Angeles, CA||2,284 mi||3,676 km||33 hours|
Driving Distances to Grand Portage, MN (subtract 40 minutes if going to Grand Marais)
|Duluth, MN||145 mi||233 km||2.75 hours|
|Minneapolis, MN||299 mi||481 km||5 hours|
|Madison, WI||477 mi||719 km||7.5 hours|
|Milwaukee, WI||558 mi||898 km||8.5 hours|
|Chicago, IL||613 mi||987 km||9.75 hours|
|Omaha, NE||673 mi||1,083 km||10.5 hours|
|Grand Rapid, MI||798 mi||1,284 km||12.5 hours|
|Detroit, MI||825 mi||1,328 km||13.5 hours|
|Denver, CO||1,210 mi||1,996 km||18 hours|
|Washington, D.C||1,332 mi||2,144 km||20.75 hours|
|Atlanta, GA||1,334 mi||2,147 km||20.5 hours|
|New York City, NY||1,410 mi||2,269 km||22.25 hours|
|Houston, TX||1,474 mi||2,372 km||22.75 hours|
|Salt Lake City, UT||1,531 mi||2,464 km||23.5 hours|
|Seattle, WA||1,805 mi||2,905 km||28 hours|
|Portland, OR||1,878 mi||3,022 km||29 hours|
|Phoenix, AZ||1,939 mi||3,121 km||30 hours|
|Miami, FL||1,999 mi||3,217 km||30 hours|
|Los Angeles, CA||2,221 mi||3,575 km||33 hours|
Get help planning your trip to Isle Royale National Park:
- National Parks of Michigan
- How to Get to Isle Royale
- 16 Things to know before visiting Isle Royale National Park