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.

This post is sponsored by the Keweenaw Adventure Company. They offer a range of kayaking and mountain biking services on the Keweenaw Peninsula. Additionally, they offer Isle Royale guided kayaking trips and shuttles from Hancock Airport to Copper Harbor.

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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

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

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

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
  • 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

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
Vacation Rentals & Airbnbs in Copper Harbor

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

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.

Click here to start making your reservation.

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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

Ranger III

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.

Schedule:

  • 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.

Schedule:

  • 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
    • Everyday
  • September 9 – October 2
    • Monday and Friday

Round Trip Fares: $248 to $272 per person

Houghton to Rock Harbor: 3.5 hours

Voyageur II

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.

Outbound Schedule:

  • 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

Inbound Schedule:

  • 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.

Schedule:

  • 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)

CityMileageKilometersDrive Time
Duluth, MN216 mi348 km4 hours
Milwaukee, WI 326 mi525 km5.5 hours
Madison, WI331 mi533 km5.5 hours
Minneapolis, MN 369 mi 594 km6 hours
Chicago, IL416 mi669 km7 hours
Grand Rapid, MI501 mi806 km8 hours
Detroit, MI554 mi892 km8.75 hours
Omaha, NE 736 mi1,184 km11.5 hours
Washington, D.C 1,057 mi 1,701 km16.5 hours
Atlanta, GA 1,138 mi 1,831 km17.5 hours
New York City, NY 1,151 mi 1,852 km18 hours
Denver, CO 1,273 mi 2,049 km19 hours
Houston, TX 1,456 mi 2,343 km23 hours
Salt Lake City, UT 1,597 mi 2,570 km24 hours
Miami, FL 1,802 mi 2,900 km27 hours
Seattle, WA 1,879 mi 3,024 km29 hours
Portland, OR1,953 mi3,143 km31 hours
Phoenix, AZ2,002 mi3,222 km31 hours
Los Angeles, CA 2,284 mi 3,676 km33 hours

Driving Distances to Grand Portage, MN (subtract 40 minutes if going to Grand Marais)

CityMileageKilometersDrive Time
Duluth, MN145 mi233 km2.75 hours
Minneapolis, MN 299 mi 481 km5 hours
Madison, WI 477 mi 719 km7.5 hours
Milwaukee, WI 558 mi898 km8.5 hours
Chicago, IL613 mi987 km9.75 hours
Omaha, NE 673 mi 1,083 km10.5 hours
Grand Rapid, MI 798 mi1,284 km12.5 hours
Detroit, MI825 mi1,328 km13.5 hours
Denver, CO 1,210 mi 1,996 km18 hours
Washington, D.C 1,332 mi 2,144 km20.75 hours
Atlanta, GA 1,334 mi 2,147 km20.5 hours
New York City, NY 1,410 mi 2,269 km22.25 hours
Houston, TX 1,474 mi 2,372 km22.75 hours
Salt Lake City, UT 1,531 mi 2,464 km23.5 hours
Seattle, WA 1,805 mi 2,905 km28 hours
Portland, OR1,878 mi3,022 km29 hours
Phoenix, AZ 1,939 mi 3,121 km30 hours
Miami, FL 1,999 mi 3,217 km30 hours
Los Angeles, CA 2,221 mi 3,575 km33 hours
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Isle Roayle / National Park / National Parks / How to get to Isle Royale / #isleroyale #nationalpark #nationalparks
Jennifer is a long time national park blogger and the founder of National Park Obsessed. She is a dedicated National Park lover who is working on visiting all 62 US National Parks. She has currently been to 53 of the National Parks. She is dedicated to sharing her knowledge of the Parks with others and helping them learn to love the parks as much as she does.

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