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