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Chicago to Mackinac Island and back

Valencia, CA
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Chicago to Mackinac Island and back

Driving from Chicago to Mackinaw City and back in May. Trying to keep the driving to 3.5 hours max per day. Considering overnight stays in Muskegon on the way north and Manistee on the return trip.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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1. Re: Chicago to Mackinac Island and back

Chicago to Mackinaw City via Muskegon or Manistee is 7 hours. So, if you are adamant about the 3.5 hours per day, you'd have no choice but to stop midway. If you add an hour or two to your per day time, you have many more options.

If I had two day to get to Mackinaw City, I'd take the scenic route-US 31 all the way along Lake Michigan. Lots of villages and parks to explore on the way. Between Traverse City and Manistee, I'd detour to MI-22, which takes you thru the Leelanau Peninsula and Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes.

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2. Re: Chicago to Mackinac Island and back

We break it up too but consider backing off half way. One time we picked sleeping bear dunes and last year we picked Saugatuck on the way up and traverse city on the way back with a stop in south haven for lunch.

Chicago's North...
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3. Re: Chicago to Mackinac Island and back

skip muskegon.

and realistically, mackinaw is not 7 hours from chicago, unless you miss all chicagoland traffic and you drive nonstop via I-94--->I-75 all the way up..... if you're starting south of chicago, you might do it, but if you're starting anywhere north or west, forget it....

if you can budget more than a few days for this trip, DEFINITELY do it---it would be a shame to bomb your way up to mackinaw and miss out on some of the very interesting attractions along the way.

if i had 3 days/2 nites to get up to mackinaw, and using your criteria for 3.5 hrs max, i would overnight in grand haven and somewhere near sleeping bear dunes national park.... leave chicago AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE to avoid likely traffic jams!! listen to AM780/FM105.9 for frequent traffic updates.... for a more scenic ride, take the red arrow/blue star highway from new buffalo to holland. then US-31 north to grand haven. from grand haven, 31 north to manistee, HOWEVER, if you prefer to drive closer to the coast between grand haven and ludington, do it... it's worth the diversion.... from manistee, go north on 31, then north on M-22 all the way up to empire and beyond... From traverse city, take US-31 north along the coast, and if you have time, take M-119 along the coast after harbor springs.... if you stick to this route, you will discover the Midwest is not what you thought it was.... if you can find the time to spend 4-5 hours at sleeping bear dunes, definitely go for it... at the very least, take the pierce stocking drive and stop at all the scenic lookouts.....

IF you're only allowing 1 nite stopover each way, i would push it up to sleeping bear dunes and take the interstate as much as possible (US-31 is basically an interstate from benton harbor to ludington).... either way, i recommend stopping in st joseph, south haven, saugatuck, ludington or manistee for a bite....

ANOTHER option is to drive north thru wisconsin, then over the top of the lake thru upper michigan.... but this route is not as interesting till you get well north of green bay. also, in may, especially early may, you will still be in the mud season up north---meaning brown ground and very little leafing out of the vegetation..... if you do this route, i would overnight north of green bay, perhaps in oconto or peshtigo... if you push it further to escanaba (about 5-6 hours), there are some nice places to stay along the water.... this route might be more viable if you're starting north of chicago.... once you get to upper michigan, the drive starts to get very scenic...

ANOTHER option is this:


it doesn't save you much, if any, time, and the fares may seem pricey to some, BUT IMO, it's one of those things one should experience once in a lifetime, especially if you're into maritime history.... and it does actually save you actual driving time. if you choose this route, drive north to manitowoc (about 2.5 hours), then i would overnight in ludington or manistee.

the best of both worlds would be to do an entire lake michigan circle trip. go up to mack on one side, then back down on the other....






Edited: 30 December 2013, 23:14
Grand Haven...
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4. Re: Chicago to Mackinac Island and back

I agree with StrangeTripper's suggestions. All are excellent possibilities. And even though it's a beautiful area (and so far hasn't been mentioned) I feel that the Traverse City area is overrated. There are so many options along the route that are often overlooked and less crowded than some of the major tourist stops.

5. Re: Chicago to Mackinac Island and back

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