Shepler's Lighthouse Cruises

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556 E. Central Ave.
P.O. Box 250
Mackinaw City, MI 49701
Toll-free: 800-828-6157 (U.S. only)
Phone: 231-436-5023
Fax: 231-436-7521

Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry
- See the Straits of Mackinac’s historic lighthouses
- View lighthouses so close you can almost touch them
- Learn about their fascinating history
- Cruise under the Mackinac Bridge
- Choose from 7 different routes
- Discover our new extended routes

The Best Seats In History
For close to three centuries, the Straits of Mackinac has been a vital nautical thoroughfare, providing passage between Lakes Huron and Michigan. But traveling its famed blue waters has not come without risk.

Over the many decades, lighthouses were built to protect mariners from dangerous shoals and reefs. Each has a story to tell.

Shepler’s exclusive Lighthouse Cruises are voyages of discovery. Guests are treated to awe-inspiring views and the fascinating history surrounding these Great Lakes guardians.

Professional on-board narration! Each lighthouse cruise is narrated by members of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association. A portion of all proceeds is donated toward lighthouse preservation and restoration efforts.

Sail the Straits of Mackinac! Fifteen historic lighthouses lie within easy cruising distance of Mackinaw City. Travel in comfort and safety on Shepler’s large, spacious vessels during these fascinating tours.

Be sure to bring your camera! Ships cruise in as close as possible to each lighthouse, providing stunning and rare photo opportunities.

Each cruise passes directly under the Mackinac Bridge. You’ll learn of the climactic struggle to build it as you’re treated to this rare sight.

Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum now open! - Moored at Shepler’s Railroad Dock, the long-serving US Coast Guard Cutter Icebreaker Mackinaw is now a floating museum, providing a detailed look at its illustrious 62-year history. Daily tours available. Call 231-436-9825 or email: for more information.

Navigate Mackinac
From home or on the go. Check out our Lighthouse page on facebook.

Westward Cruise
Departing from Shepler’s Mackinaw City dock, you’ll bear west past the historic Old Mackinac Point Light. Built in 1892, this light was of particular importance to car ferry services running from the mainland to St. Ignace. The completion of the Mackinac Bridge, with its highly visible navigation lights, made Old Mackinac Point Light obsolete. A few minutes later, you’ll find yourself directly beneath the Mighty Mac, for a breathtaking view of girders and superstructure few people experience.

A 20 mile westward run brings you to White Shoal Light. With its trademark "candy cane-stripe" design, it is among the most instantly recognizable lighthouses in the Great Lakes. Built in 1910, it serves as a replacement for Waugoshance.

To the south lies Gray’s Reef Light. The shoal on which it sits was deemed so treacherous that it received an early Federal lightship. Built in 1936, Gray’s Reef Light replaced a lightship placed there in 1891.

Your ship will then double back towards the eerie and forbidding Waugoshace Light, built in 1851. This structure is encased in iron plates as protection against a hostile environment, and its “birdcage” lantern is quite a rarity among surviving structures.

A 12 mile eastward run ends at the St. Helena Island Light, an ongoing Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association (GLLKA) restoration project. In the 1850s, this beautiful island was a major commercial fishing hub. Built in 1873, the light was originally fueled with lard, then kerosene. In 1922, metal rods were installed that expanded when warmed by the sun, cutting off the fuel supply. Darkness caused the rods to contract, allowing fuel to again reach the lamp. The final leg of your trip again takes you beneath the inspiring Mackinac Bridge on your way back to port.

St. Helena Experience
Travel to beautiful St. Helena Island for an all-day tour of its restored light station including lunch on the island. Seating is limited to 17.
Call GLLKA at 231-436-5580 for reservations and more information.

The Les Cheneaux Excursion
Join us on a 5-hour Extended Cruise into the beautiful Les Cheneaux Islands in northern Lake Huron. In addition to seeing stunning scenery, you will enjoy exceptional views of six lighthouses including the Martin Reef and Spectacle Lights. Visit our website for more information.

Eastbound Cruise
As you head out of Mackinaw City, you’ll be treated to a rare view of the Mackinac Bridge as your ship passes directly beneath it. Bearing cast into Lake Huron, you’ll “thread the needle” between Round Island Light and Round Island Passage Light. In the 1800s, mariners avoided this narrow, treacherous passage. Built in 1895, Round Island Light opened a significantly shorter route to and from the Straits of Mackinac. Round Island Passage Light was later built as an additional point of navigational reference.

Continuing eastward, you’ll pass Bois Blanc Light. Built in 1829, this is one of the area’s oldest lights and just the second built in all of Lake Huron. The original tower collapsed. The structure seen today is the third lighthouse on the site.

A southernly turn brings Poe Reef Light into view. Starting in 1893, four lightships took turns marking this dangerous reef until this permanent light was built in 1929. Its signature black and white bands serve as an easily identifiable daymark.

A short run due west finds Fourteen Foot Shoal Light, marking the entrance to Cheboygan Harbor. Built in 1930, this light was never manned. It was originally radio controlled, representing one of the earliest attempts at off-site operation.

A quick trip up the Cheboygan River takes you past Cheboygan Crib Light. This 35’ tall, octagonal tower was moved from its offshore position to the Joseph F. Doyle Memorial area. If in port, you’ll also see the new Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw. A quick trip up the Cheboygan River brings you to the Cheboygan River Front Range Light, part of an early river range light system built in 1880.

Heading back out into open water, a turn to the west takes you along Michigan’s lower peninsula shoreline for your return trip to Mackinaw City.

The Ultimate 2-Day Northern Lake Huron Lighthouse Adventure
This 2-day adventure starts with a pass under the Mackinac Bridge, then heads southeast to view the Cheboygan Crib & Front Range light and the offshore lights on Fourteen Foot Shoal and Poe Reef. We then head down the coast to view the lights at Forty Mile Point, Presque Isle, Middle Island and Thunder Bay Island before docking in Alpena for a gala dinner at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center and our hotel for the night. The next morning we head back up the lake to obtain close-up views of the Spectacle, Detour and Martin Reef lights, Bois Blanc Island and the Round Island and Round Island Passage lights before arriving back in Mackinaw City.

The price includes all meals, snacks, lodging, and transportation. For reservations call GLLKA at 231-436-5580.

Extended Lighthouse Cruises
More in 2010! Take an extended Lighthouse Cruise and get a rare glimpse of the elusive Skillagalee Lighthouse added to our westbound tour or Spectacle Reef Light added to the eastbound tour. Both lights may only be viewed up-close from a boat and these cruises will allow you unbelievable photo opportunities of these remarkable lighthouses. Each cruise is four hours long and the cost includes a boxed lunch.

Reservations recommended. Cruise direction may change due to severe weather conditions. For a full refund cancellations must be made 5 days prior to the cruise. Box lunches may be ordered at additional cost. Food and beverages available. No pets please.

All lighthouse cruises depart from our Mackinaw City dock.

Order your tickets online or
You can now order ferry, lighthouse cruise or other Straits area attraction tickets and make overnight parking arrangements from the convenience of your computer! It’s simple, quick and totally secure.

If you have new or updated information about this virtual brochure, please contact us.

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