Your Home Port in the Straits of Mackinac: The New Mackinaw City Municipal Marina
Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Any boater that travels on the Great Lakes must visit the Straits of Mackinac. Situated in the northern tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet, is a place of beautiful anchorages, bustling tourist towns, and scenery like no other. Entering the Straits by water is a sight all its own. The Old Waugoshance Lighthouse and White Shoal Light stand guard on the west end of the Straits, and on the east Old Bois Blanc Island Light and Poe Reef Light welcome boaters to this maritime paradise. 13 lighthouses are home to the Straits for all to view these pieces of maritime history. At the center of the Straits is the beautiful architectural marvel, The Mackinac Bridge. This famous five-mile suspension bridge connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas and offers visitors a true once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy the architectural marvel.
Nestled in the middle of this crossroads of the Great Lakes is the Mackinaw City Municipal Marina. Built in the early 1970s, this boater’s paradise has hosted tens of thousands of transients, been a home port to countless seasonal boaters, and a safe harbor to boaters in need of assistance.
“Offering dockage for boats up to 200 feet long, the marina can accommodate just about any size boat,” states Chris West, Harbor Manager of the marina. “Also unique to the marina is Shepler’s Marine, which is located within the harbor basin offering on-staff mechanics with a travel lift for out of water service and storage.”
Since West took the position of Harbor Manager four years ago, the marina has been in a transformation. “When I was hired, the Mackinaw City Village Council wanted the marina to be updated in order to accommodate boaters’ wants and needs,” explained West.
One pier has already been completely re-decked with new power pedestals that protect against stray electrical current from boats, a new diesel tank and pump will be ready for use by June 1, 2019, and the wireless internet system is currently being updated to serve visitors better by allowing for streaming and browsing without interruption. Soon, one can even do so on a new patio with outdoor fireplace, which is currently being installed.
West continued, “It was time for the marina to have a facelift. The village council wanted to make our marina the premier spot for boaters to come and have all of the amenities of home. Mackinaw City offers something for everyone, and we are located right in the middle of the excitement. Marine supplies, a hardware store, groceries, restaurants, attractions, and outdoor recreation are all within a couple blocks of the marina. The marina also offers bicycles with baskets for boaters to cruise around town to get any supplies while they enjoy what Mackinaw City has to offer.”
The marina has 56 seasonal slips available and currently has a waiting list. The marina seasonals are a family. They have dinner together every night on the patio and, each Friday, they host a cocktail party welcoming anyone staying in the marina to join them. Some of the seasonals stay the whole summer, while others use their boat as an up-north cottage as a way to leave their daily lives behind and enjoy the northern hospitality of Mackinaw City.
Unique to the location of Mackinaw City Municipal Marina are the numerous interesting destinations within a day or two trip. Access to Ontario’s North Channel, the Les Cheneaux Islands, and the St Mary’s River - to name a few. The marina is also a convenient stop for boaters that are on the Great Loop. The Mackinaw City Municipal Marina is a home away from home for transient or seasonal boaters to enjoy.
With so many things to do and see in this northern paradise, it is a must stop for any boater wishing to see the north at its finest.
For more information about the Mackinaw City Municipal Marina, click to www.mackinawmarina.com or stop by for a visit. Hailing channels for the marina are 9 and 16 with their working channel being 8. From the water they are easy to find by looking between the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum (www.themackinaw.org) and the Mackinaw City water tower.
Also, within walking distance of the marina, you’ll find Dixie Saloon (a landmark since 1890), Oreilly’s Irish Pub, the Hook Lakeside Grill, Starbucks, the Mackinaw Crossings outside mall (with over 80 shops), and Mackinac Bay Trading Company featuring Nonna Lisa’s Italian restaurant. For an interactive map of the downtown area, Mackinaw City hotels and restaurants, see www.mackinaw-city.com.
A Piece of the Downeast in Northern Michigan
When visiting Mackinaw City, there are a flurry of boats traveling daily between Mackinaw City, St. Ignace, and Mackinac Island. They come in all shapes and sizes, but none surprise visitors with its name and looks as much as the “Ugly Anne.” For the past nine years, Mackinaw City has been the home port of Ugly Anne, a family-owned business operated by Chris West, his mother and father, and wife Heather. Chris is a former ferry boat captain and has been boating since he was five years old. Currently he holds a 100 Ton Master License with the United States Coast Guard.
Tours are available daily at 5pm and a sunset cruise. Tickets are $24 and the cruises last about an hour. During the tours, guests will learn about some of the maritime history of the area along with native American lore and about life in the north country. Ugly Anne is also available for charter from Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island, and other locations in the Straits of Mackinac.
For more information about Ugly Anne and the cruises, visit www.mackinawtour.com or stop by the office located at 229 S Huron Ave. in Mackinaw City. They are located across the street from a three-story log building with a Starbucks coffee shop in it, and right behind Mackinaw City’s newest restaurant, The Hook.
This article first appeared in the Launch Issue (May/Jun) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.