First Timer Guide

A steel hulled boat approaches a ranger on a dock. People are sitting on the bow.
Before you make the crossing to Isle Royale, spend time planning ahead and preparing for your trip.


Adventure Awaits

When planning a trip to Isle Royale, many visitors ask, "What is the one thing I must do or see while I'm there?" The answer is, it depends on what type of Isle Royale experience you want to have! With a multitude of ways to travel to the park and numerous things to do once you arrive, compounded by the island's large size and isolation in Lake Superior, Isle Royale adventures are as diverse as the thousands of visitors who come to the park each year. Despite these differences, the safest, most enjoyable trips are all grounded in planning and preparation that takes place before arrival. Using the information in this guide, plan an unforgettable experience to your national park.


What Should I Know Before I Start Planning My Trip?



Start Planning Your Trip

The Houghton Visitor Center building is surrounded by parking lot next to a body of water.
Basic Information

Start planning your island adventure here.

A large blue and cream colored motor vessel at dock.
How to Travel to Isle Royale

Multiple ferries and a seaplane service transport visitors to the park.

Multiple sailboats are docked around a large, wooden dock.
Things to Do

Explore all the land and water activities the park offers.

People sit on a dock as the sun sets over water in front of them.
Where to Stay

Find your home in the island wilderness.

cropped image of the official Isle Royale National Park map

Trip Planning and Area Guides

An adult with a backpack on stands next to two children along a rocky trail in a forest.
Overnight Camping & Boater Permits

Learn what type of permit you may need based on the trip activities you have planned.


Pre-Departure Checklist

1. Reserve Transportation

Make sure that your arrival and depature dates work with your trip plan, particularly if you are staying at Rock Harbor Lodge or the Windigo Camper Cabins. Secure your transportation to the park as soon as possible. Transport can sell out any time during the season. Any questions about certain transportation services should be directed to transportation providers. Isle Royale National Park staff only facilitate reservations for the Ranger III ferry from Houghton, MI.

2. Finalize Your Itinerary

Know where you want to stay, how you are going to get there, and if you need a permit or reservation.

3. Pay Your Fees Online

Visitors are required to pay entrance fees to enter the park. Pay fees online before you travel to the park to avoid long waits and congestion upon arrival. All Federal Recreation Passes are honored.

4. Read the Park Newspaper

The park trip planning newspaper, The Greenstone, hosts a wealth of information that is applicable for all visitors.

5. Download the NPS Mobile App

The NPS app provides tools to explore over 400 national parks. Download Isle Royale National Park before you come so you can access information offline during your trip. The free app is currently available for iOS and Android Devices.

6. Check Current Conditions

Conditions constantly change in the park. Inform yourself about current conditions before you leave the mainland.

7. Prepare for Your Crossing

All visitors who travel to Isle Royale have one thing in common - crossing Lake Superior via boat or seaplane! Prepare yourself for this exciting rite of passage by reviewing your transportation providers website for travel information before you arrive. Enjoy your journey; we'll see you once you arrive at your destination!

  • Two people sit in lawn chairs on a deck and look into the distance with green foliage behind them.
    Daytripper and Lodge Guest Orientation

    Help Isle Royale Stay Wild by following these best practices for your day trip or lodge visit.

  • A group of three adults and one child poses for a photo with their backpacking packs on.
    Backpacker Orientation

    Help Isle Royale Stay Wild by following these best practices for your wilderness backpacking experience.

  • People gather around a park ranger on a dock.
    For Your Safety

    As your trip gets near, use this guide to help prepare, learn what to expect, and consider how you will take responsibility for your safety.

Last updated: June 13, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

800 East Lakeshore Drive
Houghton, MI 49931


906 482-0984

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