Michigan State Parks: Straits

Two adults with the Mackinac Bridge behind them in the distance

Straits State Park is the Gateway to the Upper Peninsula, located along the banks of the Straits of Mackinac and within sight of the Mackinac Bridge. Its prime views and location make it a favorite of campers, many who come year after year.

Straits State Park is located in the town of St. Ignace, Michigan, which is just on the north side of the Mackinac Bridge. It is a busy park, with many campers stopping for just a night or two on their way to and from the Upper Peninsula, and others spending the entire 14 days allowed.

Two adults standing in front of the Straits State Park entrance sign

History of Straits State Park

The state park opened as a day-use only park in 1924. It expanded to include a handful of tent sites in the 1940s and 90 trailer sites in the early ’50s with additional expansion plans. However, with the construction of the Mackinac Bridge, plans changed since the approach to the bridge would have run right through the middle.

That is why today there are actually 2 completely different sections to Straits State Park split by the interstate. On the east side of I-75 is the campground and day-use facility, and on the west side is the Father Marquette National Memorial. While plans called for a pedestrian bridge to be built over the freeway to connect the two, that never happened and there is no way to access each section without driving down US-2.

Father Marquette National Memorial

The Father Marquette National Memorial is a tribute to Jacques Marquette. In the mid-1600s, Marquette helped found Michigan’s first European settlement and mission, Sault Ste. Marie, and later, St. Ignace. Marquette, a missionary from France, was well-versed in the local Native American languages and culture. As a result, he was recruited to explore more territory. From 1673-75 he traveled extensively between Michigan and present-day Louisiana and Illinois, documenting his expedition and making one of the first accurate maps of the area. Unfortunately, he passed away from illness before he arrived back in St. Ignace.

The state of Michigan and the National Park Service jointly operate the memorial. There is no fee to enter.

Father Marquette Memorial at Straits State Park

Camping at Straits State Park

If you’d like to spend the night at Straits State Park, you have a few options. There are around 270 sites, split into two main sections, upper and lower. There also are two mini cabins.

The upper loop is more wide-open, with fewer trees and larger sites. This section is more able to accommodate larger rigs, but is farther from the water.

Campground map at Straits State Park

The lower section down a big hill is more wooded, with smaller sites. This is usually the more desirable section as many of the sites provide great views of the Mackinac Bridge. These sites book up fast.

There are many different site configurations in both loops based on amps and pricing. If you are able to dry camp without electricity, there are some excellent sites right along the water.

Bonus at Straits State Park is two separate dump stations, one for each section. This helps tremendously on busy summer weekends when everyone is leaving.

Also, if you need groceries or other supplies, there is a grocery store practically within walking distance across from the entrance to the park.

Gorgeous views

View of the Mackinac Bridge from the shoreline at Straits State Park

There are plenty of opportunities throughout the park to catch gorgeous views of the Straits of Mackinac (the Mighty Mac) and the boats passing by. You can visit the water’s edge in a number of places (the park has purposely left openings between campsites), or you can drive or walk up to the day-use area’s observation platform. Don’t forget your camera!

You also can catch great views from the Father Marquette Memorial.

View of the Mackinac Bridge at night from the shoreline at Straits State Park

Activities in/near Straits State Park

In the day-use area you can find a small playground, and near the water is a little beach area depending on weather conditions. There also is a one-mile trail through the park that connects two observation areas.

Nearby you can catch a ferry over to Mackinac Island, or hit up one of the local restaurants in St. Ignace. A short trip across the Mackinac Bridge takes you to the town of Mackinaw City, for shopping, dining, or visiting Fort Mackinac.

Straits State Park also is a good basecamp from which to make day trips to Tahquamenon Falls, the Soo Locks, or other Upper Peninsula destinations.

On Labor Day weekend, the park is full of visitors participating in the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk across the Mackinac Bridge.

We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. We have a video about Straits State Park here. You can follow us on Instagram, our Facebook page, and Twitter. Plus, you can see each of the parks we visited on this interactive Google Map. You also can keep track of our activities on social media with the hashtags #hikecampgo and #mistateparks100.

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