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Delightful Destination: Traveling to Muskegon Is Easy

You can quickly get to this West Michigan haven by car, plane or boat (and once you arrive, you've got great options to get around town)

By Erica Buehler on April 26, 2022

Lake Express ferry connects Muskegon, MI, to Milwaukee, WI.
Tim Reilly/Visit Muskegon

The Muskegon Lakeshore region is a destination that offers some of the best water recreation opportunities, as well as enticing outdoor adventures via hiking and biking trails and charming downtowns with local shops, eateries, breweries and more. But what truly solidifi es a destination is being able to access it (and nearby attractions) quickly and easily.

The region is only a 40-minute drive from Grand Rapids and just under three hours to Detroit, though travel by air, water and bicycle – as well as good, old-fashioned walking – is both encouraged and expected.

In addition to available charter flights, the Muskegon County Airport offers commercial service and general aviation. Even those looking for the excitement of international travel – combined with the convenience of a weekend trip – can grab their passports and drive a little over six hours from Muskegon to Toronto, Canada.

Map of Muskegon, MI, showing the distances to surrounding cities.

Hop on a Boat to Milwaukee

Additionally, the vibrant and artistic city of Milwaukee (along with its many dining and entertainment options) is only a brief ferry ride away, a ride that the senior vice president of the Lake Express, Aaron Schultz, has made many times.

“Milwaukee is an urban environment and has a lot of the same things Chicago has, from sports to entertainment to good food,” Schultz says. “But Milwaukee is more ‘user friendly;’ people can get what they want and get it easier.”

Fast Ferry

The ferry ride from coast to coast is 2.5 hours, and passengers can drive their cars easily on and off, making further travel upon arrival a breeze.

“The ferry saves a few hours of time versus the drive through Chicago and is the natural connection between Milwaukee and Muskegon,” says Schultz, noting that passengers are often a mix of people traveling regularly for work, local residents and visitors from well outside the region.

A lot of visitors also use the ferry from Milwaukee to explore the charming lakeside community of Muskegon. “Everything is all within a few miles,” says Schultz, who has worked with Lake Express since its inception in 2004. “You can be on the beach in solitude or downtown among the breweries and live music in five to 10 minutes.”

Cycling in downtown Muskegon, MI

Get Around Town Easily

That liveliness and entertainment within the heart of downtown Muskegon is also highly walkable, especially on the Muskegon Lakeshore Trail. Winding about 12 miles along the coast of Lake Muskegon, the trail provides pedestrian access to all the history, entertainment, maritime attractions, dining, shopping and seasonal activities that the community has to offer.

Similarly, the Hart-Montague and Musketawa trails are both paved paths perfect for avid cyclists or those looking to take in the sights of the Muskegon Lakeshore by bike.

Still, for those looking to explore as much of Muskegon as possible in a quicker amount of time, taking advantage of the Muskegon Area Transit System (MATS) is definitely encouraged.

“MATS offers two kinds of systems for residents and visitors,” says Jim Koens, transit systems manager for Muskegon County. “The first is a network of fixed bus routes available Monday through Friday, which services the core urban portion of Muskegon and provides access to area hotels, shopping centers and the general downtown area.”

The other service MATS provides is a system similar to many of the big-name ride-share services, except this one is operated by and for Muskegon County. “It’s a micro-transit service that operates similarly to other ride-hailing programs, providing on-demand service to visitors and residents within the core Muskegon area,” Koens says.

The service, called Go2, has an app (Go2 by MATS) that can be downloaded to any smartphone and be used for on-demand ride service from 5 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

“It’s operated by and for us,” Koens says. “We set all the fares, with $4 a typical one-way fare, and it serves all urban, core-Muskegon attractions, the ferry terminal, county airport, state parks, and downtown area.”

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