Disclaimer: The places listed here are all public property. We don't condone trespassing, if a place is private or marked off limits you enter at your own risk and deserve the consequences of someone pressing charges.
Most likely if you are going to be seeing the Mackinaw Bridge you will either be on a vacation in the area for a short time, or just passing through as you cross the bridge. In either case you probably won't have much time to photograph the bridge. So here's some of the best places to photograph the bridge from.
5. Under the bridge.
It's probably illegal to get under the north end of the bridge without permission. That'd be under the toll booths and around the bridge maintenance buildings. However on the south end of the bridge lies Alexander Henry Park. The park is worth visiting on any trip across the bridge. There's also the Old Mackinac point lighthouse to visit for free in the park.
What makes this place interesting is that you can walk all the way under the bridge and view the pilings in the concrete supported section. You'll also be able to walk far enough away from the bridge to get decent shots of the girders and deck. This is on the southeast side of the bridge so It'd look best during sunrise. However since you can also get all the way across to the west side a ways, you could still get a decent picture from there. The water seems to be very beautiful here all year long.
4. Super 8 by Wyndham St. Ignace
On the north side of the bridge in St Ignace is a row of businesses along US Highway 2. There's a row of fast food restaurants on one side. On the other side is a truck stop and tourist trap, between them is the Super 8. The hotel has hotel rooms with balconies on the bridge side. For about $90 you can have an all night viewing location of the bridge to set up your equipment. It's also very cool to wake up with the bridge out the window.
The truck stop doesn't have as clear a view of the bridge as the hotel because there are trees built up behind it blocking the northern side of the bridge. The "Mackinaw Bridge Viewing Area" is unfortunately expensive to get into, not as expensive as the hotel, but the other problem is that you are in a public place, and you can't set up a tripod. The hotel overlooks a golf course for added foreground elements. It's on the sunset side of the bridge.
3. Straits State Park.
Straits state park has several observation decks to view the bridge from at various points. There are also trails down closer to the water level. One trail even leads to a point where you can look down the center of the span. You'll be dealing with less tourists here as well since this isn't well marked as a place to view the bridge from. The hillside below offers wonderful foreground trees to tie your shot together.
You're going to need to get here before noon as in the afternoon and evening you will be shooting into the sun. On sunny days especially the sun will cast harsh shadows towards your side of the bridge in the afternoon. The earlier you get here the better as the strait is often foggy and it makes shots more dramatic as the fog burns off to expose the bridge.
2. The Ice Breaker Mackinaw Museum
The mighty ice breaker Macinaw is a sight to behold. But across the parking lot is a great view of the bridge all day long. In Macinaw City on the old docks between Shepler's and the public marina is this giant ship. There's plenty of parking close by if you just want to walk down the dock. looking northwest is the majority of the bridge is visible.
Even in the late afternoon the bridge looks great as the shadows cast through the bridge. From this distance the bridge looks amazing. You can really see the camber towards the middle.
From this point you also have a very good view of Mackinac Island, Round Island, and Bois Blanc Island. You are in perfect position here to photograph freighters as well since they are in a choke point passing between Mackinac and Round Island on their eastward and westward tracks. Ships sailing to the south will be turning towards you after they pass under the bridge.
Small boats, ferries, and even the coast guard patrols are going to be moving around here. These craft can either ruin your composition or enhance it. You are down near water level and there's plenty of room along the edge of the dock to set up your camera.
1. McGulpin Point.
McGulpin point is more than just the little point here. There's a lighthouse museum, as well as public access to the pebble covered beach. This may be the ultimate location for photographing the bridge at sunset. It's a point to the west of Mackinaw City.
There's a nice boy scout project gazebo on this beach. It's great for a romantic view of the sunset as well as photographing the bridge. You've got an ideal place to catch the sunrise under the bridge as well if you are brave. The one caveat is that you will be driving down a steep dirt road to get here. This area may be impassable during the winter or after heavy rains. The road was really torn up when we've been there.
Look at the view you get from here! It's definitely the best spot to photograph the bridge from. You'll also be able to watch the sun set over the horizon from here as it goes behind the water. You'll find this location in your Google Maps by using "McGulpin Rock." This is really underrated as far as viewing locations go.
So there we have it, five great places to photograph the bridge from. With this information you should be able to get great photos of the Mackinaw Bridge no matter how little time you have to stay there. Got a better place to photograph the bridge from. If you have any better spots you've found please leave a comment.