Pure Michigan refers to Mackinac Island as “America’s all natural theme park,” and they aren’t wrong.
Mackinac Island, America’s summer spot, is a mixture of Victorian charm, sweet chocolate fudge and rich history. You can take a meandering hike to a historical fort, or ride a bicycle along the scenic coast. There are also yacht races, ferry boat rides, and lots of fun.
Michigan’s Mackinac is truly one of the most unusual vacation spots in the world.
Charming Mackinac Island
It is a short drive from Traverse City. I visit the island every year to soak up its magic. Everything changes every year but the essence of it all remains the same. New shops and cafes appear along Main Street, while the ferry pulls in and out according to an old schedule.
Downtown is still awash with the sweet, thick scent of freshly-made fudge. New boats are also coming in and out of harbor, sailing high.
It’s all part and parcel of Mackinac Island’s charm.
Get 15 Reasons to Visit Mackinac Island and Tips to Start Planning Your Island Trip to Magic Mackinac Island.
Mackinac Island: Why you should visit
You might have seen a fairy-tale made real if you ever imagined it looking something like Mackinac Island in Michigan. Victorian cottages and Victorian inns with gingerbread trim line streets. Horse-drawn carriages are also popular as a way to get around the island, since cars are prohibited.
This historic park, a national heritage landmark is part of the Michigan State Parks network. It’s 1,800 acres of living history, which transports you back in time. It’s a time before automobiles. When the world was slower and more relaxed.
The island, which is home to nearly 600 residents year round, measures approximately four square miles. It’s a 8-mile hike or bike ride around the perimeter.
Although the island’s population increases in summer, spring and autumn are also popular seasons to visit the island. Mackinac Island, Michigan’s fall color is an ideal stop for your Michigan tour. The stunning fall foliage sets off the blue waters.
Mackinac Travel Guide: Planning Your Trip to Mackinac Island
The island was named “Top U.S. Island”, by TripAdvisor and USA Today. This is the crown jewel of Michigan tourism and a seaside resort. It’s located at the tip or the Michigan mitten, also known as the lower Peninsula. Many restaurants allow dogs to use their patios and porches.
To fully appreciate the beauty of this place, you’ll need to plan your trip.
Mackinac: When should you visit?
Mackinac can be visited at any time, but the best seasons to see the island are summer and autumn. All businesses are open from May to October, which is the busiest time. Winter months are a time when many businesses, including accommodations, close.
What to bring
Comfortable shoes are essential for anyone who visits the island. Walking is a common activity on the island, so you don’t want to be unable to enjoy your time sightseeing because of blisters. Northern Michigan’s weather is unpredictable, especially when it comes to the water. A light bag or backpack is a good option to keep sunblock in and a jacket or sweater for ferry rides.
To help you plan your visit to Mackinac Island, make sure to check the Mackinac Island Weather before your departure.
Where to Stay
Let’s be clear: you should stay at least one night on the island.
It’s cheaper to stay in Mackinaw City, or St. Ignace. It’s hard to beat staying on an island for the night, especially when the last ferry leaves the dock. It is a unique experience, and I recommend it highly.
There are many Mackinac Island hotels and inns to choose from, with varying price points.
For tips on how to find accommodations, check out our guide to the Best Places to Stay On Mackinac Island.
How to get to Mackinac Island? Take the Mackinac Island Ferries
You can travel to Mackinac Island by boat or plane. Most visitors arrive on a Mackinac Island ferry, which departs from Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. This is part of the fun!
You can sit on the open-air upper desk to feel the breeze on your face while you enjoy the stunning scenery of the Great Lakes. Take the ferry to Mackinaw City, or St. Ignace in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Mackinac Island has a strict policy that prohibits the use of cars.
After the ferry ride, visitors may stop at a vendor renting bicycles or the Mackinac Island Tourist bureau. The ferry ride takes between 15-25 minutes, depending on the departure point.
TIP: To save time and money, purchase your ferry tickets ahead of time.
15 Incredible Reasons to Visit Mackinac Island
There are no cars on the island: This is a truly green vacation experience
It will be easy to get used the automobile-free Mackinac Island. The island is not permitted to have automobiles and all transportation is on foot, horseback, buggy or bicycle.
It’s easy to imagine life in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a luxury vacation spot and summer getaway. You can walk along the streets and paths of the island, lined with Victorian mansions.
It’s easy to become comfortable with just walking, biking, and riding a horse-drawn wagon. The view from Fort Mackinac
Mackinac’s Strategic Role In American History Can Be Celebrated
Mackinac is steeped in both Michigan’s history and the American fur trade. Fort Mackinac and Colonial Michilimackinac are two forts that can be found around Mackinac. They offer a glimpse into life in the 1800’s and 1700’s. This was a time when fur trade flourished and missionaries, British and French settlers walked the island.
Native Americans were the first to claim this land. They also lived there. Ojibwa Great Lakes Indian tribes and Odawa Great Lakes Indians lived also on Mackinac Island, as well as in the Mackinac County region.
Mackinac Island has been designated a historic district. These historic markers and displays are now part of the national historical register and give detailed descriptions of these fascinating spots.
You’ll be immersed in Mackinac Island’s history as soon as you step off the ferry. Fort Mackinac is located just a few steps from the docks. This military outpost was established in 1780.
The Mackinac State Historic Parks has the fort. Visitors can explore the grounds, watch cannon firings and take a tour of this limestone fort overlooking Mackinac Straits.
The Mackinac Island Harbor harbor is a national historical landmark. From this viewpoint, you can almost sense the ghosts and remains of soldiers and fur traders who once lived on the island. Discover the medical discoveries of Dr. William Beaumont that made Beaumont a household name here in Michigan.
The island’s highest point is home to this small wooden fort. It was built by British soldiers during World War I. This fort was built to defend against attacks by the Unite State, and was not directly involved in the war.
The fortified earthen structure, which was built in 1870, is in poor condition and is currently being rebuilt. The grounds are open to the public.
Located in Mackinaw City, Fort Michilimackinac was established in 1683 by the French as a strategically-located fortified trading post.
Although the fort was not intended to be a military base, it was built as an important link in the French trading system. It played important roles in the American Revolution, the French and Indian Wars and the War of 1812.
Historically accurate exhibits and reenactments now tell the story about this military outpost, which was home to military families throughout the years.
Mackinac’s Natural Phenomena Can Be Explored
Arch Rock, which towers over the water and measures more than fifty feet wide, is the most well-known of all the rock formations found on the island. This natural limestone structure overlooks Lake Huron. It can be accessed via trails in Mackinac Island State Park.
You can reach it by foot, bicycle, taxi, or carriage. You can also view it from the below on the island’s perimeter tour. Arch Rock is a must-see on any Mackinac Island vacation.
Spooky Skull Cave, a small cave located on Mackinac Island. This Michigan Historic Site can be found in the Mackinac Island State Park.
It is believed that it was used inhumation site by Native Americans of Straits of Mackinac in the 18th century. This piece of history is worth the effort to find.
Downtown Mackinac Island is a Time Machine
Downtown Mackinac Island, part New England port town, part tourist haven and all a lot of fun during the summer months is bustling.
You can imagine cute restaurants, gift shops, and toy stores smelling like homemade candy and fresh fudge. There are ice cream parlors where you can also try the Superman Ice Cream, which is a Michigan favourite flavor!
Main Street Shopping
You’ll find everything you need, from Michigan-made products and home decor to books, and fashion. These cute shops are fun to shop at. All ages and budgets can find something they love, maybe even a trinket or two for a keepsake.
What is our favorite spot on the island
Little Luxury of Mackinac,a cheerful little shop with a unique selection of whimsical gifts. There are beautiful paper products, luxurious bath products, and handmade home accessories.
Also, you’ll want to visit Doud’s Market, America’s oldest Grocery Store. The local grocer is family-owned and operated since 1884. They also carry grab-and-go items for a picnic on the island.
Main Street Mackinac Dining
There are many good restaurants to choose from. I always stop by the Pink Pony for lunch. This is a waterfront bar/eatery that’s located in the Chippewa Hotel. You might want to come back for dinner after enjoying the Whitefish sandwich.
Another favorite is Cafe on the Greens located at Mission Point Resort. You can relax under an umbrella on the large deck and let the Lake Huron breeze sweep you.
Fudge Shop Tours
Which Mackinac Island fudge do you think is the best? This is a question that you can spend a lot of time trying to answer. Each fudge shop has its own recipe, which is not surprising. This gives each shop a unique taste. You’ll find a different flavor at every fudge shop, whether it’s Ryba’s or Kilwins or Joann’s.
My favorite? Murdick’s because it’s creamy and lasts long. You can’t eat all that fudge at one time.
The island is technically on Lake Huron, but it can be seen by tracing the Michigan coast. The Grand Hotel Mackinac Island
The Grand Hotel Can Make You Feel Like a Celebrity
Esther Williams was once seen in this pool; Superman walked endlessly on the porch. We can assure you that this highly-respected hotel-resort lives up to its stellar reputation.
Conde Nast Traveler magazine listed it as one of the best places to stay in the whole world. Travel + Leisure magazine also listed it among the top 100 hotels in the world. The facilities are rated as a 4-Diamond resort by the American Automobile Association (AAA).
Grand Hotel’s Most Famous Guests
The Grand Hotel was the setting for the iconic Hollywood movie “Somewhere in Time”, starring Jane Seymour, Christopher Reeve and Christopher Reeve. It has also hosted five U.S. presidents, Thomas Edison, author Mark Twain, and many other notable guests.
Enjoy a leisurely stroll on the “longest porch” – all 660 feet.
This hotel has a certain aesthetic that is kept alive, which adds to its charm. The dress code for the Grand Hotel is casual (no revealing midriffs) during the day. After 6:30 p.m., it becomes more formal.
The Wawashkamo Golf Club has the best links
This nine-hole course, the only on Mackinac Island, was named one of America’s Historic Golf Landmarks by Golf Digest. It sits atop an 1814 battleground.
This scenic course offers stunning views of the Mackinac Bridge, Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan.
The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum has Native American Art.
This museum is located in an Indian Native American dormitory on the Island. It exhibits fine and ornamental art, maps, jewelry, photographs, and other documents about the island’s history.
Original photographs taken between the mid-19th and the middle of the 20th century document the beauty of the island’s natural environment. Richard and Jane Manoogian, Michigan philanthropists, rebuilt the museum and reopened it. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Star-Line Hydro Ferry Photo
A Tall Ship Can Be Used as a Sunset Sail
Nothing is more relaxing than cruising the Straits of Mackinac at sunset. Star Line has partnered up with Tall Ship Cruises to make it possible. Enjoy a romantic evening with your partner by bringing along a picnic basket and some appetizers.
Picnic in Marquette Park
A beautiful park is located at Fort Mackinac’s foot, just east of downtown Mackinac.
This spot is hard to resist because of the lush green grass and towering hardwoods that form a shaded canopy. You will want to find a place to rest, watch and observe the people who come and go down Huron Street.
Mission Point Resort
This family-friendly resort is situated on Mackinac Island’s waterfront. It was awarded a Certificate Of Excellence by Trip Advisor as well as a Readers Choice Award by Conde Nast Traveler. Mission Point Resort is a beautiful resort set in stunning surroundings.
Relax at The Butterfly House
This unique spot is a favorite stop on the island. It is the third-oldest butterfly house in the country, and the first in Michigan. The Butterfly House is a tranquil, tropical garden that hosts hundreds of butterflies. Bonus? This is a great place to disconnect from the city and reconnect with nature. My dad on one of our annual Father-Daughter rides around Mackinac Island
You can ride your bike around the entire island
My father and I rent bikes and ride around the island on the wide, paved road that runs along the coast every year. You can also rent a map to help you plan where you will stop for fuel and rest stops along the way.
It never ceases to amaze me, even though the scenery is almost always the same. As you cycle around the island, the turquoise waters of Lake Huron beckon. It is a great way for you to see the most important sites like Arch Rock or Skull Cave.
Mackinac Island ADA and Wheelchair Accessibility
Many of the Mackinac Island buildings are old but local innkeepers and business owners do their best to make it accessible for all travelers. Wheelchair-accessible horse-drawn carriage rides (like these through Mackinac Island Carriage Tours) are available.
Due to their age, some hotels have limited space and no elevators. However, they will work with you in finding accommodations that meet your needs.
It is a good idea to contact us in advance with any specific details regarding your requirements.
Mackinac Island Vacation Planning
This national historical landmark is a popular vacation spot for tourists from all over the globe. It’s a great place to visit for a weekend getaway, day trip or extended vacation. It is also an ideal spot for family reunions and marriages.
Mackinac IslandFrequently Asked Questions
Q. When is the best time to visit Mackinac?
A. Mackinac Island can be enjoyed at any time of the year. Winter travel is restricted to the island. Check the ferry schedules to find out when they run. Visitors can enjoy the Turtle Trek in February, the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival June and the Fudge Festival August. There are also other island events throughout the year.
The island’s summer months are the warmest, and it is a great place to go for easy biking and hiking.
Q. What’s so special about Mackinac Island Fudge, you ask?
A. Fudge is a must-have on your Mackinac Island visit. Fresh Mackinac Island is a local specialty: few can match the rich, creamy chocolate confection that has been a staple on the island. Mackinac Island currently has 13 fudge shops, which make enough fudge to import 10 tons of sugar each week.
Q. Should I rent a bike on Mackinac Island
A. Cycling around Mackinac Island on a bicycle is a great way of getting around. Either bring your bike along on the ferry, or you can rent one at one of the nearby bike stations. You can find shade from the sun and crowds in the towering trees.
It measures approximately eight miles in circumference. This island is ideal for a day-long bicycle ride or a hike along the paved paths that run alongside Lake Huron.
If all that sounds overwhelming, you can take the marked trails through the island. Some of these trails date back to when the Island was inhabited originally by the Native American Menominee tribe.
If you don’t feel like hiking or biking, carriage tours are a great way of seeing the island.
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