Mackinac Island

Coined Michigan’s Crown Jewel, Mackinac Island is a unique experience to get outdoors and travel back in time at a single destination. Located between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, this 3.8-square-mile island doesn’t allow cars. You’ll either get around by foot, bicycle or even horse. Each visit can be tailored to the individual, so here are some options to create your own Mackinac Island Adventure.

How to get to Mackinac Island

You get to Mackinac Island by ferry. There are two options for ferry rides on your journey to Mackinac. Both Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry and Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry allow you to buy tickets online or in-person at their booths in St. Ignace. Those of you planning to bike later during your U.P. trip can pay extra to bring your bike to the Island. This will save you time and money when trying to get around. If you do take a bike, walk it up the dock when you reach the Island. Wait until you get to Main Street to hop on and take off! Ferry schedules vary depending on the day and time of year, plan accordingly. Many paid Island activities can be packaged with your ferry ticket. Look into the Bridge Tour ferries, which take a slight detour under the Mackinac Bridge for a perfect photo op.

Things to do on Mackinac Island

Rent a bike

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Along Main Street, you’ll find several places to rent a bike by the hour or for the day. Rates vary. You can decide which rental location is best for you and learn more about the rules of the road. The Island has 1,400 bikes for rent! 

With a bike, you can go anywhere. Journey around M-185, the 8-mile perimeter of Mackinac Island. Climb up to Arch Rock for a stunning view over Lake Huron. Ride into the center of the Island to discover the many trails of Mackinac Island State Park — which covers over 82% of the Island. A lesser-known botanical trail connects the Scout Barracks of Fort Mackinac to Arch Rock. Ride or walk underneath the trees and read up on the species you see along the way. Lastly, make sure to peruse the hills and valleys of East and West Bluffs. You’ll see beautiful cottages on one side of the road, a watercolor painting come to life on the other.

Explore Fort Mackinac

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Walk through the many original buildings inside Fort Mackinac, which was built by the British during the American Revolution. Observe cannon and rifle firing demonstrations and talk to historic interpreters to gain insight into what life was like in the fort. Make sure your kids swing by the Kids’ Quarters! Admission to Fort Mackinac also gives you access to the Biddle House, American Fur Company Store and Dr. Beaumont Museum, Benjamin Blacksmith Shop, McGulpin House and The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum.

Mackinac Island Carriage Tours

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If getting around on bicycle or foot isn’t going to be enjoyable for you, there are still ways to see popular spots on the Island! Take a horse-drawn Mackinac Island Carriage Tour, which will mix facts of the past with education about the city of Mackinac Island. Each tour will take you through the Historic Downtown, to Surrey Hills Museum (Buy a pack of fresh donuts to enjoy during your tour!), through Rifle Range and to Arch Rock with drop-off points at Fort Mackinac and Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory. If you’re lucky, the driver may have some carrots for children aboard to feed to their horse teams. 

Self-guided horse tours

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Cindy’s Riding Stable and Jack’s Livery Stable: For the visitor who likes to take the reins, this is a unique twist to transportation! Ride a horse around the island on a guided tour, or steer your own carriage. Don’t worry, the horses know where they are going and travel this path daily!

Get to know the town

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Mackinac Island is home to 500 residents year-round. Much like any other city, it has a post office, UPS delivery service, emergency services, City Hall, school and newspaper. You’ll spot most of these businesses along Market Street, and the school is close to the Grand Hotel. The newspaper, The Mackinac Island Town Crier, charges $1 per paper. You can buy it or subscribe to it inside their office to catch up on the local news. It’s one of the cheapest souvenirs you can purchase on the Island!

Visit the Grand Hotel

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See the world’s longest porch at the Grand Hotel! Admission costs $10 if you aren’t staying at Grand Hotel. This fee gives you access to walk on the lawn (Look for the Secret Garden!) and take a self-guided tour through the hotel. Some rooms have placards signifying celebrities who have stayed at the high-end resort. Admission also gives you access to the porch and Cupola Bar, where you can relax and enjoy a drink among beautiful scenery.

Dive into movie history

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Although Christopher Reeve was Superman and Jane Seymour was Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, the two also starred in a movie that was filmed on Mackinac Island — Somewhere In Time. Fans of this flick can visit the Somewhere In Time gazebo, the very spot along M-185 where Elise McKenna and Richard Collier speak for the first time, Mission Point Theater where McKenna performed her play (the seat Reeve sat in is marked with a plaque) and see other memorabilia in the Grand Hotel. The movie plays every Tuesday night at Mission Point Theater, which is free to guests.

Downtime along the main drag

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In downtown Mackinac Island, you’ll find plenty of stores and restaurants. Try pecan balls, and purchase t-shirts, mugs, other souvenirs and locally-made art to remember your trip!

Take a fudge crawl

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All who visit the island are affectionately referred to by locals as “Fudgies.” And with good reason! One of the first things you’ll notice when you step onto the main drag is the growing number of fudge shops down the stretch. As you pass by each one, you’ll catch the delightful, wafting scent of a variety of fresh treats being made on marble table tops. You can usually stop in to watch the process, too! Friendly employees will sometimes even give a warm fudge sample to the wide-eyed, watching children. 

What is unique about the fudge on Mackinac Island is that this tradition and the many storefronts are all intertwined while being owned by separate people. Some of the fudge makers learned from each other, then opened their own store fronts. Many recipes and shops have been passed down through several generations, too. Check out the fudge shops listed on Mackinac Island’s website to explore the variety of flavors. Some places play it safe with traditional ones like chocolate, peanut butter and vanilla, while others throw in dark chocolate and cherry chip, butterfinger, lilac and espresso — talk about a pick me up!

You’ll also find several of these shops make chocolate turtles, ice cream, caramel corn, sugar-free fudge, salt water taffy and so much more. Samples are free, so we suggest a fudge crawl before you buy. This just means stopping in each place to grab a sample, then going back to purchase your favorites. Don’t forget to ask about ongoing deals, too!

You can store your fudge on the counter for about a week once it is opened or freeze it for up to a year. You never want to put it in the fridge though because it will dry out. Once you’ve finished your stash, it’s time to come back or purchase some online!

Golf the island

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Bring your clubs or rent them at either Grand Hotel’s Jewel Golf Course or Wawashkamo Golf Club.

Food on Mackinac Island

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Most restaurants have tables to sit at inside, but on a sunny day, grab food to-go and picnic at Marquette Park or Windermere Point, overlooking the Straits of Mackinac under the fort. Here are some popular food options: Island Slice Pizzeria, Watercolor Cafe, Seabiscuit Cafe, the Chuck Wagon, the Tea Room at Fort Mackinac, Lucky Bean Coffee House, the Pancake House and Grand Hotel’s buffets and served meals.

Kid-friendly activities

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Check out Putt Putt at Mission Point Resort (at night, it becomes glow-in-the-dark), The Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House and Insect World and the I-spy garden at the corner of French Lane and Market Street. Your kids will love these activities!

Book your Mackinac Island adventure today!

Once you’ve had your island fun, take the ferry back to St. Ignace to stay the night before continuing your U.P. adventure. Each ferry ticket includes a round trip. Book your stay today!