Things to do on Mackinac Island:
My day at Mackinac Island (pronounced “Mackinaw”) left me with the feeling of an upscale, classy version of Key West in the north with a pride of American patriotism as the island businesses, homes, and hotels all wave the American flag proudly!
Driving on the high 5-mile long suspension bridge toward upper peninsula (the “UP”) was cool with expansive views of the islands, mainland and both Lake Michigan to the west and Lake Huron to the east. Take the ~25 minute ferry from St. Ignace.
I love the fact that no vehicles are permitted on Mackinac Island. People were actively going about their adventures on foot, bike, or horse.
The island is clean and well manicured almost like Disney World.
Transportation on Mackinac Island:
Transportation is easy if you’re into biking (lots of places to rent bikes from) or hiking. Note that there are many hills and staircases unless you stay in the shopping district or along the perimeter. You can stay on the main roads or travel through the trails in the woods in the interior of the island.
Another transportation option is the carriage rides which are pulled by the most dashing of horses – Belgians and Percherons! I did do this ride but felt like it was a little too touristy for my taste – I learned the history of the island, which was a plus, but was also shepherded into crowded touristy areas with shops and a butterfly museum (extra $ but was pretty good) which is not really my style but might be yours. Alternatively, you even have the option of renting your own horse drawn carriage!
Look at these gardens at every stately home! Big, lush gardens with the largest varieties of flowers that I’ve ever seen.
The main post office has a slogan “Rain, Sleet, Snow, or Hail – You Pick Up Your Own Mail!”
Fort Holmes (built in 1780) is the highest point on the island. I counted about 124 steps (don’t hold me to that number, I’m easily distracted) on the wooden staircase through the woods up to the fort. Alternatively, a horse and buggy will get you to this point.
The Grand Hotel is, well, from another era. With many of the same rules. It is a well-preserved national historic landmark with a ginormous front porch (world’s largest) where cocktails are served and rocking chairs overlook the straits. The clientele appeared to be well to do and of the older set, and enjoying the many amenities that the hotel has to offer.
Mackinac Island is known for its fudge! Every townsperson has a different view of which is best.
There are bed and breakfasts on the island if you’d like to continue your stay. Or if you miss the ferry. They’re serious about not waiting for anyone so get the schedule before you leave the docks. (In September the latest ferry left at 6:30pm.)
It’s best to go to the island when it’s not high season (July or August) as the tourist season numbers are astronomical (think 15,000 visitors per day in 2021!).
***Tip: You can base yourself in Leelanau peninsula (tons of beauty and activities here) and see Mackinac Island for the day! See this page: https://quicktripadventures.com/northern-michigan-leelanau-peninsula/
Thank you to my traveling buddy, Amy Ferguson, for the inspiration!