Michigan – Mackinac Island

Things to do on Mackinac Island:

Are you looking for a charming destination that combines elegance, patriotism, and natural beauty? Look no further than Mackinac Island (pronounced “Mackinaw”)! This northern gem reminded me of a classier, upscale version of Key West, with an added dose of American pride. Everywhere you look, you’ll find American flags waving proudly from island businesses, hotels, and homes.

To get to Mackinac Island, take the approximately 25-minute ferry ride from St. Ignace. As you cross the 5-mile long suspension bridge toward the upper peninsula (or the “UP”), you’ll be treated to expansive views of the islands, mainland, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron.

One of the things I love about Mackinac Island is the fact that no vehicles are allowed. Instead, people get around on foot, bike, or horse. The island is impeccably clean and well-manicured, reminiscent of Disney World.

Transportation on Mackinac Island:

Getting around the island is a breeze if you’re into biking or hiking. There are plenty of places to rent bikes, but note that there are many hills and staircases unless you stay in the shopping district or along the perimeter. You can also explore the interior of the island by following the trails through the woods.

Another transportation option is the carriage rides which are pulled by the most dashing of horses – Belgians and Percherons! I did take 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!

Don’t miss the stunning gardens at every stately home, featuring the largest varieties of flowers 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 to explore the charming villages, vineyards, and sand dunes, 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!

My helpful links to book your travel here