Growing up in Southeastern Michigan, we would often vacation up north during the summer. The beaches are beautiful, the weather is mild and it’s only a few hours drive. One of my favorite places up north is Mackinac Island. My last visit was in 1998 until I went again this summer. In this Mackinac Island travel guide, I’m going to share where to stay, what to do and of course, what to eat.
How to get to Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island is a small island (3.8 square miles) located in Lake Huron between Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsula. It has a historic old-town charm where you automatically feel relaxed when you arrive.
The island is reachable only by air or boat during the summer, and over an ice bridge during the winter. We drive to Mackinac City, and from there take a 20 minute ferry to the island. One of the most established and trusted fairy charters is Shepler’s Ferry, and they run every half hour. The wait for the ferry is a serene and scenic one though!
What’s cool about Mackinac Island is that there are no motorized vehicles allowed on the island. So how do you get around? Bikes and horses! Whether you’re a visitor or resident, that’s pretty much how everyone gets around the island.
As soon as you get off the island you’ll notice many small shops for bike rentals. Usually you can rent them in 15-minute increments or by the day. You can do mountain bikes, single speed simple bikes, tandem bikes and even bikes with buggies for little ones or pets.
Places to stay in Mackinac Island
The most popular resort on the island is the Grand Hotel. This is a family-owned resort which is known for its rich history, Midwestern traditions and charming property. They have a formal dress code for entering the hotel in the evening. So, men, you’ll have to suit up!
The second most popular option is Mission Point Resort, which is where we stayed on this trip. This was voted one of the best places to stay in Michigan by Condé Nast Traveler. It has a casual resort feel with a large lawn for lazy summer lounging and beautiful waterfront property offering activities like tennis, bocce ball, kite flying, flower pressing and biking. And bonus: kids eat for free at the resort!
Aside from those two resorts, there are also many other smaller hotels, inns and the most adorable bed and breakfast accommodations on the island, where you’ll feel right at home.
Things to do in Mackinac Island
Explore by boat: If you’re itching the be on the water, there are many boat tours you can schedule, including charters, fairies and cruises. Of course you can also go kayaking or parasailing.
Explore by bike: This is our favorite thing to do on Mackinac Island. The whole island is only 8 miles in perimeter along the paved Lake Shore Boulevard. You can easily bike around the island in an hour and half. If you want more rigorous paved and unpaved bike trails, that is also available around the island. The great thing about exploring by bike is that you can stop along the way and no one gets tired of sight-seeing by foot.
Visit attractions: One of the most famous sights to visit on the island is Fort Mackinac, which was a military outpost built in 1780 and the oldest building in Michigan!
I also highly recommend stopping at the Arch Rock located in Mackinac Island State Park. The breccia limestone arch formed 4,000 years ago from the lake water dissolving the rock. It’s a breathtaking view from the waters as well as from the 200 flight of stairs above that you can take to get a better view.
Shop: There are no chains in Mackinac Island! Instead, the downtown area is brimming with small mom-and-pop shops and even four small malls. There’s shopping downtown, on market street and also in many hotels. You’ll find so many wonderful unique gems in the stores.
Visit museums and gardens: If you have kids, I definitely recommend a visit to the Butterfly Garden. It’s literally a beautifully landscaped tropical jungle with hundreds of butterflies from all over the world flying freely around you.
I thinks kids and adults alike would really enjoy this. My kids were in heaven anytime a butterfly landed on them.
Places to eat on Mackinac Island
The food on Mackinac Island has a little something for everyone. There are some fine dining options available as well as many quaint little cafes and cute shops for a quick bite to eat. Here are a few of my favorites from this trip.
Watercolor Cafe: For breakfast, I highly recommend the watercolor cafe, which just opened this spring. It’s a cafe by day, and art studio by night, and it’s absolutely adorable! It’s an artsy eatery with creative things to do inside like coloring, painting and even knitting. The food is fresh and healthy, and includes great coffee, sandwiches, smoothie bowls and baked goods.
Mary’s Bistro Draught House: Located right on the water in downtown Mackinac, this is a tavern with live music and some of the best outdoor seating I think on the island. It’s a casual American diner with local sustainable high quality ingredients. You can really taste it in their fish and chips, which I highly recommend for kids and adults.
I really enjoyed the picturesque view though while the kids calmly colored.
Gate House: This is another great dinner option, which is part of the Grand Hotel, but with a more casual vibe. They have a quaint outdoor patio as well and offer fresh seafood, burgers and sandwiches. On select evenings, there is even live entertainment – so chill!
Ryba’s Fudge: No Mackinac Island travel guide is complete without fudge! I’m mesmerized just watching the fudge making process and smelling it all over the island. There are 14 fudge shops downtown alone! During the summer months, they all together make more than 10,000 pounds of fudge per day. 4 of those 14 shops are Ryba’s, which is where we ended up on this trip. But I think you really can’t go wrong with any of them!
Hope you’ve found this Mackinac Island travel guide fun and useful 🙂 Adios until the next trip!
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With all these ideas for places to stay, things to do and places to eat, I hope you consider a trip to Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan someday. If you’ve visited Mackinac Island before or plan to visit, I’d love to hear about some of your favorite places or things! And if you snapped some shots of your trip and visited something I recommended, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!