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5 Must Things to Do on Mackinac Island

Hey there, fellow travel enthusiasts! So, picture this: a charming island tucked away in the midst of Michigan’s stunning Great Lakes. That’s right, we’re talking about none other than Mackinac Island! My husband and I recently had the chance to explore this hidden gem, and let me tell you, it was an absolute blast. This car-free paradise is like stepping back in time, with its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and Victorian architecture. Oh, and did I mention the breathtaking views of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan? Trust me, folks, this place is a dream come true for history buffs, nature lovers, and anyone craving a little slice of tranquility. So, grab your backpack, hop on a ferry, and let me share the top 5 must things to do on Mackinac Island that will give you the adventure of a lifetime!

How to Get to Mackinac Island

Before delving into things to do on Mackinac Island, let’s talk about how to actually get yourself to this slice of paradise. Getting to Mackinac Island is a breeze, thanks to the convenient ferry services operating from both Mackinac City and St. Ignace.

During our visit, we opted for the ferry from Mackinac City, using the reliable company Shepler’s. Trust me when I say it’s a smooth and hassle-free ride. Since cars are a no-go on the island, you’ll park your four-wheeled companion at the ferry dock, and guess what? Your luggage hops aboard with you! The ferry ride itself is a delightful experience, taking roughly 30 minutes. But here’s the kicker—the views are absolutely breathtaking! I highly recommend grabbing a seat on the top deck to soak in the magnificent sights of the iconic double suspension bridge and the island as you approach it. Believe me, it’s an Instagram-worthy moment you won’t want to miss!

mackinac island ferry

One thing to note is the time you travel to the island. We went in mid-May and we did not know that there is a phenomenon called midge flies. These little buggers are super annoying and land on everything from your hair and clothes to backpacks and purses. They look kind of like mosquitos, but they do not bite. In fact they just sit there and get smushed pretty easily when you try to wave them off. This was the only thing about our trip that we really found uncomfortable. These flies tend to be near the coast so they were abundant on the ferry and ferry dock. There weren’t as many on the island itself thankfully. Next time we go, we will definitely check to make sure it’s not midge fly season. 

5 Must Things to Do on Mackinac Island

Alright, fellow travelers, it’s time to dive into the exciting activities that Mackinac Island has in store for you. Here are my top five must-do experiences that will make your visit unforgettable:

1.) Hop on a Horse Carriage Taxi Ride:

Embrace the island’s old-world charm by taking a horse-drawn carriage taxi ride. It’s not just a mode of transportation; it’s a delightful journey through time. Sit back, relax, and let the clip-clop of hooves transport you to a bygone era. If you are staying on the island, which I highly recommend, take the horse carriage taxi to your hotel. We stayed at the Grand Hotel and they have they’re own taxi horse carriage. It was a breeze to take up to the hotel from the ferry dock. They put the luggage up on top and you get to enjoy a beautiful ride to the hotel. We were lucky to have the whole carriage to ourselves too!

mackinac island horse carriage

2.) Indulge in Grandeur at the Grand Hotel:

Treat yourself to a luxurious stay at the legendary Grand Hotel. This iconic Victorian-era masterpiece offers world-class amenities, stunning lake views, and impeccable service. Explore the beautiful grounds, sip afternoon tea on the veranda, and immerse yourself in the elegant atmosphere that has enchanted guests for over a century.

grand hotel mackinac island

This iconic hotel has really interesting decor on the inside. It’s very picture worthy and each floor has something different going on. We stayed here for one night and our package included dinner and breakfast. This hotel has a firm dress code policy after a certain time and dinner requires a suit for men and dressy outfits for women. We thoroughly enjoyed our 5 course dinner experience and there were enough vegetarian options as well!

If you are not staying at the hotel, you can visit for a fee. One way to bypass the fee is if you have tea/lunch at the hotel. The grounds are worth exploring. There is a beautiful flower garden and the hotel boasts of the longest porch in the world!

3.) Embark on a Scenic Bike Ride:

Grab a bike and pedal your way around the island’s perimeter on the scenic M-185, the only state highway in the United States without motor vehicles. Feel the gentle breeze as you pass lush forests, picturesque cliffs, and serene shoreline. For an added dose of fun, rent a two-person bike and enjoy a leisurely ride with a friend or loved one.

We rented a bike for 4 hours from a shop in the main downtown area. It took us about an hour to bike around the island. You can make a day of it and bring a picnic and enjoy the beaches along the coastline. There are also things to see along the way if you decide to make stops. 

If you’re curious about what the bike ride looks like, take a look at this video we shot on our Go Pro. 

4.) Step Back in Time at Fort Mackinac:

Unleash your inner history buff with a visit to Fort Mackinac. This well-preserved 19th-century military outpost offers fascinating insights into the island’s strategic significance during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Explore the exhibits, watch engaging reenactments, and take in panoramic views of the island from the fort’s strategic vantage point.

The fort’s strategic location atop a bluff provides breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, including Lake Huron and the neighboring islands. We enjoyed walking around the different exhibits and loved seeing the canon firing demonstration. There is also a tea room that overlooks Mackinac island with majestic views of the water. It’s a great place to have lunch and sit on the patio. Lots of vegetarian options here as well!

5.) Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with Mackinac Island Fudge:

No visit to Mackinac Island is complete without indulging in the island’s famous fudge. Treat your taste buds to a delightful array of flavors, from classic chocolate to creative concoctions like peanut butter cup and sea salt caramel. Explore the charming fudge shops downtown, watch the artisans craft this delectable treat, and don’t forget to bring some home as a sweet souvenir!

We got fudge from two places – Murdick’s and Ryba. Both were also great places to grab gifts for friends and family!

How Long Should you Stay On Mackinac Island? 

How long do you need for these 5 must things to do on Mackinac Island? When it comes to planning your stay on Mackinac Island, it’s essential to strike a balance between experiencing the highlights and savoring the island’s unique atmosphere. While a day trip is possible with the availability of early morning to evening ferry services, I highly recommend staying at least one night to truly immerse yourself in the island’s charm.

During our visit, we opted for a one-night stay, allowing us one full day to explore. However, in hindsight, we wished we had extended our stay, as there were still activities and attractions we wanted to squeeze in. I would suggest planning for a minimum of two days, which should give you ample time to see the main sights and indulge in the island’s offerings. If you desire a more leisurely pace or want to enjoy the beach or pool at the Grand Hotel, consider extending your stay to three days. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but remember, Mackinac Island has a way of captivating your heart, leaving you longing for just a little more time in this enchanting oasis.

mackinac island

Final Tips and Thoughts

Reflecting on our time spent on Mackinac Island, I can confidently say that it was an unforgettable experience. From the captivating carriage rides to the grandeur of the Grand Hotel, and the scenic bike rides along the island’s perimeter, every moment was filled with wonder and delight. Exploring the rich history at Fort Mackinac and indulging in the island’s famous fudge added an extra layer of charm to our journey. As my husband and I look back on our stay, we can’t help but feel a yearning to return and explore more of this enchanting destination.
If you’re planning a trip to Mackinac Island, I hope that this list of 5 must things to do on Mackinac Island has inspired and assisted you in planning your own adventure. Trust me, this island paradise is worth every moment, and I’m sure it will leave you with cherished memories to last a lifetime. Safe travels, and enjoy your time on Mackinac Island!