One word comes to mind when someone mentions Mackinac Island: tradition. The charming Victorian architecture and preserved natural landmarks are nothing short of breathtaking. But, you don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate all that Mackinac Island has to offer. Downtown is full of unique boutiques, fudge shops, and waterfront dining options while the rest of the island is generously sprinkled with trails and unforgettable views. There is so much to do on Mackinac Island that you could visit every year and still find something new each time.
That has been the case for us over the years. It’s a tradition in our family to head to Mackinac Island every year around mid-August (the weather is perfect). We stay for at least four days—some of us longer—and it’s never enough. The memories we have are priceless and though we would enjoy each other’s company in any other vacation spot, there is something magical about Mackinac Island. If you’re looking to start a new tradition with your family, I couldn’t recommend this spot enough. Here are some tips for how to master your vacation on Mackinac Island.
3 FAVORITE RESTAURANTS
Mary’s Bistro Draught House | 7463 Main Street, (906) 857-9911
Mary’s is our go-to hang out spot on Mackinac Island, whether we’re enjoying lunch on their waterfront patio or sampling craft brews inside. Do make a reservation ahead of time via their website!
Island Slice Pizza | 7234 Main Street, (906) 847-8100
After a long day biking around the island or sipping cocktails on the water nothing beats a late night pizza. Their dough is made fresh daily and they offer deep dish, round, and thin crust.
3 FAVORITE FREE ATTRACTIONS
Mission Point Great Lawn | 1 Lakeshore Drive, (906) 847-3000
Fly that kite you picked up at a shop downtown, sip your coffee in a white Adirondack chair, or enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking Lake Huron and the Straits of Mackinac.
Arch Rock | 6131 Arch Rock Road, (906) 847-3328
Hike or bike to this famous rock formation, or any of Mackinac Island State Park’s natural wonders. A map of the island’s roads and 70+ miles of trails can be downloaded on their website.
Grand Hotel Stables | 286 Grand Avenue, (906) 847-3331
Open to the public, the Grand Stables is home to 12 horses and around 30 antique carriages and sleighs, complete with QR codes that allow you to take a self-guided tour.
3 FAVORITE PAID ATTRACTIONS
Drive your own horse & buggy | 7754 Mahoney Avenue, (906) 847-3391
No experience required! And don’t worry about getting lost, the horses know the trails like the back of their hoof. Two, four, and six-passenger carriages available for rent by the hour.
Take a carriage tour | 7278 Main Street, (906) 847-3307
Let someone else take the reins while you enjoy the view during this hour-and-45-minute tour. No matter how you do it, exploring the interior of Mackinac Island is an absolute MUST.
Go parasailing | 7271 Main Street, (231) 436-7144
Looking for something a little more daring? Parasailing will definitely give you a unique view of the Straits. We didn’t get wet when we went, but I can’t say the same for the couple that went after us.
FAVORITE PLACES TO STAY
Bicycle Street Inn & Suites | 7416 Main Street, (906) 847-8005
This modern hotel has three separate buildings, with some rooms overlooking Main Street and others with waterfront balconies. All guests gain access to an indoor heated swimming pool at their sister property, Lake View Hotel.
Lilac Tree Suites & Spa | 7372 Main Street, (866) 847-3501
These family-friendly suites all include a living room and have as many as three queen beds. Bonus tip: Mackinac Island is beautiful in the winter, too, and Lilac Tree is one of the few places that stays open for visitors during the “quiet season.”
Rent a cottage | Addresses vary
Some of our family’s favorite memories were made at a cottage tucked away in the woods. There’s just something about those old homes that brings you closer to the island’s history and closer to each other.
FAVORITE PLACE FOR SWEET TREATS
Sanders | 733 Main Street, (906) 847-0250
Mackinac Island is known for its fudge shops and Sanders offers unique varieties, including bumpy cake fudge, along with premium ice cream, specialty chocolates, and other Instagram-worthy treats.
FAVORITE PLACE FOR SOUVENIRS
Caddywampus | 7408 Main Street, (231) 881-3972
When shopping downtown, I purposely try to go here last. Otherwise, I would spend all of my money in the first 10 minutes. Clothing, home decor, unique gifts, they’ve got it all.
FAVORITE PHOTO OP
Pontiac’s Lookout | West Bluff Road
Also known as the Pontiac Trail Head. Take in stunning views of the water and the Mackinac Bridge, or take a selfie with one of the multi-million dollar mansions that line the West Bluff.
FAVORITE COFFEE SHOP
Lucky Bean Coffeehouse | 7383 Market Street
A short walk from Main Street, Lucky Bean brews delicious specialty lattes and classic coffee drinks.
BONUS TIPS TO MACKINAC ISLAND
- Approximate Travel Time: It’s a four hour drive from Metro Detroit to Mackinaw City, where you’ll board a ferry to the island. Arrive 30-60 minutes before your ferry departure time (or plan for more time to explore Mackinaw City). Then, the ferry ride is about a half-hour. Plan for an additional hour if you’re departing from St. Ignace.
- Shepler’s and Star Line both run ferries back and forth to Mackinac Island. You’ll need to buy a ferry ticket and pay for parking. Avoid standing in line and purchase these in advance on one of their websites.
- There aren’t any cars on the island, but there are still taxis!
- Visit Doud’s Market on Main Street to pick up some groceries or picnic supplies. They have a great selection of fresh meat, produce, snacks, and beverages.
- Dress in layers! The cool island breeze will feel good after a long bike ride, but you’ll probably want a jacket as the temperature drops in the evening. Check out this travel guide for more tips on what to pack. And if it rains, don’t worry – there’s still plenty of activities to do.