Mackinac Island: The Do’s and Don’ts!

My family has a tradition. At the end of every trip, whether it be a week-long, long weekend, or just an overnight stay, we discuss our “top and bottom ten.” This can range from an excursion, to a restaurant, to the comfort of the bed in a hotel room. Everyone that went on the trip has to participate and it usually culminates in a week’s worth of fun, reminiscent e-mails post-trip to soften the blow of a wonderful vacation that is now in the rearview mirror.

Our most recent trip has inspired me to share some items that were trending in all of our top and bottom tens of Mackinac Island. Enjoy!

Do check out Mission Point!

Mission Point Resort is on the “sunrise side” of Mackinac Island and it’s truly breathtaking! There are tons of adventures to be had there. The best ones include the pumpkin lattes from Boxwood Coffeeshop + Cafe, the apple cider slushies from Round Island Kitchen and the Lobby Bar, and their sunrise hike. Don’t forget to check out their spa services for some pampering, and trivia on Wednesday nights. Plus, their Main Lobby is basically a giant living room–the whole family can cozy up to one of the fireplaces and reminisce about the best parts of the day!

Don’t pack the wrong clothes.

Mackinac Island can be a tricky place to dress for. Unless you visit in the dead of summer, plan to bring some clothes that will keep you warm, especially during the evening hours. A light jacket or a cardigan will suffice for the most part. Depending on the length of your stay, you might consider bringing one summer outfit and one fall outfit to cover all your bases. Finally, plan to walk a lot, so pack comfortable shoes. And while we’re at it, make sure they are closed-toed shoes for (ahem), you know! 

Do ride bikes around the island.

Riding bikes around the eight-mile stretch is Mackinac’s signature attraction! So if you have to cut some things out, don’t let it be this. You can rent bikes from many different places, and again, they have something for everyone. For the real little ones, Burleys are a great option that will attach to a regular cruiser AND they have mid-level options for those kids that haven’t ditched the training wheels yet.

The ride takes about an hour to two depending on how often you stop to admire Lake Huron and the Mackinac Bridge, skip rocks, and/or take pictures. It’s a venture worth taking and one you won’t regret!

Don’t forget to train for your visit.

Mackinac Island hosts some fantastic outdoor activities. Whether it’s the well-known eight-mile bike around the island or the many hiking trails, you are sure to get your movement on. Our favorite is hiking to the Mackinac Island Equestrian Center. Here you can take horseback riding lessons, pet/feed the horses, and learn more about their background from knowledgeable trainers.

Photo by Gina Dinverno Photography

Do visit Fort Mackinac.

Here you will learn about Fort Mackinac and its history. They have something for everyone. Adults might enjoy learning about the British invasion while in the “Kids Quarters,” kids can build a digital fort and/or an actual wall that might keep the British out if they were to invade again! They also have guided tours or you can explore it on your own. There is an admission fee but once you are in, you can stay for as long as you want. 

Don’t complain about the island aroma.

(This tip is straight from the horse’s mouth–I swear!) Hello, we can hear you talking about us! Remember, we live here. And you know this before you visit. So you can dislike the smell (we do too), but please keep your comments to yourself. 

Do eat dinner at Pink Pony (and sit on the back deck)!

If you follow Pink Pony on any of their social media sites then you might already know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, imagine lush landscapes and fruity-looking drinks in and around pink umbrellas. They have delicious food and if you pair it with great company, it is sure to be a memory that you will think about long after you’re back on the mainland.

However, please note: they don’t take reservations. If you want to eat during peak hours, you will have an hour-and-a-half wait. So plan ahead and put your name in well in advance, and then go shopping or enjoy the Painted Turtle Flight. Rest assured, they will text when your table is ready!

Don’t miss a sunset.

Mission Point is the best place to take in the sunset and for great views of Lake Huron in general. They have Adirondack chairs that are open to the public to rest on while you have a cocktail from the bar at Bistro on the Greens. Or, you can play mini glow golf while taking in the sights and sounds of the island settling down for the night!

Do eat breakfast at Watercolor Cafe!

Watercolor Cafe is a bit off the beaten path. It’s one you might miss if you weren’t looking for it, but a treasure once you find it. Set right on the water, enjoy a coffee and their signature “Poppy”: a homemade poptart! They also double as an art studio in the evening. There is a “kid’s art corner” so anyone with little ones will appreciate a free activity while the family dines.

Do get a pre-dinner cocktail from Great Turtle Brewing Company.

My family and I love to walk down to the Great Turtle Brewing Company while we wait for our dinner reservations. They have a lot of fun cocktail options but be sure to get the Painted Turtle Flight. It offers their four signature cocktails in one. And isn’t a flight of anything better?

Don’t choose fudge over ice cream.

Choose them both. This might seem like an oxymoron after the last tip but come on, we’re on vacation! Mackinac Island is home to homemade fudge and also has delicious ice cream options. My recommendation is to splurge on fudge one night and ice cream the other OR buy a pack of fudge and take it home and indulge in the many ice cream options during the trip. 

Do expect meltdowns.

Mackinac Island is a wonderful place because of all the sights, activity, food, and special treats. Visitors want to experience everything, and so they try to. It’s hard to pass up that late night ice cream or fudge after waiting in line for dinner. So once that ice cream or fudge is consumed and you are walking back to the hotel, expect to manage toddler-like meltdowns (whether your child is a toddler or not). It’s okay, it happens to the best of us.  Bottom line–indulge in the extra treat, but expect it to come at a cost!

Mackinac Island is truly a magical place! There is so much to do that it will keep you coming back for more. With the summer winding down, you might want to keep these tips for next year, but Mackinac Island is open through October. Although I’ve never been, I’ve heard Halloween weekend is something you have to experience at least once. So if you aren’t done traveling this year, consider Mackinac Island and make the memories of a lifetime.

For more travel and planning tips be sure to check out Detroit Mom’s Travel Series!


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