(UPDATED JULY 2022) One of my best travels of the year was to Mackinac Island. I’ve never known anyone who has been there and didn’t know what to expect. The thought of traveling to a place accessible only by ferry is quite daunting to this Southern gal who only knows road and plane trips methods of traveling definitely out of my comfort zone.
Surprise, Mackinac Island turned out to be one of the best vacations I’ve ever been on. I now find myself thinking about taking my family and creating memories with loved ones in this notable place, one of America’s most unique vacation spots. Read along and see the best things to do at Mackinac Island, MI, that I found on my travels.
Mackinac Island is a small island on the Great Lakes that is a seasonal destination. The island is four square miles in size and houses around 3,000 workers each year. Only 400 or so live year-round on the island, while 10,000 to 25,000 will visit during the warm months. The season runs from April through October when the island closes up and prepares for the sometimes brutal winters.
Thanks to Pure Michigan for hosting my travels. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
Arrival to Mackinac Island
First, we have to get there. From Mackinaw City (the city’s name ends with AW where the island ends with AC, still the same pronunciation), we parked our car and took Shepler’s Ferry across the lake. Luggage is dropped off on the mainland and then gets transferred to the hotel you are staying on the island.
Once on the island, the mode of transportation will be walking, bicycles, or horse-drawn carriages. The islanders refer to these as taxis. It is definitely like stepping back in time, or into a European romance novel, as the 550 horses that reside on the island are out in full force to accommodate the visitors. Fees for horse-drawn taxis range from $5 to $7.50 per person to your set destination.
Downtown Mackinac Island
One of the main things to do at Mackinac Island, and I base this on my “gut feeling,” is to try fudge from the Fudge Capital of the World. Fudge became famous at Mackinac because it was a place where wealthy people came to vacation and wealth was associated with pricey sugar. The sweet concoction is all freshly made on the island, and we loved the creamy fudge from Ryba’s Fudge Shops. It will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth and makes a great souvenir to take home.
Choose the chocolate mint fudge or other sweet treats such as brittle, salt-water taffy, toffee, and caramel corn. Regardless if someone likes candy or not, it’s worth watching the creamers make their treats in the window. Smells are free. According to Terry, a master creamer at Ryba’s Fudge Shops, 172 degrees is the sweet spot for perfect fudge.
Fudge isn’t the only thing to see in downtown Mackinac. The streets, lined with interesting boutiques and such, offered clothing, jewelry, home accessories, gifts, and amazing art galleries. With a landscape and scenery like Mackinac Island, it’s easy to see that this is an artists’ haven. Stop in Doud’s Market. It is over 130 years old and is America’s oldest family-owned grocery store. Here is a list of downtown stores to visit.
Where to Stay on Mackinac Island
The Mission Point Resort on Lake Huron was my home-away-from-home during my Mackinac Island visit, and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay. While the island is like stepping back in time, the award-winning Mission Point Resort is relaxing, yet modern-chic and luxury accommodation
Mission Point has several restaurants to choose from including Round Island Bar & Grill for breakfast and lunch, Coffeeshop & Cafe (which proudly serves Lavazza Coffee) has an excellent selection of grab ‘n go items and the Marketplace Shops.
Indulge yourself in ultimate pampering at the Lakeside Spa & Salon, found onsite at Mission Point Resort. Find a wide array of skin treatments, massages, and hair and nail salon. Other amenities include a steam room, saunas, and a relaxation space.
Steps away are the family-fun Miniature Golf that was had a glow-golf nightly feature, weather permitting. The grounds also have tennis courts, bocce ball, croquet, a courtside patio, and gazebo. Sit back on one of the hotel’s Adirondack chairs to enjoy the views. Don’t miss the full-service bike-rentals that offer a discounted rate for hotel guests.
Mission Point is pet-friendly, has a complimentary kids’ club, and children under 12 eat free.
The elegant and iconic Grand Hotel is also a desirable location at Mackinac Island. The award-winning resort, with a stunning rooftop bar, was created when the railroad and two steamboat lines forged a partnership years ago. At 660 feet, the Grand Hotel’s front porch is the largest in the world. You can see it from your arrival on Lake Huron as you sail into Mackinac Island.
Where to Eat on the Island
A buffet-style breakfast comes with your stay at Mission Point Resort. Round Island Bar & Grill, located off of the lobby of the hotel, is where you will have your meal, which may include eggs, bacon, fruit, pastries, juice, coffee, and made-to-order omelets.
For lunch, I enjoyed a tasty meal with astonishing views from the Grand Hotel’s Fort Mackinac Tea Room. Those alone are worth the price of lunch as you overlook Lake Huron. I opted for the Half Sandwich and Soup-of-the-Day combo with Tomato Basil Bisque and Donna’s Tuna Sandwich on sourdough bread.
A memorable Mackinac Island dinner was at Chianti, a Northern Italian Restaurant at the Mission Point Hotel. The food is spectacular, 10/10, and the service is impeccable. The Antipasti platter is a great starter to share with the table. Pickled veggies were the star of the platter, but the Italian meats and cheeses were the perfect accompaniments.
For dinner, any of the homemade pastas are the right choice. I had the Fettuccine a la Carbonara (crispy pancetta, egg-cream sauce) and tasted the Pumpkin Gnocchi (browned butter sauce and crispy sage), too. Chianti also makes their sauces and salad dressings in-house. Besides the wonderful food, Chianti has an open-air concept, a professional staff, and a stellar Italian, Private Cellar Collection, and Old World wine menu.
What to Do on Mackinac Island
A great way to familiarize yourself with Mackinac Island and see the incredibly beautiful homes is to take a horse-drawn carriage narrated tour from Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, established in 1948 and doing things the same way all along. The tour lasts a little less than two hours and will include stops at Surrey Hills Museum, the Butterfly Conservatory, Arch Rock, Avenue of Flags, and the Grand Hotel.
Soak up the scenic landscape along the way and admire the romantic and Victorian-style homes with picturesque flower beds and immaculate lawns. Private tours are also available.
Keep in mind, taxi cabs (horses) cannot be “hailed” on Mackinac Island, instead, you must call the taxi dispatch office to request taxi service.
Mackinac Island is a great place for water sports and golf. Consider renting a sailboat or kayaks to explore the beautiful waterways firsthand. Sip and Sail cruises are another option that includes sunset sails and sipping cocktails. Fishing is fantastic around the island and many charter boats are available to take you. For golfers, The Jewel at the Grand Hotel is one of the most unique courses in America
Bike and electric scooter rentals are available in town should you desire. The island has 70 miles of natural and paved trails to keep you busy.
Touring the National Park
Fort Mackinac is located in the Mackinac Island State Park, established in 1895. Prior to that date, it had been the sacred ground of the native people of the Great Lakes, a place for fur trading, and later, Mackinac National Park, the second oldest national park in the country. Fourteen buildings are open to the public at the fort and furnished with period settings, some with costumed interpreters. A special kids’ quarters features interactive games and hands-on exhibits.
You can’t miss touring the Fort Mackinac, a former British and American military outpost that became decommissioned in 1895. Emily, a costumed interpreter at the fort beams when she explains that Mackinac “is a magical place”.
Step Back in Time and Somewhere Special
Mackinac Island is truly someplace special. Time seems to have stood still in this enticing and charming community. From award-winning lodging to upscale dining, historical finds to beautiful artwork, Mackinac is a visual delight and a treat for the soul. It truly represents the quintessential American family vacation.
Indulge in something unique by visiting this awesome place in your future travels
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