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Things to Do at Mackinac Island, MI: A Hidden Gem on the Great Lakes

Things to Do at Mackinac Island, MI: A Hidden Gem on the Great Lakes

Stepping onto Mackinac Island was like wandering into an uncharted world—strikingly familiar yet brimming with wonder. This jewel of the Great Lakes, accessible exclusively by ferry, beckoned me to leave behind my Southern roots and the typical road and air travel I knew so well. What initially seemed daunting swiftly unfolded into one of the most remarkable vacations; with these things to do at Mackinac Island in particular, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.

Its allure is impossible to ignore, and I daydream about returning with family, eager to etch lifelong memories against its distinctive backdrop. During this enchanting American retreat, the pulse of city life gives way to the heartbeat of nature.

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Fun Facts: Mackinac Island is a small island on the Great Lakes that is a seasonal destination. The island is four square miles and houses around 3,000 workers annually. Only 400 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. 

Navigating to Northern Delights

Arrivals at Mackinac Island are a prelude to its charm—parking our car in Mackinaw (the city’s name ends with AW where the island ends with AC, still the same pronunciation) City and boarding Shepler’s Ferry, luggage whisked away, soon to reappear at our island lodging. That first glimpse of the island’s silhouette growing closer set the stage for adventure.

Mackinac Island embraces the past with its transportation: bicycles, feet, and horse-drawn carriages called ‘taxis’ offer a rhythm of life that is at once a nod to history and a serenade to the soul. For a small fee, you are carried away to a time when the clip-clop of hooves was the soundtrack of travel.

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A Sweetheart of a Downtown

Mackinac Island’s downtown is a treasure trove where old-time charm and modern fancies blend seamlessly. Trust your instincts—as I did—and revel in the heavenly aroma of Ryba’s Fudge Shops, the island’s sweet star. Chocolate mint was my top pick. 

Fudge on Mackinac isn’t just candy; it’s a legacy tied to the island’s past, a story told in every creamy bite. It’s best savored while watching master ‘creamers’ craft perfection in real-time, a dance of sugar heated to 172 degrees—a confectionary ballet. Smells are complimentary.

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Strolling the streets, I discovered local boutiques and galleries that speak to Mackinac’s magnetic charm. Artists, drawn by the island’s mesmerizing views, showcase their love in strokes and sculptures, while Doud’s Market—a family-run mainstay nearly a century and a half old—offers glimpses into American living.

Dream Stays and Lakeside Days

On Lake Huron, the award-winning Mission Point Resort, a harbinger of tranquility and refinement, opened its doors to warmth and wonder as I entered. Though Mackinac reveres the olden days, Mission Point cradles the modern traveler with amenities cohesively intertwined in luxury. 

Several onsite dining options, a coffeehouse echoing Italy’s finest, and a marketplace invite you to savor each moment.

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A trip is incomplete without indulgence, and the Lakeside Spa & Salon at Mission Point Resort is just the place for that—an oasis of wellness where relaxation meets rejuvenation. Find a wide array of skin treatments, massages, and a hair and nail salon. Other amenities include a steam room, saunas, and a relaxation space.

Activities abound, from glow golf under the stars to leisurely tennis matches, touching on the nostalgic yet feeling utterly new. The bike rentals, a flurry of wheels you can join at a guest’s privilege, allow you to blend in with the island’s carefree spirit.

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Mission Point’s family-friendly nature, complete with a complimentary kids’ club, ensures joy for every age, while its pet policy proves that no family member is left behind.

Then, the Grand Hotel—Mackinac’s crown jewel, with its history-rich backdrop and the world’s longest porch, welcomes those seeking an opulent escape into the island’s grand narrative.

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Morning Indulgence at Mission Point Resort

Begin your day at the quaint Mission Point Resort, where a hearty buffet breakfast awaits. The inviting Round Island Bar & Grill sets the stage for a morning feast featuring classic eggs and bacon, an array of fresh pastries, and the highlight—a made-to-order omelet that’s a pure culinary craft.

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Savoring Lunch with a View

Amid the lush grandeur of the Grand Hotel’s Fort Mackinac Tea Room, lunch transcends into an experience of its own. A perfect combination of soup and sandwich hits the lunchtime hunger pains and is just the right amount of food. I had Tomato Basil Bisque and Donn’t Tuna Sandwich, embraced by sourdough.

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An Italian Evening at Chianti

The evening brings sophistication to Chianti, Mission Point Hotel’s homage to northern Italy. Renowned for its sublime menu and flawless service, this dining hotspot ensures each dish is a crescendo of taste.

Sharing an Antipasti platter sets the tone, while house-made pastas, like the Fettuccine a la Carbonara (crispy pancetta, egg-cream sauce) or the Pumpkin Gnocchi (browned butter sauce and crispy sage), become the centerpiece of your dinner. Both were 10/10 delicious and as beautiful as they were delicious.

And the backdrop? An open-air concept paired with exquisite Italian and Old World wines.

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Exploring by Carriage and Beyond

To appreciate Mackinac Island’s charm, partake in a narrated horse-drawn carriage tour by Mackinac Island Carriage Tours. This delightful excursion offers a peek into the island’s history and showcases exquisite Victorian homes wrapped in floral beauty and immaculate lawns.

Stops include Surrey Hills Museum, Avenue of Flags, and the awe-inspiring Arch Rock.

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If spontaneity beckons, remember that horse taxis (a quaint alternative to cabs) can’t be flagged down. Make sure you’ve saved the taxi dispatch number. Private tours are also available.

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Adventures on Water and Greens

Thrill-seekers, set sail or kayak across the pristine waters surrounding the island for an intimate affair with nature. For those seeking serenity, join a Sip and Sail cruise, pairing the golden hues of sunset with refreshing cocktails.

Anglers will find joy in the abundant fishing opportunities, while golfers can challenge themselves at The Jewel, a golf course at the Grand Hotel that’s as unique as scenic.

Bike and electric scooter rentals are available in town. The island has 70 miles of natural and paved trails to keep you busy.

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The Historic Fort Mackinac

Step into history at Fort Mackinac, a bastion of American heritage within the Mackinac Island State Park. Costumed interpreters and interactive exhibits bring to life stories of the past, making it a rich educational and cultural adventure for visitors of all ages. Special kids’ quarters feature interactive games and hands-on exhibits.

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Fun Fact: The second oldest national park in the country was Mackinac Island, established in 1895. The park was transferred to the state twenty years later, becoming the first Michigan State Park.

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Charting a Personal Course

Mackinac Island is a testament to the quintessential American family vacation—pristine, inviting, and full of discovery. Everything from its award-winning lodging options to its delectable cuisine, from its rich history to its vibrant art scene, contributes to the island’s allure.

You might discover, as I did, that Mackinac Island is not merely a destination but also a vivid chapter in the story of the best places you have ever visited.

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Read more of our Michigan suggestions here:

24 Hours in Ann Arbor

Alpena: What you Need to Know

A Perfect Michigan Road Trip

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Cheryl

Sunday 10th of February 2019

Great photos! You must have had a wonderful time there.

A few years ago I started reading a cozy mystery series about a fudge maker/innkeeper on Mackinac Island. I googled it and was quite surprised that it was a real place and not just a figment of the author's imagination! I wanna be a fudgie!

MelodyPittman

Sunday 10th of February 2019

LOL I watched every little detail when ours was demonstrating the method. ;) Plus it smelled delicious.

Katrina Flores

Friday 8th of February 2019

Oohh - first time I've read about Mackinac and it's inviting me to explore! I'd love to visit the Lakeside Massage and Spa - also the Grand Hotel and people watch - sometimes I'm bumping int actors and actresses from Asia! Hahaha. I just love the view - it seems like a calm and quiet place..

Ava

Wednesday 6th of February 2019

I don't know if I'll ever make it this far north in my RV travels but Mackinac Island has always fascinated me. I had no idea that is is the fudge capital of the world -- my kind of place! I love the idea of no vehicles and getting around by horse-drawn carriage.

MelodyPittman

Sunday 10th of February 2019

I'm working on a post right now that was the entire trip leading to Mackinac which would be a fantastic RV trip. Michigan is the real deal, so many wonderful things to see. ;) Thanks for reading.

sherianne

Tuesday 5th of February 2019

I’m always looking for unique things to do with my mom and this sounds like it would be a great mother daughter trip. She loves mini golf and I love fudge – win/win!

Mansoureh

Tuesday 5th of February 2019

I haven't been to the US yet, but it seems Mackinac Island had lots to offer. I like to go to a place accessible only by ferry like Mackinac Island. I live in the Uk and we have a few islands like this one. I recently went to one of them rent a bike and explored the island on a sunny day

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