There’s nothing that can make you feel more like a Michigander in summer than feeling the breeze off of the Great Lakes, smelling fudge in the air, and hearing the clip-clopping of horses as you stroll through Mackinac Island.
For a lot of Michigan natives (and others, too!), summer isn’t complete without a trip to Mackinac Island. It’s a place of total relaxation. After all, you can’t engage in the hustle and bustle of city life when there are no cars allowed on the Island and you’re transported back to a historical time. Mackinac Island manages to have the perfect mix of history, nature, attractions, amenities, and old-time fun packed into an area that’s less than 4 square miles. It’s a true Michigan gem.
Here are some things to keep in mind when planning a family trip to Mackinac Island this summer:
Since cars are not allowed on the Island, you’ll have to park them on the mainland and board the ferry. You can catch a ferry from either Mackinaw City (Lower Peninsula) or St. Ignace (Upper Peninsula). Choose from Shepler’s Ferry, or Star Line Ferry for service to and from the Island. All the fares are comparable but keep your eyes peeled for coupons. Enjoy the 30-minute ride inside the lower deck or sit and enjoy the cool breeze and freshwater mist on the open-air deck. Regardless of where you sit, make sure to take in the spectacular view of the 5-mile long Mackinac Bridge. If you have overnight accommodations, your hotel may offer horse-drawn shuttle service to the hotel or luggage service, so be sure to ask when booking your reservation.
When looking for overnight accommodations on Mackinac Island, you will notice one thing: there are no chain hotels. You can stay anywhere from a quaint bed-and-breakfast to a full service resort. Some resorts have golf courses and other attractions. Others offer bike rentals and pools. Be sure to ask questions when booking your reservation because some hotels have dress codes while others might be more family-friendly.
One thing that most visitors end up taking home as a souvenir is the Island’s famous fudge. There are a plethora of flavors to pick from and kids and adults alike will enjoy watching candy makers create all of the different flavors of fudge through their storefront windows. Each year, “fudgies” (as the locals warmly call fudge-loving tourists) take home thousands of pounds of the delicious, edible memento.
If perishable items aren’t your idea of the perfect souvenir, have no fear! There are plenty of t-shirt and souvenir shops that stock everything from locally crafted gift items to coffee mugs.
While you can certainly bring your own bike to explore the Island, there are many bicycle rental options once you are there. You can rent single rider bikes, tandems, trailers, and more. Mackinac Island is pretty flat and is a relatively easy 8-mile bike ride around the perimeter of the Island. If you are looking for a more strenuous ride, venture onto the trails that lattice the interior state park land. Pack a lunch and hit the trails for an awesome view of the Island!
Visitors of Mackinac Island note that one of their favorite things to do while on the Island is to sit and relax by the water. There are no sandy beaches, but it’s beautiful to look at just the same. Make sure to bring good water shoes if you enjoy wading, rock hunting, or exploring the stony shore.
While on the Island, Fort Mackinac is a must-see! It is quite a climb to reach Fort Mackinac, but once there, the attractions and view are worth it. You will get a wonderful view of the Island and the straits. Employees sport garb that showcases what life was like at the fort during the 1880s. There are lots of hands-on activities to keep children occupied on the compound so make sure to check it out!
For More Information
Looking for more things to do or places to stay on Mackinac Island? Visit the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau website for places to stay, dine, and play. Once on the Island, pay a visit to the Main Street Visitor Booth for brochures, maps, and other information.
Does your family have favorite memories of summers spent on Mackinac Island? Share them in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you and other families would love to hear your experience. Check out our Facebook page for more fun summer activities for you and your family.