Welcome to Mackinac Island, Michigan! Located in Lake Huron between Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas, Mackinac Island is rich in history, fine dining, carriage rides, and bike rides sure to entertain the entire family. As both a National Historic Landmark as well as a Michigan state park, Mackinac Island is equally a unique and a popular summer destination, and one worthy of everyone’s travel “must do” list.
Mackinac Island beckons visitors to experience a bygone era, a time where motorized vehicles were not the primary source of transportation and dressing up for Afternoon Tea in the parlor was routine. With the lack of motorized vehicles and the chaos and noise they introduce, the island can be a peaceful, calming experience. Come along with us as we spend our day exploring Mackinac Island, Michigan!
The Adventure Begins with A Ferry Ride
Completely surrounded by the waters of Lake Huron, with nary a bridge connecting it to the mainland, most visitors arrive at Mackinac Island by high speed ferry boats. The ferry ride itself is part of the overall Mackinac Island experience.
All Aboard! The ferry is ready and waiting to put this day trip in full motion. Arrive early to score an optimal seat for the best views. From rocky shorelines to the nearby lighthouse, a prime seat provides the best vantage point from which to soak in those glorious views.
Initial Impressions of Mackinac Island
Let the day on Mackinac Island begin! Since 1898, motorized vehicles have been banned on the island, making foot or bicycle the most popular methods of getting around this intriguing little island. There’s not many places left in this world where motorized vehicles are not the primary mode of transportation!
Tired feet? Hitch a ride on an old-fashioned horse drawn carriage for a decidedly old-school experience. Whether carrying supplies or people, there’s just something special about a town where horse drawn wagons are the primary source of four-wheel transportation.
Mackinac Island wasn’t always a popular summer destination! The island played a part in history dating to before the American Revolution. Long before 17th century European settlers utilized it in their Great Lakes fur trading operations, an Odawa Indian settlement was established on the island. The island’s strategic location also played a role in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
Perhaps the most well known place on Mackinac Island is the grand and glorious, historic Grand Hotel, which dates back to 1887. A stroll through hotel grounds should be on every visitor’s list of things to do while on the island. Partake in old fashioned charm while here, like Afternoon Teas and dressing up for dinner. Or to simply sit back in a rocking chair on the massive porch, which happens to be one of the longest porches in the world!
Mackinac Island Explorations By Bike
A day on Mackinac Island isn’t complete without a bike experience! No need to bring your own. There are more than enough bike rental shops from which to choose the right bike for your two-wheeled island experience.
With no motorized vehicles clogging the streets, biking is a safe and fun adventure for the entire family. Wide streets provide plenty of opportunity to stop and shop in the multitude of shops lining them. Bikes are also a perfect way to escape the town and experience a more rough and rugged side of Mackinac Island.
From rocky shorelines with the Mackinac Bridge in the background, to hiking trails on the other side of the island, a leisurely bike ride around the island is an awesome way to fully experience all that Mackinac Island has to offer. Not to mention, you’ll leave the crowds behind and find some pretty spectacular sites along the way!
History Comes To Life at Fort Mackinac
Don’t miss historic Fort Mackinac, which played a role in the birth of this nation. The fort was built by the British in 1780 as a defensive outpost during the American Revolution. After the war, the fort was taken over by American troops. It was once again under British control when they re-captured the fort during the War of 1812.
After the War of 1812 ended, Fort Mackinac was once and for all back in American hands. As time marched forward, the fort’s active duty status shifted to national park status in 1875. In 1895, the fort was fully decommissioned, becoming a Michigan state park.
Today, 14 historical buildings, some built over 225 years ago, offer up interactive exhibits detailing life at Fort Mackinac during the 1800’s. Stand before a cannon once intended to defend the interests of those who controlled the region. Gaze out upon the lands and waters beyond, envisioning life on Mackinac Island as a soldier’s family.
Explore life as a 19th century soldier assigned to this remote military outpost in the middle of the lake. Step inside their barracks and into their daily lives on Mackinac Island. Take a break on a less than comfortable bed, with its rough and scratchy military issue blanket.
Try on a soldier’s hat and jacket. Muster up with a soldier’s rifle. Talk with soldiers who “lived” during the time, defending these lands. Imagine yourself living here during the harsh and often cold winters. Not only soldiers, but soldiers’ families sometimes called this island home.
Plan A Day at Mackinac Island
Good bye Mackinac Island! Sadly, our day adventure has come to an end. Our ferry ride awaits to take us back to mainland Michigan. But not before one lasting impression of the island, and a glorious sunset across the water.
Whether by day trip or by an overnight adventure, this popular summer hot spot is an experience for the entire family. Here are several links to further your own plans for a Mackinac Island vacation.
- Mackinac Island Tourism Board
- Michigan Tourism – Mackinac Island
- Getting to Mackinac Island
- The Grand Hotel
Traveler’s Tip: If you wish to stay overnight on the island in the peak summer months, book your lodging early! It is limited, and in high demand. The mainland town of Mackinac City also has plenty of lodging, as well as being a prime location for accessing the ferry docks.
Have you Been to Mackinac Island?
The one regret I have for our day on Mackinac Island? That we didn’t overnight on the island! Waking up before the ferries arrive, walking through town before the throngs of day trippers crowd the streets, is sure to be the highlight of an overnight adventure here. And I’d buy more Mackinac Island fudge and taffy!
Have you experienced Mackinac Island? Did you day trip as we did? Or did you spend one or more nights on the island? Do share your own experiences!
Images by C.Biederman, Jasperdo via Flicker (Horse Drawn Carriage), DebNystrom via Flicker (Grand Hotel), ToddVanHoosier via Flicker (Biking Mackinac Island).