Mackinac Island is nestled in the sparkling waters of Lake Huron, Michigan. Known for its timeless charm and historical richness, the Island is a perfect day trip for Michigan residents or an excellent destination for a unique vacation. Life is slower on the Island, with no automobiles allowed; transportation is by horse-drawn carriage, bicycle, or walking.

Water front view of Mackinac Island
The front of the Grand hotel on Mackinac Island
Bike riding by the lake on Mackinac Island

A Look into Its Past

Northern Michigan was home to indigenous communities long before the Europeans arrived. Mackinac Island was a spiritual hub for the Anishinaabek Peoples—which includes the Odawa, Ojibway, and Potawatomi tribes—for hundreds of years. It’s a place steeped in lore and legend, with stories passed down orally and in written form.

In more recent history, America declared independence in the 1770s, but Mackinac Island didn’t come under American authority after the War of 1812.

 

Cemetery entrance
Fudge store
Driveway to the Grand hotel

Exploring the Island

We’ve made many trips to the Island. Some of our favorite things are renting a bike, riding around the Island, shopping along the main street, sampling fudge from several fudge shops, and enjoying lunch at our favorite restaurant, The Pink Pony.

The horse-drawn carriage ride is also fun if you have not visited before. You can take a group ride or a private carriage. The drivers are knowledgeable about the history of the Island and bring you to all of the most popular spots.

Main Street on Mackinac Island
Bike on lake shore
Horse pulling a carriage

If you are a history buff, you’ll enjoy Fort Mackinac. You will find real-life folks in vintage uniforms engaging in everything from daily chores to military drills. It’s not exactly a show; it’s more like a wholly immersive history lesson. Watch as blacksmiths forge iron and listen to the musket fire; it feels like you stepped back in time.

Other attractions on the Island include Butterfly House, Arch Rock, and the Grand Hotel. The Grand Hotel is known for the movie Somewhere in Time. It’s a beautiful place to stop for a meal or an ice cream or to catch a view from its massive porch. Although we’ve never stayed there, we’ve looked inside. It is indeed a throwback in time, although well-kept.

Arch rock Mackinac Island
Pink Pony sign
Fort Mackinac with friends Fred and Judie

When and How to Get to Mackinac Island

We usually visit Mackinac Island in the summertime. Although the Island is open year-round, many lodging and services are seasonal and closed for the winter. Spring boasts an incredible lilac festival, and the fall colors are beautiful in September. Most places are open through September.

The most popular way to Mackinac Island is by ferry. These boats set sail from two spots: Mackinaw City, which is at the southern end of the Mackinac Bridge on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, and St. Ignace, located at the bridge’s northern end on the Upper Peninsula. If you’re driving, you can park up at the ferry docks. It’s a quick 16 to 18-minute journey with one of two ferry companies. Both ferry companies are well respected, but we usually take Shepler’s Ferry and have always received excellent service. As you approach Mackinac City, you will see many signs for each company directing you where to park.

If we are exploring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we like to spend the night in St. Ignace and take the ferry from there. It’s not as busy as the Mackinaw City side, and many great restaurants and lodgings are available.

Riding the ferry to Mackinac Island
Sheplers Ferry dock fun
Flowers on lamp post on Mackinac Island

Always a Great Time

We love visiting Mackinac Island, but summer can be hot and busy. If you plan to visit during peak season (summer), go early in the day to beat the crowds. We find one day plenty of time to do and see the sights, but we’ve made several trips. If it’s your first trip, you may want to spend a couple of days exploring and taking advantage of the morning and evenings when the day-trippers are not around.