One of my favorite places in the whole world sits quietly 7 miles from the mainland, in the middle of Lake Huron (almost where it meets Lake Michigan), between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. From afar it’s just a quiet, unassuming island, but as you approach by ferry you begin to see the beauty of the Grand (more to come on that later) and the charm of Victorian homes lining the bluff. You get a bit closer and you see the picturesque downtown and catch bicycles whizzing by. As your ferry approach’s the dock, you hear the clomping of horses, and you smell them too, mixed with rich, chocolatey fudge – it’s part of the charm of the island. You are now on the stunner that is Mackinac Island.
This beautiful, secluded island has never allowed cars, which gives a sense of calm amid the hustle and bustle of tourists. It’s highly populated mostly in the summer and fall months and truly feels alive, from the moment you depart the ferry. The architecture is beautiful, the vacationers and locals alike are kind and it’s just a magical place. Now, what might you do on this remote island in the middle of the lake, that doesn’t allow cars you ask? Well, there is plenty! I’m sharing the TOP 10 must see (and do) things on Mackinac (pronounced mack-i-naw) Island.
- Rent Bikes & Ride Around the Island: As I mentioned, the only mode of transportation on Mackinac Island is bicycle, horse, or your own two feet. It’s a beautiful island, and relatively easy to ride around as the paved path is quite flat. On the 8 mile trek around the outer edge of the island, you will see stunning views of the lake, both the upper and lower peninsulas, some hidden houses and the famous Arch Rock. There is a pit-stop half way around for potty breaks (bathroom available) and snacks (concession stand). Most hotels offer bike rentals, but there are endless options on Main Street as well. [There are electric scooters available for rent for handicap visitors.]
- Take a Horse Drawn Carriage Tour: Once you’ve walked and biked, you must use that 3rd mode of transportation – horses! While you can do a guided horseback ride (which is so fun and gets you off the beaten path), the easiest thing to do is buy a ticket on Main Street for a carriage tour. On this narrated tour you will learn all about the history of the island, some fun and interesting facts and you’ll get the chance to hop out and see some of my other must-sees – Arch Rock, Fort Mackinac and the Grand Hotel.
- Visit the Grand Hotel: This majestic resort, which first opened to guests in 1887, will be one of the first things you see as you approach the island. It’s a beautiful white building, with rows of American Flags and red geraniums lining the world’s longest porch. It seems large from the water, but approaching it on land makes it even more, well, grand! The Grand Hotel is full of charm and old-world glamour. You can enjoy afternoon tea in the lobby, recline in a rocking chair on the front porch, have a classy cocktail in the Cupola Bar, have a juicy burger near the fairway at the Jockey Bar, eat a 5 star meal in the dining room and dance to big band hits in the Terrace Room, you can even take a dip in the pool where Esther Williams filmed This Time For Keeps, or stroll the lush lawn where Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour filmed Somewhere In Time. The hotel is whimsically decorated but full of elegance, and is truly just a happy place. Note – if you are not a guest at the hotel you do have to pay to access the property and enjoy the amenities, including the front porch.
- Sit on the Lawn at Mission Point: Sitting at the southeast tip of the island is Mission Point, a beautiful hotel and conference center. They have an exquisite lawn, with plenty of chairs to sit back, relax and enjoy your surroundings. You can get a great lunch at Bistro on the Greens, and even play a round of putt-putt golf.
- Have an Outdoor Cocktail at the Iroquois: Follow Main Street to the southwest tip of the island and you will stumble upon the lush gardens of Hotel Iroquois. Nestled inside is the Carriage House Restaurant. It’s elegant on the inside, but sip your cocktail outside for stunning views of the lake. It’s the perfect place to watch the ferry’s arriving and departing.
- Shop & Dine at the Pink Pony: The Pink Pony has been a Mackinac Island icon for over 70 years. It’s a well known “watering hole” that also serves delicious food, with great lake views. They have a cute logo (you guessed it – it’s a pink pony) themed gift shop. The best way to describe this hotspot is “a Cheers-esque bar on Mackinac Island.”
- Take a Hike to Arch Rock: Situated atop the bluffs on the east shore of the island, you can’t miss this arch, towering above the water at 50 feet wide. It’s a beautiful, natural work of art, and the perfect backdrop for a picture of the crystal clear lake water. Whether from above or below, Arch Rock is a lovely stop!
- Skip Rocks on the Lake: It’s easy, it’s cheap and it makes you feel like a kid again. Something simple and fun, but with endless rocks and the (sometimes) flat waters of Lake Huron you can enjoy this activity at any age and anytime. The best place to do this is mid-way around the island – you’ll know when the time is right when the rocks look right. (You could also take part in the new fad of stacking rocks. Build a tower now, and maybe it’ll still be there on your next visit.)
- Eat all the Fudge You Want: Try it just once and you can officially call yourself a Fudgie! Mackinac Island is known for it’s peace and tranquility as much as it is for it’s fudge. In fact, in the summer season the downtown fudge shops make 10,000 pounds of fudge daily. That’s a lot of chocolate! Not only can you sample and buy the treat, you can watch them make it too. There is something so soothing about the spreading of all that ooey-gooey chocolate.
- See the views from Fort Mackinac: If you like history you’ll really enjoy Fort Mackinac, with live demonstrations, re-enactments and tours. If you like stunning views of the island and the lake, you’ll enjoy the Fort even more. The Fort, meant to protect the island was of course built atop the highest bluff overlooking downtown and the lower peninsula.
Sure, you can see the island in a day, and yes, you’ll get a sense of it’s grandeur, but to really experience the island, you’ll want to stay overnight (or multiple nights). I’ve made my rounds and stayed at many hotels on the island, and of all the ones I’ve called home for a night (or 2 or 3), these are the ones I recommend…Island House Hotel, Grand Hotel, Mission Point, Hotel Iroquois, Windemere Hotel.
To learn more about this hidden gem I so love, that is the epitome of Pure Michigan check out my other posts…
- The Most Beautiful Pink Palaces
- Pure Michigan Beach Life
- Feeling A Little Bit Ruffled
- It’s Party Time
Have fun at Mackinac and be sure tell my favorite spot Sarah In Style says hello!
Signed with Style,
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