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11 things to do in Mackinac Island, MI

Mackinac Island, MI is a charming and picturesque destination that offers visitors a unique experience. Located in Lake Huron, this island is known for its natural beauty, historic landmarks, and delicious cuisine. Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, Mackinac Island has something for everyone. In this blog post, we’ll explore 11 things to do in Mackinac Island:

Mackinac Island main street

1. Take a scenic bike ride around the island

One of the best ways to explore Mackinac Island is by bike. The island has over 70 miles of paved and unpaved trails that offer stunning views of Lake Huron, the Mackinac Bridge, and the island’s natural beauty. Rent a bike from one of the many rental shops on the island and set off on a scenic adventure. You can choose to ride along the shoreline, through the forests, or up to the highest point on the island, Arch Rock. One of the best rides you can take is simply cruising around highway M-185, a roughly 8-mile ride encircling the entire island. It’s the only highway in the entire country where cars are banned. Along the way, you’ll pass by historic landmarks, beautiful gardens, and breathtaking views. Don’t forget to stop and take pictures along the way!

2. Visit the historic Fort Mackinac

Fort Mackinac is a historic landmark that dates back to the 18th century. Visitors can explore the fort’s exhibits, watch reenactments, and learn about the island’s military history. The fort offers a glimpse into the past with its well-preserved buildings and artifacts. You can walk through the soldiers’ barracks, visit the officers’ quarters, and even watch a cannon firing demonstration. The fort also offers stunning views of the surrounding area, including the Straits of Mackinac and Mackinac Bridge. It’s a must-visit for history buffs and anyone interested in learning about the island’s rich past.

3. Explore Mackinac Island State Park

Mackinac Island State Park is a 1,800-acre park that offers visitors a chance to explore the island’s natural beauty. It also has the distinction of being the world’s first ex-national park. The park has hiking trails, picnic areas, and stunning views of Lake Huron. Take a leisurely stroll along the trails and enjoy the peacefulness of nature. You’ll come across beautiful wildflowers, towering trees, and maybe even some wildlife. The park also has several picnic areas where you can stop and enjoy a meal surrounded by nature.

4. Take a horse-drawn carriage tour

Horses on Mackinac Island

Horse-drawn carriage tours are a popular way to explore Mackinac Island. Visitors can sit back and relax as they tour the island’s historic landmarks and natural beauty. The clip-clop of the horses’ hooves and the gentle sway of the carriage make for a peaceful and romantic experience. You can join a group tour, or spend a little more and get a private carriage to take you around the island.

The tours take you to all the major attractions on the island, including Fort Mackinac, Arch Rock, and the Grand Hotel. Along the way, your guide will share interesting facts and stories about the island’s history and culture. It’s a great way to see the sights while enjoying the charm of a bygone era.

5. Visit the Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel on mackinac island viewed from a boat

The Grand Hotel is a historic landmark that has been welcoming guests since 1887. Visitors can explore the hotel’s beautiful gardens, enjoy a meal at one of its restaurants, or relax on the hotel’s porch. The hotel is known for its grandeur and elegance, with its sweeping staircases, crystal chandeliers, and luxurious furnishings. Take a stroll through the hotel’s gardens and admire the colorful flowers and manicured lawns. You can also indulge in a delicious meal at one of the hotel’s restaurants, which offer a variety of cuisines to suit every palate. And don’t forget to relax on the hotel’s famous porch, which offers stunning views of the Straits of Mackinac.

Hot take, though: the Grand Hotel is not the best hotel on Mackinac Island. In my opinion, that honor belongs to Mission Point.

6. Go on a kayaking tour

Kayaking is a great way to explore Mackinac Island’s natural beauty. Visitors can rent kayaks and explore the island’s shoreline, caves, and rock formations. Paddle along the crystal-clear waters of Lake Huron and discover hidden coves and secluded beaches. You can also venture into the caves and rock formations that line the island’s coast. The calm waters and stunning scenery make for a peaceful and memorable experience. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced kayaker, there are options for everyone. Guided tours are also available for those who want to learn more about the island’s history and ecology.

7. Visit the Mackinac Island Butterfly House

The Mackinac Island Butterfly House is a unique attraction that features hundreds of butterflies from around the world. Visitors can learn about the butterfly’s life cycle and watch them in their natural habitat. The butterfly house is home to over 50 species of butterflies, including monarchs, swallowtails, and painted ladies. You can walk through the enclosed garden and see the butterflies up close as they flutter from flower to flower. The knowledgeable staff is always on hand to answer questions and provide information about these beautiful creatures. It’s a magical experience that both children and adults will enjoy.

8. Indulge in some fudge

Mackinac Island is known for its delicious fudge. Visitors can sample fudge from one of the island’s many fudge shops and watch as it’s made. The island has a long history of fudge-making, dating back to the late 19th century. Today, there are several fudge shops that offer a wide variety of flavors, typically a couple of dozen, depending on the shop you go to. 

You can watch as the fudge is cooked in copper kettles and then poured onto marble slabs to cool. Be sure to try a few different flavors and take some home as a sweet souvenir of your visit to Mackinac Island. My favorite spot for fudge is Murdick’s, mostly because of the early 20th-century vibe that it still carries. The entire place looks like it hasn’t changed since 1910, from the outside decor to the fudge itself.

9. Enjoy a picnic on the beach

Beach on mackinac island overlooking the bridge

Mackinac Island has several beautiful beaches that are perfect for a picnic. Visitors can pack a lunch and enjoy the island’s natural beauty. Head to British Landing Beach, which offers stunning views of the Mackinac Bridge and the Straits of Mackinac. Spread out a blanket on the sandy shore and enjoy a leisurely meal while listening to the sound of the waves. You can also take a dip in the clear, refreshing waters of Lake Huron or explore the beach for shells and other treasures. It’s a great way to relax and soak up the sun while enjoying the beauty of Mackinac Island.

10. Visit the Mackinac Island Art Museum

The Mackinac Island Art Museum features exhibits that showcase the island’s rich history and culture. Visitors can learn about the island’s art, music, and literature. The museum is housed in a historic building that was once the island’s Indian Dormitory. Inside, you’ll find a collection of paintings, sculptures, and other works of art that depict life on Mackinac Island throughout the years. There are also exhibits that highlight the island’s Native American heritage and its role in the fur trade. I visited the museum the last time I was on Mackinac, and while I wasn’t expecting much, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of the artwork on display.

11. Sample local cuisine at top restaurants

Mackinac Island has several top-rated restaurants that offer delicious cuisine. Visitors can sample local favorites like whitefish, pasties, and cherry pie. The island is known for its fresh seafood, which is caught daily in the surrounding waters. Try a plate of whitefish, which is often served grilled or pan-fried with a side of vegetables or potatoes. My favorite thing to order, no matter what restaurant I’m at, is the whitefish dip. My favorite restaurant, though, has got to be Mary’s Bistro – a great combination of fair pricing, good food, and a great view of the water.

Another local specialty is the pasty, a savory pastry filled with meat, potatoes, and vegetables. And of course, no visit to Mackinac Island is complete without trying some cherry pie. The state of Michigan is famous for its cherry orchards, and you’ll find cherry pie on the menu at many of the island’s restaurants. 

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