12 Things To Do On Mackinac Island, Michigan
Mackinac Island is one of Michigan’s most unique and family-friendly vacation destinations. In 2015, it was also a finalist to be named Best Under the Radar Romantic Destination by 10best.com. Vehicle traffic has been banned on the island since the late 19th century, which adds to the charm of this island that can only be reached by ferry from St. Ignace or Mackinaw City. There’s something for everyone here, including historical attractions, world famous fudge, geological formations, outdoor recreation opportunities and more. We enjoy visiting each year for the Mackinac Island road races that include a 10K, 8 mile run and a half marathon. The next time you board a Shepler’s, Star Line, or Arnold ferry and head into Lake Huron, consider checking out these 12 Things to do on Mackinac Island.
Downtown/Fudge/Shopping – Mackinac Island is famous for its handmade fudge, and the downtown shopping district on Main St. provides many chances to watch it being made and grab some to take home. Ryba’s, JoAnn’s and Murdick’s are among the favorites, and other shops sell antiques, souvenirs, t-shirts and more.
Sugarloaf – This 75 foot tall limestone breccia stack is a result of post-glacial erosion. It is located near the junction of Crooked Tree Rd. and Sugar Loaf Rd. There is a great deal of Native American lore associated with this rock formation, which was used as a burial site long ago.
Fort Mackinac – Built in 1780, this fort has been restored to look the way it would have during the 19th century. It is open as a museum, and you can enter many of the buildings or watch a cannon firing while taking in the amazing views from above the city. Head over to the Mackinac Parks website for hours and pricing: http://www.mackinacparks.com/parks-and-attractions/fort-mackinac/.
Fort Holmes – This small fort on a high ridge was a strategic site during the War of 1812, though it did not factor in to battles on the island. It was reconstructed in the 1930s as shown above, and the last year reconstructed again with closer attention to historic detail and more interpretive displays inside. See http://www.mackinacparks.com/fort-holmes-3/ for an idea of what it looks like now.
Arch Rock – A natural limestone arch formed by post-glacial activity, this is the island’s most iconic and most visited geological feature. An observation area can be found 146 feet above Lake Huron, where the views are simply amazing. Like the Sugarloaf, there are many Native American stories and legends surrounding Arch Rock.
Marquette Park – At the corner of Fort St. and Main St. you will find Marquette Park, a sprawling green space with a statue of Father Jacques Marquette as its centerpiece. This is a great place to relax, picnic, or take in views of Fort Mackinac or the busy ferry docks.
Grand Hotel – The most recognizable landmark on the island, the Grand Hotel is home to the world’s largest front porch and frequently finds itself on top ten lists of the best historic hotels in the country. Five presidents have visited, and seven suites are named after and decorated for famous first ladies. Thomas Edison and Mark Twain are among the other notable guests, and the hotel was the main backdrop for the 1980 film Somewhere in Time.
Bicycling – Since motor vehicles aren’t allowed on the island, the only transportation options are walking, bicycling or hopping on a horse-drawn carriage. Bicycle rentals are readily available and affordable, and present a way to see a lot of things on the back half of the island. If you’re feeling brave, consider a tandem rental. Most of the rental terminals are located right next to the ferry docks as you arrive on the island.
Horse-drawm carriage – Referred to as the “most enjoyable and authentic way to experience the island,” carriages are available for rental on scenic tours or for weddings and private trips. Most hotels on the island also use carriages as a taxi service. This is a great way to see the island at a relaxed pace, while getting the throwback feel of an earlier and simper time. Check out http://www.mict.com/carriage-tours.html for more information.
Somewhere in Time film sites – The 1980 film starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was filmed mostly on the island, and it marked one of the few times vehicles have been allowed. A large celebration marking the film’s 35th anniversary took place in 2015, and we put together a helpful list of Film Sites You Can Visit while on the island.
Golf – Visitors to the island have the chance to play The Jewel, a course that has a front nine across from the Grand Hotel and a back nine in the woods in the interior of the island, or Wawashkamo – a links course designed in 1898. Mission Point Resort offers and 18 hole putting course called the Greens of Mackinac.
History – With settlements dating back to the 17th century and a key location for the Great Lakes fur trade, Mackinac Island is full of historical sites (and some of the oldest buildings in the state). We posted a list of where to find the island’s Michigan Historical Markers, and on that list you will find churches, early dwellings, battle sites from the War of 1812 and more.