20 Things to See on a Mackinac Island Bicycle Tour
Michigan’s Mackinac Island is a magical place – reached by ferry boat, it’s a place that seems frozen in time as motor vehicles are banned. TripAdvisor recently named Mackinac Island the “Hottest U.S. Destination for Summer 2018,” and USA Today/10Best.com frequently praises it in polls searching for the “Best Small Town in Michigan” or “Best Under-the-Radar Romantic Destination.” The Voice 2017 runner-up Lauren Duski picked this as one of her “My 5 Favorite Places in Michigan.” The lack of cars on this island (most of which is a state park) leaves walking, bicycling, and horse-drawn carriage as the main modes of transportation. There are many different places that rent bicycles by the hour or by the day (we usually use Mackinac Island Bike Shop), and numerous bike tour routes to follow. For this post, we’re going to share 20 things to see on a Mackinac Island Bicycle Tour, starting at M-185 mile marker 0 (near the Visitor Center), and riding around the island’s outer perimeter on our state’s only vehicle-free highway.
Marquette Park – One of the main gathering places on the island, this park has plenty of open space, a statue of Father Jacques Marquette, sweeping views of Fort Mackinac, and more. The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum is located adjacent to the park.
Mackinac Island State Harbor – The marina here offers transient and seasonal slips, so you’ll most likely see some very nice private boats docked here. You’ll also find an eight-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty keeping watch over the harbor. This statue is the only one of its kind in Michigan, and one of 39 that were placed across the country by the Boy Scouts as a way to commemorate their 40th anniversary in 1950. The statue was removed in 2012 for repairs and was placed back in the harbor a few years later.
The Island House Hotel – There are many grand looking cottages and dwellings along this stretch of road, but few stand out as much as the Island House Hotel. According to its Michigan historical marker, “Constructed for Charles O’Malley about 1852, this building was one of the first summer hotels on Mackinac Island. Captain Henry Van Allen, a Great Lakes skipper, purchased the hotel in 1865. He later moved it from the beach to its present location. By the 1880s the Island House was known as “The best family hotel on the island.” Following the death of her parents, Mrs. Rose Van Allen Webster became proprietor about 1892. She was the wife of Colonel John Webster, whom she had met during the 1870s when he was stationed at Fort Mackinac. Mrs. Webster added the large wings in 1895 and 1912, retaining ownership until her death in 1938.” For rates and reservations, head to https://www.theislandhouse.com/.
Saint Anne Church – This beautiful structure is one of the oldest surviving church buildings in the state; while it was constructed in 1874 the history of the parish here dates back to the 1690s. The church holds daily mass that is open to the public, and there is a museum and gift shop in its basement.
Mission Church – The oldest surviving church in Michigan dates back to the 1820s. The Mission Church is well-preserved and its doors are open to the public daily during the summer (or it can be rented for weddings). This church is also considered the state’s best example of the New England Colonial style church.
Mission Point Resort – Islands guests can stay in style at Mission Point, a resort that offers five restaurants, outdoor swimming pools and hot tubs, bike rentals, croquet, an 18-hole putting course (open to the public), an arcade, a movie theater, tennis courts, and more. Find out more about lodging at this unique resort with an amazing view at https://www.missionpoint.com/.
Dwightwood Spring – “Mackinac Island is blessed with several natural springs whose cool waters percolate through the island’s limestone bedrock. In 1909 Edwin O. Wood of Flint, Michigan donated fund in memory of his son Dwight Hulbert Wood to beautify and make accessible this lovely, freshwater spring.” While this remains a good spot to cool off on hot summer days, the informational sign here warns that the water is unsafe to drink.
Arch Rock – The island’s most recognizable geologic formation is Arch Rock, a limestone arch that stands nearly 150 feet above the Lake Huron shoreline. It can be reached by taking a 207-step staircase that starts near Dwightwood Spring.
Native American Cultural History Trail – One of the newer additions on M-185 is a series of markers detailing the area’s Native American history. There are six markers, and each one has a spot for parking bikes and some benches for stopping. Topics include the island’s significance, burial grounds, the battles that have been fought for the island, and the Anishnaabek in the 21st century.
Lake Shore Nature Trail – This short (200 yard) loop trail passes through wetland and boreal forest habitats. Signs along the route highlight the area’s native wildflowers, the benefits of wetlands, bats, and birds of Mackinac Island.
British Landing State Dock – Some of the first great views of the Mackinac Bridge start near the state dock at British Landing. Unlike the bustling docks on the other side of the island, this one is quiet and used for freight deliveries. There’s lots of room here for great selfies with the bridge, and room for picnics nearby.
British Landing Nature Center – This is a great spot for a rest, and you’ll find restrooms, a water fountain, and a bike repair station in front of the nature center. Inside the center there are displays and information about the island’s geology, plants, wildlife, and habitats. A half-mile nature trail winds through evergreen and hardwood forests, through the Croghan Water wetland area, pas the limestone “Friendship Altar” and to a bluff overlook.
British Landing Historical Marker – “Here, during the night of July 16-17, 1812, a small force of British regulars and several hundred voyageurs and Indian allies from St. Joseph Island landed. They occupied a height that overlooked Fort Mackinac and demanded its surrender. Lt. Porter Hanks, commander of the American garrison of 57 soldiers, had not known that war had been declared. Realizing that resistance was hopeless and might provoke an Indian massacre, Hanks capitulated without a fight.” The text from the Michigan historical marker here details the historic significance of this site, and a cannon sits near the beach. This is a great spot for picnic or for cooling off by wading in the water.
Cannonball “Drive Inn” – Not only is Cannonball the only food option on this stretch of M-185, it’s also the closest you’ll come to “fast food” on this side of the island. Visitors rave about the deep fried pickles, and you’ll also be able to cool off with some ice cream or a shake. For more information check out the Cannonball Drive Inn Facebook page. This is roughly the halfway point in a trip around the island.
Brown’s Brook Nature Trail – Another great spot to cool off is Brown’s Brook, where a nature trail runs parallel to a spring-fed brook that flows year-round whether conditions are dry or freezing.
Devil’s Kitchen – This small cave on the island’s southwestern shore is yet another example of what years glacial activity left in the limestone. Some see a human face with an open mouth, while other’s put stock in the ancient lore that the cave is inhabited by bad spirits.
“Is It You?” Somewhere in Time rock – The 1980 romantic film Somewhere in Time was filmed mostly on Mackinac Island. Starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, it centers around a man who travels back in time to meet an actress he saw in a photograph he saw at the Grand Hotel. The plaque on this rock was dedicated in 1993, and notes that “at this site in 1912, Richard Collier (Reeve) found Elise McKenna (Seymour).”
Mackinac Island Public School – There are roughly 500 year-round residents of the island, and this school building provides education for all those in Kindergarten-12th Grade. For the 70-90 students that call the island home, life is very different for most of the school year than it is when the island is full of tourists from June through September.
Windemere Point - As M-185 approaches downtown, take a moment to appreciate the view from Windemere Point. From the small park here you have excellent views of Round Island and the Round Island Lighthouse, the Round Island Passage Light, and all incoming/outgoing/passing ship traffic.
Main Street/Downtown – The main hub of island activity is found on Main St. between Windemere Point and Fort St. Here you can find hotels like Hotel Iroquois, Lake View Hotel, and the Lilac Tree Hotel & Spa. Both Shepler’s and Star Line ferry docks are located here, and the smell of fudge fills the air (check out Joann’s, Murdick’s, Ryba’s, Sanders, and more). Gift shops offering Mackinac souvenirs are plentiful, and there’s even a Starbuck’s!
More about Mackinac Island: