I highly recommend touring Mackinac Island. It is a family fun trip that is not too expensive and in this review I share with you my impressions and tips when visiting Mackinac Island.
Touring Mackinac Island — What is it all About?
Mackinac Island is in between the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Michigan itself. The Island is popular tourist destination and the state of Michigan preservers the island as a historical site and state park.
The famous regional explorer Jean Nicolet happened on the island in the 1670s and even then it was described as a resort island (though, there are no accounts of fudge being sold at this time). The island features in the conflicts between the British and the French and then gain in the war of 1812. However, the island was demilitarized in the late 1800s with the US Army withdrawing and closing down its fort. The US Federal government then granted the island to the State of Michigan which made Mackinac Island a state park.
Motorized traffic is limited to emergency vehicles (police, fire, ambulance) during the summer and year around residents use snowmobiles during the winter months. Tourists and summer residents are restricted to walking, bicycle, and horse traffic. Handicapped folks are allowed the use of electric scooters.
In addition to its history, Mackinac island also has its natural beauty being surrounded by the clear and blue waters of Lakes Michigan and Huron. Its most famous natural site is Arch Rock.
Arch Rock offers a fantastic view and if you are lucky you may see kayakers paddlinug by and get a wonderful photo of them framed by the rock. If the weather is good it is hard to get a bad photograph of this site. However, I suggest using a camera instead of your mobile device and adding a polarizing filter to bring out the colors.
You may also catch bicyclists on the road below as they pass by. However, they are very small and drab in comparison to kayakers. It does not help that the bicyclists often blend into the drab roadway. Unfortunately, when my wife and I biked here we did not stop to take in the view from below. A mistake I will be sure not to repeat the next time we visit the island.
Touring Mackinac Island — Things to Do and See on the Island
Here is a brief (and incomplete list) of things you can do on the island:
- Bicycling, bring your own or rent
- Horesback riding, you can hire a horse and ride it around the island
- Kayaking, rent and paddle
- Horse drawn wagon tours
- The Fort
- A Butterfly House
- Dining and Lodging
Ride around the island or simply use the bikes to get about. Note, I did not see any Strava segments on the island and attempts to become a KOM could get you a traffic citation.
This is a guided tour with the wagon driver pointing out and telling the story of the sites and island’s landmarks.
You can take tour of the fort where there is a reenactment crew performing the duties of the soldiers and staff that used to live there.
There is a small butterfly exhibit, with tropical butterfiles.
In the city by the ferry port there are many restaurants and hotels. Not all are a pricey as the Grand. In addition, there is plenty of fudge, candy, ice cream, coffee, beer (note though, Michigan law prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverage on Sundays from Midnight to Noon).
Note, there is no camping allowed on the island, if you want to stay on the island overnight find a hotel or a BNB.
Touring Mackinac Island — Lodging
Lorie and I spent our nights in St. Ignace at a place called Cedar Hill. We made reservations ahead of time and regretted doing so, as we stayed mid-week and so the weekend crowd was gone. There was plenty of lodging to be had with many offering discounted rates. Cedar Hill was an okay place to stay and I have nothing good or bad to say about it. It offered a breakfast and had a indoor pool and hottub.
We dined at a place called the Village Inn, which was about about a 15 minute walk away. Unlike our lodging this place was stand out. I ordered the New York strip steak that was topped with a butter composed with garlic and blue cheese. The salad came with a variety of greens, the soup was good (tomato soup) and the side of vegetables had a hint of garlic flavor to them. The only thing lacking was a piece of break to soak it all up with.
My wife’s dish was a huge letdown. It was a seafood mix and consisted of breaded and deep fried seafood morsels, it was very standard. Still I would return and suggest you stop at the Village Inn in St. Ignace.
Touring Mackinac Island — Getting There
Getting to St. Ignace or Mackinaw City is easy being on I75 and US 2. We drove up along the West and North shores of Lake Michigan, though people have told me it is quicker to take the Badger to the East Shore of Lake Michigan and drive north from there.
To get over the water and to the island there are three ferry services. We initially chose the Arnold Ferry Service based on price, walked to their port and found out the next run was going to be an 1.5 hours later. The Starline was running on a half hour cycle so we turned around and bought tickets for the Starline ferry service. When choosing a ferry service pay attention to the schedule as select runs go to and under the Mackinac Bridge. Our to and from rides both went under the bridge the weather in the morning was blah and our return trip the skies were clear and blue! Starline ferries use jet drives and shoot off a magnificent rooster tail and they use that as a marketing ploy, but it really is no big deal. There is a third ferry service Shepler’s Ferry service and we did not consider them as they were the furtherest service from our hotel (despite a shuttle service being offered, I wanted to do some walking).
Touring Mackinac Island — My Opinion
All in all I enjoyed my trip. This trip to Mackinac Island offered a nice combination of history, activities, natural beauty, and tourist kitsch. In addition, I usually cringe at the prices places like this charge but I thought the pricing was downright reasonable on most of our purchases and excursions.
I never felt any sort of threat to my safety and the Mackinac Island was clean (however, with all the horse about watch out for horse apples and other such) and the air was fresh. Mackinac Island is a great place to visit with the whole family.