A Day Trip to Mackinac Island, Michigan

Did you know that there is a charmingly picturesque island with towering cliffs over turquoise waters and a fort in the waters of Lake Huron? Tourists began to flock to Mackinac Island in the 1800s. Tourism was further enhanced by the addition of signature items such as Mackinac Island fudge and carless streets.

We took a day trip to Mackinac Island as part of a road trip around Wisconsin and Michigan. However, you can see that there are so many things to do on Mackinac Island that you can easily enjoy a week on the 4-mile wide island.

Things to do in Mackinac Island
Horse-drawn carriages, federalist, Greek and colonial buildings, flowers all around, this is the charm of downtown Mackinac Island.

You may get a little confused throughout this post by the use of both Mackinac and Mackinaw. Don’t fret; they are said the same with the aw sound, but both are used in different circumstances due to the French and Native American history.

Things to Do on Mackinac Island

one day on Mackinac Island

  1. Visit the Missionary Bark Chapel in Marquette Park at the foot of the fort. This is a remembrance of the first Catholic mission, which was built by French missionaries in 1670.
  2. Picnic in Marquette Park, named after a French missionary who settled the nearby St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie.
  3. Learn about the area’s history by exploring Fort Mackinac, set high on the bluffs.
  4. Have lunch with a view. We ate at the Tea House in Fort Mackinac, which has an incredible view.
  5. In the 1800s, Mackinaw Island started to become a tourist destination. See this moment in history by noticing the Victorian architecture as you walk through town.
  6. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the island. If you are only here for a short time, this is a perfect way to get an idea of the island. The carriage has a few stops where you can get off and explore- Surrey Hills Museum, the Butterfly Conservatory, Arch Rock, Avenue of Flags, and the Grand Hotel.
  7. Fudge was created to draw tourists to the area, and they have used the last hundred years to perfect the recipe! Be sure to try some.
  8. The fudge was incredible, but ice cream is my favorite food. Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream at Ryba’s Fudge Shop is the perfect combination of the two.
  9. Grab a coffee and scrumptious muffin at the Lucky Bean. Starbucks is front and center on Main Street. Although I love Starbucks, I prefer to visit a local shop if possible, and Lucky Bean is perfect!
  10. Rent a bike. As soon as you get off the ferry, you will see places to rent bikes. The island is fairly hilly, so expect a challenging ride if you plan to go far.
  11. Hike up to Fort Holmes, the highest point on the island.
  12. See how a horseshoe is made at Benjamin Blacksmith Shop.
  13. Take a picture of yourself in Crack-in-the-Island.
  14. Buy a souvenir downtown.
  15. Take an architectural walking tour.
  16. Visit the Grand Hotel Stable and Carriage Museum. It is free, and you can meet their 12 horses and see antique carriages. The carriage ride will stop here.
  17. Hike through the US’ second National Park, which is now Mackinac State Park. The park covers 80% of the island.
  18. Visit the McGulpin House, an 1820 working-class home.
  19. Get swarmed in the Original Butterfly House and Insect World, the third oldest live butterfly exhibit in the world.
  20. Kayak around the island.
  21. Visit the Grand Hotel. When you come onto the island by ferry, you can’t miss the stately white hotel looming nestled on a cliffside on the water. The hotel was built in 1887. If you are a fan of afternoon tea, be sure to book yours before you visit.
  22. See Arch Rock, a 146-foot limestone rock arch looming over Lake Huron. I think it is one of the most beautiful sights in the Midwest.
a day trip to Mackinac Island
Mackinac Arch

How to Get to Mackinac Island

Ferry

Shepler’s Ferry leaves from St Ignace and Mackinaw City. St. Ignace is on the Upper Peninsula, and Mackinaw City is on the Lower Peninsula. St. Ignace is less crowded and has free parking, which is why we decided to leave from this location.

If you are crazy about bridges like me, you will want to boat under and drive on the Mighty Mac.

The ferry ride is pretty quick (under half an hour), but be sure to book at least one of the legs for the SuperMac, which takes you under the Mackinac Bridge. This massive (24th longest main span bridge in the world) suspension bridge doesn’t lead to the island but instead connects Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to its Lower Peninsula. It is also cool because the boat ride will take you from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan as the bridge is the dividing line between the two.

Where to Stay for Mackinac Island

day trip to Mackinac Island, Michigan
Ryba’s Mackinac Island Fudge ice cream in downtown Mackinac Island. As you can see, there are bikes everywhere!

If you are only visiting Mackinac Island for the day, it is much cheaper to stay off the island. I will give you a few options.

Where to Stay in St. Ignace

St. Ignace is a small town on the banks of Lake Michigan on the Upper Peninsula. . It is a convenient place to stay.

Lakeshore RV Park Campground

This was one of the favorite RV parks that we stayed in because we enjoyed the view of the lake. It didn’t have any activities but is right across the street from a small beach. The rig sites are also pretty small.

The view from the Tea House in Fort Mackinac. It serves a normal lunch (not tea) with gorgeous water views.

Best Western Harbor Pointe Lakefront

This family resort is on the water, yet inexpensive and gets great reviews. Book a room today.

Where to Stay on Mackinac Island

Island House Hotel

On the water and close to town, but secluded enough to relax, book a room at the Island House Hotel today.

As you can see, Mackinac Island is one of the most stunning spots in the Midwest with both charm and natural beauty. Have you been to Mackinac Island? What was your favorite spot?

Explore the darling island of Mackinaw in the UP of Michigan- its colonial streets, forts, hiking trails and famous fudge. #MichiganUSA #PureMichigan #MidwestUS

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7 thoughts on “A Day Trip to Mackinac Island, Michigan”

  1. I’ve never heard of this island. I would have never guessed it is in Michigan especially with the gorgeous turquoise waters. I just always think of warm tropical locations when I see water like that. I’m not a big fan of fudge, but since it’s a big thing here I would probably give it a try…and the ice cream too 🙂

    Reply
  2. Mackinac Island sounds like a really unique day trip or even weekend getaway. I’m surprised there’s so much to explore on such a small island. The period buildings and fort would pique my interest, as well as sampling some local coffee and of course the fudge! I like the idea of taking a carriage ride around the island to help get your bearings.

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  3. With its beautiful buildings, the stunning lakefront and all those bikes Mackinac Island reminds me so much of Europe! Looks like a lovely place for a weekend, or more, especially with your fantastic list of things to do!

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  4. Mackinac Island looks so beautiful with clear blue skies. The place seems to come alive through your pictures. The Mackinac Arch really looks so surreal and beautiful. Would love to walk around this island. The horse-drawn carriage gives such a vintage feel to the place.

    Reply
  5. I’ve heard so many good things about here. And once the borders open up, this will be one of the first places I go. It indeed looks charming. Would love to wander the streets, taste some delicious food and roam the waterfront.

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  6. We will definitely have to put Mackinac Island on our travel plans once the world opens up again. It is definitely a trip we can make from Toronto. I love the idea of carless streets. And would definitely want to enjoy a horse drawn carriage ride to see the island. But I would not leave without trying a few samples of the local fudge! I might want to stay on the island and enjoy all the island has to offer.

    Reply

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