Mackinaw Island straddles two worlds—the world between the past and the present as much as the Upper and Lower Peninsula of Michigan. It’s a place where natural beauty surrounds man-made elegance and day trippers rub elbows with guests of Mackinac Island hotels who arrive by boat from Chicago, Detroit, and even Montreal. It’s also a place where motorized vehicles are not allowed. The only way onto the island is by ferry, boat, or plane. And once you arrive plan on getting around via carriage, bicycle, or foot.
If you’re looking for a vacation getaway that can refresh as much as charm, this Michigan island is your place. For the past century plus, Mackinac Island Michigan has been a vacation resort island. Surrounded on all sides by Lake Huron, in the eastern Straits of Mackinac, the island covers 3.8 square miles. It’s not large, but it’s not so tiny that it has nothing to offer. At the end of the 1800s, engineers and entrepreneurs created the tourism infrastructure—building hotels, restaurants, and inns, many that still stand today and reflect the elegance of the era. The Grand Hotel, the island’s iconic lodging property, opened in 1887, and has been providing hospitality ever since. With 385 guestrooms, each one with its own décor, a wrap-around porch that was the longest porch in the world when it was built, and a dining room with a view, the Grand Hotel lives up to its name. Guests are treated to an amazing breakfast each morning in the ocean-view dining room, and they’re encouraged to dress for dinner. Even if you’re not staying at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island Michigan, you’re welcome to visit. It does cost a few dollars to visit the grounds, but it’s worth it to experience one of the iconic Mackinaw Island fixtures.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
But there’s more to Mackinac Island Michigan than the Grand Hotel. It’s packed with places to go shopping, have fun, grab a bite to eat, and even play golf. Once you step off the ferry, you’ll be ready to start exploring. Mackinaw Island ferries depart from several locations on the mainland, including St. Ignace, located in the Upper Peninsula just north of the Mackinaw Bridge, and Mackinaw City at the tip of the Lower Peninsula. Several ferries set sail daily during the high season, which is May through October. Once the cooler weather settles in, the island slows down but hardly packs up for the season. There are plenty of cozy pubs, year-round hotels, and shops that welcome visitors during the quiet time of year. Whether you’re visiting on a quiet October Tuesday or a Saturday at the height of summer, you’ll have a lot of choices of things to do on Mackinaw Island.
If you’re prefer to relax, consider finding a place to sit and admire the views of the water and pristine forests during those warm weather days. A carriage ride is as elegant way to travel and one of the best ways to get around the car-free island. Horseback riding is another popular activity on the island, as are hiking and bike rentals. Local outfitters, right on the island, can equip you with everything you need to get going and have some fun along the way. Thanks to the foresight of island forefathers, much of the island is a protected park—more than 70 percent in fact. In the 1870s, Mackinaw Island was actually made into the second national park in the United States after Yellowstone in California. After management was transferred to the state, it became Michigan’s first state park. Today, you’ll have the chance to experience what the island was like during the Colonial era and visit historic sites that played a vital role in the War of 1812. Costumed interpreters lead reenactments, host afternoon tea, and answer questions visitors have about the history of this fascinating place.