Mackinaw City

Mackinaw City is a gateway—a starting point for visits to the frozen-in-time Mackinac Island, the Mackinac Bridge and the Upper Peninsula. But the city along the Straits of Mackinac on the northern shores of the Lower Peninsula is an interesting place in its own right. Are you wondering about the different spelling? They’re all pronounced like mac-i-naw, but the spelling differs depending on the locale. The early French and British settlers couldn’t agree on the way to spell the Native American word for the area. Regardless how you spell it, you can’t deny that this is one of the most scenic areas in the Great Lakes region. In fact, the Straits of Mackinac officially separate Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The small town of under 1,000 residents grows when you count the tourists who come to discover its delights, whether they’re just passing through or staying all summer.

Mackinaw City Restaurants

In recent years, Mackinaw City, like Michigan as a whole, has embraced the dining scene. Fresh, local flavors are incorporated into the chef-inspired menus. But the truth is the local bounty has always inspired the restaurateurs and cooks in Mackinaw City. You’ll find plenty of restaurants serving up fresh seafood and produce in their seasonal menus. With some 30 eateries within the city limits, there are many choices for all meals. Pancake houses and coffee shops are a good place to start the day, and the chic bistros are perfect for lunch or the end-of-the-day meal. Fast food and quick eats are also a convenient choice when you want to spend more time exploring. 

Mackinaw City Hotels

Mackinaw City Hotels
Mackinaw City Hotels

For a small town, Mackinaw City is well-tuned to the tourism scene, offering everything visitors need to enjoy their getaways. Part of what makes it such a great place to anchor is the number of hotels that are available. Several of the name-brand hotels and motels have properties in Mackinaw City, often offering better rates than you’ll find off the mainland. Of the 27,000 hotel rooms in town, a few are located in locally owned inns as well. Add that to the hundreds of nearby campsites, and you’ll have nothing but choices. If you’re looking for a truly spectacular place to stay, consider crossing over to Mackinac Island, home to the legendary Grand Hotel (pictured). A summertime staple for more than 100 years, this historic property is the most elegant of Michigan hotels and an amazing place to stay. 

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse
Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse

Standing proud since 1889, the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse has been guiding ships to safety along the Straits of Mackinac for more than a century. The priceless light has been preserved and is part of the Mackinac State Historic Parks along with several historic sites on the mainland and island. It’s open for tours in season, generally May through October, when you can climb to the top and follow a park ranger on a stroll through the grounds. In any season, the light is a great photo opportunity. 

Mackinac Island Ferry

Mackinac Island Ferry
Mackinac Island Ferry  Image: russteaches (flickr)

Because cars are not allowed on Mackinac Island, you need to arrive by boat. Most people choose to take the ferry across the Straits of Mackinac, and it can take as little as 20 minutes to make the trip from the dock in Mackinaw City to the island. The modern vessels that make the trip provide plenty of comfort for the scenic trip to the island and back.

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