Top Things to Do in the Mackinac Island Area, Michigan | Midwest Living

Top Things to Do in the Mackinac Island Area, Michigan

A ferry ride beyond the history-rich tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula, the famously Victorian and car-free Mackinac Island continues to lure generations of travelers. See our trip guide for ideas on what to do, where to eat and where to stay on both Mackinac Island and nearby Mackinaw City and St. Ignace.


Arch Rock The natural limestone arch is one of the most-photographed sites on Mackinac Island. Climb to the viewing platform for a nice shot. Part of Mackinac Island State Park, it's easy to access from carriage rides or bike and foot trails. 

Bicycling Cycling is the best way to explore auto-free Mackinac Island. An 8-mile paved trail circles Mackinac. Inland, 140 miles of carriage roads, bike trails and footpaths knit through a hilly and wooded landscape, past limestone outcrops. Bike rentals are available throughout downtown; no reservations necessary.

Carriage tours A horse-drawn carriage ride gives a good overview of the island’s interior and state historic park; operators line Main Street. Hire a horse-drawn taxi, or you can drive a rented horse and buggy outside downtown.

Carriage tours

Carriage rides on Mackinac Island

Ferries Two lines shuttle visitors to the island. To avoid waits, order tickets online: Shepler’s ( and Star Line (

Icebreaker Mackinaw  Tour the Coast Guard's steel-hulled workhorse that kept Great Lakes shipping lanes free of ice from 1944 to 2006. Open seasonally; in Mackinaw City.

Mackinac Bridge Walk On Labor Day, tens of thousands of walkers gather in St. Ignace for the annual 5-mile trek across one of the world's longest suspension bridges, which links the Lower and Upper peninsula.

Mackinac Island Butterfly House See hundreds of butterflies in an indoor tropical garden exhibit.

Mackinac Island State Park The park surprises visitors with its faraway-woods feel, despite being a few hundred yards from downtown. More than 80 percent of Mackinac Island is within the state park. Hike, bike or ride a horse through forests, past geological formations and along limestone bluffs.

Mackinac State Historic Parks Kids can dress up like soldiers and play a giant fife (a flutelike instrument) at Fort Mackinac, a historic military outpost on Mackinac Island. Across the straits in Mackinaw City, Colonial Michilimackinac keeps visitors engrossed watching cooking and crafting demonstrations, as well as musket and cannon firings, by costumed interpreters. This reconstructed fort and fur-trading post sits near the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse; climb to the top of the 1889 tower and tour the keeper’s quarters. These sites, nearby Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park (with zipline tours and a climbing wall) and a handful of other family-friendly attractions combine to make Mackinac State Historic Parks.

Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park

Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park

Mackinaw Crossings In Mackinaw City, a complex of more than 50 shops and eateries makes a good rainy-day or evening stop. Stick around for free nightly laser light shows. Mackinaw Crossings on Facebook

Museum of Ojibwa Culture In St. Ignace, get a fascinating look at Ojibwa life, including family networks and seasonal migratons.

Shepler’s Lighthouse Cruises Three- to five-hour cruises are available June through mid-September that pass at least five lighthouses; reservations recommended.

Great Turtle Kayak Tours Kayak and paddleboard around Mackinac Island and Mackinaw City. Options include sunrise and sunset tours, a Round Island retreat, an Arch Rock excursion and SUP yoga.

Kayaking in Mackinac Island area

Kayaking at Round Island Lighthouse near Mackinac Island

Wilderness State Park Nine miles west of Mackinaw City, you'll find camping and rustic cabins, plus hiking and scenic drives on a 10,000-acre park with 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline.


Audie's Restaurant In Mackinaw City, dine in the casual Family Room or the upscale Chippewa Room on fresh, well-prepared local whitefish, lake perch and steaks.

Bessie’s Original Homemade Pasties The St. Ignace cafe claims a loyal following for its hearty, traditional meat pies.

The Chuckwagon of Mackinac For a fast and inexpensive breakfast or lunch while you're on the island, stop by this long-time favorite for omelets, French toast, burgers and sandwiches.

Joann's Fudge On Mackinac Island, this is just one of the places to find the quintessential Mackinac treat, with 26 flavors.

Mary's Bistro Draught House Choose from 50 craft and local beers to go with your crispy pan-fried whitefish, thin-crust pizza or truffle fries.

Scalawags Whitefish and Chips In Mackinaw City, fresh perch and walleye fill baskets with fries, creamy coleslaw and hush puppies.

Sea Biscuit Cafe and Grog The casual pub-style restaurant serves hearty options that include whitefish Reubens and French Creole jambalaya.

Woods Run by the Grand Hotel, this Tudor mansion serves dinners of local and Bavarian-style specialties.

Yankee Rebel Tavern Savor great homemade soups and sandwiches, plus unforgettable slow-cooked pot roast.


Chippewa Hotel Waterfront Balconies take advantage of the refurbished 1902 hotel’s location facing the marina. The Pink Pony patio serves casual fare.

Grand Hotel For an unforgettable experience, stay at this Victorian-Era landmark, with its 660-foot front porch overlooking the straits. Or at least dine there.

Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel

Hotel Iroquois Surveying the water from the edge of town, this luxurious Queen Anne-style hotel on Mackinac Island feels like an oasis.

Metivier Inn Want some character but not too much? Consider this charming (and air-conditioned) B&B on the island.

Mackinaw City lodging A variety of hotels and motels, many right on the lakeshore, typically offer lower rates than properties on Mackinac Island. Get more information here

Mission Point Resort Lounge on the lakefront lawn, relax with a lilac facial in the spa, or join activities such as flower pressing or bocce ball on the 18-acre property. 

More information: 
Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau
Mackinaw Area Visitors Bureau
St. Ignace Visitors Bureau

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