25 Best Things to do on Mackinac Island: Timeless Delights & Insider Tips for the Perfect Family Getaway in 2024

things to do on mackinac island arch rock overlook

Unlock the Best Things to Do on Mackinac Island

Welcome to Mackinac Island, the small island on Lake Huron where time stands still. A favorite Midwest vacation destination, this little spot in the Straits of Mackinac in northern Michigan has captured the hearts of many.

On Mackinac Island, the mail is delivered by horse and the highway is filled with bicycles and carriages. The main street and surrounding neighborhoods, lined with Victorian homes and businesses, invite you to step into the era of bustles, petticoats and top hats.

Should you find yourself lucky enough to visit, you’ll need to choose from the best things to do on Mackinac Island with kids or families. Stick with us. We visit regularly and are ready to help you plan the best Mackinac Island family vacation.

Mackinac Island Family Vacation Planner

Many visitors make Mackinac Island a day trip by riding the ferry over in the morning from Mackinaw City or St. Ignace and then back in the evening.

Others turn their visit into a long weekend or spend a week or two soaking up all the island has to offer.

At a minimum, plan to spend at least one full day to fit in as many family things to do on Mackinac Island as you can.

mackinac island drive to grand hotel
Road to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

If you arrive on an early ferry and leave after dinner, you will have time to preview the whole island.

In this article, we’ll help you get oriented, cover the best Mackinac Island things to do list everyone should follow, and list places to stay if you’d like to spend the night on the island (highly suggested!) or in nearby Mackinaw City or St. Ignace.

*This post contains affiliate links. When you purchase using an affiliate link, you support our employees and help us continue to produce great content. Thank you!

Visiting Historic Mackinac Island

Many people do not realize that over 80% of Mackinac Island’s 3.8-square miles is a Michigan State Park.

This means if you venture farther than the main street, you are apt to find yourself in a state park – rich with history and ripe for exploring.

You’ll find historical markers everywhere, offering up explanations about interesting events from the past.

Exploring the history of Mackinac Island is a visitor favorite

Since automobiles were banned from the island in 1898, transportation includes bicycles, horses, and walking.

Visiting Mackinac Island is like stepping into an old-fashioned, horse-powered world.

There’s nothing else like it.

Emergency vehicles are the only motorized vehicles you’ll see, and those are few and far between.

mackinac island history
The postal service on Mackinac Island is pedal-powered

Most summer visitors arrive on the island via a ferry (more on this later).

When you arrive, you’ll be at the wooden ferry docks. Many people bring bikes over on the ferry.

mackinac island ferry docks
Ferry Docks at Mackinac Island, Michigan

Here is a printable map of Mackinac Island to help you get your bearings.

Best Things to Do on Mackinac Island

While Mackinac Island is accessible year-round, visitor numbers ramp up when the ferries start running in April and continue through October.

downtown mackinac island bicycles

To get your adventure started, choose from this list of the best things to do on Mackinac Island with kids or family.

1 – Bike Around the Island

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
For many people, an island visit is not complete without pedaling its perimeter.

It’s really cool to be able to say you biked the 8 mile loop on state highway M-185.

mackinac island biking
M-185 is a Michigan State Highway open to bicycles and horses

Interestingly, this highway is not open to cars – you’ll only see bikes, horses, and rollerbladers. It is relatively flat.

Biking the island lets you stop at attractions like Arch Rock and climb up to the overlook at your own pace.

If you want a pit stop halfway around the island, stop at British Landing. That’s where you’ll find Cannonball Drive Inn, a food stop with deep-fried pickles, hot dogs, fries, and more.

Cannonball Restaurant Mackinac Island

If you choose to explore the island’s interior, know that a lot of steep hill climbs are involved. The island also has a good network of mountain biking trails for visitors to explore.

You can choose to bring your own bikes or rent bikes on the island. Bike locks are recommended.

Bike route maps can be found here.

2 – Visit Arch Rock

Arch Rock
6131 Arch Rock Rd, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
This limestone geologic formation towers 146 feet above Lake Huron, is over 50 feet wide and makes for the best selfie stop.

Almost everyone that visits Mackinac Island has a slew of photos of Arch Rock.

arch rock Mackinac Island
Arch Rock on Mackinac Island

Arch Rock does not charge an entrance fee.

mackinac island view from arch rock
View from Arch Rock

There are stairs down to the base of the formation if you’re looking for exercise and a different view.

mackinac island stairs to arch rock
Stairs from the waterfront up to the top of Arch Rock

3 – Explore the Grand Hotel

286 Grand Ave, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:

Famous for the grand front porch and for its part in the movie Somewhere in Time, the hotel is a major island attraction and should be on everyone’s island activity list.

The Grand Hotel has been operational since 1887 and has been labeled “a top resort in the Midwest and a National Historic Landmark.”

Rocking Chairs on the Front Porch Grand Hotel Mackinac Island
Rocking chairs on the front porch Grand Hotel Mackinac Island

If you want to tour the Grand Hotel, keep in mind that there is a $10 entrance fee for non-hotel patrons. (Also, certain areas of the hotel have a dress code.)

Giant chess game at the Grand Hotel

The admission fee includes a map of the hotel and gardens and allows visitors to experience the hotel via their own self-guided tour.

Grand Hotel Secret Garden Mackinac Island - VW
Secret Garden at the Grand Hotel

Afternoon Tea is served daily in the parlor from 3:30 – 5 PM. During Afternoon Tea, you get to sit down and enjoy tea, sherry, champagne, petite finger sandwiches, fresh-baked scones, and an array of pastries, all accompanied by a live music recital.

Want to spend the night? Here’s how to make the most of a stay at the Grand Hotel, along with tips if you opt to spend a night or two at this iconic hotel.

4 – Take Yourself on a DIY Fudge Tour

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
Mackinac Island tourists are sometimes nicknamed fudgies by the locals, and for good reason. The swath of main street confectioneries not only produce gigantic amounts of fudge every day, but they also hand out free samples to visitors.

mackinac island making fudge
Watch fudge being ade in Downtown Mackinac Island

Needless to say, taste-testing fudge on Mackinac Island is an activity in its own right.

It’s your tourist duty to sample and purchase your favorite flavors to take home with you as a souvenir. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to watch the fudge being made.

This is by far one of the more popular things to do on Mackinac Island.

5 – Enjoy a Themed Festival or Event

Fort St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do on Mackinac Island:
Mackinac Island goes all out when it comes to festivals. The whole city center embraces the theme and the energy is remarkable. It seems like there is always something going on.

Mackinac Island Lilac Festival : Lilacs with horses in background
Mackinac Island Lilac Festival

Here are some of the Mackinac Island Festivals and events you can look forward to in 2024:

6 – Visit Fort Mackinac: Fire the Cannon, Watch a Reenactment

Fort Mackinac
7127 Huron Rd, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
Climb the big hill to Fort Mackinac and buy an admission ticket. A visit to Fort Mackinac is worth it if you have kids old enough to understand Michigan history – and you want a few spectacular views like this:

view from fort mackinac

This historic military fort takes you back to the war of 1812 when the British were fighting the Americans. The fort was active until 1895.

Some parts of the fort are over 225 years old.

Buildings on the site look as they would have during the fort’s final year of occupation and you will find people dressed in period clothing acting out rituals from that time.

fort mackinac

Re-enactments happen every 45 minutes; you can even watch them fire the cannon.

If you sign up (call 906-847-3328 to reserve your spot at least 48 hours in advance), visitors ages 13 & up can fire the Fort Mackinac Cannon in the morning or all four weapons at closing time.

Is this one of the best things to do on Mackinac Island?! It might be!

fort mackinac cannon
Cannon Demonstration at Fort Mackinac

Typically, the historic buildings are open, allowing you to explore different aspects of fort life.

There is even a Kids’ Quarters with hands-on displays and interactive games. 

You might spend more if you decide to have a meal at the Tea Room, operated by the Grand Hotel.

Fort Mackinac Tea Room
7127 Huron Rd, Mackinac Island, MI 49757
(906) 847-3331

fort mackinac cannon and tea room
Cannon at Fort Mackinac with the Tea Room in the background

Other exhibits show how vaccines were given to island residents as well as take you through the history of the island.

We spent at least two hours in the fort.

Truth be told, a lot of people skip Fort Mackinac as one of their Mackinac Island things to do.

If you have the time, I definitely recommend it as one of the great things to do on Mackinac Island with your family. It gives you a look into the island’s history that you won’t get anywhere else.

7 – Take a Mackinac Island Carriage Tour

Mackinac Island Carriage Tours
7278 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
This 1 hour 45 minutes tour comes in two parts (city and country), giving you a great overview of the island.

mackinac island carriage tour
You can hire a private horse and buggy or do a group carriage tour around Mackinac Island

Departing from downtown, you’ll hear all about the history of the places you pass and see old landmarks, including cemeteries.

Mackinac Island cemetery carriage tour

One of the stops along the way is Surrey Hills Museum.

Surrey Hills Carriage Museum
7528 Carriage Rd, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

This is where you exit your first carriage and have time to look at antique carriages and do a little snacking/shopping.

This stop features a working blacksmith shop as well as concessions and a picnic area.

Additional stops on the carriage tour usually include Arch Rock and the Butterfly Conservatory.

8 – Ride a Horse or Drive Your Own Horse Buggy

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
Horseback riding is another one of the typical things to do on Mackinac Island.

Horseback riding guided trips are available by the hour.

mackinac island things to do horseback riding
Horseback Riding Tours are one of the favorite things to do on Mackinac Island

You can also rent a horse & carriage and drive the buggy yourself!

drive horse carriage mackinac island

Carriages are rented by the hour and you can rent two, four, or six-passenger carriages.

9 – Shop for Souvenirs & Treats on Main Street

Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
In addition to fudge, there are many different places to get ice cream and other sweet treats. Or, get yourself a sweatshirt, t-shirt, or trinket to take home.

downtown mackinac island
Downtown Mackinac Island in the summertime

Great Turtle Toys (7372 Main St Suite 105, Mackinac Island MI, 49757) is the toy store on the island. It’s a great place to pick up a kite and take it to their daily kite show!

10 – Visit the Blacksmith Shop & Biddle House

Biddle House & Benjamin Blacksmith Shop
7406 Market St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
Head to this reconstructed blacksmith shop to see how a blacksmith worked in the early 1900s. Demonstrations show traditional blacksmithing techniques like forming hot iron into fireplace tools, hinges, and household items.

Benjamin Blacksmith Shop photo by Mackinac State Historic Parks
Benjamin Blacksmith Shop 📷: Mackinac State Historic Parks

Then tour the Biddle House for live programs and exhibits showcasing the life and ways of the Native Americans who first called Mackinac Island home.

*Admission also includes the Biddle House, featuring the Mackinac Island Native American Museum and The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum. Admission to the Benjamin Blacksmith Shop is included with a Fort Mackinac ticket.

11 – Tour the 7000 Square Foot Governor’s Mansion

Michigan Governor’s Summer Residence
Fort St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do on Mackinac Island:
If you’re elected governor of Michigan, you get to sleep here in the summertime!

This stop is one of the interesting historic sites on Mackinac island: the Michigan Governor’s Summer Residence. Built in 1902, the home boasts 11 bedrooms, 9.5 baths, and over 7,000 square feet.

free tours governors mansion mackinac island
Tour the Governor’s Mansion on Mackinac Island

During the free 15-minute mansion tours, experienced docents guide small groups through the first floor of the home.

Check the schedule for the most up-to-date information.

12 – Consider Stopping Into Lesser-Known Historic Sites

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
Given that Mackinac Island is a historical site itself, it’s no surprise that many of the dwellings and places on the island are historically significant as well.

This list covers additional historical island places that you may want to include on your family’s list of things to do on Mackinac Island.

Fort Holmes –  2234 Fort Holmes Rd, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Climb the steep hill to visit Fort Holmes, located on the highest point of Mackinac Island. Here, you can find great views and little nuggets of fort history. Off the beaten path and not usually crowded, this reconstructed fort is open from May to October. British soldiers built the fort to help defend Fort Mackinac during the War of 1812.

Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum7070 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Stop here if you’d like to step into the Mackinac Island story. Art and photography populate the galleries of this small, diverse art museum, along with artifacts like hand-beaded Native American garments, 17th and 18th-century maps of the Great Lakes and unique pieces from Mackinac Island’s Victorian era.

Tours and hands-on kids activities also offered. Admission is included with a Fort Mackinac daily pass.

Kids art Studio photo at Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum photo by Mackinac State Historic Parks
Kids Art Studio at Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum 📷 Mackinac State Historic Parks

13 – Hike or Bike the Island Trails

Mackinac Island State Park Trails

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do on Mackinac Island:
There are over 70 miles of hiking (and some mountain biking) trails on Mackinac Island to explore.

Step just outside of downtown and into a forest and you’ll be in Mackinac Island State Park or an island neighborhood. It’s another world!

Tranquil Bluff Trail, near Arch Rock, is just one of the many fantastic trails on the island.

mackinac island hiking trail
Tranquil Bluff Trail on Mackinac Island near Arch Rock
mackinac island trails map
Mackinac Island Trail Map

14 – Enjoy a Free Concert in the Park

Marquette Park, Under the Fort
7200 Huron St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do on Mackinac Island:
Every Thursday evening at 6:30 PM, June 27 – Aug 22, 2024, island visitors are treated to free open-air, live music concerts.

mackinac island free concert in the park

Each week features something different – expect folk, rock, country, blues, and more.

Bring a blanket, lawn chair and a picnic (Doud’s Market is just across the street) and enjoy!

15 – Play 18 Holes of Mini Golf on Real Grass Greens

Mission Point Resort
1 Lake Shore Dr, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
Mission Point Resort, on Main Street Mackinac Island, has an amazing waterside 18-hole putting course called the Greens of Mackinac.

mackinac island mission point putting golf course

For a fee, visitors and hotel guests can play the course – with a to-go cocktail in hand, if desired. Glow Golf is even offered on select evenings!

mackinac island putting golf course mission point - best things to do on mackinac island
Mission Point’s 18-hole putting course is one of the fun things to do on Mackinac Island with kids

This hidden gem is one of the best things to do on Mackinac Island – we hope you get a chance to give it a try.

P.S. The Grand Hotel also offers an 18-hole mini-golf course at their Woodlands Activity Center.

16 – Go on a Guided Kayak Tour at Sunset

Great Turtle Kayak Tours
7395 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
Great Turtle Kayak Tours offers a variety of paddle-related things to do on Mackinac Island with kids.

One option: take the Arch Rock tour in a tandem kayak. This tour is approximately three miles long and clocks in at two hours. It’s great for beginners. Guides will help with all of your questions, from gear to route, to weather, and kid-related queries.

17 – Visit the Butterfly House & Insects World

Butterfly House and Insects World
6750 McGulpin St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do on Mackinac Island:
You can also tour the Mackinac Island Butterfly House and Insects World. (This is seasonally open from mid-May through the first week of October).

The 1800-square-foot Butterfly Garden is filled with hundreds of live butterflies from around the world. Playful signage reveals fascinating facts as you wander the pathways. Feeding stations attract a variety of butterfly species, letting you use the free butterfly identification chart provided at entry.

Insects World showcases giant insects (mounted specimens) from the tropics, including the Goliath Beetle. They also have a turtle pond and some live reptiles.

18 – Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory

7528 Carriage Rd, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
The smaller of the two butterfly conservatories on Mackinac Island, the glass-walled Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory is located in Surrey Hill. Butterflies might just land on you as you stroll through the conservatory. (This stop is included in the carriage tour combo ticket.)

Wings of Mackinac Butterfly House

19 – Visit the Library

Mackinac Island Public Library
903 Huron St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do on Mackinac Island:
This lakeside place is really cute!

The library on Mackinac Island has been serving year-round patrons since 1936 and is open to the public.

mackinac island public library

While you need to have an active Mackinac Island library card to check out books, visitors are still welcome to use the library, lounge on their grassy beach, and shop their ongoing used book sale.

mackinac island public library lawn

Summer Hours: Tues – Sat 11 AM – 5:30 PM, Tues and Fri, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM.

*They do not have public restrooms.

20 – Watch the Daily Kite Show

Windermere Point – Between the Library & Iroquis Hotel
7498 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do on Mackinac Island:
The island can be windy, especially at Windermere Point (the West end of downtown). That’s great if you want to fly a kite, and that’s exactly what the good people at Great Turtle Toy Company do on a daily basis, May – October, weather permitting.

Great Turtle Toys Daily Kite Show Mackinac Island
Kite flying at Windermere Point with Great Turtle Toys

Check in with their store (7372 Main Street) or call (906) 847-6118 to get the latest Kite Show updates – or to get a kite of your own to add to the mix. They’ll help you learn how to fly it. Flyers of all ages and skill levels are invited to join them each day.

21 – Go Duck Pin Bowling While You Wait for Dinner

Woods Restaurant
8655 Cudahy Cir, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do on Mackinac Island:
Take a short carriage ride into the interior of the island to find Woods Restaurant (operated by the Grand Hotel) and America’s oldest operating duckpin bowling alley.

You can munch on popcorn and test your bowling skills while you wait for dinner, or try it after your meal.

Duckpin bowling is a throwback to earlier days, using shorter pins and smaller balls than you’d see in a bowling alley today. It’s harder to hit the pins, so players get three rolls per frame. And, you need to reset the pins yourself after your turn.

Reservations are recommended for dinner. Please call Woods Restaurant directly at 906-847-3331.

*The carriage ride from town and dinner experience will typically take about three+ hours.

A look inside Woods Restaurant & Duckpin Bowling Alley

22 – Skip Rocks or Look for Beach Glass

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
If you’re looking for free things to do on Mackinac Island, this is one of them.

The shores of Mackinac Island are an excellent place to skip rocks and look for beach glass. (Mackinac Island beach glass is formed when bits of old bottles are tumbled and polished in the waves of Lake Huron.)

The island shore is rocky in most places. Finding a spot to look for good skipping rocks and hunting for beach glass won’t be too hard.

mackinac island rock skipping

Fun Fact: Windermere Point is the location of the July 4 Stone Skipping Competition. Professional stone skippers compete for a trophy and there are divisions for amateur adult and kid stone-skippers, too!

23 – Relax on the Lawn & Playground at Marquette Park

Marquette Park
7200 Huron St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Things to Do on Mackinac Island:
The flat area below the fort, once used as a vegetable garden by soldiers long ago, is now a giant lawn that serves as an open space for concerts and picnics.

Set off to the side is a small playground that parents will be happy to know about.

mackinac island marquette park
Marquette Park sits below the fort on Mackinac Island

We packed a lunch and ate it at the park – it was a great place to rest and recharge for the rest of our day.

Small playground located at Marquette Park on Mackinac Island

24 – Go to Horse Camp

Mackinac Community Equestrian Center
British Landing Rd, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
For island visitors that are staying for a week or longer, consider signing up for Horse Camp at the Mackinac Community Equestrian Center.

They offer a first pony camp for younger campers aged 7 – 14, as well as a second pony camp for advanced riders aged 13 – 18. Camp activities are tailored to participants.

25 – Upgrade Your Ferry Ride: Choose a Pirate or Bridge View Adventure

Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry
Mackinaw City Dock
801 S Huron St, Mackinaw City, MI 49701
St. Ignace Dock
587 N State St, St. Ignace, MI 49781

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Things to Do:
The island adventure starts before you even reach the island – the ferry ride is big fun.

Mackinac Island ferries leave from either Mackinaw City or St. Ignace, MI.

Not all ferry rides are equal. Certain departure times will take you under the Mackinac Bridge for a great view.

mackinac island ferry ride
Tip: choose a ferry ride that goes under the Mackinac Bridge

If you choose a ferry ride that has the “Under the Bridge” option, you’ll be treated to spectacular Mackinac Bridge views.

Have your camera ready when you pull into the dock. It’s wild looking up and seeing the cars driving up above.

mackinac island ferry ride under bridge
Looking up at the Mackinac Bridge from a Mackinac Island ferry

Pro Tip

Check to see if your ferry is offering ticket bundles.
You can often get ticket packages that include your ferry ride, Fort Mackinac admission, a carriage ride, Butterfly House admission, Grand Hotel Lunch, and more.

Other ferry rides offer a Pirate experience.

starline pirate ferry to mackinac island
Starline Pirate Ship Good Fortune

How to Save Money on Mackinac Island Things to Do

It’s no secret that things to do on Mackinac Island can get pricy fast. If you’re looking to save on your visit, here are a few things you can do to keep the price down:

  • If you’re visiting for just the day, consider packing your lunch and dinner and bringing a backpack.
  • Bring your own bikes and bike locks. Bike rentals at Island House Hotel are up to $14/hr for adults or up to $11/hr for kids. Burley trailers are $11/hr. You can bring your own bike over on the ferry for about the same amount as a 1-2 hour bike rental.
  • Refill water bottles and use restrooms at the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center (7200 Lake Shore Dr, Mackinac Island, MI 49757).
  • Share a $9.95 Moomer’s Ice Cream Flight at Good Day Cafe (7216 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757).
Moomer’s Ice Cream Flight at Good Day Cafe
  • Chow down on hot dogs, hamburgers, drinks & ice cream at Windermere Doghouse (7498 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757).
2021 prices – Windermere Doghouse
  • Another food option: Doud’s Market (7200 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757) will likely feed your family for less than a restaurant will, but keep in mind the prices here are still high compared to the mainland. You can often get pizza by the slice in the deli as well.
mackinac island grocery store doud's market
Doud’s Market is the only option on Main Street for groceries
  • Pack your stay with free things to do on Mackinac Island, like hiking, visiting the library, going to a concert in the park, touring the Governor’s Mansion, hunting for beach glass, or visiting the playground.
  • Book activity packages with your hotel or ferry to get bundled savings.
  • Visit at off-peak times to save on lodging.
  • Scope out hotels or campgrounds on the mainland in St. Ignace or Mackinac City and visit the island for just a day.
  • Shop around before purchasing fudge or souvenirs – several shops have lower prices.

Traveling with Young Kids

Are there things to do with little kids on Mackinac Island?

Definitely! Don’t be intimidated by the busy downtown or throngs of horses and bicycles if you’re thinking about visiting with little kids. Even toddlers and babies have fun on the island.

Here are some great things to do with this age group:

  • Go on a carriage ride. You may be more comfortable with a private carriage if you have several young children or would like to have a more personalized experience. I enjoyed the carriage ride when visiting with little kids because it gave me a chance to sit down and relax as well.
  • Take the pirate ship ferry. Toddlers love this.
  • Rent a bike trailer or tag-along and ride around the island. It’s a relatively flat eight miles and you can stop along the way to play in the water, skip stones, etc. (You can also bring your own equipment over on the ferry.)
  • Go to the daily kite show or learn how to fly kites with Great Turtle Toys.
  • Play putt-putt on the real grass course at Mission Point.
  • Share an ice cream flight at Good Day Cafe.
  • Visit the butterflies & insects at Butterfly World.
  • Stop at the playground in Marquette Park and eat a picnic there, too.

Here are a few tips if you’re visiting with little kids:

  • If you get a hotel on the island, look for a place with family suites or larger rooms. Some of the original hotels still have tiny rooms and even shared bathrooms that were common in the early 1900s.
  • Bring a baby carrier or umbrella stroller for trips into town where the crowds can be tight.
  • Make reservations at restaurants when possible to avoid long wait times.

Mackinac Island FAQs

How do you pronounce Mackinac?

Mackinac is pronounced MACK-in-aw.

What is Mackinac Island known for?

There are no cars on Mackinac Island.

Instead, you’ll find horses, carriages, and a lot of bicycles transporting people from place to place. This is because cars were banned from the island in 1898 because they scared the horses (the most common form of transportation at the time). And the ban has stuck!

Fudge is another Mackinac Island claim-to-fame. Fourteen or so fudge shops line Main Street, and visitors will spend quite a bit of time sampling fudge from various shops before making a purchase.

Arch Rock and other terrific natural formations are also a big draw.

mackinac island horse carriage
Taking a horse and carriage ride is one of the iconic things to do on Mackinac Island

When is the best time to visit Mackinac Island?

Mackinac Island is fully open to tourists from May to October.

During May, the horses arrive and businesses (hotels and restaurants included) start opening for the season. Expect the island to be fully open with services and amenities by Memorial Day. Most will remain open through Halloween.

A visit anytime between Memorial Day and Halloween will be lovely. Summer weekends and holidays are extremely busy, with hotels booking up in advance. July is the warmest month, with an average high temperature of 75°F.

The Lilac Festival is a fragrant, beautiful time to visit. It’s a 10-day celebration held annually in early June and includes a parade, walking tours, street dances, entertainment, tours of the Governor’s Mansion & Fort Mackinac, community events, and more.

For a less busy visit (with lower lodging rates) consider visiting on a weekday in May, early June, September, or October.

If you visit during the off-season, you will find only one or two open restaurants and very few lodging options. Winter hiking or cross-country skiing visits are welcome, but prepare your accommodations in advance.

mackinac island horse buggy in front of fort
Horse and carriage in front of the fort

Do you have to pay to get onto Mackinac Island?

No, you do not have to pay to enter Mackinac Island itself or the Mackinac Island State Park. However, the ferry ride over to the island requires a ticket, as do many of the attractions on Mackinac Island.

Is it worth it to stay on Mackinac Island?

Definitely. A hush falls over Mackinac Island as the last ferry leaves for the day. The stillness remains until the first ferry the next morning, around 9 AM.

Those lucky enough to stay on the island overnight are treated to a magical city of evening concerts, magnificent sunsets and no crowds. If you can make a Mackinac Island hotel stay happen, it’s highly recommended, even if just for a night. A stay at the Grand Hotel is a pinnacle experience.

FYI – Camping is not allowed on Mackinac Island.

How do you get to Mackinac Island?

You cannot drive to Mackinac Island – there is no road or bridge. Most visitors get to Mackinac Island by ferry.

Visitors arriving by car will need to park at a ferry dock on the mainland and take a boat over to the island.

There are two ferry lines serving Mackinac Island: Mackinac Island Ferry Co (formerly Star Line) and Shepler’s. Both depart from docks in Mackinaw City (lower peninsula) and St. Ignace (upper peninsula). Round-trip ferry ticket pricing is listed in the table below.

The ferry ride is approximately 20 minutes. No reservations are needed.

You can also fly to Mackinac Island. Fresh Air Aviation flies from St. Ignace, MI (1220 N. State St, St Ignace, MI 49781) to Mackinac Island year-round. A round-trip adult ticket is $98, and a child ticket is $68, with a two-seat minimum.

mackinac island ferry docks
2024 Mackinac Island Ferry Ticket Prices (Buy Online)Shepler’sStar Line (newly named Mackinac Island Ferry Co.)
Adult Round Trip (ages 13+)$34$31
Child Round Trip (ages 5-12)$23$21
Young ChildFree (ages 5 & under)Free (ages 4 & under)
2 Adult, 1 Child Combo$72N/A (as of 4/26/24)
Bike Pass Round Trip – round trip transportation of YOUR bike$21$17 ($2 Island License Fee added at checkout)
Day ParkingComplimentary day parking is available in both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace.FREE parking at the offsite, unsecured location. Complimentary shuttle to the main dock.
$30 for secure parking at Mackinaw City ONLY
Overnight Parking$20 overnight parking in both Mackinaw City and St. IgnaceFREE overnight parking at the offsite, unsecured location

Where is Mackinac Island located?

Mackinac Island Michigan is a world unto itself tucked away in Northern Michigan.

Located in the waters of Lake Huron, Mackinac Island sits between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

You can access Mackinac Island from St. Ignace or Mackinaw City, MI.

The nearest major airport is in Traverse City, MI (TVC), about a 2-hour drive from Mackinaw City.

mackinac island location in michigan map

What is the weather like on Mackinac Island?

Mackinac Island weather varies greatly from month to month and from morning to night. While days in August can get up into the 80s, evenings tend to be cool and breezy.

Dress in layers and be prepared for occasional rain. Tourist shops sell many sweatshirts because summer on the island is much cooler than visitors expect.

MonthAve High °F Ave Low °FHow Busy?
June7052early June – Moderate
late June – Heavy
Aug7458early August- Heavy
late August – Moderate
Sep6651Moderate – weekends
Light – Weekdays & later in the month

Where is the Mackinac Island Beach?

Heading to the beach is not a typical activity on Mackinac Island because the shoreline is rocky, and the water is cold well into summertime.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop to swim, wade, or play in the clear water. M-185 circles the whole island, offering many places to stop. Water shoes are recommended.

Mackinac Island Beaches
British Landing: 7641 British Landing Rd, Mackinac Island, MI 49757
Mission Point Beach: M-185 in front of the Mission Point Lawn
Arch Rock Beach: M-185 near the stairs to Arch Rock

mackinac island beach arch rock
Large boulders along beach near Arch Rock

Which items aren’t allowed on Mackinac Island?

Cars, motorized vehicles, hammocks, electric bikes, Segways, and drones are not allowed on Mackinac Island.

Kids with training wheels are also not allowed to ride bikes on Main Street, Market Street, or Cadotte Avenue.

(Note: Electric mobility devices, such as bicycles/tricycles utilized by qualified people with mobility issues, are allowed.

Best Mackinac Island Hotels

Want to spend more than a single day exploring this “Up North” gem?

There are several options for spending the night on the island, a few especially great for kids and families:

Bicycle Street Inn & Suites

7416 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Hotels:
56 rooms right on Main Street! Kids (and parents too) enjoy opening the wide French doors to watch the happenings along Main Street.

Chippewa Hotel Waterfront

7221 Main St #103, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Hotels:
This built-in-1902 hotel has been updated with amazing amenities. The Chippewa Hotel has huge rooms and suites, offering plenty of space for kids to stretch out.

Their 25-person jacuzzi hot tub is centrally located on the hotel patio and overlooks Lake Huron.

Even more? The hotel is home to the famous Pink Pony, where you’ll be treated to fabulous dining and drinking experiences. The hotel is located downtown and is just a 5-minute walk from the ferry.

Grand Hotel

286 Grand Ave, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Hotels:
Don’t be intimidated by the formality associated with the Grand Hotel, it truly is a family-friendly accommodation.

Hotel Iroquois

7485 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Hotels:
This is a great waterside boutique hotel often enjoyed by adult couples.

The Inn at Stonecliffe

8593 Cudahy Cir, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Hotels:
Bring your bikes! It has an outdoor pool and a wonderful breakfast included with your stay. You’ll find suites in their Summer House building if you’re looking to give your family more room to spread out.

LakeBluff Condos at Stonecliffe

3561 Eckel Dr, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Hotels:
Parents will like the separate bedrooms with a kitchen and living space.

The location is very quiet and relaxing, away from all of the downtown ‘traffic.’ There is also plenty of green space on that side of the island for kids to play outside. It is a hike from the downtown area; bikes are recommended!

Lake View Hotel

7452 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Hotels:
Prime downtown location. Lake View Hotel has the only indoor, heated pool on the island. Breakfast included with your stay.

lake view hotel mackinac island indoor pool

Main Street Inn and Suites

7408 Main St #202, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Hotels:
Main Street Inn and Suites has an alluring B&B meats modern hotel vibe.

They have nightly complimentary fudge samples. Treat yourself to a room with a balcony to enjoy slow mornings or evening views.

Mission Point Resort

1 Lakeshore Dr, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Hotels:
They offer great deals that include ferry tickets, rooms with hot tubs, bike rentals, as well as admission to all the museums, the Fort, and mini-golf. PLUS kids eat free.
This a great all-inclusive trip reservation.

Harbor View Inn

6860 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Hotels:
They are located off the beaten path on a quiet end of town, for travelers seeking solace. Breakfast is provided. Their spacious rooms are great for families.

Island House Hotel

6966 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Hotels:
This Mackinac Island hotel is loved for its prime location.

Just a short walk from the bustling downtown area, you’re so close to anywhere you might want to go. Plus, this is one of only a few hotels on the island with an indoor pool (and hot tub!) They also have onsite bike rentals.

island house hotel mackinac island great view

Or, consider a private vacation rental on or near Mackinac Island.

Where to Stay in Mackinaw City

Staying in Mackinaw City, Michigan is a great option if you’re looking for more space to spread out, a lakefront accommodations, or lower rates.

Clearwater Lakeshore Motel

11380 US Hwy 23, Mackinaw City, MI 49701

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Hotels:
The hotel is located on the lake with 300 feet of sandy beach to enjoy.

They offer an indoor heated pool and hot tub. Lakefront rooms have private balconies. Complimentary continental breakfast is offered each morning.

Thunderbird Inn

146 Old US 31, Mackinaw City, MI 49701

Why It’s One of the Best Mackinac Island Hotels:
The hotel is clean and affordably priced. They offer complimentary breakfast. There is also an indoor pool.

What Are Your Favorite Things to Do on Mackinac Island?

Have you visited Mackinac Island recently?

We’d love to hear your tips, tricks, and favorite things to do.

Drop a comment below!

5 thoughts on “25 Best Things to do on Mackinac Island: Timeless Delights & Insider Tips for the Perfect Family Getaway in 2024”

  1. The ice cream shop on the corner of the Grand Hotel is open to the public, with no dress code being enforced.
    Also, look for great deals on hotels in the fall months.
    A taxi ride is a great way to experience a horse and buggy ride without going on an entire tour.
    Biking to Stonecliffe is a great way to see more of the island. It looks like a castle, and stop by the Woods bar for some Sherley Temples. A walk to their back yard has beautiful views.

  2. Definitely consider biking the perimeter of the island! Fantastic, breath-taking views all around with many opportunities to stop along the way. (We packed a picnic with us and ate our lunch while sitting on rocks along the water.) Fort Mackinac was a lot of fun as well. Water bottles are a MUST to stay hydrated. Enjoy!

  3. This is exactly what I was hoping to find somewhere. We are headed to Mackinac Island for one day with our two kids and this gives me a great idea of how to structure our time there. Thank you!

  4. We were able to find a fantastic deal for an overnight weekend ON the island for only $89 a night on Groupon. Check there frequently for Macinaw deals 🙂

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