When you think of Mackinac Island (pronounced “Mackinaw”, you think of fudge—and in fact, the island is unofficially known as the fudge capital of the world! Mackinac is also best known for the Grand Hotel, and the island’s ban on motor vehicles, leading to transportation by bicycle and horse-drawn carriages. The island has a year-round population of only 492, but grows significantly with seasonal employees, as the island sees as many as 15,000 visitors a day during the peak of tourist activity.
The first thing to do is to actually get to the island. The cheapest and easiest way to do this is to take a ferry, either from Mackinaw City on the Michigan mainland, or coming from St. Ignace, on the Upper Peninsula. There are three main ferry businesses serving to take you to the island, each with rides taking less than an hour: Arnold Line, Shepler’s Ferry, and Star Line. Transportation between St. Ignace & Mackinac Island is also available via Great Lakes Air. More information regarding transportation to the island can be found here.
Once you’re on the island, you’ll need to get around. Most of us have a pair of good sturdy legs for that purpose, and the island is small enough that it’s all you really need, but at 3½ miles long, and almost 2 miles wide, you may want something more. Now while motorized vehicles are banned on the island, that doesn’t mean you can’t get around. There are a host of bicycle rental places on the island, and the island itself is a cyclist’s paradise. You can also take a ride in a carriage or buggy with Mackinac Island Carriage Tours or Jack’s Livery Stable. If you want to go trail riding, stop by Cindy’s Riding Stable. Click this link for more information about getting around on the island.
Okay, so you’re on the island, and you can get around on the island, the next step is to find the buried treasure! Oh wait, it’s not one of those islands. Humbug! Even without buried treasure though, Mackinac Island isn’t without any treasure in its own right. The number one treasure of Mackinac is most definitely their fudge, famous in Michigan, and known to some degree the world over. With more than a half dozen fudge shops gracing the island, your visit will be Truly Scrumptious! It’s been said that over ten thousand pounds of fudge leave the island every day, in dozens of delectable flavors & varieties. In August each year, the Mackinac Island Fudge Festival is held, with special events, contests, Golden Tickets, and more! Find out more about Mackinac’s fudge at this page.
- Become terrified at the Haunted Theater
- Visit the Butterfly Conservatory
- Go to the Equestrian Center
- Take a kayak out on the water
- Hike or bike around the island
- Dip your toes in the water
- Play golf at the Grand Hotel
- Enjoy a classic vintage baseball game
- Go to Skull Cave
- Fly a kite
- See the sights
As you go downtown you’ll find a multitude of gift shops, eyeing to exchange their trinkets for your hard-earned cash. A number of grocery stores and art galleries will also happily aid you in parting with your money. Once you get hungry, stop at one of Mackinac’s fantastic restaurants, and enjoy eating a meal that will double your hunger once you see and smell it.
Mackinac wouldn’t be Mackinac without the iconic Grand Hotel, which has played host to Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Vladimir Putin, and five US Presidents. While not everyone can afford stay at the hotel, everyone simply must see it. The hotel contains several interesting shops, and a great ice cream parlor. Non-hotel guests must pay $10 to see the grounds and tour the hotel. Also consider enjoying one of the hotel’s perfectly prepared five-course dinners, or delicious lunches. The Grand Hotel is certainly grand, but there are a host of other lodging options as well, if you feel so inclined.
If there is anything else you want to find out about Mackinac Island before you visit, check out the official website at MackinacIsland.org, and be sure to take a look at their calendar of events, to see if anything extra-special is happening during your visit.